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Nothing is more precious than gold in 'New Super Mario Bros. 2'

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The Mario Bros. have the Midas touch

New Super Mario Bros. 2 art
New Super Mario Bros. 2 art

In New Super Mario Bros. 2, Nintendo's latest 2D Mario title, the Mario Bros. are looking to get paid for decades spent plumbing the depths of worlds near and far. They're still plumbing, but they've got an ulterior motive this time.

Mario always collected gold coins to rack up extra lives, but the practice was perhaps more pleasing for the instantly recognizable two-tone chime it emitted. The coins are the endgame in NSMB 2, with gold being the theme that permeates the experience. At a recent demo, a Nintendo representative trumpeted the game's grand total of one million coins to collect; NSMB 2 keeps track of your progress, and your tally can be StreetPassed to serve as a score for the recipient to beat.

Even new power-ups are golden. Jumping through a gold ring coats enemies in gold, so they spit out coins once defeated. Gold Mario is the result of picking up a Gold Flower, and his golden fireballs turn blocks into coins. Gold Block turns Mario into a golden blockhead — no, seriously — and he becomes a source of coins himself. Get the idea?

But aside from the ability to play through the entire game in two-player local co-op, the Mario Bros.' Midas-like obsession with gold may be the only new idea in New Super Mario Bros. 2.

I was only able to try the single-player Coin Rush mode, which challenges you to collect as many coins as you can with one life across three stages. The first was a beach-themed level, while the second was set in the desert; with only one life to live, I was unable to make it to the third course. I saw some clever platforming challenges with respect to the placement of coins — since the focus in NSMB 2 (and especially in Coin Rush) is on coins, the designers have made some of them fiendishly difficult to collect. But while the characteristic Mario physics still make platforming a joy, the allure of coin-collecting wasn't enough on its own to hold my attention for long.

the Mario Bros.' Midas-like obsession with gold may be the only new idea in New Super Mario Bros. 2

Maybe the full game's levels are more varied. Coin Rush, however, isn't the best showcase for whether NSMB 2 is a welcome sequel or a tired retread. For now, I'm willing to give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is due out on 3DS on August 19th.