One of the best ever Super Mario games finally makes it to the Switch, along with a brand new and surprisingly different adventure.
The Wii U may have been one of Nintendo’s greatest hardware failures, but it has been an absolute lifeline for the Switch. The Wii U never had enough exclusive games to support a whole console but there were still many gems that deserved to be seen by a wider audience – and have been thanks to the significantly more successful Switch. The Wii U’s small pool of titles is a finite resource though and now it’s almost been exhausted, but Nintendo’s has saved the best till last.
Rather than being the bottom of the barrel Super Mario 3D World seems to have been put aside for a rainy day, which most certainly describes the last 10 months of pandemic misery. Or at least that seems the most logical reason for why the game is only being re-released now. That and the fact that it made sense to release the considerably less interesting New Super Mario Bros. U first, lest it be made to look even more inferior in comparison to 3D World.
Super Mario 3D World was first release on the Wii U in 2013 and acted as a loose sequel to Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS. Even by the standards of Mario games there’s essentially no story, with Bowser capturing a group of fairies at the outset but the game offering no explanation for who they are or why they’re so obsessed with cats. The important detail of the plot is that Princess Peach is not the one being kidnapped and she, along with Toad and Luigi, get to join Mario on what was always designed as a four-player co-op experience.
The version of Super Mario 3D World being released for the Switch is fundamentally the same as on the Wii U, so everything said in our original review still stands. There are some important additions though, mostly notably in the fact that the co-op mode can now be played online.
The movement of the characters has also been sped up slightly, which is welcome, and there are little nips and tucks such as a photo mode and the removal of the irritating save messages – something we’re going to pretend to take credit for because we complained about it so much in our previous review.
Super Mario 3D World was and is a great game but while the online options are tempting enough for anyone thinking about double-dipping there is another even bigger draw, in that it comes bundled with another brand new, and entirely separate, game called Bowser’s Fury. We’re limited in what we can say about it at this preview stage but while Nintendo has already tried to temper expectations by describing it as relatively short it’s far larger in scope than we expected… and far more experimental.
Although it’s been created by a completely different team, Bowser’s Fury has much more in common with Super Mario Odyssey than it does 3D World. Whereas 3D World uses a static camera angle, that you almost never need to change, Bowser’s Fury is a full, free-roaming experience. Rather than the relatively small environments of Odyssey and its predecessors though, it takes place in a larger open world area which you’re free to explore however you want.
There are what would, in previous games, be different worlds to visit but they’re separated from the rest only by small stretches of water (most easily navigated by riding Plessie the plesiosaurs) and that’s not something that’s been seen in a Mario game before. To ensure it doesn’t come across as just a gimmick the game takes advantage of the open world structure in the way it handles Bowser, who has somehow turned himself into a Godzilla style rage monster – with Bowser Jr., who can be controlled by a co-op partner, helping you to turn him back.
For much of the time Bowser lies dormant in his shell, always visible in the background, but periodically he rises up to attack you, shooting out fireballs that also turn into platforms if they hit a surface – which can be paradoxically very useful. In order to fight back you need to collect enough Cat Shines to activate a giant cat power-up, the 3D World obsession with cats being the only real connection between the two titles.
What happens after the giant power-up transforms you into a kaiju sized Mario we’re not allowed to say at this point, but we think we can get away with mentioning that it’s a lot of fun. Rather than the minor extra we were expecting, Bowser’s Fury is an entirely self-contained game that’s far more than just a short experiment, even if that’s how we suspect it started out. The only question is whether Bowser’s continual attacks become too much of a nuisance, as there’s no way to stop him waking up, whether you can fight him or not, but we’ll address that in the final review.
Even if Bowser’s Fury had turned out poorly the package as a whole would still have been worth it given the quality of Super Mario 3D World. But Bower’s Fury is almost in danger of overshadowing the original game and the fact that both titles are so very different, to both each other and existing Mario games on the Switch, is a testament to Nintendo’s ingenuity and Mario’s malleability as gaming’s greatest mascot.
Formats: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Nintendo EAD Software Development Department No. 2 (Tokyo)
Release Date: 12th February 2021
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