Sunday, March 9, 2014
Wii U review: Super Mario 3D World
Effectively successor to Super Mario 3D Land, the latest 3D Mario title, Super Mario 3D World, clings to the 2D-3D hybrid presentation introduced on the 3DS and brings it into a full-HD realm brimming with bright colors, creative level designs, and four-person co-operative multiplayer. The premise is very basic – more bare-bones than most Mario titles, in fact. Bowser has kidnapped all the fairies of the Spritzee Kingdom and it is up to Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Peach to rescue them and restore order to this new land. The gimmick of being able to play as Peach is effectively the main reason for this premise, and while it is certainly nice to see the Mushroom Kingdom’s own royalty be utilized as something more than a plot device for once, Super Mario 3D World is a title that is memorable more for its gameplay than its plot.
Because it combines elements of the 2D platformer Mario titles and 3D free-roam adventure platformer titles, 3D World’s individual levels are generally rather short. That said, there are quite a few of them to explore, and though the challenge factor lacks the consistent degree of increase seen in 3D Land, it’s a far more rewarding and entertaining experience than the offerings of Super Mario Galaxy. There’s also a decent degree of freedom with regards to which stages you tackle in which order in any given world. Often, two stages will be made accessible at once, as well as some of the side stages and minigames, while the end-world boss castle will require a certain number of coins to access. The Spritzee Kingdom utilizes green stars instead of the classic gold stars, and while these green stars are more plentiful, boss stages generally require more of them in order to be accessed, which thankfully restricts the game from becoming too much of a cakewalk.
There are a few new power-ups that join the ranks of classics like the Fire Flower and Boomerang. Arguably the most under-utilized of the bunch is the Cherry, which splits a character into two duplicate copies, which jump and run at the same time. Certain puzzles require a set number of individuals to complete, and if you are playing Super Mario 3D World solo, this can be a convenient means to nab those few odd green stars you may have missed during your first playthrough of a stage. That said, only so many stages see the inclusion of the Cherry, a handful being at the start of the game, and the majority of them in the post-game bonus levels.
Used primarily in the gauntlet-style boss stages, a cannon that is worn on a character’s head fires a steady stream of cannonballs at foes. This can prove convenient for taking out inbound Bullet Bills, accessing a few hidden rooms with collectible stamps inside, or simply making the time-sensitive aspect of completing these stages a bit less stressful. The most highly-advertised new ability is the Cat Suit, which allows Mario and company the ability to dash toward foes and scale walls to reach otherwise-unobtainable items. The Cat Suit, while certainly a unique and bizarre addition to the Mario series, is used in excess, and the novelty of it wears thin about halfway through the game.
Boss fights are enjoyable and nicely varied, requiring different strategies such as gaining a higher vantage point in order to deal damage on a giant snake or splitting a blob-like jester into small jelly bits, which must then be taken out individually. The fights against Boom Boom and Pom Pom are almost identical to their battles in 3D Land, which is disappointing, considering how basic they were than and still are now, but the fights against them are far less frequent. Every once in a while, players will come across a stage designed specifically for an explorer Toad. These stages are set up as one large cube that players can rotate in order to gain a better view as they attempt to collect multiple green stars in one go. The catch is that this adventurous Toad cannot jump and thus players must rely on careful timing to avoid enemies and environmental traps. Similarly, Mario and gang can attempt a fast-paced series of challenges that will reward them with a significant bounty of green stars, provided they complete each of these combat and puzzle-focused challenges within a very strict time limit.
The presentation of Super Mario 3D World is superb. Colors are incredibly bright, textures look wonderful, and even the most basic of enemies appear highly animated. There are easter eggs and secrets abound, as well some rather brilliant twists on classic formulas with regards to the level design. The soundtrack, while perhaps lacking as many outright memorable tunes as Super Mario 64 or many of the older entries in the franchise, is nonetheless jazzy, upbeat, and a joy to listen to. This is a Mario game that does well to follow in the footsteps of its 3DS predecessor – impressive, considering that 3D World lacks the entire ‘3D depth perception’ gimmick provided by Nintendo’s current handheld. It may not be the greatest 3D Mario title out there, but it’s still an overall well-designed and thoroughly polished game, offering up plenty of replayability via its bonus stages and loads of fun thanks to the inclusion of co-operative multiplayer.
My rating: 8 (out of 10)