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So I expected to walk into a mini-E3 at my not-so-local Best Buy that was participating in the Nintendo Experience, where select stores would have the E3 demos of Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. Sadly what gamers got when they walked in there was the one Wii U demo station on the sales floor being used for all four demos complete with a long line of people waiting to play them.
…Well at least the line was like E3.
Thankfully Wind Waker, Mario Kart, and Donkey Kong all play like their previous installments, so I can sum up their experiences with one paragraph after watching others play them. Wind Waker plays the same as the 2003 GameCube classic, but with better hot-swapping of items with the Gamepad and some extremely beautiful sunlight that made me feel warmer. While one of the most graphically impressive Wii U titles ever shown off, Mario Kart 8 felt a lot like Mario Kart 7 despite its wall-riding gimmick, especially since the demo was limited to using tilt for steering (which was just as bad as MK7’s). Lastly, DKC Tropical Freeze played exactly like Returns 3D, but with (the better) Dixie Kong and underwater levels! Of course that means the game I played first-hand was Super Mario 3D World.
Super Mario 3D World is the console-focused successor to the 3DS’ Super Mario 3D Land, much like how New Super Mario Bros. Wii was to New Super Mario Bros. for DS. I loved 3D Land because it added a third type of Mario platformer with the 2D Super Mario Bros./World style games and the 3D Mario 64/Galaxy types. 3D Land merged the two experiences where you explore a 3D landscape, but given a 2D side-scrolling camera. It gave a new perspective of playing a 3D Mario, and gave it a perfect feel on a handheld since a game like Galaxy would seem too zoomed out to enjoy. Mario 3D World brings that experience to console and while it may not seem exciting or innovative at first, the introduction to the Cat Suit, four playable characters with co-op, and the expert level design we all know and love makes this nonetheless something to look forward to.
For the first time since Super Mario Bros. 2, Princess Peach joins Mario, Luigi and the blue Toad as a playable character. Nintendo has brought their unique characteristics from Mario Bros. 2 too, so Mario’s average across the board, Luigi jumps higher, Toad runs faster, and Peach is the slowest, but she can float by holding the jump button. Unlike New Super Mario Bros. on consoles, player one can now select any character, so if Luigi, Peach or Toad is more to your liking, you got it.
The first stage I played were Stage 2-1. Though it said 2-1, the level looked like your standard 1-1 stage with a traditional Mario look and feel. I played this stage as Peach due to her unique controls and to personally celebrate her return to the spotlight. The stage really wanted you to play with the new Cat Suit, which means this is probably the first stage you actually get it. The Cat Suit allows the character to sprint when you run enough, attack with its claws and climb up walls. The latter means exploring is strongly encouraged since every wall now means some sort of secret is probably hidden, whether it’s a 1-Up, a Green Star or something else entirely. The level had two main parts, a 3D overworld and a brief semi-2D underworld. Like 3D Land, each level ends with a flagpole, which nets you a 1-Up if you hit the top. I shamefully missed the flagpole because I couldn't pinpoint the high jump as accurately as the stereoscopic Mario 3D Land, but the Cat Suit allows me to cheat and climb the pole to the top.
The second stage I was able to try out was Stage 1-5. This level had the player ride a cute Yoshi-looking sea serpent through a downhill waterway. This stage was fairly straightforward: go down the hill and get coins, boosts and coin rings, then add pitfalls halfway. One tidbit to note: I died on this level once and the death music was the one from Super Mario Bros. 3, which I though was a nice touch.
One thing I came away from this was that the stages were pretty short since I was able to beat two, with a death, within my 7-minute demo, so I hope Nintendo supplements this concern with a large quantity of stages and perhaps DLC. With the game announced only yesterday, we still don’t know a lot about the title. For instance, we know the Frog Suit is making a return, but we haven’t seen it in action yet. While I was bummed at first that the next 3D Mario isn't a revolution but an evolution, I was still optimistic of its quality. After playing it, I have confirmed that optimism while adding new concerns with the length.
Super Mario 3D World launches for the Wii U this December. The demos will be playable again this Saturday at participating Best Buy locations. If today was any hint, arrive early.