Review: Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury (Switch)

While Super Mario Odyssey is a great game, this is the direction the series needs to maintain.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 03/16/2021 09:53 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Brilliant level design; controls are incredibly natural and more precise than any that have preceded or proceeded them in a 3D Mario game; incredible score; tons of replay value, especially with five playable characters to enjoy; visuals are mesmerizing
Poison Mushroom for...
Bowser's Fury is fun but somewhat repetitive; while Fury's toned down color palette is refreshing, it is also lacking in variety from island to island; some performance hiccups in Fury and online multiplayer for 3D World proper

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury brings two styles of Mario game to bear. 3D World is what some fans refer to as obstacle course-style challenges. Here, Mario and company are challenged with a variety of gymnastic gauntlets where a myriad of blocks and traps and enemies are hurled at the player. Exploration is certainly still part of the experience, but it takes a backseat to unbridled athleticism and action. Bowser’s Fury, meanwhile, brings an open game world dotted with islands that each act as their own isolated regions to freely explore. These playground style of Mario games (think Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Odyssey) offer players a different type of mental exercise. In the case of Bowser’s Fury, the requisite Stars have been replaced with Cat Shines, of which five are hidden on each island. Combing every corner and peak is essential to uncovering them all. While it isn’t like each style of Mario game is poles apart, there are enough differences between the two that fans have their preferences. However, revisiting 3D World after a few years, and following in the footsteps of the much-loved Super Mario Odyssey, it stands to reason that this is the direction the series needs to maintain moving into the future.

For those who didn’t play 3D World, of which there are quite a few, please check out our review of the Wii U original. This review is going to focus more on the differences between the Wii U and Switch versions of the game, as well as Bowser’s Fury. All right… you go do that… we’ll wait here… okay! Moving on.

3D World, in brief, sees Mario and friends fighting to free the imprisoned Sprixies, a group of fairies that Bowser is using in his latest bid for world domination. Since the focus of rescue in this game isn’t on Peach, she’s free alongside Toad, Luigi, and later Rosalina, to join Mario in bringing down the wretched Koopa King. Similar to Playtonic’s Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, the game world here is comprised of a pseudo-3D map that the player can explore, going from stage to stage with a handful of secrets peppered throughout. Progression is fairly linear, although paths do branch and alternative routes appear. That said, anyone wanting to 100 percent complete 3D World will need to hit every stop on the map. Each stage has three stars to find within, as well as a stamp, and at the end players must hit the top of the flagpole. Therein lies the challenge of every stage, but with a heaping variety of tasks to complete, it is an absolute joy to do so each time.

What acts as the backbone of 3D World and makes it so delightfully mesmerizing is the brilliant control scheme. For those who missed out on 3D World the first time or never played Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS, this is the ultimate synthesis of three-dimensional and two-dimensional Mario movement. Mario’s path is locked to the four cardinal and four diagonal directions. This manner of movement might presumptively seem more constraining than true, 360 degree control, but what this scaling back does is make it much, much easier to direct Mario where the player wants him to go. It is far more difficult to misplace Mario when positioning him from platform to platform by removing the countless half steps that frequently spell doom in these sorts of games. When thinking of how Mario moves in his 2D adventures, this control scheme comes closest. This is also thanks to the height and weight of Mario’s jumps, as well as the use of holding the X/Y buttons to initiate his run. What is featured here is the prime 3D Mario control setup and should be the standard moving forward.

Speaking now to the specifics of 3D World and its transition to Switch, there’s no denying this is the better version of the game. Framerate and resolution are both greater than what was possible on Wii U. 3D World‘s art direction does nothing but benefit from the increased processing power. The bold, cheery palette that inundates the screen pops like never before. Lighting cues like the droplets of sun at the surface of bodies of water are astounding; character animations and movements are buttery smooth; the setting sun glows like flame through amber; all that and a million other details are more gorgeous than ever on Switch. That said, there are a couple of caveats that need to be mentioned. First off, while not a complaint, it was very obvious that movement speed has been increased. To be fair, Nintendo had made mention of this tweak prior to launch, but it was admittedly more pronounced than I’d expected it to be. The change isn’t game-breaking, but it does make some of the muscle reflexes learned from the previous version of 3D World feel slightly off, resulting in a small relearning curve. It’s likely new players won’t notice the difference, but still keep it in mind. Mario can now do his forward roll midair, which can become very irritating when accidentally triggered—it’s a needless alteration. The ability to climb walls in a cat suit has been similarly boosted, allowing for greater vertical distance to be reached. Again, a small change, but one veteran players might be a bit miffed by.

Photo Mode has been added and, while entertaining for what it’s worth, is wholly perfunctory. Snap pics, adjust them, and share. The mode provides a use for the stamps that are collected throughout 3D World, which could formerly be posted to Wii U’s now defunct Miiverse social media platform. It’s nice to see the stamps still given a functional use, but the UI to access them and slap them onto snapshots is less than user-friendly, although it manages to get the job done. The real meat and potatoes addition to 3D World is its online and local multiplayer modes. Players have the ability to pair up online in groups up to four (no strangers however, only friend list companions), while local play is the same (except you can pair up to two Switch consoles with two players apiece).

Performance in local co-op is fine, but it’s online where things can get rough. Even with solid Internet connections among all players involved, the likelihood of gameplay being shaky is high. Not game-breaking, not unplayable, but rough. Which isn’t the biggest deal—unless it’s in a Mario platformer where movement is often demanding in its need for precision. If the goal is to just goof off and have fun without worrying too much about completing objectives, 3D World‘s online will power most folks through. Those wanting a legit, straight co-op experience with no glitches won’t find it in this current build of 3D World. How much that matters will vary by user, of course, but in my own case I… couldn’t care less about 3D multiplayer Mario in any form, so I wasn’t heartbroken. If that’s your jam, though, do take it into consideration prior to making a purchase.

Bowser’s Fury remained largely a mystery prior to launch. After having given it some thorough playtime, the nature of this add-on has become clear: this is a take on 3D World if it were a playground-style Mario game. The premise is actually fairly engaging considering the standard formula the series is known to cling to: Bowser has become overwhelmed by a malicious, evil force that makes him grow astronomically in size and power. Dubbed Fury Bowser, Bowser; Jr. finds himself with no other choice but to turn to Mario for help figuring out how to get his father out of this deadly funk he’s in. As a narrative, Bowser’s Fury doesn’t delve much deeper than its setup goes, but it’s a nonetheless fun way to kick off the adventure. Scattered around Lake Lapcat are multiple small islands that contain the Cat Shines mentioned above. Each unlocked island is free to travel to, with a seamless transition between them. While this isn’t an enormous open world, it nevertheless manages to impress, especially as an add-on experience.

What makes Bowser’s Fury especially fascinating is that Bowser appears in his Fury form every few minutes, turning day to night and launching a battery of attacks at Mario. This makes the difficulty ramp up until another couple of minutes have passed and Fury Bowser returns to his slumber/recharge. As Cat Shines are collected, Mario is able to utilize enormous Giga Bells scattered around the lake to grow in size like Bowser and take him head on. These kaiju-esque battles are very fun to partake in as they break up some of the monotony of gathering Cat Shines, not to mention help Mario (and the player) feel powered up to match Bowser. It’s also worth noting that this mode brings in an entirely new camera as well as a different color palette than 3D World. The less saturated visuals are welcome, but like the gameplay itself could stand more variance. After a bit, the landscapes starts to bleed together. Overall, Bowser’s Fury will take around eight to ten hours to complete at 100 percent (which unlocks the true ending). It’s a diversion, but a very well done one. Do keep in mind that performance can chug when playing in handheld mode; docked, the mode is smooth.

Admittedly, I feel that the 3D World formula is truest to the spirit of the 2D Mario adventures that started it all. The stages are so smartly designed, the gameplay so satisfying to work out as new traps and movement challenges arise—it genuinely feels like the proper evolution of the series. However, what is present here in Bowser’s Fury is a fun example of how to possibly synthesize the two styles (obstacle course versus playground) into a cohesive whole. Bowser’s Fury does lack some variety in terms of objectives, and the addition of Bowser, Jr. is enjoyable if overall lite on usefulness, but the core of what is present here could easily be expanded into something grander in a full game.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury isn’t perfect, but it gets close. The gameplay is superb, the visuals are improved on Switch, and there is so much to do and see that players will be busy for hours. Switch has been a godsend for software that didn’t get the shot it deserved on Wii U, and 3D World is definitely a game that more people should play. Online multiplayer is a tad lacking, but if you’re out for an expertly crafted, stunning platformer, this is the premier Mario game on the console.

Note on Amiibo Functionality

Before we sign off, here’s what amiibo do in each game. For 3D World, scanning any amiibo will reward players a random power-up. The Cat Mario amiibo, however, unlocks an invincible white version of his site, while Cat Peach unclocks, well, another random powerup. In Bowser’s Fury, all amiibo except for Bowser and Bowser, Jr. unlock random powerups. As for the father and son duo, the former summons Fury Bowser at any time (useful when gathering certain Cat Shines that require the big galoot’s abilities) and the former will create an explosion. Fun extras overall, but unnecessary to complete either game. If you have the figures, feel free to try them out!

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