This is the fine line upon which New Super Mario Bros. 2, with its newfound gold obsession, runs and jumps. Coins have always been a part of Mario games ― to the point that the coin-collecting noise alone is enough to induce a Pavlovian response in gamers of a certain age ― but the latest iteration basically floods its levels with bullion as part of a materialistic meta-game in which we're tasked with collecting a million coins.
While it certainly makes Mario's standard 100 coins equals 1up aspect essentially irrelevant, the critical debate is similarly irrelevant, because it didn't need the stimulus in the first place. Whatever window dressing is applied to a side-scrolling Super Mario game is ultimately nothing more than that.
This is not to dismiss the importance of experimentation, but that's why Super Mario Galaxy exists. Last fall's 2D/3D blurring Super Mario 3D Land also innovated with its use of the 3DS' auto-stereoscopic screen, which this latest Mario involves only to add attractive but meaningless depth to its backgrounds. But as a get-offa-my-lawn age gamer, I'm entirely satisfied with a traditional Super Mario that aims to emulate the experiences I had with the first and third games over two decades ago.
No, it's not much different from the 2006 DS-eration, except for those Magic Viewfinder-ish graphics, but the reason I liked that first New Super Mario Bros was because of how closely it hewed those old Super Mario Bros.
What matters is that the levels remain as ingeniously designed as they are nostalgia soaked ― and they are, yet again, a masterclass in traditional 2D platforming. So who cares about the influx of coinage? For side-scrolling platformer fans old and new, NSMB2 is worth way more than its theoretical weight in virtual gold. (Nintendo)