I’ll be completely honest from the get go . . . I’m a die hard Mario fan. Did you know Nintendo sent you an email to congratulate and thank you for getting all 242 stars on Super Mario Galaxy? I do, because I got one.
It took weeks and weeks for me to achieve that, and I was ready to hurl the Wiimote through the TV a few times, because some of the levels were maddeningly hard. But I stuck at it, because I loved that game, and I wanted to completely finish it, and wring the very last drop of entertainment out of the huge, beautifully crafted world I had come to love. Finishing it was bittersweet, and I was genuinely sad to put the controller down.
I’ve also eagerly anticipated and devoured every release from Super Mario 64 onwards, so with the release of Super Mario 3D World, I was ready to maim and kill to be the lucky NZGamer.com reviewer to put the new title through its paces; thankfully it didn’t come to that, and they all backed away terrified when they saw the look in my eyes.
Does that make me an easy reviewer of this title? Hell no it doesn’t; it's quite the opposite. I wanted this game to be nothing short of perfect, because I was emotionally invested long before the first screen loaded up.
Traditionally there are two types of Mario game: 2D, and 3D. The 2D games tend to be side scrolling games, featuring three stars and other collectibles that you seek out per level. You can grab all three stars in a single run, and complete the level in one fell swoop. There’s less story, and more ‘straight into it’ adventuring. Whereas in Mario’s 3D adventures, there’s a stronger focus on an overarching story, and you generally do each level several times, gathering only one star at a time, needing to reenter the level to gather the next.
Super 3D World is a hybrid of both types: richly detailed like a 3D game, but - like the 2D series - it’s light on story, while still absolutely groaning with levels, packed full of variety, and riddled with complexity. It’s also really hard to qualify the difficulty level, because even towards the end, some levels and enemies are very easy, and some are much more challenging, especially if you are one of life’s magpies, dying to collect all the shiny stars and stamps Mario and the gang can lay their gloved hands upon.
Nintendo are fiercely protective of this game, and there’s a very specific list of things that we were allowed to tell you about, and a list of things we weren’t. But being such a fan of the series, I’m totally on board with that, because I have no intention of taking away the thrill of that moment when you first come upon the . . .
The game looks as slick and polished as you’d expect from a team that takes so much pride in its IP. And true to form the cute little touches throughout give each playable character their . . . character. Princess Peach picks up her skirt a little to run, Luigi stretches his long legs to flee from the ghosts that will surely haunt him to his dying day, and Mario is his wall jumping, pasta eating, adorable, chubby little self.
You’ll come to love all the characters, and you can play as any of the old gang throughout your adventure. Like previous games, you collect powerup items - such as the Fire suit - which you have until you get hurt by an enemy or you die. Again, I won’t ruin the surprise, but the power ups are many and varied, and some you will only come across occasionally. Naturally, some power ups allow you to access different areas on the maps, gathering stars and stamps as you go.
The controls are slick and easy to use. (Note: I played on the Wii-U Gamepad, but you can choose from a number of compatible controllers to suit your preference. You can even form a team, with friends grabbing a Wiimote to join the rescue mission.) Jumps and attacks are very accurate, and I only had to manually adjust the nicely auto positioning camera a couple of times throughout the adventure. Of course, the sound and music in particular are absolutely first class, and weave old and new musical themes throughout.
The game is breathtakingly simple, polished to perfection, and tonnes of fun - by yourself or with friends. The only reason it’s not getting a perfect 10 is because I miss the story elements, and some of the bosses were just far too easy to overcome. But that aside, it’s worthy of wearing of the beloved red cap, and proof that while Nintendo's box may not match the horsepower of the other two new consoles, the famous Japanese company still has some valuable lessons to teach about how to ensnare and enrapture a target audience for many, many years to come.