There have always been a few mysteries in the Mushroom Kingdom and the Mario game franchise, especially the Mario platformers, that have never really been answered, much less ever challenged. These things are always just accepted for being what they are, simply part of the game, and nothing else. Other game franchises can't even change the font of the logo without wild internet speculation running wild, but within the world of Mario, fans just take everything delivered to them at face value. Even other franchises that Nintendo has, like The Legend of Zelda, can't get away with anything without people freaking out and challenging them everything, as if everything in a game needs to be fully explained or make sense, because you know, they are more than video games, I guess.
One long-standing mystery is the reason behind the point total in Mario games, as they have zero use at all, ever, but they continue to show up without explanation or reason. Another mystery, that has actually garnered some internet speculation, is why all the bad guys in Mario games seem completely content and happy until Mario comes along and jumps on them or antagonizes them in other ways? Is Mario really the bad guy in this whole scenario, and we've just been trolled this entire time by Nintendo? There might actually be something behind that notion, but that's actually not what I wanted to write about.
You see, one other Mario staple that has never been discussed are all those gold coins thrown all over the place, laying around for Mario to grab, hiding in blocks waiting to be broken open and used as rewards for jobs completed. The only real purpose of the coins has always been to reward the player with an extra life once 100 coins are gathered, and that's it. So what's the deal with those coins? Where did they come from? What use are they to Mario other than the extra life? And over the course of a game, how many coins do you think you really collect, anyway?
Well, with New Super Mario Bros. 2, the second 3DS Mario game to be released, some of those coin questions are answered. You see, aside from the normal quest to save the princess, the kingdom and the day, Mario is also on another mission, one never before seen in a Mario game before, which is exactly what makes this game unique and different than any other game in the "New" series, or the entire Mario franchise for that matter.
Coins are the focus on the game, as there is an overall counter for how many coins are collected throughout the game, keeping a running total for you to admire. While it keeps track of every coin collected, there is a lot more to it, as every level is flooded with coins, multiplying the amount of coins to pick up tenfold compared to the normal amount in any other Mario game. The fact that there are coins everywhere makes it perfectly clear what this game is all about, and it's fun to see so much gold throughout the levels, almost making you forget that there are enemies or an end goal for each level. Seeing your total amount go up after every level is a treat as well, as you can fully comprehend just what kind of coin collector you are.
There are even new power ups that are focused around giving you more coins than you could imagine. My favorite new power up is the gold fire flower, which lets you throw golden fire balls that turn whatever they touch into gold coins, like enemies and bricks. Stomping through a wall of bricks with giant Mario is always fun, but there is just something extremely more satisfying about turning a massive wall into a shower of gold coins with just a couple of thrown fireballs at it.
In the grand scheme of things, however, the coins still don't mean anything. The more coins you add to your overall total, the more coins that appear on the title screen of the game, but other than that, the idea is flushed out very well. Nintendo imposed a challenge to gamers, questioning whether you could get to a million coins, which I initially ate up like the Nintendo fanboy I am. I was pretty set on reaching that goal, until I beat the game completely backwards and forwards and realized I wasn't even half-way there. Then reports started trickling in that reaching one million coins didn't unlock anything special or change the game in any way, which was all I needed to here to convince me to move on to other games at the time.
Don't get me wrong, running through levels and collecting as many coins as possible is awesome fun, but when that turns into the only thing that you are doing, it becomes a whole lot less fun. Mario games have never been about grinding to achieve something, and I'm not about to turn a Mario game into that. Another thing that bugs me is how it completely wrecks me as a person and directly slaps my OCD tendencies in games in the face. I am a collector in games, and compulsively feel the need collect everything in games, and that goes double for coins in Mario games. I can't not collect a coin or two in a Mario level, sometimes going out of my way for every little coin, so when the entire level is filled with coins and so many of them are unattainable in the given time, it drives me crazy. It takes all the willpower I have within to play this game, and even after a while of not playing the game, I still find it hard to just ignore coins and try to grab every single one.
One other thing that Nintendo tried with this game was their first foray into DLC for Mario, in which they offered up level packs for the Coin Rush Mode for a couple of dollars a pop. I think there was even a level or two for free, just to gauge interest, because let's face it, Nintendo has never really been big on the online front. Naturally, I had to throw a few bucks Nintendo's way for these DLC packs, which turned out to be exceptionally fun and worth the pocket change, as the levels they added were challenging, fun, exciting and a nice change of pace to the traditional Mario game play for sure.
Everywhere you look in this game, you see gold, which adds such a different feel to the game, it almost doesn't seem fair to lump it in with the "New" series of Mario games, which only qualifies it for it because of the traditional 2D platforming and charming graphics. And while the self-imposed pressure to collect as many coins may not have charmed everyone as much as Nintendo would have liked, the New Super Mario Bros. series would prove to be a reliable formula for above-average Mario games.
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