When New Super Mario Bros. first hit the Wii, the four player action was a delightful addition to the side-scrolling gameplay. Now, with two chaotically fun titles under their belt, the only next logical step for Nintendo was to adapt it to the third dimension (and add cats!) with Super Mario 3D World, a four player continuation of the fantastic 3DS game, Super Mario 3D Land.
I was a bit worried coming into 3D World, as the chaotic nature of four player Super Mario can both be one of the most entertaining and frustrating experiences. If someone is moving too quickly or too slowly, or just generally being a bastard throughout the level, it's just no holds bar mayhem and screaming at your friends. Yet, my fears were washed away as soon as I grabbed a controller and jumped in. While the camera still focuses on the players moving fastest, it gives plenty of time for slower players to catch up, as well as keeping the bubble aspect of the New Super Mario Bros. games.
It even works slightly better this time around, as the floating player can pop their own bubble whenever they want. Due to the 3D nature, there's much less room for players to grief each other as well, making for a much more peaceful experience, though if you want to be a douchebag it's still very much possible, but escaping the tomfoolery is equally as feasible.
The gameplay is very much like its 3DS predecessor, keeping to the blend of old and new Mario games, with a focus on collecting 3 Green Stars (rather than coins) and reaching the flag at the end of the stage. Each of the four characters has a unique playstyle, which is right out of Super Mario Bros. 2, with Mario being the good all-rounder, Toad a bit faster, Luigi a higher jumper, and Peach the floater.
Each have their own benefits throughout each level. Where the Princess might be able to reach a farther jump than anyone else, Luigi may jump up to a hidden area that no one else can reach. The controls, it seems for now, are limited to just the WiiPad and WiiMotes, though it wouldn't be surprising to see the Wii U Pro Controller included as well.
The normal power ups are more frequent here than in any of the other games, as you can hit item boxes multiple times for multiple items. The newest edition - the Cat Suit that comes in the form of a bell mushroom - is a fantastic addition to the series. The cat suit allows the gang to climb up any wall for a good five seconds until you begin to slide down, making for a bunch of new and challenging platforming sections. The suit also allows you to perform a diving attack either from the wall you're climbing or just jumping in the air, which is pretty useful given that without any power ups you can only buttstomp and jump on enemies.
Like many other games in the series, you can also hold extra mushrooms, flowers, or bells, but instead of just one, you can carry four, and any player can freely throw them out with the minus button. The most recent (or best) items will remain in storage, and with any player able to drop items, it can be very useful if someone needs to get big, yet I foresee a new form of griefing the team by dropping the items off a cliff. Either way, a barrel of laughs and extremely tight four player action await.
The stages hold the typical Mario enemies and obstacles, as well as the typical grassy, sandy, and underground locales. Some new features, like Futurama-esque tubes that you have to circle inside of, dodging enemies and choosing the right time to exit, add some interesting and fun challenges. Another level features a giant Yoshi-like dinosaur that all players ride down rapids, dodging obstacles and maneuvering around tight corners as they go. It's not groundbreaking by any means, but when any player can control the sea monster, it can be absolutely hysterical. The one boss level of the demo, featuring a hydra-styled monster, held a decent challenge and utilized a creative mix of old and new mechanics, with heavy use of buttstomps. Every bit was a testament of how far Mario has come in almost 30 years.
Super Mario 3D World is the most beautiful Mario game to-date, taking full advantage of the more powerful Wii U. Combining the traditional Mario visuals with some cel-shaded effects makes the Mushroom Kingdom a vibrant and colorful place to run around in. Water and item effects like shooting fireballs have never looked better thanks to this cel-shaded attention. Every character moves crisply with their unique animations, and look every bit as gorgeous as the rest of the game.
Nintendo has a lot going for it right now. Wind Waker HD is out already for the Wii U, Pokemon X/Y has just released on 3DS, A Link Between Worlds is just around the corner, and Super Mario 3D World is right behind it. For once, I'm glad I own a Wii U. I'm stoked for this holiday season.