HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – I’ve played dozens of titles starring everyone’s favorite plumber, Mario. After playing Nintendo’s latest Mario adventure on Wii U, Super Mario 3D World, I still can’t get enough. Nintendo surprised me with yet another classic platformer that gamers will want to come back and play again and again.
Super Mario 3D World does have a plot that caught me off guard. The formula for almost any Mario game is Princess Peach gets kidnapped by Bowser, Mario has to save her. We all know how it tends to play out. In Super Mario 3D World, the player watches as a group of fairies are captured by Bowser. Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad are left to save the day.
Enough about the plot, let’s get to the good stuff. First off, the game looks amazing. The Wii U is known as the lightweight of the “Next-Gen” console group when it comes to graphics. The great thing about a Mario title is that the game doesn’t have to be Battlefield 4 or Assassins Creed IV. The game features wonderfully detailed worlds that each have distinct details. The shadowing on Mario and the wide variety of enemies is well done. The lighting is superb in each world as well. The game’s worlds vary from sunny beaches to the usual inclusion of a haunted house. When Mario pops a Goomba the poof that remains is perfect. Each detail was well thought out by Shigeru Miyamoto’s team. When Mario or his team run for an extended amount of time a white smoke trail follows them. It’s whimsical and just plain cool.
The game’s level design is also top notch. The game plays out similar to Super Mario Bros. 3 in that players travel from level to level throughout one of eight different worlds. Instead of the player being on “rails” so to speak, you can travel to any portion of the world at any point. All levels feature green stars (no gold here) for the player to collect. Most levels have three stars hidden throughout. Some of these are easy to grab, but others provide a challenge. To advance to the game’s boss fights players must have a certain number of green stars. Early on it’s easy to collect them, but later the difficulty ramps up (we’ll get to that). Many Mario titles follow the same formula of a desert world, a water world, or a basic grassy world. This game does feature those environments but doesn’t get tied down to them. There are some levels that have you riding on the back of a giant dinosaur named Plessie. Seriously folks, Mario rides a giant dinosaur not named Yoshi. Plessie’s levels are water themed as she (I think she’s a she) can glide over rivers collecting coins. These levels are a change of pace and are a blast. Also, if you’ve missed the train themed levels of Super Mario Bros. 3., you’re in luck. There are multiple to keep you busy. Not quite as challenging as the one’s from Super Mario Bros. 3, but still plenty of fun.
Many of the latest Mario adventures have introduced a new gameplay mechanic in the form of new power-up suits for Mario to utilize. Super Mario 3D World introduces a fantastic power-up. The ability to turn into a cat. In the cat suit, Mario or his team can climb up walls to reach hidden areas or green stars, and also attack enemies. As far as I can remember this is the first time Mario has had the ability to perform a physical melee type attack. The cat attack easily dispatches enemies and is funny to watch. I mean, it’s Mario in a cat suit. That’s just funny. I also enjoy the game’s boomerang suit which turns you into a boomerang throwing machine.
I want to mention one of minor issues I had with game. Worlds 1-5 and really most of World 6 was a breeze. I collected a whopping 36 extra lives during that time. Worlds 7 and 8 turned the difficulty up, big time. The kind of difficulty that will have Mario vets ready to throw their GamePads. By the end of the game I only had six lives remaining. I don’t mind the challenge, but the game really had a steep difficulty curve in the latter portion. This can be frustrating at times.
I mentioned that the game is not a solo adventure for the red hatted plumber. Players can play through any of the levels as Mario, Luigi, Peach or Toad. If you have ever played Super Mario Bros. 2 than you will feel right at home here. Mario is the well rounded character. Luigi can jump higher. Peach has a float jump. Toad is fastest. Some of the levels definitely intend for the player to switch to one of the three other characters to obtain those coveted green stars.
The character collection comes into play in the game’s zany, and fun multiplayer mode. It is a perfect blend of co-op and competitive. Up to four players can be on-screen vying to beat a level. The catch? The players are also vying to score the most points through enemy kills, coins, and green stars. The winner gets to wear a goofy crown during the next level. While the crown doesn’t have any effect on a player, my friends really went over the top in an effort to wear it. I do have a bit of advice for anyone who picks this title up. Don’t try and attack the crown holder. Instead, just stay ahead of the competition and collect as many coins and stars as possible. Holding onto the crown during the level isn’t the goal, wearing it at the end is. The ability to play through the entire title with friends is fun and adds something different to the tried and true Mario formula. Players can use a Wii Remote Plus, the GamePad, or a Pro Controller.
I do wish the game would have found a way to utilize the Wii U’s major selling point, the GamePad in a unique way. This game is definitely Nintendo’s system seller and I think it would have been a good move to use the GamePad for something more than just a second screen. There are portions of the game where the player has to blow into the device to move a platform or touch a door to open it but these are gameplay mechanics that have been around since the original Nintendo DS days. Nintendo must find ways to use the system’s unique controller to separate itself from the Sony and Microsoft powerhouse consoles.
The bottom line though? Super Mario 3D World is a masterpiece. It is platforming at its finest. The game’s fantastic level design, fun multiplayer, and beautiful graphics make this one of the best Mario titles Nintendo has ever produced. If you don’t have a Wii U, this game could change your mind. Nintendo has yet again found a way to improve upon one of gaming’s marquee franchises.