Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Extra lives - extra difficulty

My lovely girlfriend gave me a 3DS XL as a present last week and I have since been playing a whole lot of New Super Mario Bros. 2. As you probably know the theme of the game is coins. Mario games have always involved coin collecting but now everything gives the player excessive amounts of cash, the game even comes in a yellow case to highlight this new gimmick.

I can't help but feel that this new element of the gameplay has been somewhat wasted. As every Mario fan knows, collecting a hundred coins will grant the player an extra life. With coins being thrown at the player from left and right he will soon end up with hundreds of spare lives, which really serve no purpose other than bragging rights. It would have been a perfect opportunity for Nintendo to turn up the difficulty. Combined with the games checkpoint system, the almost endless supply of extra lives could allow for some really challenging levels without the annoyance of having to restart from the last save.

There is a precedent for this, the Japanese sequel to the original Mario sidescroller, which incidentally has the same name as this game except for the 'New', was a brutally hard game. It didn't give the player a whole lot of lives to compensate per se but what most players did was to use some trick to max out the lives counter in the early levels, like trapping a Koopa shell in an endless loop and watch the lives extra lives start pouring in. This was how I was able to beat the game and given the game's often unfair difficulty I felt completely justified in using some trickery to beat in.

In my opinion it would be fully within the spirit of this classic to have made New Super Bros. 2 in to a game where the increased coin count was compensated for with a higher difficulty.