Super Mario 3D World – Wii U
Platform: Wii U
Release Date (NA): November 22nd, 2013
Developer: Nintendo, 1-UP Studio
Genre: 3D Platformer
Nerd Rating: 8.5 out of 10
The latest Mario platformer is finally here! Although Super Mario 3D World may have been overshadowed by the releases of the PS4 and Xbox One, there are still plenty of us Nintendo fans out there waiting for the chance to kick our Wii U’s into high gear. Super Mario 3D World is a stunning game, and while Nintendo may not have yet figured out how to utilize the full potential of the Gamepad in a platformer setting, this is the game that Wii U owners have been waiting for. I’ve been playing this title for the last couple of weeks, and though I’m sure there’s much left for me to discover, I feel I’ve made some decent headway.
A sequel to 2011’s Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS, Super Mario 3D World is a welcome improvement over one of the Wii U’s launch titles, New Super Mario Bros. U. New SMB U is a good game, but let’s be honest, it wasn’t the launch title we were all expecting for the first of the 8th generation consoles to roll out. In most respects we were given a familiar platformer while Nintendoland stole the spotlight when it came to showing off the Wii U’s features.
From the start, the player is immersed in a beautiful 3D environment. It may not approach the emphasis on three dimensional elements that 3D Land did, but depth is more than adequately represented. Anyone familiar with either of the Super Mario Galaxy games will instantly feel at home as for the most part the levels follow a linear path. The importance of 3D and the extent to which it’s used in the levels are downplayed somewhat from Galaxy titles, and the 3D World portion of the moniker could be misleading to those with extensive Mario experience. Naming objections asides, 3D World introduces a few all-new gaming mechanics and offers up the one of the most fluid platforming events ever.
One aspect that’s had everyone talking prior to release is the introduction of Cat Mario. A new power-up, the bell, gives Mario (or any other character) a cat suit. At first glance it appears to be an orange version of the raccoon tail, but the cat suit positions the character on all 4 limbs. Speed is increased, and a swiping attack can be performed to defeat enemies. The most cutting edge ability is that of climbing. With the cat suit, Mario / whoever can now climb vertical surfaces! This adds a whole new dimension to gameplay; suddenly walls and other vertical obstructions are no longer an issue. The possibilities for exploration are literally infinite and it’s easy to waste loads of time climbing around looking for stuff. Several items and places can only be reached with the capability of the cat suit, such as stars, stamps, and the one warp zone I’ve located so far. This revolutionary mechanic is sure to have a noticeable impact on games to come.
Just when you thought the mold couldn’t be broken any further, somewhere in World 2 the player runs across the cherries. Once consumed, the character is doubled! That’s right, instead of 1 Mario, there’s 2 Marios! The player controls both simultaneously, and the game does an exceptional job of handling the logistics of moving 2 characters at once. For some tasks, it’s necessary for each “clone” to stand in different spots and for others they’ll need to group together. The frustration level is minimal and I don’t believe anyone would’ve suspected such a deft handling of this element. Oh, and if Mario picks up a cherry while he’s doubled, another Mario will appear! This can be repeated until a total of 5 Marios are running around at once! What’s more is that the cherries don’t act as a long power-up; it’s still possible for the character to have another power-up such as the Fire Flower. Imagine 5 clones all shooting fireballs at once…it’s awesome. Any items collected by 1 clone are applied to them all. They will disappear one by one as bumped by foes or knocked off ledges, but since there’s no “master” there’s no need to keep one particularly safe over the others. Once you’re down to one, that’s you. The duplicating cherries are a magnificent addition that I never saw coming. Nintendo really outdid themselves not only for making it happen, but making it a fun aspect instead of frustrating or annoying.
Most other platforming elements are familiar but done in an exceedingly well done manner. It’s still jumping and running at its finest, mixed in with an increasing slant towards exploration that main-series Mario games have been leaning towards. This time around, 3 green stars are hidden (or not-so-hidden) in each level along with a stamp. A tally of stars are kept and just as in 3D Land certain numbers of stars are required to advance. Stamps are accumulated in a stamp collection, and aside from being able to view them, so far I don’t know their purpose. But I am sure that once all of either are collected something clever will be revealed, a persistent recurrence since Super Mario 64.
A variety of different levels are included in 3D World, everything from fast-paced moving screens and race-like levels to more puzzle-based stages and a few that are just plain fun, good for picking up a few hundred coins and a couple of power-ups. One especially entertaining sub-set of levels involves the “Captain Toad.” He must pick up a number of stars in a small, single-screen world, however he cannot jump. The player is forced to use switches and ramps to cleverly and carefully navigate Toad to each of the stars while avoiding enemies and other environmental perils. I had an awesome time with these novelties and my only complaint is that I wish there were more.
Though the puzzle stages must be played as Toad, the player is free to select any of the 4 playable characters for any level. Power-ups transfer to whoever is chosen, an awesome little touch that most people won’t notice yet would certainly feel the loss were it absent. Harking back to the days of Super Mario Bros. 2, Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad are all playable. Their respective strengths and weaknesses are similar to those of SMB 2; Mario is the most balanced, Luigi can jump highest but can’t stop on a dime, Peach can float as she jumps, and Toad can run the fastest. Any level can be completed any character; the game isn’t so hard that one must choose “the right character.” Some characters are able to access areas in levels that others can’t, usually for the purpose of gathering stars and stamps. To top it all off, Rosalina is in the game as an unlockable character!
Remember the original Mario Bros.? Well, if there’s any save data for New Super Luigi U on your Wii U, a special version of Mario Bros. is available for play. Instead of “Mario” Bros., it’s “Luigi” Bros.! It’s identical to the old game except that player one controls Luigi rather than Mario. The game is also unlockable (presumably by beating the game) without needing save data for New Super Luigi U.
Controls are as intuitive as ever and navigating the 3D environments will come naturally even to those unfamiliar with moving around in three dimensions. Visually 3D World is arguably the most impressive Mario title to date with several subtle touches (such as falling rain) that add to the fantasy-like feel. Much of the music is lifted from previous Mario games and Mario experts everywhere will recognize these “remixes” immediately.
I’m sure there are plenty of secrets to be found as in most Mario games, but for now I’m focused on making it through what I can see. Overall 3D World is a magnificent game even if it doesn’t quite give us the integration of the Gamepad as much as we’d hoped. It’s not quite beyond criticism, however. Although an amazing experience, it lacks the significance of the three dimensions that 3D Land possesses and it falls slightly short of being completely original and groundbreaking. I suppose I was expecting a whole new level of gameplay much like the Galaxy series offered, but in many ways we still have the same Mario doing the same stuff even if it is done exceedingly well. This may not quite be the pinnacle of Mario games for the Wii U but it is a huge step in the right direction.
Super Mario 3D World is sure to set the precedent for Mario games of the future, and I suspect that the days of Super Mario World-esque games are in the past. If you have a Wii U, this is a must have and if you don’t, it’s a great time to consider buying one especially if you’re a Mario fan. I suppose I won’t ever be fully satisfied until Nintendo rolls out a Super Mario Galaxy 3, but 3D World has certainly earned its place among the greatest Mario games ever made.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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