Release Date: November 21, 2013
I never owned a Nintendo 64.
The brief moments I got with it were spent with Mario 64 and MarioKart 64. It was a world of wonder. There was something so much more impressive about Mario 64 than all of the 3D platformers found on the PS1 like Gex and Spyro.
I didn't play more than a level or two until I got a DS a decade later. I bought Mario 64 DS, playing about 6 hours of it, and hated that the magic wasn't there. It's one of those situations where you wish you didn't meet your hero because they turned out to be terrible.
I've tried to recapture that magic on the DS, 3DS, and now the Wii-U, and I'm realizing that magic may be gone, but that doesn't mean there's not a good game there.
What I didn't like
Really, I didn't feel a challenge until World 4. That's a problem. Maybe Nintendo needs to have a hard mode built in? I can only imagine the population of people that have never played a 3D platformer, or a 3D Mario game at this point is really low.
The introduction of the cat suit does nothing for me. Mario Galaxy introduced some great new suits and powers: the bee, boo, and spring suits were all used in creative ways.
The cat suit, as far as I can tell, might as well be the mushroom. Sure, there are tons of walls to climb with the suit, but none of these walls feel necessary in the levels. I'd rather have some platforms to hop on or to just fly with the raccoon tail.
What was OK
There are some creative levels, especially toward the end. I particularly enjoyed the ice levels (I know, you never say that) and the carnival levels.
Overall though, the levels felt like an expansion pack or reject levels from other games. Most of them weren't inspired. Most of them lacked the cohesiveness of the "gimmick" from past games. If the over world didn't tell me what the "subject" was for these levels, I couldn't' tell you. Most of them looked about the same.
In Mario Galaxy, each planet has a distinct look and feel. In Mario 64, every painting showed you what level you were going into. In Super Mario 3D World... I don't know, maybe the theme is colorful blocks with platforming elements? If so, that's the theme for 80% of the game.
The story of fairies being captured by Bowser didn't draw me in either. Yeah, I know, you don't usually come to a Mario game for the story. I learned that when Super Mario Bros 2 credits rolled and I realized the difficult adventure I had been through was a dream.
But Mario Galaxy created such a rich universe, I was really hoping for something on that level. This is really just a standard, "a princess is in trouble, go save her."
What I liked
The boss battles were great. Every one of them had a new gimmick you had to figure out. This was one aspect where I felt like the Mario magic was fully realized.
One boss had you chasing after Bowser in his car while he throws crap at you, King Ka-Chunk is a throwback to Mario 64, waiting to see that "Band-aid" exposed to jump on.
Every boss battle builds that drama, that vulnerability, but is fair enough for you to beat.
The Toad Treasure Tracker Puzzle levels are great. So much so that I ended up getting Toad Treasure Tracker the game. (Unfortunately the game doesn't grab me as much as the levels in Mario World) There's no jumping, there's not real platforming. It's you, Toad, some switches, and manipulating the camera angle. You have to find your way around to the various stars to beat the missions.
The classic power-ups feel great. The raccoon tail, fire flower, mega-mushroom are all used with great purpose in the game. Modifications of old power ups, like the large ice skate (instead of the boot) feel like they belong in the world.
All four playable characters all feel distinct like in Super Mario Bros 2. Replaying levels as someone else can make the level feel different enough to where there's replay value there.
And the colors... god the colors really pop on that big screen TV. Sometimes you only realize how burned out on post-apocalyptic color pallets when you play something from Nintendo and realize how colorful of a place the world can be.
And then there's the tightness that comes with a Nintendo first party game. SM3DW feels great.
Super Mario World 3D is definitely worth owning if you have a Wii-U. Most of my hangups are because I've been chasing this memory from 20 years ago. It's something that I will probably not experience until VR takes off.
There is a long, well thought out game, even if it is held back a little by Nintendo being Nintendo.
Rating: You've probably already bought this game if you have a Wii-U. If not, grab it. It's a greatest hit now and cheap.