Over a year ago now, I wrote in an edition of “Gaming Respawn Plays” that I’d recently bought a Wii U and bought quite a lot of Nintendo’s first party content for it, and I was going to slowly work my way through it. But as they say, the best laid plans of Mice and Men etc., because despite enjoying the console well enough, it ended up getting relegated to background noise thanks to games on the PS4 and the ever growing collection of Retro games that I’d bought for “Retro Respawn” and “Rings of Saturn”. So, my Wii U was left unloved, unappreciated and forlorn underneath my TV while other consoles received playtime.
I can only admit to being a total boob in this regard, because the Wii U is utterly fantastic with some truly excellent games. In fact, as much as I hated the original Wii and its awful “Wii Mote”, I love the Wii U and its giant gamepad. Yes, it took some time to adapt, the urge to always look down at the screen in my hands as opposed to the ruddy big TV screen in the corner was especially difficult to curb, but by the time I’d fully integrated with the console and its way of doing things, I was in love.
The Wii U, above all else, is just plain fun. It reminds me of my childhood like no other console does. Being an SNES playing child raised amidst the fourth generation, the Wii U tugs at my nostalgia senses with aplomb whilst still delivering fine tuned and exceptional games at the same time. If it had only had full on multi-platform support, it would have easily been the one and only console I bought during the eighth generation. This is how Nintendo constantly shoots itself in the foot every generation since the fourth. Its first party stuff is always brilliant, but every machine from the N64 onward has had something that makes it inferior to the other consoles on the market.
With the N64, it was the fact the console still used cartridges, meaning the games were limited in comparison to the CDs of the PlayStation. With the GameCube, the console used mini-discs, which meant they couldn’t hold as much data as the Xbox and PS2. With the Wii, the console couldn’t support HD graphics, and the stupid Wii Mote essentially crippled all the major multi-platform releases. Sadly, the Wii U continued the streak of being behind the other consoles in the power stakes, even though the first party content all looked great and played well.
Games likes Splatoon and Yoshi’s Woolly World not only looked positively gorgeous with unique and colourful graphics, but they were also brilliant fun to play either online (Splatoon) or locally with other people (Yoshi). Super Mario Maker was fun, playful and had constant replay value as you were motivated to keep uploading levels so that people online could play them and rate them. Bayonetta 2 produced top-notch gameplay that rivalled anything you’d find on the “big two” consoles for pure enjoyment. And then there’s the titular game of this article, Super Mario 3D World.
Now, I know some people don’t like this game, owing to the fact that it follows the “Mario Formula” to the letter, which for some reason is a bad thing to them, although I can’t seem to understand why they feel this way. Part of the reason the formula is so ingrained is for one simple enduring reason: It works. Yes, you can argue that it would have been nice to see Mario’s lone 3D adventure on the Wii U follow on from games such as Super Mario 64, Sunshine and Galaxy, but the (supposed) lack of innovation in 3D World doesn’t change the fact that it’s a brilliantly polished and downright beautiful game from start to finish.
And let’s not over-romance the Galaxy series either. Yes, I enjoyed both of the games in that particular series, but they were hardly without fault, and Galaxy 2 certainly wasn’t afraid to dip into features like a world map. And, this’ll get me pelters, but I’m going to say it anyway, I honestly don’t and never have liked Super Mario 64. Though it’s certainly an impressive technological feat, I’ve never enjoyed the way Mario controls, the power-ups, or the overall game in general. Yes, for the time it looked lovely, and the music was superb, but I’ve never warmed to it. I felt more wonder and had more fun playing 3D World than I ever did playing Mario 64, and I’m not ashamed to admit it either.
For me 3D World takes the fun power-ups from Super Mario Bros. 3, the option to pick from four characters seen in Super Mario Bros. 2 and the bright colours and wonder of Galaxy to make a truly excellent game. Seeing the Tanooki Suit make its glorious return to the series set off all my nostalgia senses, whereas the new Cat Suit power-up provided plenty of silly fun in its own right. Really, the only thing this game was missing was a dedicated water power-up such as the Penguin or Frog Suit, because those sorts of things always spruce up a water level, which (if we’re being honest) can be real slogs on occasion.
Yes, you progress through the usual Mario staples of ice world, sky world, etc., but there are some nuances to be found, such as the African Serengeti themed levels which feature vast areas to explore and also one of the very best stage themes in the whole Mario series of games. All of the stages are lovely to look at and are littered with secret nooks and crannies that you can look through in an attempt to find stars and hidden items.
My only real critique of the game is that it persists with having a timer for all the stages. This is done to add challenge, but I find it takes away one facet of 3D Mario games I have always enjoyed, which is the ability to explore the vast stages at your leisure. One of the very liberating things about a game like Super Mario Sunshine is that it sticks you in this bright and colourful world and lets you go at your own pace. This is sadly lacking from 3D World, as you sometimes don’t have an opportunity to linger or the timer will run out, bringing the level and your life to an immediate and violent close.
However, so many other aspects of this game are so enjoyable that I’m prepared to let this one slide. If you haven’t ever ponied up the cash for a Wii U but are an ardent fan of Nintendo’s colourful cast of mascots, you could do much worse than consider picking a Wii U up. I know I’m going to be showing mine some much more richly deserved love from now on!
Gaming Respawn is going to be soon compiling listings for Game of the Year. I have decided to decline to participate this year, ultimately due to the fact I just haven’t played enough of the big games from this year to do the process justice. One of the many positives of heading up the Retro Division on this fine site is that it gives me a great excuse to sink hours of my time into playing great Retro games. The downside is that it sometimes leaves me little time to keep up with the best the modern consoles have to offer. I guess I’ll just have to wait 10 years before I play Dishonored 2 or Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, eh?
So, seeing as I won’t be participating in Game of the Year for 2016, I’ve decided to do my own Retro Awards where I look back at the Retro games I’ve played for features this year and compile some awards from them. Join me next week for the “Retro Respawn Awards!” and a big announcement of a new feature I’ll be starting for 2017!
Thanks for reading
Until next time;
The Urban Dictionary defines “The Fitzgerald Scale” as “A scale used to measure the awkwardness of a situation. The Fitzgerald Scale is divided into ten subunits, called ‘Geralds’. Each Gerald is in turn divided into ten Subgeralds, which gives 100 possible levels of awkwardness. One Gerald is a commonly awkward level, where a ten Gerald situation would be a scarring event.”
Man, the atmosphere of that party was off the Fitzgerald Scale when we decided to leave