A lot has been said about Nintendo’s attitude towards their biggest series in recent months. It’s nothing the big N hasn’t heard before, but critics taking shots at the company’s lack of originality forget why Nintendo always get away with it: their games are almost always excellent.
Nintendo has always been a special company, one that operates, for better or worse, on their own, separate from other companies. They do what they like and always know what they’re doing. They make games of inspired simplicity that, with each console cycle, make whole new generations fall in love with video games.
There are few in the gaming community who can claim to have not been shaped in some way by experiences with Nintendo franchises. Perhaps those gamers are a dying breed, but so long as Nintendo are still going, they will work to ensure that that never becomes the case.
Prior to E3, the existence of a new 3D Mario was well-known – but exactly what it would be was an unknown. Many hoped for a true follow-up to Galaxy or a return to Princess Peach’s castle, but what Super Mario 3D World ended up being left many bemused and disappointed.
In the simplest terms it is Super Mario 3D Land, without the 3D and with four player multiplayer. It’s the last two major Mario platformers in one, the world designs of 3D Land and the hectic multiplayer of New Super Mario Bros U. No matter the quality of 3D World however, a proper single player Mario experience will no doubt be on a lot of people’s future wish lists.
Of course playing 3D World single player is perfectly possible and, on the basis of 3D Land, possibly the best way to enjoy the game. Multiplayer is where the emphasis lies, however, as has become so often the case with Nintendo’s home console output and which was made clear during the game’s reveal at E3.
Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad are the playable characters, each of the alternatives to Mario having their own quirk. Luigi jumps slightly higher, Peach can float, and Toad is faster despite the obscure centre of gravity such a massive head would surely bring.
Each plays and handles well; as you would expect. But despite the benefits this kind of 4-player Mario has over NSMBU, some of the problems also remain. There’s a certain chaos to proceedings even on the opening level I played, and on a 2D plane, while still chaotic, at least there is a clear and common aim to plough ahead towards the right hand side of the screen.
In 3D World the path is often less clear so players are more likely to wander off and explore. The screen does zoom out to accommodate more adventurous players but not to the extent that it could. When a player leaves the screen they are often hastily teleported back to the action. If a player was about to unearth a secret, well, that’s just too bad.
There is also a hastiness to teleport players when one player disappears down a pipe to the next area. Only a few seconds after one player goes, the others will be teleported to them. It isn’t a major gripe and will more often than not be inconsequential, but there’s no need for such a rush.
Perspective is also an issue on occasion. 3D Land was designed for the handheld’s 3D effect, which was needed to solve engineered issues of perspective and deal with those inherent to how the game was built. On the Wii U there is no 3D effect and sometimes it’s an issue, most notably in the boss fight shown.
Perhaps I should outline a few more of the positives, after all, it was great fun to play. The cat suit (which Nintendo are apparently finding a different name for due to the obvious connotations) is a delightful addition to Mario and co’s wardrobe. It allows the user to climb walls, revealing hidden treasures, and swipe at enemies – including new mice designs clearly inspired by the new outfit.
The other major addition is that of transparent pipes. Touted as allowing us to see what goes on inside those iconic pipes, it actually adds a nice little element to the game. You can launch fireballs down the pipes to clear obstacles and sail around them in search of collectables.
Multiplayer extends beyond running around areas too. We were shown another level in which the four players leapt upon a dinosaur creature which proceeded to dive down a long water slope. Here the players have to work together to steer the animal, collect coins, pass through hoops and hit jumps on their way to the level’s conclusion. Presumably similar levels that mix-up the multiplayer will be littered through the game, something which would be more than welcome.
Everything has the expected Nintendo sheen, the character and mission selection screens in particular standing out for their vibrancy. It is simplistic design work, but indicative of the simplistic pleasures within – and simplicity is no bad thing either.
Fun to play, well designed, and quintessentially Nintendo, but each iteration of 3D Mairo games has always been radically different. Super Mario 64 became Super Mario Sunshine became Super Mario Galaxy. Now we have the console version of a proven concept. A good concept of course, but one we have seen and enjoyed on a platform better suited to it.
There’s a certain hollowness to the joys of this latest Mario venture. It seems wrong to pour so much meaning into something designed to be so simple, but gamers are more demanding of originality than ever before. Nintendo don’t have to reinvent themselves to be successful now, they just need to be a little more daring.