E3 2013: Super Mario 3D World Hands-On Preview – A Next-Gen Mario for All

Mario is the most common franchise associated with Nintendo.  That red-hatted plumber is what game players generally reference when they think about what makes Nintendo what it is.  When the Wii U was launched in late 2012 Mario Bros. Wii U was a game that everyone seemed to enjoy, but many also wished for true next-gen Mario game like Mario Galaxy 3 or another Mario title with a new and Mario-like experience.  Well, Nintendo has made sure that fans get what they want.  During E3 a week or so ago the big ‘N’ announced Super Mario 3D World, a successor to Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS.  I had a chance to play a few levels and I have to say that I was fairly impressed with what it offers.

Where Super Mario 3D World differs from Super Mario 3D Land is in a few key areas.  The first being that the Wii U is not 3D capable, but the 3D level designs are still as prevalent as they were in 3D Land but now on a big screen.  The creative use of 3D like aspects make exploring your environments entertaining, and sometimes challenging, as you find hidden areas or new paths to reach that “unreachable” object.  Another difference that is VERY noticeable is that in the Wii U game you can play alone or with up to three others.   You can choose from Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Peach.  Of course each character has their own special strengths, such as Luigi’s longer jumps, Toad’s speed, or Peach’s ability to hover/float.  These attributes will suit some individuals over others, but alas seeing other Nintendo characters in a new Mario game like this is great.

Of course as is the way with most Mario games (2D or 3D), there is always a new suit added, or one brought back from the past.  In Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS, the return of the Racoon Suit was a main gameplay addition.  Not to be outdone, Super Mario 3D World adds a new suit that is prevalent in the title’s graphics.  This new suit is a cat suit which allows you some pretty cool features that are associated with felines, and they are well incorporated into the game.  From being able to pounce, climb walls or objects, and scratch like a cat, many of these new features are important for gameplay.  I really enjoyed running about the level and climbing walls while also being able to swat Goombas.  Heck, once you reach the “end-of-the-level” flagpole while in the cat suit, and you’re quick enough, you can climb to the top and earn that 1-up.  I think that many people who love the Mario franchise should enjoy the addition of the new cat suit, but that being said, it may not be for everyone as you’ll always have detractors out there.

Oh, I should also note that you can “stack” the suits that you collect, and with the simple push of the minus (-) button you can have the suit icon drop on screen and you can collect it and don the special suit once again.  This is particularly helpful in multiplayer.

Speaking of multiplayer, playing with more than one person can change the whole dynamic of the game as you earn points for your performance (coins, stars, enemies killed, etc).  At the end of the level a graph is shown that represents your score and how you “stack” up against the other player(s).  How this changes the gameplay is that the game can become more competitive as players race to grab coins, stars, and kill all the enemies.  This happened to me during our multiplayer play as I wanted to explore and check out the level.  The other people I was playing with, including two Nintendo demo staff, raced ahead and went crazy.  I found myself more often then not in a “catch up” bubble keeping up.  Once the game releases later this year gamers will want to see how others in their group may play, either exploring all the level has to offer or get competitive and try to collect everything as quickly as possible.  Having this figured out will indeed change your multiplayer experience.

As multiple players play at the same time, a neat little feature is the use of the GamePad.  When I was holding the GamePad I was informed that I could tap and hold some moving sections of the levels and by doing so they stopped moving allowing players to navigate them with ease.  I didn’t ask at the time if there was more I could do with the touchscreen on the GamePad for my fellow gamers, but alas I have a sneaking suspicion there might be just more that can be done.

A final new feature worth noting, and something I personally thought was neat, is the addition of translucent tubes.  These tubes can be found throughout various levels and add a bit of flair to the game.  Not only do they take you up, around, or through certain sections of the level, but you can control where you go in these tubes as there are branching paths and you must use your quick reflexes to get through without hitting any enemies and/or grabbing that elusive coin, switch, or star.  These translucent pipes not only look good, but they add to the gameplay as well.

In regards to visuals, I have to say that a 3D oriented Mario in HD looks great.  Mario, Luigi, Toad, Peach, as well as the Goombas, Bullet Bills and all the other famed Mushroom Kingdom inhabitants look good.  And let’s not forget the levels too, as the traditional Nintendo creativity is back, and it looks like a Next-Gen Wii U title thanks to the HD hardware.  Sure, as with the standard Mario gameplay, there will be detractors out there that complain it just looks like past games in the series, but in my opinion an HD 3D-like Mario world is better then what has been offered before.

At the end of my time with Super Mario 3D World I have to say that it was entertaining to play.  Although the experience was somewhat familiar, and many critics of the franchise will harp on this, I found that the addition of multiplayer, the new cat suit, and the HD visuals, along with a few other new features (e.g. translucent tubes, touchscreen support) made for a better Super Mario 3D World then I expected.  As I played I could not help but get excited to know that I can share this experience with my kids (aged 6 ½ and 8 ½) in December of this year and truly introduce them to even more Mario madness on the Wii U.  I think most Mario fans should enjoy what this game holds and those few who may be new to the franchise should have fun too.  For now you can check out the gallery fo screens below: