Release Date: Feb. 12, 2021
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Super Mario 3D World was initially released on Nov. 11, 2013, exclusively for Nintendo’s failed Wii U. It was praised at the time, but not a lot of people got the opportunity to play it. Remastered and packaged with the brand new Bowser’s Fury mode for Mario’s 35th Anniversary, it absolutely stands up to its lofty reputation.
Mario games have never been built on their stories, and this is no exception. Super Mario 3D World tells the usual Mario story. Bowser is up to trouble, and Mario has to stop him. Surprisingly, Bowser actually hasn’t kidnapped Princess Peach this time around, leaving her available as a playable character.
Of course, between our cast of heroes and the villainous Koopa King are dozens of tightly designed levels. Super Mario 3D World stays fresh by absolutely never doing the same thing twice in a row. Previous games grouped levels into worlds that each had themes like the desert or a winter wonderland. Worlds are in the game, but the levels are not restricted to any theme. One world features, in order; a mountain, a swamp, space, and then a temple. This variance keeps things from growing stale.
Beyond just the setting of each level, innovative concepts are introduced and thrown away with reckless abandon. Interesting ideas are often seen in only a single level before the game moves on to its next neat trick. It’s a joy to constantly move from one idea to the next, though it would have been interesting to see the game build on some of its ideas over time.
Hindering the experience is a surprisingly restrictive camera. It generally hovers too close to the characters to see far enough in any direction, and though it can be angled with the right stick, it often refuses to comply, for reasons that are never really clear. This issue is made much worse in the multiplayer mode, where up to four people can join together, stepping into the extra shoes of Luigi, Peach, and Toad. I only had the opportunity to try it with one other person, and we struggled to stay in the same camera window. If anyone ventures off-screen, they are unceremoniously placed in a bubble and sent back to their teammate. This made exploring for collectibles frustrating.
Lives are also shared in the multiplayer mode, expended when any of the players fall or are eliminated. This could absolutely add up quickly in a chaotic four-person session, or if playing with a less experienced player. It’s a confusing decision.
Bowser’s Fury is available from the main menu, not requiring any progression in the base 3D World to play. It’s also much larger than I anticipated. Far from a small expansion or epilogue to the main game, Bowser’s Fury is an experimental open-world experience, taking the assets and mechanics of Super Mario 3D World, and building something new from them.
Taking place in the expansive Lake Lapcat, Mario and Bowser Jr. have to team up to take on a massive, kaiju-esque new Bowser. Fury Bowser has covered the lake in a black paint, and Mario has to collect shines to light up lighthouses to clear it up. Collecting enough shines also allows Mario to awaken the Giga bells, which he can use to turn into a very large cat to take on Fury Bowser directly.
The lake is massive, presenting Mario with his very first open world. The entire lake can be explored without loading. Each lighthouse has five shines attached to it, with plenty more scattered on smaller islands. Collecting each shine requires a platforming challenge similar to a level from the base 3D World, and each is just as innovative and fun. I had a blast wandering the islands, completing challenges, and collecting shines.
At the center of the lake, Bowser is always visible, his shell slowly rising from the paint. Once he rises all the way above the surface, his shell begins to glow, the rain comes, and Fury Bowser attacks. The massive Fury Bowser has several attacks to disrupt gameplay, spitting flame, throwing rocks, and raining fireballs. His attacks aren’t too disruptive to gameplay and made for an extremely exciting moment towards the end of a particularly difficult platforming challenge.
Bowser’s Fury is made using all the tools from the base 3D World, and they’re generally used so differently from the original game I almost forgot that I had just finished seeing them all before. Issues do arise in the form of a few bosses directly pulled from 3D World and reused for Bowser’s Fury. I was very disappointed to find none of these bosses had new abilities or any new challenge to them at all.
Taken as a whole package, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is a massive amount of Mario content. For the many who missed the original release in 2013, it’s easily worth the $60 admission price. Those who have already played the original, and are only looking for the new Bowser’s Fury, may be disappointed in its short length, taking me somewhere around 3-4 hours, but it absolutely stands up to the high-quality bar of the series.
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