Platform: Wii U
I read an interesting article somewhere in the plains of the internet a while ago – one I unfortunately cannot find for the life of me.
In it, one of the higher ups of Nintendo, either Shigeru Miyamoto or Satoru Iwata, shared that many fans of the original 2D Mario games were not fond of the complexities of 3D Mario titles such as Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy. These older fans felt the 3D environments were overwhelming for the red-shirted plumber, which ultimately turned platforming fun into a chore.
While I certainly have never held those thoughts, I can see where those people are coming from. Going from linear paths where you have the luxury knowing all you have to do is simply keep running right to being tossed into a world where you can move in nearly every way can be daunting.
Whether you are a fan of yester-decade’s Mario or the 3D titles, everyone will be pleased with Super Mario 3D World, as it combines the best of both linear and non-linear worlds.
The game starts out with Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad trolleying along a field in front of Princess Peach’s Castle where they stumble upon a clear pipe moments later. After some handy work by Mario and Luigi, the pipe is fixed, which finally confirms they are indeed plumbers. The pipe then explodes, and out of it comes many of the series’ signature items alongside a winged fairy princess, who explains her fellow fairy friends have been kidnapped by Bowser. At that moment, Bowser emerges from the pipe and kidnaps the princess, prompting the four characters to pursue Bowser and put his evil schemes down for a permanent nap.
Yes, it is the typical Bowser-kidnaps-a-princess-so-now-Mario-and-co-have-to-save-them plot, but you don’t play a Mario game for plot. You play them for its simplistic platforming gameplay, something this game absolutely excels at.
3D World essentially takes the best from every platforming Mario title and molds them into this one game. The game is undoubtedly a 3D platformer, but there is a strangely wonderful 2D feel to the game. You will never get lost when exploring each level, but at the same time, there are enough hidden goodies and tucked away areas to make it a true 3D platformer begging you to explore.
As a result, everybody, no matter their play style, wins. This becomes even more apparent as you progress through the levels as well. The starting levels are simple enough for any casual player, but the later levels will test the core crowd, as they can get incredibly challenging.
There are plenty of levels to trek through as well. Just when you think you have finally finished the game, it rewards you with more worlds to travel to and levels to conquer, adding much value to the game. There are also tons of collectibles from green starts to the newly introduced stamps and earning an emblem indicating you have touched the top of the flag pole at the end of each stage, which is surprisingly addicting.
What’s further amazing is how the game maintains fresh gameplay additions. No level ever feels the same because there is almost always some kind of new mechanic thrown at you. It will keep you on your toes, but never strays you away from the core gameplay to where you will feel lost. The new Cat Suit is one such example, which allows players to swipe at enemies, perform a mid-air lunge attack and scale walls. Akin to the signature Tanooki Suit, it is incredibly and has many tactical advantages, and it’s now one of my personal favorite Mario power-ups.
For the first time in the series, 3D World allows up to four players to be on the screen at once. Players choose between Mario, Luigi, Toad and Peach, who I am glad to see as a playable character rather than the helpless kidnapped victim.
No characters play the same, however. Mario is balanced in speed and jump; Luigi can jump high and has a float-y feel; Peach can suspend herself in mid-air for a short time; and Toad can outrun his iconic partners. Each offers a different way to play, and being able to randomize who you play as before going into a level with friends is a nice, quirky option. The great news though is if you decide to be a lone wolf, you can still play with any character.
Luigi, however, does not control as well compared to the others. When he jumps, it’s a bit harder to control because of the way Luigi floats, sometimes making a simple leap to the next platform a frustrating venture resulting in an unnecessary death.
Depending on the kind of time you are looking for with 3D World’s cooperative experience, it may not be as enjoyable as you would like it to be. While it’s nowhere near the unenjoyable chaos of the console New Super Mario Bros. games, it can be infuriating at times because of how much can happen on screen. Before you can grab the next mushroom, your life count will have been depleted. There are not any real repercussions if you lose your lives though. You simply have to restart the entire level, but if you are trying to legitimately get through the levels, it can get too chaotic at times, especially in the tougher courses.
There is also a new competitive score system where each player earns their own points which is then displayed at the conclusion of each course. Whoever snags the most points receives a crown that can be worn for the next level. If the player with the crown is attacked though, they will lose it, giving another person the opportunity to sneakily snag it. It is a simple, yet thrilling addition if you play with friend’s whose sole goal is steal your coveted crown and vice versa.
With different players come different controller preferences, and 3D World has five options to pick from: GamePad, Pro Controller, Wii remote with nunchuck, Wii remote turned horizontally and Wii remote with the Classic Controller plugged in. It is certainly fantastic to have all of these options, but you shouldn’t count out the GamePad. It has small, but useful advantages over the other options. Enemies can be momentarily stunned using the touchscreen and blowing into the GamePad’s mic can reveal hidden objects.
Now, whether or not the Wii U is a next generation console is an entirely different debate on its own, but no one can deny how gorgeous 3D World is. It’s clear the game uses an upgraded graphics engine used for the first and second Super Mario Galaxy, both of which still look great despite running on technology two-console generations old. Everything in 3D World from the vibrant aesthetics to soft glows reflecting off shiny surfaces to new character models are an absolute marvel. Even with the stunning graphics, the game manages to maintain a solid 60 frames – even with four players. If 3D World is a taste test of what visual treats are to come for Wii U games down the line, I can’t wait for the full course.
In a word, you should strongly consider Super Mario 3D World for your library or if you’re sitting on the fence about getting a Wii U. 3D World is one of the few games I have ever played where I can say with full confidence that any player of any skill level will have a blast. From the platforming to the power-ups to the level design and more, it mixes all of the key ingredients from the entire series into one final polished product. All the more impressive is how much there is to do alongside the game’s dazzling visuals. 3D World’s major downfall is how unruly the multiplayer can be at times, but as long as it’s not at the same caliber of recklessness the console New Super Mario Bros. games are at, I am satisfied.
+ Combines assortment of fantastic elements from past games
+ Consistently fresh gameplay
+ Much to do
+ Beautiful visuals
- Multiplayer can get too chaotic
- Luigi’s float-y jumping
The Score: 9.0
Robbie Key is the Nintendo editor for Analog Addiction, entertainment editor for the Pine Log newspaper at Stephen F. Austin State University, news editor for Worlds Factory and blogger for IGN. Follow his completely relevant Twitter updates, watch his awesomtacular YouTube videos, and view his LinkedIn profile.