There’s a line I’d like to borrow from Portal 2 and paraphrase to convey my initial feelings on Super Mario 3D World, a title which came out in 2013 but I didn’t pick up until December 2015 despite my addiction to a fat Italian man, which would upset my family if he were real.
“Oh, hi. How are you holding up? Because I’m a furry.”
The answer was, initially, not well. In SM3DW, Mario and friends can dress up as a regular Tanooki beaver, a silver Tanooki beaver, a cat, and a golden cat that can generate coins by butt-pounding (gotta be some sort of lapdance metaphor there). So, for many from a distance, SM3DW will appear to be the game where Mario turns the cosplay up to 11, finally transforming himself into the sexual deviant that the Goomba so badly wants him to be in this video. I admit that I was put off; I felt that Nintendo had turned my beloved series into a childish platformer crossed with Mr. Benn, and that SM3DW wasn’t worth picking up right away. Hell, I waited two years for the price to drop, before I decided to just pay the damn £35.
Thing is, when a game doesn’t depreciate in value, it’s because it’s very, very good, which is very much the case here. So when I finally decided to clear this game from my backlog list, I ultimately found that Super Mario 3D World is an incredibly polished platformer, which takes all the best bits of Super Mario 3D Land and makes them bigger, and then throws in insane multiplayer gameplay.
That being said, I didn’t really care for SM3DW at the start. There were issues. Much like its handheld predecessor, there’s been a slight tweak in controls when compared to the Galaxy series, Sunshine, or 64. The jumps feel heavier, the acrobatics a bit harder to pull off; there’s just something that doesn’t feel as fluid as some of the other games did. A few worlds in, I’d seen it all before; the half-arsed plot, the same themes (overworld, desert, ice, beach, pls), and yet more confirmation that Nintendo are milking the Koopalings for all they’re worth (it’s been 28 years since their first appearance and I still don’t know any of their names other than the unusual Ludwig).
And then my friends decided to join the game. And, all of a sudden, those earlier problems didn’t matter anymore.
I realised that, well, SM3DW isn’t Mario Galaxy, because that was very much a single-player game, while SM3DW only really shines when four of you are accidentally throwing each other off a cliff and swearing at each other. The cat suit, despite looking ridiculous, is actually incredibly useful. The heavy jumps suddenly make sense, because the game wants you to hilariously fail, so that when your team conquers the level, you feel euphoric. If that’s not believable, consider that the game allows the player/team to hold a maximum of 1,150 lives, and provides a number of exploits to get that number quickly – because believe me, you’ll need them.
Because this game can be evil. There’s a level late on where you collect a pick-up which turns you into a walking cannon on a platform that moves depending on your positioning; you’ll spend hours missing your re-spawning targets, falling off the damn platform, and hitting your own teammates, and you’ll punch the air when you finish the level. And then it’s onto the next horrible ordeal. This game loves it.
The final level is known for being unbelievably difficult, and my group of four players lost close to 800 lives on this level, and we only got to the halfway point (maybe we’re just crap). There’s an invincibility pick-up that appears when you’ve died too many times, like a physical manifestation of the phrase “u ok hun?” And yet, this is all nothing but fun. It’s a staggering achievement to get the player to so thoroughly enjoy being screwed.
And yet, I found Super Mario 3D World to be the perfect answer to the question “Just why has the Wii U failed?” In SM3DW, there are only a handful of levels that require the specific use of the Game Pad, and I’d imagine that most gamers will use an alternative controller to play the bulk of the game. What’s the point of the console’s big gimmick if its biggest game can be played almost entirely without the Game Pad?
So I guess what I’m trying to say with this is: what Super Mario 3D World does right, it does very right. The Mario series is known for its precise controls and fun gameplay, and this title is no different; the multiplayer is as chaotic, fun, and hilarious as ever, the soundtrack is wonderful, while the title even takes those familiar overworlds and innovates in the levels themselves. But what this game gets wrong, it gets very wrong. The Game Pad is close to useless in SM3DW, while the game doesn’t even really show off the “3D” elements in the game, barring the fun Captain Toad levels, which went on to spawn their own title, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
And looping back to the start, while the cat suit is great to play in, and I can just about handle Mario dressing up, the game does take the furry thing a bit too far.
I’ll borrow another line from a different game to sum up my final thoughts on this – one of Luigi’s most famous comments from Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour.
“You look ridiculous.”