Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury Review
(full review further down)
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is so delightful with only a few wrong moves. The Super Bell to turn Mario into Cat Mario is fantastic --but the minimum amount of levels designed for Cat Mario, along with the way world themes are structured and the levels' timer make it just slightly below perfect.
Good: Cat Mario, fun levels, a lot of content, Bowser's Fury.
Okay: Bowser's Fury is a little too short.
Bad: Level timer, confusing world level themes, not enough Cat Mario!
I'm not one of the dozens of people who played Super Mario 3D World when it premiered on Wii U back in 2013. So all my opinions of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury are from an unspoiled/non-nostalgic perspective with this release.
Super Mario 3D World was definitely designed with the original Super Mario Bros. fans in mind. Its linear level designs and fast-paced activities are something you won't find in games such as Super Mario Sunshine or Odyssey. Instead, 3D World feels more along the lines of a game that returns to its roots in size and structure, but with a more modern 3D aspect.
Super Mario 3D World's Story:
Bowser's at it again, but this time he isn't after Princess Peach. Instead, the King of Koopas has captured the Sprixie Princesses and traps them up in seven different worlds, and locks them up within each world's castle. Luckily, this time, Mario isn't alone. He has his green-clad brother Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad, to help him free the Sprixies and bring peace back to the worlds once more. Oh, and also hundreds of Green Stars to collect along the way.
In 3D World Mario (and company) has a few new power-ups in this version. First we have the Super Bell which allows Mario to transform into Cat Mario. Cat Mario can climb up walls, pounce on enemies, has a killer swipe attack, and he can even climb goal poles to hit the flag on top for a whopping 10,000 point finisher. Cat Mario is adorable and so much fun to not only play with but play around with. Just seeing his cat strut and little tail wag around just makes me wish I had a human cat of my own. Uh... forget I said anything.
There are seven Sprixie Princesses that need to be rescued throughout the roughly 10 hour adventure with many more mini games and different activities along the way.
Then there's the Double Cherry. With the Double Cherry, Mario duplicates into a second Mario. That's literally it. Double Cherry power-ups are usually available in very specific levels and aren't available or even usable outside of these levels. These levels are, of course, designed to take advantage of the multiple Marios by having platforms that only activate if you've collected enough Double Cherries to grow Marios numbers from two or more; or have a splitting path that allows the multi-Marios to split up and activate different switches to get further along. The way Double Cherry is implemented could have been a real disaster, having to control so many Marios at once. However, the developers at Nintendo did a phenomenal job at getting the controls perfect for the few levels Double Cherry is presented in.
Unlike the appalling New Super Mario Bros U for the Wii U (and Nintendo Switch), Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury takes a few lessons from the groundbreaking series' original games --such as Super Mario 3 (NES) and Super Mario World (SNES)-- and goes by the motto 'simpler is better.' You won't have full camera controls in this game, but a more grounded side-to-side angle so you can focus on what's on the immediate screen. Simplifying the levels allows all age ranges to play and enjoy this game; it doesn't hold your hand (unless you want it to), but the challenge isn't as excruciating at what you'd find in New Super Mario Bros. U. What Super Mario Bros. U lost in pacing and level design, 3D World makes up for by focusing on what made the original four games so great. You can make 3D World a co-op game if you'd like, but unlike New Super Mario Bros. U, 3D World is more focused on exploration and the adventure aspect of it all, rather than the forced competitiveness Mario Bros. U presented. This is why the challenges are less severe and the fun is increased several fold.
There are seven Sprixie Princesses that need to be rescued throughout the roughly 10 hour adventure with many more mini games and different activities along the way. However, there are more than seven worlds to explore. I don't want to spoil anything for any newcomers, but you'll want to collect the three green stars per level and hit the top of the flag poles in every world if you want to take full advantage of the game later on. Like most Mario games, you won't be blown away by world themes in 3D World. You'll have the typical themes such as grasslands, winter wonderland, deserts and so on. Surprisingly, there were actually repeats of some worlds like two winter lands, two deserts and whatnot.
The in-game timer feels like it limited my exploration a little too much; it was always leaving me sweating to reach the finish before I was even close to done exploring.
What baffled me was not only the lack of diverse worlds but the non-existent theme-structure within these worlds. For example: in the World 2 Desert there's a poisonous swamp; and in the World 4 Canyon there're grassy levels and outer space-themed levels. This doesn't just occur once but several times throughout the game. I'd have liked a winter world to be completely ice and snow-theme focused, but it really just came off as a mess.
I'd also like to add that I wish Nintendo would have the timer as optional. The in-game timer feels like it limited my exploration a little too much; it was always leaving me sweating to reach the finish before I was even close to done exploring. There are timer expansions in some levels, but not enough to always make me feel like I was in a rush to the finish line before I die.
Another problem I had was with the amount of Cat Mario levels. No, I absolutely love Cat Mario, he's a total joy to play with. But again, the game didn't implement the Super Bell power-up enough. The game hands out the Super Bell to transform Mario into a cat throughout the first world and a good portion of the second. Then seems to mostly neglect the power-up soon after. The power-up is never gone, it's just not handed out as often as you'll see the Fire Flower or the Tanooki Leaf-- and not every level is designed with the Cat power-up in mind. So if you lose your Cat powers soon after the first couple worlds, be prepared to not be a cuddly little kitten for a good portion of the game-- unless you pick one up in the power-up shops that randomly appear.
Bowser's Fury sees Mario exploring Lake Lapcat, a vast, archipelago-sprinkled water-world themed after... cats. (what else?) Black sludge has covered a lot of this land and turned King Bowser into a mad giant known as Fury Bowser. His son, Bowser Jr. asks Mario to team up to help him defeat dear, old dad and turn King Bowser back into a loveable, fun-sized monster that Bowser Jr. has grown to love. This allows Bowser's Fury to be a fun little single player or 2-player co-op adventure that has Mario and Bowser Jr. running through each little island to find and collect Cat Shines-- the item needed to clear the sludge.
Eventually you'll discover the secret to making Mario the largest of all-time, where you can duke it out with the King of Mean mano a mano, and bring the islands back to their former glory.
Lake Lapcat is more of an open world than that of Super Mario 3D World. You'll be able to move the camera all around rather than a limited range. It's a nice change of pace if you want to take a break from 3D World, but don't expect to spend more than a few hours in Bowser's Fury. Everything eventually begins to meld into a massive world of mini games or mini quests-- there aren't levels to adventure through on these islands. I don't want to make it sound like that takes away any of the fun, but I don't want it to seem like it's much deeper than that either.
For a great portion of the game you'll be avoiding Fury Bowser since you're a tiny little Mario. Eventually you'll discover the secret to making Mario the largest of all-time, where you can duke it out with the King of Mean mano a mano, and bring the islands back to their former glory. It was a great idea to include Bowser's Fury as a pack-in with 3D World. The adventure overall is nothing more than a glorified download content disguised as a separate game.
Overall, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is an exceptionally fun experience. There were a few missteps with the flawed logic of world structures, limited time you can spend in each world, and near absence of Cat Mario for a good portion of the main course. But with several fun worlds to explore, numerous side adventures and mini games, and the addition of Bowser's Fury, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is up there among some the best Mario games of all time.
This game was purchased by The Age Of Z for this review.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.