Super Mario 3D World was unveiled during Nintendo's pre-E3 Nintendo Direct event for release in December 2013 -- this year! Like Mario Kart 8, rather than break new ground, Super Mario 3D World is meant to be a culmination of the titles in the franchise that proceeded it. However, unlike Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World seems to scale back from the experiences of Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Sunshine, choosing instead to provide a tighter, cooperative multiplayer experience with less depth and personality.
Yes sir, today's the day ol' Rory ol' boy throws down the gauntlet and pushes nostalgia out the window. Today's the day I say, Mario, updated graphics, gimmicky features, multiplayer and zany level design aren't enough to dismiss the lack of innovation and depth missing here. Today's the day when... wait, hey, is that cat suit? Oh dear me, Mario's in a cat suit in Super Mario 3D World! On top of that, it has four player co-op where Peach, Toad and Luigi can also put on the cat suit! Dang it all, Nintendo, you win this round yet again with your adorable kitty cat gameplay.
Alright, alright, let's bring these impressions back to order. It's very easy to be cynical about Nintendo's direction with the Mario franchise, especially in recent years. The New Super Mario Bros. series hasn't exactly created the most meaningful of experiences, but they're still fun to play with friends and they certainly do sell. Even Super Mario Galaxy was a step back from the wonderfully realized worlds of Sunshine and Super Mario 64. What I played of Super Mario 3D World wasn't encouraging in this regard. It came off bite-sized, easily digestible, which is perfectly understandable for demo. Maybe all I need is to see more of the game, but considering Nintendo is using New Super Mario Bros. as inspiration I wouldn't set my expectations high for any sort of immersive or meaningful experience
Here are my thoughts after having played through the Super Mario 3D World demo. The visual are sharp and Nintendo's using the Wii U's power well, even if it's not immediately noticeable because it's cartoony instead of realistic. Still, I thought Galaxy's setting really let them play with imaginative visuals, where 3D World is back to colored blocks and grassy platforms. I actually thought Mario Kart 8 looked much better in virtually every regard, but it's hard to tell from screenshots.
Platforming, as always, is outstanding. Mario is the king of platforming and Super Mario 3D World will continue that reign. In part it's due to the basic mechanics in the game (jumping, running), but Nintendo's controls are immediate and uncomplicated, again as always. The cat suit, which let's each player climb walls and scratch is cute, but hardly a game changer. Oh, and the boss fight I got tor try against a purple worm king was a great way to show off how simple and easy mechanics can still be fun.
Four players in a 3D world can be a bit hectic. It's not uncommon to lose someone along the way, which Nintendo described as the "competitive" element of the game. It's also going to be a challenge in terms of map design for Nintendo. The camera basically has to stay in one direction, which allows multiple players to maintain a sense of perspective. If one person wandered off, the camera can't just rotate and follow them and leave everyone else in the dark. As a result, the game feels like a 2D brawler at times, which is an odd way to describe it. All I can say is it changes gameplay severely having multiple players.
Oh, and my favorite part of the game is the Super Mario Bros. 2 throwback where each character has a unique traversal skill. Peach can float for brief periods of time, Luigi has his goofy high-jumps where he runs through the air, and Toad can run at an above the average speed. It should make sense at this point that Super Mario 3D World is 100% designed to be a multiplayer experience. From the camera to gameplay, it's meant to be played and shared with friends. Perhaps that's why it was so easy to not think about the game at all until I started these impressions.
3D Super Mario game development is just so mechanical for Nintendo nowadays. Kidnap a princess, put a flagpole at the end of a level, string coins and blocks along the way, and it will sell Wii Us no questions asked. Well, Peach is in the game, so maybe Daisy was kidnapped? Now my entire argument is destroyed. Anyway, I bought a Wii U for unique, new experiences and I don't think I'm going to find that in Super Mario 3D World. I tried out the demo and found out I wasn't excited to play that type of Mario game again, yet.
That said, Nintendo has a high standard of quality and from what I can tell that doesn't end with Super Mario 3D World. There are a lot of hungry Nintendo fans out there who want a 3D Mario game in HD, whether it's like Super Mario 3D or New Super Mario Bros. doesn't matter to them. Let me make clear that it's 100% the latter, from what I could tell. Unless Nintendo has something other than cats up their sleeve, don't expect any surprises from Super Mario 3D World.
Sorry if there are ant contradictory points in my impressions. It's not easy to explain why a great game can still be disappointing.