Mario finds yet another way to please fans.
This is the Wii version and follow-up to the reboot version of Mario released for the Nintendo 3DS a while back. I've already talked about the previous game, Super Mario 3D Land and argued that while it might seems strange at first it ultimately served its purpose and provided an adventure that was neither 3D nor 2D Mario, it was something in-between that felt and controlled like the 2D Mario as long as you stayed on track but could venture beyond the limits of 2D making it a perfect hybrid.
This time it is released for the Nintendo Wii U, a home console and in glorious HD. I must say the game starts pretty dull and takes quite a bit to actually get going but when it does, it's awesome. It's true that some people, at least I did, might go through 70% of the game feeling underwhelmed but it wasn't much different in the 3DS release, it was just brand new and made more sense. It made more sense because the 3DS has certain limits to what it can actually portray so a full 3D Mario, while still easy to achieve, was probably not Nintendo's main focus. This honor was in store for their next console, in this case, the Wii U.
The Wii U was Nintendo's first console to feature high-definition graphics and this is one of the best looking games I've ever seen. Artistically everything is top-notch, in gleaming vibrance. It's pretty much an updated, prettier version of Super Mario Bros Wii U which already looked fantastic. Mario games have always sported a lasting graphical style so it's fair that when this stylistic choice has made its transition to high-definition it would shine brightly.
The overall feeling is slightly more childish than other Mario's which weren't mature to begin with, but this light-hearted version should please younger audiences with relative ease. There's nothing inherently tough going through the levels and they're pretty brief so experienced gamers should feel unchallenged at first. Later games offer a much better challenge but if you're experienced the best thing to do is go for 100%, completionist style.
There's quite a few stuff to collect through the levels. Every level has one stamp and three green stars that can be collected. Stamps were originally used in the in-game messaging for the Miiverse which has since been discontinued. The green stars go beyond mere collectibles since they unlock new stages. You can also track which levels you've achieved the highest point in the final flag pole, much like it was in the previous game.
There are several moments which you'll get blasted to the past with a few honorable mentions and fitting homages to classic Nintendo games and characters. There's one stage which is based on speed zippers that bring back the Super Mario Kart theme. Both the stage and music take inspiration in the classic Super Nintendo title, with one of the game's most classic tune remastered. Other Nintendo games like Luigi's Mansion, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario 64, and so on, have had interesting cameos. Super Mario 64 for example has the slide song remastered which is one of Nintendo's most iconic tune ever produced.
The story itself is as skippable as it has ever been. Some fairy appears from a transparent pipe in front of the four major characters Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad and asks for help because Bowser imprisoned her peers inside bottles. It's starts like that as the transparent pipes seem to take a major role in transporting through the levels, it sure looks much more stylish than the green ones.
Playing solo is fine, you'll have lots of fun, but the game will only show its true colors if you have at least one more friend to play with. If you have four different people in the same room willing to have a good time with good old Mario then you're up to one of the best co-operation multiplayer games ever produced. It's that good. All players will share the same screen and should probably stay visible so you still have control over what you do, wandering off will just make things harder. Since, unfortunately, most of us won't have that opportunity, it's worth noticing that the single player still offers a full game experience.
Playing multiplayer has some other advantages like extended competition for who gets most points during the stage, whoever achieves that gets to control their character during overworld play, where the levels get chosen. The overworld is incredibly beautiful but stands a little less necessary than 2D Mario. You have full 3D control over the character while in the map but there's very little aside from going from one stage to the other. It's a step up from the 3DS game where you just had to choose the levels but it's not like it will matter much anyway.
The character selection has clear influences in Super Mario Bros. 2, which is weird since that's seen as the black sheep of the Mario series, as wrongly as that may be. Mario seems the regular one, Luigi has that leap jump he had in the second game, Peach features the same float she used to have, and Toad seems to be the nimblest, faster of the bunch. The same set of skills are found in Super Mario Bros. 2 and they work pretty well creating a dynamic between the characters here and not just shadowed versions for the extra players. If you're playing alone you may want to choose whichever suits you better, Peach, as it was in the past, seems to be the easier choice while Toad the more advanced one.
Lots of new suits are available, the most noticeable is right in the box, the Cat Suit. The character becomes a cat and can use their claws to climb walls up to a certain point before they yield. The Cat Suit is the most present in the game, you'll abundantly find it in many levels. There's also a cannon suit -- or box, if you will --, and boomerang suit. Aside from a few exclusive ones the omnipresent Fire Flower and Tanooki Suit are also present; the Tanooki Suit allows only gliding.
The newest and strangest addition is the Double Cherry item. It simply adds another character on you at that time, the same character. You'll basically be controlling 2, 3 or even 4 characters at once, each taking up space on-screen. It gets pretty difficult to control all of them in synchronicity since one of them might get stuck or die because you timed your jump for the one closest to some ledge while the ones in the back will perform the same action at the same time. Still, some puzzles require 4 characters to be present at the same time to trigger elevator for example, mostly for the harder green stars, but still.
Aside from the twisted changes in how the courses are designed, like ghost houses and castles where there's the usual mini-boss battle at the end, there's a whole new type of challenge called Captain's Toad Adventures. You absolutely need the Wii U's gamepad to play these levels and they feel more like tridimensional puzzles with slight tinges of platforming left. They're pretty fun, the only thing that might bug people off is the fact that Wii U Pro Controller users who probably have their gamepads collecting dust will have to dust them off and charge those bad boys again. It would be completely playable since the 3D gyroscope view can be controlled using the right stick so they could have made our lives easier.
The camera has pretty strict movements since this relies so heavily on having an original axis to which you'll move the character. Having a closed camera in some angle -- say, 90 degrees, 45 or right beside your character -- helps keeping controls manageable for a game that is not full 3D. In the end it works. I can say it works and anything other than that would cause more trouble than solving, so as far as this fake 3D goes, this is pretty spot on.
Overall the presentation is pretty tight. The music tends to get muffled in the background way too often. One of the new trends in gaming is taking options off the hands of the player. It would be awesome to turn down some of the SFX sound to hear the composed music more clearly but in an unfortunate decision they didn't give us that option, nor any options at all. Mario compositions have had a pretty nice twist when Super Mario Galaxy came out and the whole orchestrated compositions became a thing, but as of now it just became more and more of the same. Some are catchy, some fit pretty well with the style of the level, but few of them actually stand out.
Super Mario 3D World take a little too long to actually sink in but when it does you find it to be a pretty solid Mario game. The one problem it might face is the fact that it's a hybrid version of both 2D and 3D Mario's, which could please both world, but could just as well make both hate the direction they've taken with this. This should be treated as a spin-off of the Mario series which right now is just an index for several types of spin-offs. If you think about it, even the real 3D ones are somewhat of a secondary version of what it primarily was. While the 2D ones are legacy re-imagined versions of what should had become outdated.
The Mario series lives on in its many forms, this happens to be one of them.