Review by BigReed
"3D World is the Wii U's first must-have exclusive."
Beautiful art style and graphics, different playable characters for various skill levels, levels are full of creativity and imagination, perfect controls, difficult but fair, catchy music and sound effects, the cat suit is a nice addition to the Mario universe, MiiVerse integration, best game available on the Wii U
GamePad functionality is almost nonexistent, the levels become frustrating with multiple players, save feature slows the pace down
The Nintendo Wii U finally has its must-have, exclusive title, with the release of Super Mario 3D World. Coming off of the success of Super Mario 3D Land on the Nintendo 3ds, Nintendo wanted to continue the series, but this time in high definition. Super Mario 3D World is easily the best game available on the Nintendo Wii U, and once again shows why Nintendo is considered one of the best developers within the Industry. With so much creativity and imagination in each and every level, 3D World is able to appeal to gamers of all ages, but the game does struggle to prove the Wii U gamepad is innovative and a necessity for future games.
Mario, Luigi, Peach, or Toad; who will you pick?
Right off the bat, Nintendo provides a cast of characters that players can choose from. The multiple characters, and their physical differences, allow for four players at once, and also offer a character for every skill level. Mario and Luigi are roughly the same, with Luigi having a much higher jump, and are for the more skilled Mario fans. Peach, with her floating ability from Super Mario Bros. 2 (which was actually a different series with Mario pasted over it), is more suited for less skilled players. And out of the entire cast, Toad is actually designed for experts of the series, sporting his fast run speed and low jump. Additional player choices are always welcome, and Nintendo has made adding more players, or even switching characters, extremely simple and convenient. When you first start the game, all of the players can choose their characters before beginning, and before every level players are allowed to switch, or even randomize their selection. Getting a game with friends going is easy to do, but once you have multiple players on the same screen, some issues arise.
For the first time, in a long while, I was able to play a Mario game's multiplayer offerings. Without a dedicated online system for its games, and also with my lack of available gaming partners, I have not actually sat down with someone else and played through a Mario title in a while. To my surprise, my wife was volunteering to play 3D World with me, and she actually seemed pretty excited. Now, my wife is not a gamer by any means, and she tends to like simplistic platformers or puzzle games. I figured that Mario would be a perfect game for us to play together. In a sense, it was a good game to enjoy together, but the different skill sets eventually became apparent, and also a problem. The first world in 3D World is simple enough, but as we progressed, there were significant portions she could not complete, and constantly waiting or trying to protect her would lead to my deaths as well. The camera does not help the experience either, since it pans out to include both players (to a certain point), and can actually lock itself in place so a player cannot move it. 3D World has so many secrets and collectibles in the levels, and a true completion means finding them all. Since the collectibles are in harder to reach places, my wife would have difficulty following me or keeping up. Now, 3D World does offer some assistance with the skill gaps. If one player is going faster than the other, the lacking player will be scooped up in a bubble, and safely carried along for the ride. The issue with this however, is that if a level is tough enough, some players may have to give up playing for the entirety of the level, which takes away a lot of the fun, and adds some frustration as well. Nintendo did what they could to balance this out, but 3D World is definitely more fun and playable as a single player title.
Level design and collectibles
Each level in Super Mario 3D World has a set of collectibles to accompany it. Now, technically, level completion only requires that the player reach the end of the course, and touch the flag pole, but true Mario fans know that the challenge lies in exploring each level, collecting everything, and also reaching the top of the flag pole. Every traditional level has three green stars, a stamp, and also the golden flag to collect. There are also different level concepts such as boss fights, the new toad exploration puzzle levels, and a series of quick mini levels where the player must collect ten stars in quick succession. Sometimes, a levels difficulty is based solely on the collectibles themselves. Generally, the stars and stamps are either hidden pretty well, or require a specific power-up to obtain. One of the best things about each level, is that Nintendo almost always gives you everything you need within the level itself. It gives the player a feeling of accomplishment when they complete a course with all of the extras, and this is also a good way to reward players who want more of a challenge.
Back when 3D World was announced, Nintendo was proud to show off a new Mario power-up, and the theme of the entire game, which was the Cat Suit. I was initially a bit skeptical on the new addition to the series, but once again, Nintendo has found another way to innovate the formula, and still keep the quality of new content high. The Cat Suit is a blast, and gives the characters the personality and abilities expected out of a feline. Mario and company will walk and run on all fours, and can climb up walls and flag poles a significant distance. The Cat Suit does make portions of the game much easier, but at the same time, it is also required to find some of the hidden collectibles. To go along with the Cat Suit, several other upgrades are brought back from previous games, including: Giant Mushroom, Fire Suit, Boomerang, The Tanooki Suit, and the flying block. The Tanooki Suit is by far the biggest advantage when platforming, but just about every Suit is required to fully complete the game. After extensively playing the game, I can safely say that the cat theme was odd at first, but was executed very well.
Nintendo games simply look and sound beautiful in High Definition
For Nintendo fans, the wait for a high definition console seemed to take an enormous amount of time. With the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo was able to capitalize on a new market segment of nontraditional gamers, and made profit off of each console at launch. Holding back with a modest console in terms of power, and forgoing the inclusion of high definition graphics, Nintendo was able to make the most out of a great opportunity. As time went on however, Nintendo's beautiful and unique art styles were being held back by the technology running them. With the Wii U, Nintendo is able to capitalize on the improved graphics, and deliver a visually stunning game in Super Mario 3D World. All of the worlds offer a more open, roaming map design, each with its own theme. The bright, colorful, and smooth character and level models will still hold up graphically years from now. Some of the water and rain effect in certain levels are easily some of the best I have ever seen in a video game. The only real critique of the art style I have is that all of the character's hair has a consistency of pudding or clay, which looks a bit odd knowing that Nintendo has shown they can do fur, or hair graphics, very well in other titles.
Once again, the music in a Nintendo title is incredibly catchy and fitting. Bowser has his own theme that is more rock oriented. The music actually sticks in your head for hours after playing, and the game brings back some of the more well-known music in Nintendo's history. Faster paced music accompanies levels that require a speedy completion, and the more relaxed and friendly levels have more easy going music. While gameplay trumps graphics and sound every single time in terms of importance, a great looking game with good gameplay always adds to the quality of a game.
Gamepad and MiiVerse integration
With the Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo has once again tried an unorthodox approach at innovation, and after a very long launch year, is set with the task of proving that the Gamepad is a required addition to the industry. Sony, with the ps4 and Vita, has followed suit, but did not make it the focus of the console. Sadly, with Mario 3D world, Nintendo has basically shown that the gamepad is not required at all, even for the consoles best title. Just about every single controller Nintendo has made since the Wii is compatible with the game. In a few instances, mainly in a very small set of levels, Nintendo incorporated gamepad use to complete a series of tasks. Blowing into the microphone will blow away mini goombas, and tapping certain blocks on the screen will lift them up so the player can move on. In terms of using the Gamepad for gameplay elements, I think 3D World, and several other Wii U games, have shown that the idea is flawed or unnecessary. Looking down and away from the television to use the gamepad is very unnatural. This was probably Nintendo's biggest chance to prove once and for all that dual screens for a home console was just as innovative as the Wii Mote, but instead, it showed that any old controller will do, and that 3D World is a fantastic game without any need for an added gimmick.
While the gamepad gameplay elements were ineffective, the MiiVerse integration works much better with the game. If chosen, the player can actually see other 3D World owners on screen, and also view their tips (or in some cases, spoilers). This makes for a more social experience, and the extra communication can help out newer or younger players. After every level, you can use Stamps that are collected in every stage, to post tips, tricks, or just some thoughts on the stage itself. Most multiplayer games, especially on consoles, never really feel like a true social experience. Most of the time, I would have to mute offensive or annoying behavior, and the experience would feel more like single player with crafty AI partners. MiiVerse is the most interesting aspect of the Nintendo Wii U, and 3D World continues the trend of social interactions, which bring the console owners closer together. This is most likely the route that gamepad usage will take in the future. Where rather than being the center of attention, MiiVerse and the gamepad will just compliment the games instead.
Recommendation: Buy it
It took about an entire year, but the Wii U has its first must-have, exclusive title. Super Mario 3D World is fun, beautiful, creative and full of imagination, and most importantly, it's the best game available on the young console. Nintendo has shown that more main series Mario titles are always a good thing, just as long as Nintendo is able to keep this level of quality up. 3D World is a game for every Wii U owner, and executes so many things almost flawlessly. Simply put, this is Nintendo at its best, and paints a very positive future for both the company, and the Mario series.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 12/03/13, Updated 12/03/13
Game Release: Super Mario 3D World (US, 11/22/13)
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