Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: November 22, 2013
ESRB: E for Everyone
A downloadable code was provided by the publisher for this review
A true Mario game usually comes but once a generation. And while the Wii era was lucky enough to see three mainline entries, only one of them arguably made a profound cultural impact in the industry with its debut the way Mario games of old did. Make no mistake, Super Mario 3D World comes from a long line of great games before it that have shaped both the industry and generations of players, so to say that it has a huge legacy to live up to would be an understatement.
It could have easily come off as a game that simply tried to ape what Super Mario 3D Land did on 3DS, essentially becoming similar to the New Super Mario Bros. series in a way. But it didn't. What Nintendo Tokyo EAD does in their studio I'll never know, because the magic is very much alive and well here.
Super Mario 3D World starts off on a familiar note, with the plot introducing Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad, but instead of Peach being kidnapped as usual, they witness a small fairy-like character from a mysterious glass pipe being kidnapped by Bowser, and all four embark on a journey to rescue her. If you've played 3D Land, you'll be right at home with 3D World. It uses the same isometric, fixed-camera distance angle that the former game used instead of the more dynamic camera found in the Galaxy titles. Once again, levels play out on a linear 3D playing field, with the end goal being the flag post.
One of the first big changes you'll notice is the option to select whichever of the four characters you want not only before the game starts, but also before each level as well. Four players can join in on the action to boot, with the other three making use of Wii Remotes, Wii U Pro Controllers, or Classic Controller Pros for some fast and frantic action as well. Of course, each of the four characters retain their exact skillset from Super Mario Bros. 2 - Mario is well-rounded, Luigi is a bit loose but can jump a bit farther, Peach can float temporarily in her jumps, and Toad is a quick little bugger. Fear not, though; even if you're playing without friends, 3D World offers a tremendous solo adventure.
Perhaps the biggest addition to the game besides the seamless integration of multiplayer and other playable characters are its new costumes, especially the one that really defines 3D World: the Cat Suit. What initially seemed like a cheap gimmick (at least to me) to carry on with the animal suit theme the series has held onto for so long is actually a brilliant way of introducing a new element to the gameplay - climbing.
It's amazing how much levels open up with the addition of the ability to dash up walls and even cling to them temporarily; almost every wall and platform is scalable to some degree in every level, opening up more potential areas for secrets than ever before. The suit also brings with it an increased swiftness and the ability to pounce diagonally while in mid-air, which can be useful in certain scenarios. Heck, even some of the enemies get in on the cat action - goombas and bullet bills, specifically - and it's insanely adorable.
Beyond the cat suit, other new items include the cannon head, which shoots cannonballs; and the Double Cherry, which creates a duplicate of your character for every cherry you pick up and manages to pull of some really interesting scenarios because of it. Other returning suits and items include the always-useful Boomerang Suit, Fire Flower, Mega Mushroom, Propeller Block, and the famed Tanooki Suit, which still doesn't grant flight or let your character turn into a statue, unfortunately. Kuribo's Shoe also gets a bit of a classic reinvention in this game upon reaching World 3, and the result is one of the game's most memorable moments.
What's truly amazing about 3D World is how it takes what worked from prior games and makes it even better. World maps return in this game, but for the first time, you can actually walk freely around, not guided by a path or on rails, and there are secrets that you can find around each world if you look hard enough. Another change is the removal of the Star Coins from 3D Land, instead replaced with something a bit more appropriate for a successor to the Galaxy titles: Green Stars. You'll find three hidden in each course and they'll be your ticket to unlocking certain levels as well as meeting the star quota for castles at the end of each world. Additionally, you'll be able to find one stamp hidden in every level, and they serve a dual purpose. They're kind of like achievements if you view them in the sense that all are needed to truly complete the game, but more than that, they serve as stamps you can actually use when posting messages to Miiverse, which is actually pretty nifty and useful.
While the game eases you in with some pretty tame gameplay in the first world or two, things quickly ramp up from there, difficulty-wise. Fantastic new slide levels keep the spirit of Super Mario 64 alive; Mystery Houses keep things extremely varied with different challenges that you must finish in a limited amount of time. A brand new type of level featuring Captain Toad introduces an interesting twist - no jumping, which makes it more of a puzzle to find all three stars in the mini-level. Some of the extra and secret levels have unique ideas and takes on different things - one of my favorites had Mario and friends storming a dojo and being swarmed with enemies as you attempt to make your way through and to the top of the structure. Old enemies that haven't been seen in decades return and are celebrated here, as well as the addition of many new memorable ones.
Everything looks fantastic too; Mario and friends have never looked better in HD, and the worlds are vibrant with color and detailed textures. One of the most impressive visual aspects of the game is the application of rain in certain levels; the ground looks moist and wet, your character's costume looks soaked (especially the cat suit), and rain falls on the screen itself, providing that wet, drippy camera outlook with raindrops on it. Also, the soundtrack is nothing short of astounding. 3D World has quite possibly the best and most memorable new songs in any Mario game since Super Mario 64 or perhaps even Super Mario World, whether they be quirky upbeat tunes to snazzy, jazzy, jive and big band songs and more. Rarely does music in a Mario game get any better than this; Nintendo has outdone themselves this time around.
I won't lie; when Super Mario 3D World was first announced, I was disappointed that it looked so similar in function to its 3DS predecessor. Super Mario 3D Land was a great game in its own right, but I was looking forward to something that would advance the formula and design Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy all used. And yet, 3D World does just that; not only is it an amazing refinement of what 3D Land started, but it's also an amazing celebration of what it means to be a Mario game. This is the first title in the series to really bring back that sense of wonder I got from playing Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and Super Mario 64. As such, Super Mario 3D World's creativity is truly inspiring and is an amazing experience that should not be missed by any Wii U owner.
+ Extensive amount of content, including post-game as well
+ Insanely creative and fun level design
+ Soundtrack is amazingly good, even more so than normal for a Mario title
- Honestly, I can't think of anything
Overall Score: 9.5 (out of 10)
Super Mario 3D World is a true next-gen Mario title that proves itself worthy of its legacy. Its creative gameplay and world will be remembered in the same vein as games like Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 for years to come.