Super Mario 3D World Hands-On Impressions

WiiU_SuperMario_logo01_E3When Nintendo announced there would be a new 3D Mario game for the Wii U, most people (including myself) assumed that it would be similar to past 3D Mario games, like Super Mario 64, Sunshine, or Galaxy. So, you can imagine the reaction when Super Mario 3D World was revealed to be a semi-sequel to the 3DS Super Mario 3D Land. I know my initial reaction was mixed. I was a bit upset that I wouldn’t be getting the Mario game I expected, but at the same time I absolutely loved 3D Land. I finally got a controller in my hands to try the game out for myself and all of my fears and concerns melted away as the kid inside of me planted a smile on my face the entire time I played.

First up, the demo I played had a choice of 4 stages or a boss stage. The game supports up to 4 players so I joined a group of strangers to blast through the second selectable stage. As we were debating over who would control which character (that’s right, it’s back to old-school Super Mario Bros. 2 where you can choose from Mario, Luigi, Peach, or Toad ? complete with special abilities) I told the group I was fine with anyone except Mario (I wanted to see how the other characters handled). I was saddled with Peach, which was cool as I remember playing her character a lot in SMB 2. She retains her special float jump, which allows her to stay in the air for a few extra seconds to easily span extra distances.


Once we started the game, the first thing that struck me was how crisp the graphics were. The game is simply stunning, with little details peppered in the environment everywhere. I know, at first glance the videos make the game look a little generic and similar to the ?New? series of Mario games that everyone likes to hate on. But, this was different. The game has a charm to it that the latest 2D games seem to be lacking. The enemies and environments show off smooth animation, and even with the four of us running around every which way, the game never stuttered once. The game has a depth of field effect, so the scenery that’s far away is sort of blurry, but as you get closer it comes into focus. Little touches, like cloud shadows moving across the land, or lanterns lighting up dark corridors really give this game some visual punch.

The level we played was littered with clear see-through pipes. Much like the Mushroom Kingdom’s staple green pipes, these can be entered to reach new areas of the level. This time there are enemies, coins, power-ups, and even green stars (there are 3 per level to collect) inside them. In this level the pipes often branched off in different directions, so pressing the direction you wanted to slide would change your destination, and this was often necessary due to enemies moving around inside the pipes. In addition to squeaking around on your stomach inside the pipes, you can get the Fire Flower power-up to lay waste to enemies inside the clear pipes to clear the way.

Certain items throughout the level can be picked up. In the Nintendo Direct trailer we saw Peach and Mario picking up snowballs and throwing them at enemies, but in the demo our group discovered something really cool. We had discovered the cloud bonus level, which was littered with Piranha Plants. One of the players managed to pick up the pot one of them was in, and then ran toward the rest of the enemies. The Piranha Plant went all cannibal-like and scarfed his friends one-by-one, clearing the level of any obstacles. This discovery was met with a lot of ?Oh, cool!? and ?Awesome!? not only by us, but also the group of people waiting in line behind us watching. I’m sure we’ve only scratched the surface of what can be done in this game.


Like every Mario game, this one introduces us to a brand new power-up, the Cat Suit. Finding the Bell inside a block will give your character new abilities. Once in the suit, you can get on all fours and run super fast. As you encounter enemies you can slash them with your claws, pounce on them, and you can chain your attack by bouncing from one enemy to the next without touching the ground. You can jump a bit further and even climb certain walls to find new areas or take shortcuts. The Cat Suit is adorable and sure to be a hit. I’m not sure if there are any other new power-ups lurking in this game, but if there are Nintendo isn’t willing to talk about them.

Before playing Super Mario 3D World I was a bit concerned with a few things. The first was playing with a D-Pad (the demos have Wii Remotes hooked up instead of Nunchuks attached). I found it strange that Nintendo would make a 3D game and not promote the use of the analog stick. I asked around and was told that the game does support that option, but for ease of use on the demo kiosk the choice was made to keep it simple. The ?B? trigger under the remote is hard to hit in this configuration, which allows you to duck. In retrospect I realized I forgot to see if Mario does his backflip while in the crouching position. Also, since this game seems to take more than a nod from Super Mario Bros. 2, I wonder if staying in that position will allow him to power-up his jump to reach new heights? Sadly these things never occurred to me until after my playtime had ended, so those questions remain a mystery.

My other concern was the 4-player mode. I wasn’t sure how the game would handle everyone running around chaotically wanting to go in different directions. It turns out that it works pretty good, with the camera panning out a decent distance and allowing a good degree of separation between the various players. A few times during my play session we were all instantly warped to where another player was when he grabbed a box, thus progressing the level. This was a bit frustrating, but something that I imagine will be a non-issue when playing with friends on my own system. Also, just like in the New Super Mario Bros. games, if one player goes down a pipe that leads into a separate area, a few seconds later all players will be warped there too. I saw the bubble return, so players that are having difficulty can throw themselves into a bubble to bypass the hard parts. One other observation I made was that all of the players shared lives and coins, but at the end of the stage each player is graded on coins collected. Also, only one power-up comes out at a time when you hit a question mark block. If you’re playing 4-player, you can hit that block up to 4 times to get 4 of the power-ups. This is much nicer than having all 4 pop out at once and players scrambling to get over there to pick it up. This way, each player can get to the block and get a power-up without fighting over it.


The last nitpick I have is the game’s lack of online co-op. Come on Nintendo ? it CAN be done. Little Big Planet has it, so I’m sure this game could handle it. Some day I hope they understand that adding online enhances the experience for many people out there.

I’ve never been a harsh critic when it comes to the New Super Mario Bros. series, but even I was getting a little fatigued. Super Mario 3D World takes the best parts of the 2D and 3D Mario games and mashes them together to form an awesomely fun experience. The multiplayer mode is tons of fun and really a joy to play. I can’t wait to try out the single player mode as well so I can explore the levels to find secrets. It’s harder to accomplish this playing with strangers, but with friends it would be much easier to coordinate strategies. Nintendo has a huge hit on its hands with this game. It’s got enough new stuff in there to keep us fans happy, and it’s got amazing visuals and spot-on gameplay to boot. The music is also pretty catchy, but appears to be lacking the orchestrated soundtrack from the Galaxy games. Even so, it doesn’t have that dreadful ?Bah! Bah!? from the latest 2D games, so that’s a plus! This game has shot up to my most anticipated Wii U game this year and I can’t wait to play it again.