The package caps-off Super Mario's 35th anniversary celebrations.
When it comes to the WiiU's rather limited catalogue of games, Super Mario 3D World is certainly towards the top of the pile when it comes to quality. Arriving off the back of the Galaxy series, this platformer made a return back to Mario's 2D roots and acted as a pseudo-sequel to 3D Land on the 3DS. Just like many other of the WiiU's greatest hits, 3D World has now made its way over to the Nintendo Switch within an enhanced package. This new version of the game includes crisper visuals, online play and a brand new standalone expansion. The question is, however, is it worth revisiting eight long years after its release?
If you haven't played Super Mario 3D World or its 3DS predecessor 3D Land before then it is perhaps best described as a hybrid of both Mario's 2D and 3D adventures. Just like classic Mario games on the NES and SNES, the game is divided into several levels on a world map and its stages are linear in design with the goal of reaching the flagpole. The 3D inspiration comes from how Mario manoeuvres himself through the levels. Unlike the New Super Mario Bros. series, the game isn't a straight up side scroller, as many of the levels are much more open in structure, and they also feature several collectibles for players to get their hands on.
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Something I have always adored about Mario games is how they are able to expand upon the platforming genre in many fun and creative ways. 3D World is no exception in this regard as it introduces many new power-ups and out-of-level concepts not seen before in the series. The big one of course is the adorable cat suit, which is prominently featured on the box art and enables Mario to climb up walls and slap enemies in the face with his front paws. Another fun addition is also the puzzle sequences starring Captain Toad, where the goal is to make your way around a linear maze-like map using the character's limited abilities.
The amount of content featured within just 3D World is plentiful as there are over 100 unique levels to explore and each of these contain their own individual collectibles to find. Players can build up their sticker collection by finding stamps, which often require some precise platforming to reach. There are also generally three green stars in each world and these often put your skills to the test like Shines and Power Stars did in previous games. One green star might task you with collecting all the green coins before the time runs out, and another might require that you snatch it from the top of wobbling a pile of Goombas. These collectables encourage replayability and help to amp-up the overall playtime of the game.
With 3D World now running on the much more powerful hardware of the Switch, it has of course received several enhancements within the visual department. The game now runs at a native 1080p in Docked Mode and in Handheld Mode it runs at 720p, whereas as it previously ran at 720p (on the TV) and 480p (on the WiiU's tablet) on the WiiU. So, how does this all look? Looking at both versions side by side (you can see in the video above), the colours are much more vivid on the Nintendo Switch and shadow and lighting effects look markedly improved. Sure, the game isn't as polished as games that have been built ground-up for the Switch, but this is still a noticeable improvement and easier on the eyes.
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Along with the improved visuals, online functionality has also been added to the base game, which allows you to play its many stages along with up to three other players. I've always found multiplayer endlessly entertaining in these games, and it's great to see that the option has now been implemented to bring others along for the ride even if they're not in your living room. In addition to this, Captain Toad's puzzle-like stages are playable with up to three other players for the very first time. If you weren't aware, these could only be played solo within the original release, and it's good to see they're no longer restricted from groups playing together unlike other parts of the game.
The most exciting slice of new content here though is undoubtedly Bowser's Fury. This adventure is standalone from 3D World and can be accessed independently from within the main menu. This separate adventure sees you travel to the cat-themed Lake Lapcat and unexpectedly team up with Bowser Jr. to put a stop to Bower's rampage. The new sprawling open world region you have access to is filled with challenges that you can undertake at your own pace. The main form of collectible here is Cat Shines and these can be obtained through completing many different platforming and time-based challenges.
I was impressed with this expansion especially as it feels like it could be released as a standalone budget title in its own right. The island of Lake Lapcat has tons of personality with all of its inhabitants exhibiting cat-like features, and there are also a range of different biomes that you'll come across once you begin to progress further. It's perhaps one of the largest open spaces we have seen to date yet in a Mario game and it was fun to be able to seamlessly explore it on Plessie's back and take on challenges at my own leisure. This concept of having a vast sandbox to explore and complete challenges in is something that I hope Nintendo can come back to and explore once more in the Mario franchise.
My feelings on Bower's Fury are pretty overwhelmingly positive, but there was an aspect that I didn't particularly enjoy, and this was the boss encounters with Bowser. With Bowser being the size of a skyscraper, you need to activate the various Giga Bells scattered around the island to be able to transform into a giant Cat Mario and take him on. Fighting Bowser like this at first had a Godzilla vs. Kong type quality to it and it was entertaining to witness these two giants going head-to-head. The fight is just repeated so many times throughout the game with only minor variations thrown in to spice up Bowser's move set. It's also surprisingly easy too, as Super Bells continuously spawn around you and you can just retreat and grab one if you're on the verge of failure.
Before I conclude, I should perhaps address the obvious elephant in the room here. Whilst Bowser's Fury is an excellent expansion and there have been some noteworthy improvements made to 3D World, it doesn't escape the fact that the bulk of the package is comprised of a WiiU game that launched back in 2013. Sure, it's a pretty damn good game that has aged pretty well, but for the same £49.99 price tag you could purchase other, much more recent must-have releases in the Switch's library such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Super Mario Odyssey, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Mario 3D World is one of the finest WiiU enhancements that we have seen come to the Nintendo Switch. The base game has seen some considerable improvements with the addition of online multiple and crispers visuals, and its Bowser's Fury expansion feels like it could be released as a standalone Mario 3D platformer. That said, we can understand why the price might be a sticking point for some, as the bulk of the package is an eight year old WiiU game that isn't exactly offering heaps of innovation.
8 / 10
Bowser's Fury is an excellent standalone adventure. 3D World has been enhanced with crisper visuals and online functionality.
The Bowser's Fury boss fights are repetitive. It's pricey considering the bulk of the package is an older WiiU game.