Super Mario 3D World Review

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Mario has been around for 30 years. With so much time on the clock you’d think the series would run out of ideas or fall into a rut of unoriginality (as some would argue it has with the New Super Mario Bros series). But with 3D world, a continuation of the design elements of last years 3D Land, this is definitely not the case. 3D World, like 3D Land attempts at merging the concepts of the traditional 2D Mario games (Super Mario World) and the newer 3D Mario titles (Super Mario Galaxy). And to their credit, they have succeeded. Nintendo EAD has made one of the most creative Mario games in quite some time. It genuinely offers something new and yet familiar at every corner.

A little bit of History…

There has always been a rift between Mario players. The 2D titles were almost always more popular as they offered a simpler 2D left to right gameplay that let anyone, young and old, play along. The 3D titles, starting with the monumental Super Mario 64, opened up the Mario world for a greater level of exploration. However, this created far too much complexity for many casual players which caused the rift. With the Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS, we saw the first attempt at fusing these two genres where the platforming took on a more 2D feel along with the complex level design of the 3D titles. 3D World continues that formula while also expanding upon it in just about every way.

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The levels in 3D World are generally pretty short and can be finished well within a few minutes a pop. But within those few minutes plenty of surprises will appear. New items like the cat suit power up, allow for a more vertical Mario game with its wall climbing ability. The double cherry power up offers a clever shakeup on the Mario formula by adding another Mario that follows you around. There are also new power blocks that let you shoot projectiles, a Piranha plant item that eats anything in its way, and a few retro throwbacks that will certainly make you smile, regardless of your experience with the series. There are even themed levels and shout outs to other Nintendo titles within the game. It really feels like Nintendo went all out with the references and secrets here.

Graphics / Sound

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Graphically, this is a very pretty Mario game. The rain and water effects, the vibrant colors, and plenty of particle effects makes sure this game looks stunning. This is HD Mario done right. It is exactly what you would expect from the bright and cheerful palette of Mario titles coming into HD graphics. It even looks quite good being played on the Gamepad, which is fun within itself. The sounds in the game are your general “Mario sounds”. You’ll hear the bing of the coin and the “wahoo!” from Mario and friends. All of it is high quality, as it should be. However, the music is what’s truly infectious. This time around, a lot of the songs have a very jazz-y vibe which helps keep the game upbeat and you’ll find yourself humming along soon enough.

Miiverse, Nintendo’s online social component, is integrated incredibly well into 3D World. As you run about the map you’ll find Miis from other players who might drop hints for secrets, show you a cool picture, or make a joke. It reminds me of back in the day when you had to share secrets with friends and it’s quite nice. Also, each level has a hidden “stamp” that depicts a character within the game which can be used for Miiverse drawings allowing even those without any artistic skill to create fun sticker sets of Mario jumping on Bowser.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer, while better than what was offered in New Super Mario Brothers Wii and WiiU thanks to a wider lane and levels designed around multiplayer, is still hectic. So hectic in fact that if there is a vast skill difference between the players it can be frustrating as one person tries to pass a difficult stage while the others lag behind or keep getting stuck on sections. The game helpfully offers “the bubble” to help the lagging players as it transports them across the stage and players will automatically warp when one player has gone through a warp pipe. However, the Camera still clearly has trouble keeping up and dealing with so many players especially on larger stages with more complex sections. Unlike other Mario games, 3D World introduces a scoring mechanic that gives the player with the highest score a nice crown to wear during the next level which can be knocked off and worn by others. This gives multiplayer a more competitive edge than previously and “Fight for the Crown” has become a favorite game-within-the-game for myself and others.

Issues

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For all the things 3D World does right, it also gets a few things wrong. For one, the gamepad is barely used in any creative way other than maybe two levels that I can remember off of the top of my head. While that in itself isn’t particularly egregious, it feels as if the game really should have used the GamePad’s touchscreen more. Yet, the worst issue with 3D World isn’t with the gamepad but rather with an issue in its design. Super Mario 3D World shares a lot with Super Mario 3D Land (the 3DS title), and as I stated before the 3D and 2D styles of gameplay are mixed together here in these titles. However, the 3DS had the 3D feature that really helped make that fusion work. Even when the platform was in 3D space, you could still jump to it because you could see the depth with the 3DS. Super Mario 3D Land was born to make sense of the 3D feature. In a way, the WiiU’s lack of 3D makes the 3D designed underpinnings of 3D World fall a bit. Without the depth, the player has to work harder to judge jumps and in fact many players have found 3D World frustrating just because of this. Perhaps 3D World would have been a better title for the 3DS rather than for the WiiU? But I suppose we will never know.

It will take a while to beat this game. It has the usual suspects of 8 worlds plus a few surprises after that. Let’s just say, that much like 3D Land, the game is far from over once you’ve “beaten it”. There’s also 5 playable characters (yes, one of them is unlockable) who all play differently and to 100% the game you’re gonna have to play every level with each of them. There’s also sections that can only be reached by certain characters which also extends the game. Did I mention that there’s also Captain toad levels that require quick puzzle solving to complete and the mad-cap fast speed challenge levels that make you complete objectives within 10 seconds to earn Green Stars. Super Mario 3D World has plenty of content – more so than most Mario games.

Overview

3D World isn’t new or at least not “new” in the way we generally think of it. It isn’t grandiose like Super Mario Galaxy, it isn’t as iconic as Super Mario World, and it isn’t as groundbreaking as Super Mario 64. However, it is one thing and that is inventive. It more than happily switches up the formula and finds clever ways to change the traditional Mario game. From a shoot-em-up to a racing game to a puzzle title, 3D World isn’t afraid to take what is already there and create something “new” out of it. For that, I give it the highest praise. Mario has gone to space and back and its often hard to see where he will go next, I mean where else could he possibly go? But with a team this inventive and this creative I don’t think we have anything to worry about.