Release Date: 11/22/13
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I have a confession. I’ve never beaten a 3D Mario game. And I’ve never gotten a game on the first day that it came out. Super Mario 3D World changed both of those things, and I’m glad that it was the game to do that. You see, Mario 3D World is not the best 3D Mario game. That trophy belongs to Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario 64, which both have much more “open” gameplay. Instead, Super Mario 3D World is the best level design ever seen in a Mario game. Every single secret location is ingenious. Enemy locations and patterns were created with care, and platforms are always placed in locations so that they aren’t too easy to jump to yet every missed jump is a user error.
I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much in a game. Even when I was mad, I was smiling. Smiling during local multiplayer is commonplace for most video games, but I don’t think I ever usually smile when playing by myself. Super Mario 3D World made me smile even during single-player. The game is just so much fun I could hardly get myself to put it down while playing. The story is… well… no one plays a Mario game for the story. The first new addition to the franchise is that there are 4 characters (spoilers, I guess if you can call it that: there is a 5th character you unlock as well later in the game) to choose from and player one is not locked to Mario, unlike the New Super Mario Bros games. Mario is all-around good, Luigi can jump extra high but has clumsier movements, Peach (yes, you get to play as Peach this time around) can float (giving her a longer jump time) but is much slower than the rest, and Toad is very fast yet a little more difficult to control.
Luigi was my favorite character of the four, as his higher jump provided very useful in some situations. I know most people have a preference towards Mario however. This game is fantastic in multiplayer and in single-player. While the Mario platformers have often been criticized for having too chaotic a multiplayer, 3D World is the perfect balance between chaos and teamwork. Also, unlike the previous Mario games, 3D World is not ridiculously easier with multiplayer. While most secrets are a breeze when with friends, death will also be more commonplace which balances the two out.
I do have a minor gripe with multiplayer though. I do not understand why the person on the gamepad cannot stray away from the rest of the group, especially when only two people are playing. It’s annoying that the game does not take advantage of the Wii U’s asymmetrical multiplayer features. Also, the gamepad is almost completely useless in the game. It can be used to highlight invisible secrets, temporarily stop enemies, and also as a camera, but it’s much easier and more intuitive to use the right analog stick as a camera. The only levels which take advantage of it properly are levels where you must tap on platforms to make them pop out. Those levels are few and far between but are the best use of the gamepad throughout the whole game.
Of course, there is also off-tv mode however the graphics are much crisper and clearer on a television screen, where the game is meant to be played. Speaking of the graphics, this game looks absolutely breathtaking. The lighting effects are extremely well done, and rain levels, in particular, look stunning. 720p or not, this game is beautiful and it runs for the most part at sixty frames per second (only the keenest observers will notice the occasional frame rate drop). The soundtrack is also excellent and makes use of one of my favorite Wii U features- playing the part of the beat of the gamepad and the other part off the TV.
The gameplay itself burnt down to its core is extremely similar to Super Mario 3D Land, however, the level design is so fresh that I never felt like I was playing the same game again. I’m probably not the best person to comment on that though considering I only played through the first two worlds of 3D Land. Also, those only interested in the next Mario Galaxy game might want to stray away, as Super Mario 3D World shares more in common with the 2D platformers than its 3D counterparts.
The controls are pitch-perfect, as to be expected from a Nintendo game. Every movement feels right, and all errors were my fault and not the game’s fault. I didn’t really make too many errors though as the main worlds are unfortunately very easy and that is coming from someone who usually sucks at video games (you don’t even want to know how terrible I am at some games). It’s also not too long, but that’s okay because there is tons of extra content once you’ve beaten the game.
Completely new to the game are the Captain Toad levels. They’re kind of like Fez if Fez was an actual 3D game. There are only a few, but this prevents them from getting stale and they provide quite a challenge sometimes. Also, something I am surprised this game had was depth perception issues. The 3D effect really helped the original game, and it shows in the sequel as I often had to pay attention to shadows to tell where my jumps were going to land. It’s a shame Nintendo didn’t add stereoscopic 3D support.
The two major powerups added are the catsuit and double cherry. The catsuit allows you to climb up to secrets and attack enemies and is one of the most creative powerups in a Mario game ever. The double cherry creates clones of yourself which in turn can cause hectic fun during multiplayer. It’s too bad that the double cherry is level specific and very uncommon to come across. There are also a bunch of other temporary powerups like a Goomba disguise and a coin-shooting block which are fun to use.
Super Mario 3D World is one of the most fun games I’ve ever played. It’s polished and fun, and those waiting for a reason to buy a Wii U have no better reason to jump on. I’ve been disappointed with the Wii U the whole entire year until now, and Nintendo has proven that in the end, the one thing they have over their major competitors are first-party titles that are fun no matter who they are played with and will withstand the test of time.