Super Mario 3D World could be called the first big 'all-star' for the Wii U. Sure, there was New Super Mario Bros. U, but the console was going to need a bigger punch and reason for people to want to spend the $300. This game is one of those reasons. It's the first Mario platformer since 3D Land. (And the first home theater console one since Galaxy 2.) These have always been 'my games.' One of my fondest gaming memories was playing through Super Mario Sunshine, a rather underrated game today. Then in 2007 Galaxy changed the playing field and delivered arguably the greatest Mario experience of all time. Somehow after the company exceeded their efforts with the Galaxy sequel, delivering a perfect gaming time. It wouldn't be until a year later when the small console, the 3DS, saw 3D Land, a very fun and perhaps the best game for the system. So how does 3D World compare to these greats? Well, it does fall into some of the pits the New Super Mario Bros. U fell in, and that's on rehashing too many things from the previous game. It's still however a very fun play and a must-have for any Wii U owner.
The story follows Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad as they journey to rescue the Sprixie Princesses from Bowser's clutches. That's pretty much it. After a brief opening cutscene explaining the motivation behind all of this, we're thrown into the World Map. Mario has never been known for its deep and complex stories, but this is definitely disappointing. Here we have an opportunity to explore a new race within the Mushroom Kingdom world, but the story doesn't bother to use any writing. In fact, Bowser is given no lines whatsoever, he's just a roaring beast. It's extremely disappointing when you think about it, the first Galaxy had great writing and even some darkness to the story. Not here. Nintendo shouldn't be afraid to add actual writing and danger to the series. Galaxy took a step in the right direction in this regard, but everything afterward has gone backward.
The gameplay doesn't disappoint and even adds something new to the table: 4 player co-op. We've seen this in the New Super Mario Bros. series, but this is the first time in a 3D game. One of the biggest things in this game is the new power-up, 'Cat-form.' It's a bit strange in principle. I mean cats? Where did that come from? As much as I despise Mario being reduced to a cutesy thing saying "meow," in game the power is really cool and useful to use. Beyond that, gameplay remains relatively the same as 3D Land, which isn't a bad thing. The graphics look quite colorful and very impressive, some of the worlds looked absolutely fantastic. I was in awe when going down a raft and seeing glorious HD water splash around. If this is any indication, the Wii U has a promising future when it comes to graphics.
Sadly some of the soundtrack is lifted from 3D Land, which is very disappointing. Each and every Mario game should have its own full original soundtrack, not rehash themes from each other. The exclusive themes are definitely decent and what you'd expect from a Mario platformer. It's not as memorable as the Galaxies, but good enough. The amount of worlds is definitely solid, not to mention there's three secret ones to go through. The replay value is astounding, you'll be collecting 380 Green Stars and 80 stamps. If you're not one to find this type of thing tedious, you'll be playing this game for a long time. The actual worlds are good and even have some uniqueness. The train levels come to mind with the very cool new Blockstepper enemies.
The boss fights are solid, though not half as memorable as the ones featured in the Galaxies. The first Bowser battle is pretty unique, since you have to fight him while he drives his car that looks suspiciously like Wario's car from Mario Kart: Double Dash. It's just disappointing though when you compare it to the opera-filled and epic Bowser fights from the Galaxies. The final battle is pretty lackluster since it's more of an escape than actual fight. Sure, it was intense, but with no real payoff. It lacks greatly in comparison to the final battle from New Super Mario Bros. U. After you beat the game, World Star becomes available which after conquering it you unlock Rosalina. (It's a shame she couldn't be in the actual story.)
Overall, 3D World is definitely another fun Mario platformer. The story sadly lacks the heart of the first Galaxy and is definitely tailored to young kids than the fans who have been playing these games since square one. The gameplay is naturally great and doesn't get old. (What does get old however is collecting the stamps.) The journey to the final castle isn't a short or overly long one, it's just right. So, while not coming close to the greatness of the Galaxies or Sunshine, it's a worthy sequel even if it rehashes too many things from 3D Land.