Contrary to popular belief, I do actually like Nintendo and Mario games in general. I’ve finished Mario Odyssey and thought it was great (didn’t think it was a stellar 10/10 mind) I’ve been enjoying playing Mario Sunshine again and fire up Mario All Stars on the Snes from time to time. The first Switch game I bought was Super Mario Party! I’ll admit though, I’ve had a little bit of bias against the Switch. I had a Wind Waker WiiU and played a lot of the Switch’s best sellers first time around on that system. I’m still not convinced each port to Switch is worth £50 a pop. Back when Super Mario 3D World originally came out on WiiU I wasn’t immediately sold. I had already enjoyed the fantastic Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS but the jump to World just felt like it was cat suits and bigger areas. I did finish Super Mario 3D World and even jumped into the extra maps at the end but was always left feeling that New Super Mario Bros. U had a lot more originality on offer. Jumping into the new Switch version then, is this port purrfect or is it not up to scratch?
Super Mario 3D World
Let’s break this down into two parts. Super Mario 3D World and Bowser’s Fury are two seperate games. When you first boot up the collection the first thing you’ll be asked is which you want to play. Not a lot has changed with Super Mario 3D World since the WiiU version. There’s been the obvious resolution bump and graphics are a little more polished but it’s still essentially the same game. The characters can now move around faster on the map screen, platforms that needed you to blow into the Mic are now automated and you can now use a photo mode to use the stamps you’ve collected to stamp all over the area instead of posting online (RIP the Miiverse) These little changes don’t really add anything drastically new but tweak and rework elements to work better on the Switch. The biggest draw now is that you can now play with others online. You’re no longer forced to play local multiplayer only and with the touch of a button you’ll be creating or joining rooms to get on with the platforming adventure.
The online and local multiplayer is both Super Mario 3D Worlds greatest strength and its downfall. Super Mario 3D Worlds is not a game to play Solo. You’ll often find the levels strangely feeling too big, you’ll enter an area and just think, “this is made for more than just me” It really is built for multiple characters and multiple playthroughs. Multiplayer is a fun experience, at the end of each stage it shows all player’s score and everyone’s score goes up to show who got the most at the end. The winner wears a crown on the next level and that’s worth more points, this incentivises grabbing said player and yeeting them off the stage. Players eventually coming together to defeat Bowser in the end. I know when I originally finished Super Mario 3D Worlds solo, I was glad to put the game down and be done with it. Going back now it feels like not enough has been changed to make it an improvement. Jumping to the back of the screen is still a little finicky, there’s a lot of trial and error and a lot of the levels consist of keeping the cat suit as much as possible to collect more green stars. It’s fun with more players but it still really drags playing solo.
6/10 – Super Mario fun with friends but a 3D world apart solo
The idea of a new shorter Mario title did pique my interest, especially with it being a solo focused adventure. Mario is out to help Bowser Jr chill out Bowser and restore this strange cat-themed utopia back to its unpolluted original state. A second player can play as Bowser Jr but this role is essentially a hands-off support feature (think Mario Galaxy with star bits) When you start Bowser’s Fury you’ll be asked how much Bowser Jr will help out and to the game’s credit you can turn off the assist entirely. I found having him help a little was just the right amount and directing him with motion controls to point at an area on the screen to do a context action worked a treat. Mario controls like Mario, you run, you jump, you duck, you roll and you collect as many coins as possible. Once you gain 100 coins you unlock a powerup but here’s the thing, there are no lives. Should Mario die you’ll lose coins, get sent back to the start of the area and that’s it. The change in focus is fantastic and leads you to focus more on progress and less on hording lives.
I’m not entirely convinced Bowser’s Fury is an open world game like Breath of the Wild. There are large areas to explore and interact with but Bower’s Fury is more of an open world sectioned into smaller areas with very obvious paths you should be taking through it. You can’t simply swim to the harder levels from the get go but you’re given a few lighthouse areas with different cat shine’s to collect. After you’ve collected enough you’ll unlock a Giga Bell for a cat fight with Giga Bowser. The loading when zipping around Bowser’s Fury is impressive, when Bowser turns up the sky darkens, blocks and fire rain down and he’ll occasionally flame the stage with no loading between. When you transform to a boss fight there is loading and due to the Switch limitations it does feel a little jarring but for the most part the transitions between areas is seamless. There’s a surprising amount of cutscenes which are thankfully skippable but each transition takes longer than it should. Bowser’s Fury is obvious padded in places but on the whole you’ll still want to pick up those cat shines and will be making mental notes which areas of the map are more fun than others.
Bowser’s Fury does look and sound fantastic. All sorts of clever effects are on show from the start to the end credits. They don’t really do well in screenshots but look amazing when in full flow. The water, the flames, the reflective surfaces and designs all come together nicely in the usual Mario style and with the expected level of polish. The music and sounds all come together to shape the high quality Mario experience you expect. When Bowser arrives the music switches to a fantastic metal rock track that surprisingly doesn’t get repetitive and before he blasts a flame attack the lighting changes and you’ll use shadows to figure out where it’s safe to stand. The little features like this make Bowser’s Fury stand out from other platformers. As with Mario Odyssey there’s also a fantastic photo mode, click down and you’ve a plethora of options and filters to mess around with, it’s simply meowvellous.
Here’s the strangest take yet for Bowser’s Fury; This is a 3D Sonic game with a Mario theme. Mario takes no falling damage, if he uses a spring to fling himself he can get enough momentum to run across water and when running for a time will get a little dash boost. That’s not all though, the camera can be janky as hell throughout and will need continually ringing around to look in the right direction. Although each cat shine can be obtained in different ways if you screw up on the path to a particularly linear one (say one that’s in the sky) you can be backtracking over and over to obtain it. I don’t think it’s a particular spoiler to say you’ll be fighting Bowser but the final boss has you skimming over water avoiding oncoming obstacles. The “final boss” stage feels like it could easily be a Super Sonic stage, especially given the slippery controls and dramatic music. Swap out coins for rings, Bowser Jr for Tails and Giga Bowser for Eggman, Giga Cat Mario for a huge Super Sonic and it would fit perfectly.
Bowser’s Fury feels experimental in nature and regardless of the minor issues it’s really a blast to play. There’s plenty to get on with and once you’ve seen the credits after 50 shines there are a total of 100 cat shines to unlock to see the “true ending” There are moments of joycon snapping frustration, where you’ll drop or miss something and need to wander back but for the most part you’ll be nailing a lot of the challenges first or second time around. Bowser’s Fury can be tedious with moments of hanging around waiting for Bowser to show up because at first you’ll think you don’t have time to dash off and do another challenge but once you realise how his timer works you’ll be wandering around lighting up the world with a smile on your face. I honestly hope that some day it’s sold as a solo game to download at a lower price.
8/10 – Furious fun at Bowser’s expense
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
As a package the deciding factor is Super Mario 3D World. If you’ve played Super Mario 3D World in the past and finished it you don’t really need this. If you didn’t and have friends to play it with then yes you’ll likely have a blast and Bowser’s Fury is the icing on the cake. If you just want to play Bowser’s Fury I’d recommend simply renting it or borrow it from a friend, it’s short enough you’ll be finished in no time. It’s fantastic fun but it’s not a long enough or big enough experience to warrant the price of both. Bowser’s Fury is tasty icing but not enough when you don’t like the cake it’s on.
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