The lights are on
I'll admit, the initial announcement of Super Mario 3D World had disappointed me. I was expecting maybe a Super Mario Galaxy 3 announcement, but instead got a follow-up to 2011's Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS. In hindsight, it was silly to complain though. Super Mario 3D World is exactly what the Wii U needs right now--a fantastic, beautiful and very fun-to-play first party title that nearly everyone can pick up and enjoy.
Super Mario 3D World manages to be a much better Mario game than the one launch Wii U owners had to get if they wanted their Mario fix. In this game there's plenty of content to go around, with an equally enjoyable multiplayer experience on tap for those who want in. But more importantly, it's the first true 3D Mario game on Wii U that actually looks stunning in HD.The main story mode kicks off when Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad are taking a night-time stroll when suddenly, a clear pipe appears along the path. Mario and Luigi actually act like plumbers for once and fix it, and soon after a fairy pops out of the tunnel, panicking about Bowser chasing after her and her fairy friends. Of course, right afterward Bowser catches up and captures the fairy in a bottle, Link style, before taking off. So our characters hop into the clear pipe and give chase.Then, the amazing gameplay experience begins. First off, it must be said that literally any controller can be used; whether it's Wii remote, Wii remote and Nunchuck, Classic Controller, Pro Controller, or the Wii U GamePad, anyone can hop in and get assimilated with the intuitive control setup. I mean that quite literally too--players can join in anytime a level starts, and can even swap characters beforehand.Which speaking of characters, players can choose between Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad. That's right, the classic lineup from Super Mario Bros. 2 returns finally! As expected, each character has differing traits; Mario is average and well-balanced, Luigi can jump higher and farther, Peach can levitate temporarily, and Toad is quite faster than Mario. A certain major character from Super Mario Galaxy can be unlocked as a playable character later on in the game too.One thing I really love about Super Mario 3D World is the fully explorable map screen. Unlike previous Mario games such as the New Super Mario Bros. series and even Super Mario Bros. 3, I was able to actually run around off the trail to hit coin boxes and explore other parts of the map. It's this kind of immersion that makes this Mario title stand out for me. And as expected, each level tasks the players with finding three green Stars and a Stamp. The Stamps can be used during in-game Miiverse posts and feature several Mario characters and icons.However, the biggest stand-out features of Super Mario 3D World are the new power-ups contained within. The cat-suit power-up has been advertised ever since the game's announcement, and I'm pleased to say that it really does add new layers to the gameplay that weren't really there before. When I wasn't bashing bricks, boxes and enemies with my paw-hands, I was able to climb up walls to discover hidden Stars, 1-Ups or Stamps. I thought the cat-suit was silly or maybe outright dumb when I first saw it, but now I can't imagine playing through the game without it. I can only hope the power-up makes a comeback for future installments.The cherries from Super Mario Bros. 2 also make a return for Super Mario 3D World, only this time they're used to duplicate whatever character you might be playing as. The more of them you collect, the more clones of your character appear. At one point, I had five or six Marios running around at my command. It's a cool power-up. Maybe it's not always necessary and can sometimes be a hindrance, but when it's not it's very good to have. There are also a few others I hadn't seen before such as the Cannon Box and the Goomba Suit, but those were usually one-off occurrences when they were needed in a level. Other classic power-ups like the Tanooki Suit return too.As for the game in general, it has an appropriate difficulty curve that's enough to keep Mario veterans and newcomers both on their toes. And with eight worlds--along with a special world that unlocks later on--there's enough game here to keep even one player completely busy for a while. Some levels get very difficult later on, but you never feel like it's the game's fault when you die a couple times here and there.Also, as if there isn't enough to do in Super Mario 3D World, as long as you have a save file for New Super Luigi U on your console, a pallet swap of Mario Bros., appropriately dubbed Luigi Bros., appears on the title screen in the very bottom corner. Maybe it isn't a feature that will sell the game by itself, but it's worth checking out when you and your friends are just about done with 3D World for a while.Maybe it isn't doing much to help move more Wii U consoles, but that doesn't change the fact that Super Mario 3D World is an absolute must-buy if you currently own a Wii U. It looks very vibrant, the game runs at an always-smooth frame-rate, and might be the best Mario game I've played since Super Mario 64. Nintendo has outdone themselves.
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