New Super Mario Bros. 2

It’s hard to believe this game is almost ten years old now, while the Nintendo 3DS is still alive (but on life support due to the portability of the Nintendo Switch).

That’s where it falls into odd territory as a “retro game” but I feel it’s old enough now to go back and explore – anyone else’s definition of “retro” be damned!

Released in 2012, NSMB2 is the successor to the Wii title of a similar name, which itself was a sequel to the first of the “New” Super Mario Bros. titles, released for the Nintendo DS.

Did you follow all of that?

Essentially this is “New” Super Mario Bros. 3 – and as such, it shares a lot of similarities to the NES Super Mario Bros. 3, namely the reintroduction of Racoon Mario. For the unaware, grabbing a leaf powerup would give Mario a raccoon tail he could use to swipe enemies, smash blocks, or, for whatever reason, fly.

Considering SMB3 was one of the greatest titles of all-time, it’s not hard to imagine that this was one of the highest-selling 3DS games of all-time as well. Yet, it felt like it was lacking.

In my opinion the game reuses too much of the same “new” formula: that’s not really a bad thing, just an observation. It has the same 2.5D graphics (3-D models in a 2-D platformer) plus the familiar super mushrooms, fire flowers, and the invincible star man.

In addition, there are golden variants of the same which make for a coin-collecting boost – as collecting coins becomes a major focal point in this game over previous ones, though the star coins are also important to unlocking areas or challenging completionists.

With that component in place, a “blockhead” powerup (for lack of better terms – not sure what it’s really called!) has Mario (or Luigi) produce even more coins as they run and jump around every stage.

The game tracks every coin you collect in something akin to a “career mode” throughout every playthrough on your saved game file.

Speaking of stages, this title is deep: with 85 levels over 9 worlds and tons of hidden exits and areas.

There’s also a Coin Rush mode, which admittedly I didn’t get into very much, so here’s what Wikipedia had to say about it:

In addition to the main game, New Super Mario Bros. 2 features a Coin Rush mode, made accessible after the player completes the first world.

In Coin Rush, the player plays through three randomly chosen levels collecting as many coins as possible. Star and Moon Coins add several coins to the player’s running total in this mode. However, the player is given only one life and each level gives a time limit of 50 or 100 seconds.

It’s a need addition, but really just a distraction from the main game.

The premise of NSMB2 is the same as it’s predecessors: rescue Princess Peach from Bowser and his underlings. Again, no departure from the norm which can be seen as a good or a bad thing – or both.

Regardless this is a fun game and deserves attention from any Mario fans. Newcomers to the series may be best served starting with earlier Mario titles, just to get the mechanics down – some of the coin grabbing and non-linear landscapes tend to be great for experienced gamers but a bit of a learning curve for kiddos.

Either way, I enjoyed NSMB2 as its yet another Mario title where Nintendo can seemingly do no wrong.

Yoshi’s New Island

Somewhere along the line the Yoshi’s Island series of game became lost.

Originating with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, of which this game takes it’s namesake, Yoshi spun off into other games, but always retained a similar feel to its Super Nintendo roots. That is, you eat enemies, create eggs, shoot eggs, and flutter-jump around.

Yoshi’s Story for the N64 was a totally inferior take on the concept which attempted to also put Yoshi into a new 3-D art realm. That concept carried over into other Yoshi titles such as Yoshi’s Wooly World on the Wii U and Yoshi’s Crafted World on the Nintendo Switch.

However, the jump from the N64 to the Nintendo DS saw a return to the similar crayon art style of SMW2, with some new concepts such as multiple babies (aside from Mario, there was Peach, Wario, and Donkey Kong, among others) plus the game utilized the top and bottom screens of the DS simultaneously to expand upon what was a critically acclaimed game in SMW2.

However, Yoshi’s New Island, which would release eight years later on the newer Nintendo 3DS, is such an inferior step back that it was actually painful to play.

It’s not because anything is broken, but it’s because nothing was retained between SMW2 and this game: it is literally SMW2 on a handheld, plot included.

That should be more of a good thing, but unfortunately, it’s not. The game relies too heavily on a collection scheme for replayablility. That’s the usual completionist aspect of getting 30 stars, and finding every red coin and flower.

Gone are the other babies, and even the dual screen aspect. Yes, it can be “3-D” but the graphics are essentially a more polygonal skin of SMW2. Even the menus are precisely the same.

Since collecting every object in a level is no prerequisite to advancing in the game, I found it monotonous to get through each level. You can barely die. There’s no real challenge to just going from beginning to end, and at that, many of the levels are simply too darn long.

There are some new concepts, one of which is larger enemies which turn into larger eggs to clear large areas. It looks cool the first time, but is nothing but a gimmick as the game goes forward. In fact, the one thing they added to this game is more of what made the original annoying: more vehicle areas.

Yep. Those bubbles that transform Yoshi into a helicopter or whatever else, and you have to beat the timer to get to the end? Be prepared to be even more annoyed as they’re more frequently used in this game too.

Honestly, you could literally fall asleep playing this on the couch.

That may sound harsh, but having played every game in this series (and even realizing the difficulty is dumbed down to be aimed towards younger kids) I found this addition to the series to offer practically nothing new, and lack the usual Mario/Yoshi charm.

Check it out and see if you agree – just make sure you find it secondhand. I would classify this game as comparable to the movie you wished you had waited to rent, rather than pay top dollar to see in the theater!

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

I’ve never disliked a sequel so badly in my life. For everything the GameCube’s launch title Luigi’s Mansion was, the 3DS follow-up wasn’t.

I’ll retract on that a bit, but not much. The game begins with all of the same setup, charms, and quirks you’ve come to expect from the original game including the Poltergust 5000, Professor E. Gadd, Toad, and more.

In fact, the controls are simplified for the handheld, and much more refined in this way than the original title.

Rather than explore several floors of a single mansion, the game is split into five different worlds, each with missions. This is different than the original game in every way, and oftentimes frustrating, as dying within a given mission means you have to restart over.

The difficulty of some areas is what sucks the fun out of the game. Among my bugaboos are some stupidly difficult bosses early on, including an area with several sister ghosts that can pretty much kill you at will – restarting the mission makes it even more of a chore to continue going back and redoing mundane tasks, which don’t always lend themselves to being obvious as to what to do next.

You’ll waste plenty of time trying to squint to see details on-screen in figuring out what needs done, with some areas seeing you solve the puzzle and still somehow be unaware if you did or not! (This is clearly an issue with an area where you melt the ice off of an elevator, and it still doesn’t work unless you know to sweep up the extra snow alongside it too!)

After solving a puzzle, you’re finally ready to progress through a level before being sharply interrupted by Professor Gad on the “Dual Scream” device (similar to the GameBoy communication device in the original). The long screens of dialog interrupt the game, sucking even more fun out of it.

The same can be said for cutscenes, which occur all over the place and are included, in my opinion, to mask the shortness of some of the game’s levels.

In all, I finally got too frustrated wasting my time with this game. Even if you love the original, it may be a tad of a chore (and bore) to play through. I got about 2/3 through before packing it up after a shooting gimmick boss level.

Not to be outdone, the game features an area with three staircases that legitimately took nearly an hour to complete as you guess which of the three options to take on what feels like 20-some floors of steps.

It’s moves like these that makes me wonder how this game got through Nintendo’s approval process, as I can’t imagine younger gamers wasting the time to go through this headache over and over.

In all the game gets a thumbs-in-the-middle from me. There’s enough here to like, but not enough to make me want to come back and ever play it again… a shame considering how beloved the original is.