"I DON'T THINK I'd like it if Nintendo had changed it too much." That was my fiancée's reaction to New Super Mario Bros. 2 after spending a half hour with Nintendo's latest platformer. "I like that it feels like the old Mario games."
She's absolutely right. I'm not going to feign surprise that yet another Nintendo-made adventure starring a fat Italian plumber is quite good—that's to be expected—but I will point out how odd it is that this game succeeds specifically by avoiding innovation. The gaming community as a whole has spent years decrying developers for a lack of novel ideas in gaming—yet here's a title that's a perfect argument for why sometimes the best ideas are the old ideas.
If you've played a Mario Bros. game at any point in the past, you're well aware of what you'll see in New Super Mario Bros. 2. One could very easily describe the game as a minor upgrade over the original Nintendo DS' New Super Mario Bros., though it would be more accurate to describe the game as a hybrid of the NES' Super Mario Bros. 3 and the SNES' Super Mario World. The game's levels exude an aesthetic that, while 3D, is as colorful and eye-catching as the latter games', while the majority of the adventure's items and gameplay ideas feel lifted directly from the former. (Yes, that means the raccoon tail is available—and unlike its Super Mario 3D Land iteration, this one is capable of actual flight.)
Normally I'd slam a game for being so derivative of its predecessors, but in this case, I'm totally content with what Nintendo's done. There's a good reason why the company lifts ideas from its earlier games: They're simply among the best ever created. These ideas just work, and while this creative self-plagiarism makes New Super Mario Bros. 2 more of a remix than a sequel, it's still an undeniably excellent game.