Mario again? Isn’t he done to death? Not by a long shot.
Alongside the launch of the Wii U, the first Mario game found its way onto the Wii U in the form of New Super Mario Bros. U. And it was fun. It was the standard hop-n-bop plus adding in the new motion elements, and it was enjoyable. However, while New Super Mario Bros. for the DS may have been risky (and one that paid off), the continuation of New Super Mario Bros. Wii and New Super Mario Bros. 2 may have tampered the “wow” factor of NSMBU and its spin-off, New Super Luigi U.
Meanwhile, semi-quietly, Nintendo released Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS, taking the platforming elements of the 2D games and mashing it together with the open-world mobility of the 3D games. It was a hit, 3DS players rejoiced, and those without the handheld system either went out to buy one, or wept loudly that the home systems were left out in the cold.
Super Mario 3D World, the latest title in the Mario universe, feels like a present to those who stuck it through with the Mario gang all these years. It freshens up the series and takes the unique gameplay of 3D Land and puts it on the Wii U, along with several of the innovations the new series offered. It also adds enough elements to make 3D World its own unique and highly-enjoyable offering.
WARNING: Minor spoilers may be scattered in article.
Bowser is up to his old hijinks again, but this time the Mushroom Kingdom isn’t the one to suffer. Upon finding a unique clear pipe that seems to be broken, Mario and Luigi break out their tools and fix it, in what may be the first time anyone has ever seen the Mario Bros. do anything even remotely related to plumbing work since 1983. As soon as the pipe is functional again, a fairy-type creature known as a Sprixie pops out and tells of this giant turtle monster ravaging their homeland and trapping Sprixie maidens in jars. The Mario crew figures it must be Gamera and merrily proceeds with their day.
No! Of course that’s not how it happens. It’s the notorious Bowser, who emerges from the pipe and traps the Sprixie in the jar before heading back down the pipe. The four chase off after the King of the Koopas (mostly because Princess Peach falls into the pipe accidentally) and set off to help the Sprixies.
You heard me right: Bowser had a free shot at Peach and passed it up.
This also means that not only can you play as Mario, but Luigi, Toad and Peach as well. The characters retain the same dynamic as the four did in the last opportunity players could select their member of the Mushroom Kingdom crew, the original Super Mario Bros. 2. While Mario is all-around good at everything, Luigi has the highest jump, Toad is the fastest, and Peach retains her ability to float. Choosing a character requires more thought than just a preferred playstyle; though a player could complete the game with any character, but in order to manage a 100% run, players must utilize all four characters at some point during the course of the game. Players can select a new character at the beginning of each stage, but must complete the stage or abandon it – and all collected items in the course – before changing again.
Super Mario 3D World supports four-player co-op via additional Wii remotes (with or without the nunchuck) or Pro Controllers. Multi-player games use a pool of lives, which each life added or lost by a character affecting that pool. Characters can pick each other up to assist in difficult areas, or if they’re evil, to throw them over the side of the level. (NOTE: GotGame does not encourage throwing allies over the side of levels.)
Like other Mario titles, coins are scattered about for the taking, and 100 of them will give you an extra life. Cleverly hidden in each course is a Stamp made by the Sprixies, and if the effort is made to collect it, the resulting stamp can be used on Miiverse posts. Every stage also has three green stars in challenging locations, and while collecting each and every one is optional, at certain points Bowser will have locked courses which require a certain number of green stars to open up. These courses generally lead to shortcuts, Toad Houses which offer up power ups, and other goodies. Occasionally those courses will be needed to be unlocked to progress, so while green stars can be overlooked in many cases, at some point those challenges will need to be taken up.
Making their return to the infamous “?” boxes are mushrooms, which turn characters from little to big, Fire Flowers that allow them to shoot fireballs, and Starmen which grant temporary invincibility. Originally from Super Mario Bros. 3, the Tanooki Suit returns, giving Mario and Co. the ability to float with its tail (or extending Peach’s float ability), and returning from 3D Land is the Boomerang Flower, which gives the player a Boomerang Bros. suit, similar to the Hammer Bros. suit in SMB3. Players can use the boomerangs to attack enemies or retrieve hard-to-reach items.
One of the new items featured in 3D World will have players seeing double – the Double Cherry. When found, the Double Cherry produces a copy of the character that collects it, and a new copy for each subsequent one. Certain puzzles in those stages will need to have one or more copies to complete them, but the clones turn into points at the end of the level. There’s something wonderfully silly about seeing multiple Marios frantically running around a course, adding to the enjoyment factor of a great level build.
Also making its debut in 3D World is the Cat’s Bell, putting characters in the Cat Suit. The Cat Suit (beyond making all the characters even more super adorable than they already are) gives them a cat-scratch attack which can be used to beat enemies or break bricks. Cats can also climb up the sides of most walls, allowing them to bypass obstacles or find hidden coins, items or areas. Plus it allows the characters to make adorable cat sounds, and let’s face it: the Internet loves cats.
Jokes aside, it’s hard to resist the charm of a well-executed Mario title, and 3D World fits that bill quite well. The art and colors are bright, vibrant and fun, even in underground levels. The music is irresistibly catchy, and even the “hardest” of the “hardcore” gamer might even find their feet doing a happy tap or two. Homages to other games in the series can be found throughout and it’s a treat for Mario gamers when they’re found. Puzzles and platforming are challenging but not impossible, scaling up appropriately as the game advances.
One of the greatest features of 3D World is the variation of levels throughout the game. While the majority of levels are platformers, other levels include Mystery Houses, which feature a series of rapid-fire challenges for green stars, speed run levels with only 100 seconds on the clock, shadow levels, and, yes, a ridiculously fun Mario Kart-themed level. Captain Toad levels feature spatial puzzles in which players must navigate Captain Toad through a small puzzle level to collect five green stars. It sounds simple enough, but there is a catch: Captain Toad cannot jump. Players must utilize the camera’s rotation and gyroscopic features of the Gamepad to navigate traps and chasms in lieu of jumping ability to complete the challenging special stage. Lucky players might even find a pathway to the Golden Express, a train-themed bonus level awash in coins lying around for the taking.
3D World challenges the solo player, but multi-player gives it something of a “Battletoads effect,” making the game even more fun to play, but ramping up the challenge considerably. A notable early example is World 1-4, where players are introduced to Plessie, a sea-monster-type creature who offers players a ride through the rapids on her back. In single-player, the player controls Plessie directly, making her speed up, slow down, turn and jump as needed. In multi-player, all players control Plessie, and need to utilize teamwork to navigate the rapids and not plummet to their death. Failing to work as a team could mean slow travel and missed turns, which will rapidly deplete the life counter. Though harder, playing with friends provides a night of immense fun; just don’t use it to soothe tensions between warring siblings.
My only complaint with 3D World – and it’s not a big one – are the sometimes-too-easy boss battles. The first boss fight which involves kicking bombs back at Bowser, driving a car that looks like it was stolen from Wario. It’s fun, challenging, and sets the bar high for the other boss battles, which sometimes fail to meet up to that expectation. In contrast, Boom-Boom, the fortress master from Super Mario Bros. 3 makes his return shortly after. While this ranks high on the nostalgia scale, the mechanic is still the same: bop three times, then proceed. In contrast again, however, are boss battles like the one encountered later from the multi-headed plate-spinning circus snake. Without giving away too many spoilers, I have to state that it stands as one of the all-around best boss battles I’ve played in any platformer ever. Ever. So not all subsequent boss fights are underwhelming, just some.
Aside from that minor detriment, Super Mario 3D World otherwise knocks it out of the park. Colorful, challenging, with enough nostalgia to romance the retro gamers but enough innovation to draw in new players. The variety of levels and the myriad of ways to play ensures that any gamer who picks this up will have, at the very least, a darn good time. Plus, you can’t go wrong with the Mario crew dressed as adorable cats.
Go get this game right meow.
Super Mario 3D World — 4.8 out of 5
Exclusive to Wii U
Rated E for Everyone (and Everycat)