When it started to become clear that Nintendo was porting many of its Wii U games to the Switch, a lot of fans naturally hoped that Super Mario 3D World would be one of the games making the jump. It’s hard to believe it’s taken nearly four years, but we’re finally just a matter of weeks away before this much-requested Mario gem gets a second chance at the spotlight, and this time, in the guise of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, it’s packing an extra mode to boot.
For those who missed it the first time around, Super Mario 3D World is the sequel to the brilliant 3DS game Super Mario 3D Land and attempts to build a sort of halfway house between the linear 2D gameplay of the New Super Mario Bros. games, and the more free-roaming 3D gameplay of the likes of Galaxy and Odyssey.
That said, it does lean heavier towards the 2D games. While each of the game’s 100+ stages are technically ‘open’ in that you can run around wherever you like, they each still have a linear path with a flagpole at the end, rather than various stars or moons with different tasks assigned to them. Your character’s movement is also locked to eight directions to help emphasise that, at its core, this is still a game about running straight, just like its 2D siblings.
If you’ve played the Wii U version already you may notice some improvements have been made in this Switch port. Many of them are subtle; the UI’s been tweaked a bit, the native resolution appears to have been increased and some of the default camera angles seem to have changed (though we’ll need to spend a bit more time comparing the game side-by-side with the Wii U version before we can figure out just how much time Nintendo’s spent on this). The cat power-up also lets you climb a little higher before it runs out, making it easier to reach higher ledges.
The most obvious difference, though, is the increased running speed. As brilliant as the Wii U version of 3D World was, its characters could have done with a little bit of a boost and that’s exactly what’s happened here. Granted, each character still has their own unique running speeds (Toad is still the fastest and Peach is still the slowest), but they’ve all been increased accordingly to make the game feel a little bit nipper. This is particularly welcome when you’re revisiting older stages to pick up any of the hidden green stars and stamps you missed along the way.
Speaking of stamps, they are indeed still present here, though they’re used for a different purpose. In the Wii U games, the stamps you found could be used in Miiverse (ah, remember Miiverse? The glory days) so you could add a bit of flair to your posts. Since Miiverse is tragically no longer with us, the stamps are now used in the shiny new Photo Mode. If you’re familiar with the Photo Mode in Super Mario Odyssey, it’s the same deal here: you can rotate the camera, zoom in and out, add filters and the like, but this time you can also place your collected stamps directly onto the game world (and they’re in colour this time, too).
One of the main selling points of 3D World is its co-op support for up to four players, and the Switch port has received a number of improvements on that front too (the Captain Toad stages, for example, can now be played with four players instead of just one). Whereas the Wii U version insisted on everyone playing on one system, here you also have the option to play local wireless multiplayer with multiple Switches, so everyone gets their own screen.
There’s also online multiplayer but at this stage we’ve only dabbled with it a little. We played a brief four-player session with a few other publications, and while it was a fun time it did also highlight the importance of a strong connection. One of the other players in our group was playing in a shed with a weak Wi-Fi signal, which led to numerous instances of the action freezing while their connection caught up. When things were running smoothly, though, performance was perfectly fine, so we aim to spend a bit more time online before giving our final thoughts.
So far so good with the main game, then, but there’s also the not-so-small matter of its brand new spin-off mode, Bowser’s Fury. From what we’ve played of it so far, here’s the best way we can describe it: you know how we said that 3D World was a mix between the 3D open-world Mario games and the linear 2D games, but leaned more towards the 2D ones? Bowser’s Fury is what you’d get if it leaned more towards the 3D ones instead.
The brief section we can talk about in this preview is a small area called Scamper Shores. It’s an island on a larger map that acts like its own self-contained stage. When you pass under a giant cat head arch the area ‘activates’ and you can start collecting Cat Shines, the main collectible for this mode. Essentially, there’s a giant bell called the Giga Bell which sits at the end of Scamper Shores. In order to activate the bell, you have to collect a set number of Cat Shines: once you get enough of these the bell springs to life and you can collect it, turning Mario into the massive Giga Cat Mario and letting you take on the massive Fury Bowser.
The Cat Shines are collected by taking on a series of missions, in a similar vein to the likes of Super Mario 64 or Sunshine. In Scamper Shores, for example, you can get a Shine by reaching the lighthouse on the stage, and earn another by finding and defeating an evil Shadow Luigi. There are also five smaller Cat Shine Shards hidden around the area, which make up another Shine if you find them all.
Although this makes the whole thing sound like a fully-fledged 3D Mario game, it’s worth bearing in mind that, like we say, it’s still more of a cross between 2D and 3D. Although you can freely roam around Scamper Shores, and although Mario now has full 360-degree directional movement instead of being locked to eight directions, there’s still a pretty obvious path through the island: if you could zoom all the way out and look at it from a distance it would still look like a 3D World stage. It’s just that instead of aiming for a flagpole, you’re heading back and forth collecting a series of Shines.
Accompanying you on this adventure is Bowser Jr., who can be controlled by either a second player or the AI. You can’t play without him by your side at all because he’s needed to uncover some secrets with his paintbrush, but you can at least set how much the AI version decides to get involved: a lot, a little or not at all. Opt for at least some assistance and Bowser Jr. will swoop around, collecting loose coins and bopping enemies to make things easier for you. He’ll also keep hold of any power-ups you get and keep them in an inventory, meaning you can build up a hefty collection of back-up power-ups and request them on the fly. No more looking for a Boomerang Bro suit when you’ve already got a couple in the bank.
If you don’t fancy having Bowser Jr. making things easier for you, you can turn assistance off entirely. This still lets you summon him by pressing the R button to bring up a cursor, which can be aimed with the gyro to point at areas you want him to investigate. Incidentally, this is also how you activate some of the objects in the main 3D World game that previously required the Wii U GamePad’s touch screen (and yes, you can use the Switch’s touch screen in handheld mode if you prefer).
At this early stage, it’s looking like Bowser’s Fury will at least provide something a little different for fans who may have already thoroughly rinsed 3D World when it was originally released seven(!) years ago. While it remains to be seen how long this mode actually is, it’s safe to say that this is shaping up to be an impressive package regardless, especially for those who missed out on the Wii U game the first time around. We’ll have our final impressions next month nearer launch, but so far things are looking promising.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury launches on 12th Feb 2021.
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