Up Up Down Down: Super Mario 3D World
It's not a stretch to say that Mario is a tad on the oversaturated side. Nintendo makes no effort to shy away from its mascot franchise, and what used to be a series to frequently get excited over is now somewhat of a shameless cash cow. The thing is, Mario games are often quality efforts, even when they're being milked dry. Well, if you haven't been excited about a Mario game in some time (as was the case with me), that should absolutely change, because Super Mario 3D World is one of the most brilliant offerings in the series, and the platformer genre as a whole.
In fact, the game is so good that I couldn't really come up with any major flaws for this edition of Up Up Down Down (Wind Waker déjà vu is setting in). So instead of complaining about anything major, I'll simply point out the minor gripes I had with Mario 3D World; though honestly, these hardly discount the game from being a close-to-perfect 3D platformer.
Up Up: This is the best looking Mario game of all time (no hyperbole)
Before Mario 3D World came along, it was easy to see how the Super Mario Galaxy games were the best looking entries in the series. Sure, New Super Mario Bros. U was an HD title, but it didn't push the boundaries of what a Mario game could look like. Mario 3D World blows every previous offering away with its wonderfully amazing HD graphics. There are beautiful splashes of color everywhere, and the smoothness of the environments is a total sight to behold. Add to that a myriad of unique locales that showcase expertly realized art, and you've got a game that looks stunning.
Down Down: It's not as revolutionary as past Mario titles
Honestly, this is me just getting super nitpicky for the sole purpose of including some Down Downs in this feature. You could argue that Mario 3D World isn't the revolutionary gameplay leap that Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Galaxy were — and you can even throw in the original Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS — but that doesn't really matter. The fact remains that this game is absolutely stellar. So is it wholly original in concept? No. Does that matter or mean anything? Absolutely not.
Up Up: Mesmerizing level design will remind you why Mario is awesome
Despite being burnt out on the Mario series, I was instantly won over once again by the platforming exploits of the mustachioed plumber and his adventure-hungry pals in Mario 3D World. As far as level design goes, it's hard to find another modern platformer that hits all of the right notes in the same way that this game does. It's simply impossible to finish a single stage and not immediately want to jump right into the next. Just when you think you've seen it all, Nintendo throws something surprisingly novel at you to keep you in a wide-eyed, open-mouthed stupor.
Down Down: Not enough boss variety
Okay, so maybe this little flaw is actually justified. Sort of. In the past, Mario games have offered their mix of both entertaining and underwhelming boss encounters. Mario 3D World has quite a few battles, though they often repeat, and they kind of lose their appeal. Rather than revisiting boss fights, it would've been much cooler to come across major foes a single time and then never see them again. Even then, the boss battles are very similar to each other and immediately take a backseat to the frantic running and jumping action seen in most of the other stages.
Up Up: You can choose other characters aside from Mario and Luigi
Yes! Finally! It was about time Nintendo referenced the incredible Super Mario Bros. 2 in a meaningful manner. One of the things that made that classic NES title so great was its roster of multiple playable characters that were so distinct from one another. The same applies here. You've got Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad, and you can select any of them as you so desire. Mechanically, they're all different, so depending on who you go with, you can have a significantly different experience. (Peach and Toad are more awesome than Mario and Luigi. Just sayin'.)
Down Down: White Tanooki Suit makes you feel like a b*tch
Sometimes you die in platformers. That's just the way these games work. Seriously, though, if Nintendo wants to make players feel incompetent for repeatedly failing on any given stage, it has succeeded. Die a bunch of times, and you'll notice a special block with the White Tanooki Suit pop up. This power-up grants you invincibility for the remainder of the level, which is Nintendo's way of saying, “Oh, you poor loser. Here's some infinite power for ya! Because your suckage is sad!” You don't need to collect the power-up, but once you see it, you'll know you're a complete failure of a human being.
Up Up: That Cat Suit
Oh God, the Cat Suit! Do I even need to say anything else? The Cat Suit power-up in Mario 3D World is as awesome as it sounds. Aside from looking disgustingly adorable, you can even climb walls and pounce on enemies. Also, all of the characters look incredibly cute as they run around on all fours. The awesomeness of cats mixed with Nintendo's innate ability to make you gawk in utter amazement makes for a weirdly satisfying experience. Oh, and it gives us a reason to refer to Mario as “Meow-rio.”
Down Down: You might not notice how great other power-ups are
The Cat Suit is available almost immediately after you begin playing, so it's easy to forget that Nintendo has created a number of cool power-ups for Mario. I've long considered the Tanooki Suit the ultimate Mario power-up, but the Cat Suit made me forget all about it for a while. Even despite the fact that there are some great new and returning abilities, the Cat Suit somehow manages to trump them all. Again, I'd hardly call this a flaw, but it's sad for all of those other sweet power-ups, because they deserve some love, too.
Up Up: Multiplayer is fun
Co-op in Mario platformers has long been a source of frustration. Instead of offering a fun time, all you usually get is messy multiplayer. That's not the case here, and that's likely due to the bigger 3D environments. You're not constantly crashing into other players and jumping all over each other. Instead, you're cohesively exploring some of the coolest levels in a Mario game in quite some time, and it's awesome.
Down Down: I don't know ... Auto-saving after every level is annoying?
Okay, I've run out of things to complain about, so I'll just throw this one into my pile of desperate Down Down attempts. After every level, the game pauses to auto-save. All this really does is cause about a two-second delay in between levels. It's not a big deal, really, but it deserves to be mentioned if I'm being nitpicky. In all seriousness, though, maybe Nintendo could've added a non-pausing auto-save feature like a lot of games tend to do these days.
Left Right Left Right: Super Mario 3D World is as slick as a Mario game gets
To call Mario 3D World one of the best platformers in recent memory, as well as one of the best Mario games of all time, wouldn't be untrue. My penchant for hyperbole notwithstanding, to not praise the efforts of Nintendo in this latest romp would be ridiculous. This game is, for all intents and purposes, the Mario game that Wii U owners have been waiting for. I'd even go as far as saying that this cat-tastic (yep, that's a word now) platformer is reason enough to buy Nintendo's latest machine. It's just that incredible.
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