Posted on June 22, 2012 AT 10:00am
In the early days of the Super Mario series, it didn’t seem like coins really mattered that much. Sure, you could collect 100 of them to gain an extra life, but with 1Up Mushrooms and such, those gold coins just kind of seemed tacked on.
Coins only seemed to make a difference when the Super Mario series started to get into the RPG genre. Then, they actually became a legitimate form of currency, and you needed them to buy things like items, weapons, and armor. Fast-forward to Super Mario 64 and all its successors, and coins are now used to beef up Mario’s health bar—now that he can finally take a few hits without going down for the count.
In New Super Mario Bros. 2, coins may not keep you alive, but they’re damn near everywhere in the game. During a demo session with the game in San Francisco, I got to play three courses in the upcoming 3DS title, and I wound up collecting over 1,500 coins in less than 15 minutes. For a Mario game, that’s a little nuts.
Of course, it’s unavoidable. Coins spill out of every conceivable thing in this game: enemies cough them up, they’re crammed in blocks, midlevel rings spray them all over, and they’ll even spill out of pipes. What they actually do is something I still can’t determine, but sheer muscle memory just made me want to grab as many as possible.
Developer Nintendo EAD must know this, because they also position coins in places where it’s easy to get yourself killed. I died more than a few times trying to grab “just one more coin” and inadvertently found myself falling down a pit or crashing into an enemy. It’s plain muscle memory to snatch up those coins, and in this game’s case, it’s weird to find myself trying to fight that impulse.
Maybe that’s the point of the gameplay, though. If you want, you can rack up a huge amount of coins and show off on StreetPass, or if you’re playing with a friend, try to outdo them by having a bigger coin count at the end of a level. Either way, it’s impossible to avoid the challenge, because New Super Mario Bros. 2 spits coins at you at every given opportunity.
About the only time I wasn’t diving for coins, I was hunting for power-ups, and I did manage to get a few spins with the Super Leaf, activating Raccoon Mario. Whipping enemies with the tail still works as well as it did in Super Mario Bros 3, but flying after a running boost sadly lacks the iconic sound effect from the NES game.
But is the gimmick enough to compensate for the fact that, well, it pretty much looks exactly like the previous handheld Mario platformer? Maybe it will and maybe it won’t, but based on what I’ve seen so far, the pull of collecting coins just because they’re everywhere is almost strong enough to make you feel like you’re genuinely playing something that Mario series hasn’t really tried before.
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