What a difference half a year can make right? Super Mario 3D World debuted back in June at E3 to disappointed fans the world over. Whether it was down to the impossibly high expectations for a new Mario title from the team responsible for the stellar Galaxy series, the addition of a chaotic looking four player or just a generally uninteresting debut trailer, for many 3D World didn’t seem like the revolutionary new direction gamers were hoping the portly plumber would head next…
Then again should we have ever doubted EAD Tokyo wouldn’t deliver? Later trailers would soon reignite excitement as that true Nintendo magic became more evident and with the launch now finally upon us, just how does Mario’s latest fare?
Super Mario 3D World not only manages to squash all original concerns of it being just a lazy 3D Land retread but also stand tall as one of this year’s best releases.
If the Super Mario Galaxy series was all about taking the plumber to new, uncharted areas then 3D World feels much more like being reacquainted with an old friend. Sure the fresh ideas are just as abundant as ever here, but they’re sprinkled with joyful hints of nostalgia. While 3D World celebrates its series heritage, it never uses it as a crutch and that is one of the game’s biggest accomplishments. So many times I found myself jaw wide open at another call back to a previous Mario adventure only to then be blown away be something I’d never expect from the series.
As you may have noticed Peach is fully playable this time around meaning you’re not looking to save her once more from the evil clutches of Bowser. Instead in a twist of events the plumber must rescue seven Sprixie princesses within the Sprixie Kingdom accessible via a handy clear warp pipe right outside Peach’s castle (where has this pipe been the whole time?!). As with any Mario game before it, story takes a backseat in favour of focusing on what’s important – the fun.
Each of the game’s eighty plus stages offer its own bite-sized playground for you to tackle. While levels are extremely linear in practice (Super Mario 64 this is not) collectable green stars and stamps reward those who take the time to investigate hidden areas.
While it may be Mario’s name on the box, it’s the stages themselves that are the true stars of the show here with environments always overflowing with fresh and inventive ideas. From riding a giant swimming dinosaur through an underground cavern and sprinting along a Mario Kart inspired race track (complete with remixed Mario Circuit music) to using a Kuribo ice skate or leaping along platforms that appear and disappear in time with the stage’s musical beat. Just when you’ve fallen in love with a particular gameplay mechanic, it’s set aside in favour of something new. On the rare occasion 3D World reuses an idea, it does so in a way that feels entirely new and exciting once more. That variety bleeds over into the actual environment settings too. While the usual tropes of grassy, desert and snowy stages show they’re face once more they’re given new life with a number of small tweaks and subtle touches. A haunted ship may not seem like anything Mario veterans haven’t seen before, but when you throw in a gorgeous downpour of rain that trickles down the screen it suddenly becomes fresh again. Likewise unexpected settings like a sky high neon theme park or a patchwork nirvana mean Mario’s travels will take him to new places.
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