The Need for Greed in New Super Mario Bros. 2

I had a pretty busy week with not much time to think about anything, so the only thing I can put into words at the moment (without breaking any NDAs or discussing the inner minutiae of Cape Comic Con) is New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS. It’s a traditional 2D Mario game, but there’s an added catch: it’s important to collect as many coins as possible. I’m not sure why it’s important, or perhaps I’ve forgotten why, but there’s a running counter in the corner of the map screen that displays the total number of coins collected. I have 15,000 so far. If I get to a million coins, I’m pretty sure something important happens. Perhaps it allows Mario to buy Princess Peach’s freedom from Bowser. Or perhaps it allows Mario to pay off a tremendous debt to the Mushroom Kingdom—he has caused a lot of collateral damage, for instance, what with all the blocks he breaks. Anyway, I’ll find out when I get a million coins.

This has been a great game to play during a busy week because I’ve been able to play it for 30-45 minutes a night before bed to wind down, and even with limited playing time and in short spurts, I’ve made pretty good progress. It’s also on a portable console, so I can play it with great convenience and from my bed if I want.

When I first heard about this game, I wasn’t very interested in it because I thought the emphasis on coin-collecting was gimmicky and uninteresting. However, when I can get a Mario game for 15 dollars on a Black Friday sale, it instantly becomes much more appealing.

Coins coins COINS!

Coins coins COINS!

It turns out this is the perfect game for me. I’m the kind of gamer who takes unnecessary risks—jumping two or three perilous gaps, for instance—just to collect a 1-up mushroom (even if I already have 99 lives) or an extra handful of coins. New Super Mario Bros. 2 has coins in perilous locations everywhere, and I’ve probably lost fifty more lives than I normally do in a Mario game trying to get them. The level design is excellent and the coin placement enticing—coins aren’t just slap-dashed into the levels. They feel as though they are meticulously and purposefully placed despite the fact that there are so many of them. As such, it makes it difficult to leave any of them behind.

The game’s running total of coins gives fresh incentive to collecting them. In previous Mario games, the primary purpose of collecting coins is to earn extra lives, but I’ve gotten good enough at Mario games that lives are rarely an issue. I still like to collect the coins, and I will take unnecessary risks to get them, but if time is short or I’m just goofing around, I know I don’t need them. New Super Mario Bros. 2 has so many coins that I’ve built up hundreds of lives, yet I can’t stop collecting them. Playing the game is not only fun and relaxing, but it has also become an intriguing psychological study.

Just when I think I have all the answers, Nintendo changes the questions.

The First Video Game I Bought

This week’s USgamer community question asks readers the first game they ever bought. I can answer that question; I remember the story well.

I was seven years old and recently discovered the concept of saving money. Previously, money was spent immediately after it was received on essentials like Ninja Turtle action figures or Super Mario Bros. activity books. However, after the Nintendo Entertainment System came into my life, I learned that video games were A) expensive, and 2) required saving money in order to purchase. We had an Atari 2600 before we had a Nintendo, but buying my own Atari 2600 games had never been desirable. In fact, I don’t even know if it ever occurred to me that I could buy Atari games. But once the NES came along, I was hooked. I had to have more, and that meant spending Christmas and birthday money on an NES game.

I knew exactly what I wanted. In those days, unless a game was lucky enough to receive coverage in Nintendo Power, the only information I had on it was based either on an advertisement, or a Sears catalog listing of the game that featured box art, a single tiny screenshot, and a vague description of the plot. And if there was one piece of box art, one single tiny screenshot, and one vague plot description that appealed to me most, they belonged to Dynowarz: Destruction of Spondylus.

Dynowarz Box Art

Cool, right? Right?!

I don’t really know the intricate plot details behind Dynowarz, but the important thing was that it was about a guy piloting a robotic dinosaur in outer space against other robotic dinosaurs. More importantly, it also graphically resembled the Godzilla Nintendo game, which I loved and we’d rented at least twice by then. I would have preferred to buy Godzilla if you could find it for purchase anywhere, so Dynowarz was the next best thing. But honestly, robotic dinosaurs fighting in space should have been the greatest game ever made, right? Also, it was spelled with a Y and a Z, so I knew it had to be good.

My family made an outing to West Park Mall, where a KB Toys and its inventory of Nintendo games awaited, including Dynowarz! I saved my money, and I was going to buy it! No force on the planet would stop me. Not even my brother, who pleaded with me to buy Snake’s Revenge instead and knew WAY more about video games than I did, could convince me otherwise. Soon enough, I made my first video game purchase ever. Dynowarz was in hand. The time had come for hours upon hours of robot dinosaur adventure. In space.

Dynowarz screenshot

This is awesome. You cannot deny.

I finished the game that weekend. I was seven. I was seven years old and I finished the game in one weekend?! And that was sharing Nintendo time with my brother, who had just received WWF Wrestlemania for his birthday. I remember being impressed with the variety of weapons in the game, and even at a young age, I must have somehow managed to determine the best weapon for every possible scenario and exploit it, like a very young X-wing pilot.

Unfortunately, Dynowarz did not have lasting appeal. I probably played it a handful of additional times, and traded it to a classmate for the Nintendo adaptation of Jaws a couple of years later. Jaws wasn’t a good game, either; I obviously did not make good business decisions when I was young. I’m also the guy who sold Metroid to another kid in fifth or sixth grade because I was scared of it. Today, Metroid is one of my favorite games.

But that’s a story for another day.