Super Mario 3D World: An Amazing Surprise
In this day and age, it seems impossible to miss all the hype – deserved and otherwise – that surrounds big name game releases. Developers and publishers mass distribute screenshots and other promotional imagery, as well as trailers, gameplay videos, and memorabilia. Most of the time, we judge whether a game is worth buying before it even hits its release date. And we may find that our predictions were spot on, or we may be sorely disappointed with a game that was all hype and no substance.
Rarely does the opposite occur: very little anticipation for a game predicted to be average at best, which then blows our meager expectations completely out of the water. This was the case with Super Mario 3D World; nobody expected this game to be the incredible triple-A platformer that Nintendo had been missing on the Wii U. Promotion was fairly restricted, trailers revealed little of the game experience, and all we really knew of that made it unique was some gimmick about cats. We all thought, “Oh. Another Mario game. Okay.” And now we’ve all had our minds blown.
To be perfectly honest, I bought this game on release day just for the bonus points from Club Nintendo. And because downloading games on the Wii U eShop is convenient and reliable enough that I could just turn the console on, set it to download, and come back to it an hour later. Which is exactly what I did, and then I decided I would play it for a few minutes just to see what it was like.
A few minutes turned into two hours. One stage turned into the whole first world. 3D World sucked me in like no other game since Uncharted 3, enticing me with vibrant visuals, a rich blend of new and familiar gameplay mechanics, and level designs unmatched in creativity by any other title in the franchise (save maybe Super Mario 64, which it alludes to in the most wonderfully subtle ways). And, yes, cats. This game is definitely Mario, but 3D World’s unique brand of quirky makes that almost too easy to forget.
This title more or less follows the same tried and true formula as most of its predecessors. Mario and pals make their way through various worlds with themed terrain – grassy, desert, ice, etc. – battling the King Koopa and his numerous minions to save the Mushroom Kingdom. At least this time you’re not stuck saving the helpless princess, but rather a horde of kidnapped fairies trapped in bottles (wonder where Bowser got that idea).
Some new features, such as the long overdue advent of co-op play and small innovations to the gameplay, do wonders to reinvigorate the traditional Mario experience. 3D World finally allows for unrestricted local cooperative play, with players allowed to jump in and join the adventure whenever they choose. This somewhat necessitates the implementation of the autosave system after every course, removing what some consider to be part of the challenge in classic Mario games; but this game isn’t meant to be a challenge. It’s meant to be boundless fun.
And all of the small but unforgettable new gameplay quirks ensure that it succeeds in that respect. Navigating a course by watching shadows play across a cavern wall, jumping into a giant ice skate to go for a ride on a frozen lake, and (my personal favorite) surfing down a raging river on the back of a dinosaur are just a few examples of 3D World’s peculiar approach to Nintendo’s long-lived platformer.
The game isn’t quite as perfect as it could be; the lack of online multiplayer is a disappointing reminder of Nintendo’s snail-paced expansion into the modern gaming world. All in all, however, Super Mario 3D World is a huge leap forward for a series that has almost always seemed stubbornly determined to stick to its roots, combining a classic formula with exciting new mechanics that will immediately leave any audience enamored with its appreciation for outrageous fun.