It seems that whenever Nintendo is in trouble, they can call on the Miraculous Mario to come and save the day. And let’s face it; Nintendo is in trouble. The truly incredible Wii U isn’t selling anywhere close to forecast. Third party developers aren’t supporting the Wii U in the numbers that Nintendo had hoped, and with both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 dominating sales charts and mass media, with daily stories of the astronomical sales numbers generated from the “big two,” and with Sony’s PlayStation 4 pulling off the biggest launch in gaming history, Nintendo has already been left behind.
In the face of this increased competition, Nintendo has done what they have always done; rolled out a new Mario game in hopes of increasing market shares, sell some systems, and deliver an incredible gaming experience for fans new and old. The plan has worked.
Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U is the type of game that is destined to sell systems. It’s the classic Mario Bros. gang, which includes Mario, brother Luigi, Princess Peach, loyal Toad, and even Super Mario Galaxy’s Rosalina, who can be unlocked after the final boss battle.
Each character has their own skill sets, reminiscent of 1988’s Super Mario Bros. 2 for the original NES. Luigi is the best jumper, but he is a little out of control; Peach can float long distances, but is slow; and Toad is fast, but can’t jump very well. Mario is basically the average of all of these traits.
Super Mario World 3D loosely tells the story of Bowser finding his way to the Sprixie Kingdom and imprisoning the seven Sprixie princesses. One Sprixie escapes and is able to alert Mario and his gang to what is going on, only to be recaptured by Bowser. This sends the Mario gang through a pipe and into this new land to defeat their old rival.
The Sprixie Kingdom is much like the Mushroom Kingdom, as there are eight worlds, with each world containing levels that Mario and crew have to get through to advance. The levels each have three green stars to find and collect, and each level has a stamper that gives the player an image to use in messages that can be left in levels and worlds and on the player’s Miiverse account. Each level ends with a flag, and hitting flags unlocks new levels in each world, leading up to a boss fight at the end castle.
While most of this is the usual bag of tricks for a Super Mario game, the new additions to the series can be uncovered in the first level in the form of an exciting new powerup: the catsuit!
The catsuit allows Mario to climbs walls; it gives him a scratch attack; and also a jump/dive attack. This new suit is amazing, and I cannot imagine a Mario game going forward without it. The catsuit joins the fireflower, the tanooki suit, the boomerang suit, and a few other powerups in this game. There is even a cherry that when collected causes the character to split into two, and will continue to double as long as more cherries are collected.
Also new are a handful of fresh and retooled enemies, that join with the usual rogue’s gallery of villains such as goombas and koopas and bloopers and bob-ombs, all bent on stopping the mustachioed plumber and his team from advancing.
The level design in Super Mario 3D World is inspired to say the least. As a sequel of sorts to the Nintendo 3DS instant classic, Super Mario 3D Land, this game continues to roll out challenge after challenge as players try to clear each level, but also find the elusive green stars and hidden stampers. Oftentimes, levels have to be played and re-played for all items to be acquired. In addition, since each character has their skill set, each level requires a different approach depending on whom you play with.
Some levels may seem easy at first, but the true complexity comes from trying to obtain everything AND get the gold flag, which is awarded by touching the top of the flagpole at the end of each level. And there is a large number of levels here, as the game goes on after you defeat Bowser with an additional four worlds full of levels, most reworked from previous worlds, and all very, very difficult.
Super Mario 3D World utilizes the Wii U’s GamePad by allowing the player to tap the screen to find hidden blocks and coins, and for interactive feature such as blowing on the built-in mic to control certain aspects in the game. The social features also allow the player to leave notes and tips after each level and share them with the greater Miiverse community. Also, the game can be played on the GamePad’s screen in its entirety, giving Super Mario 3D World some freedom from the couch.
The GamePad is but one option for control, as Super Mario 3D World also uses the Pro Controller, the Classic Controller, and the Wii controller, with or without the nunchuck accessory. This is important as the game has four-player simultaneous multiplayer, which can be an asset or a hindrance, depending on who you play with. Competing to finish levels adds a whole new layer of fun on a game that is already chock full of it.
The real beauty of Super Mario 3D World is just that: it is spectacularly beautiful. The HD graphics, running at 1080p in 60 FPS, are clean and colorful, and every ounce of power that the Wii U can muster is on full display. Rain hitting castle walls has never looked so wonderful, and the hairs on the catsuit make it look genuinely fuzzy. Super Mario 3D World is by far the best-looking Mario game ever. And the last Bowser battle is one of the prettiest, most eye-popping levels I have ever played in any game, in any generation, on any system.
In addition to the wonderful visuals, Super Mario 3D World has equally enjoyable music to listen to. Some songs are re-mixes from earlier works, and some are total homages to other games. Look for a Mario Kart-themed level, and yes, there is even a hidden Link, from the Zelda series–with Koji Kondo’s original Zelda score reworked into a funky disco beat. Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Music and sound effects are top shelf, and only add to an incredible gaming experience.
The Wii U is a powerful system that was hampered from the get go by a terrible name, some ridiculous mismanaging in terms of consumer education, and an all around lackluster lineup that has already seen one first party HD port in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD to try and save the day, all the while holding firm that the good games are coming.
Super Mario 3D World is one of those good games, and in fact, it is the best game for the Wii U, hands down. I would even go so far to call it the best Mario game, as it is stunning to look at, challenging in many, many ways, and the level of replayability is astronomical. There is enough new here to entice old Mario players to give it a shot, and anyone that calls this game “easy” doesn’t have the green stars to back up that claim. Sure, if you rush through the level and get the flag, the level of difficulty is average. But in later worlds when green stars are needed to unlock levels, that breezing through comes back to haunt you.
If there was such a thing as a perfect Mario game, Super Mario 3D World is it. It takes the 3D exploration of Galaxy and even the now-classic, Super Mario 64, and adds the side-scrolling features and enemies beloved by generations of long time fans to create the perfect amalgam of a game. This is the Mario Masterpiece and time will tell if this game will be enough to turn the tide on the Wii U as a gaming system. One thing is for certain: those of us who own Wii U’s now have a game worthy of playing. At least it’s a start.
Super Mario 3D World was reviewed on Wii U using a copy purchased at retail. It released exclusively for Wii U on November 22, 2013.
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