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Kitty Carnival — Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury Review

Super Mario 3D World is one of my favorite Wii U games, along with Xenoblade X and Star Fox Zero. It’s an almost perfect translation of 2D Mario’s design philosophy into 3D, and with the addition of Bowser’s Fury this new package gives you the full Mario experience. While I’ve been looking forward to jumping back in, is the main game just as fun as I remember it, and does Bowser’s Fury live up to the standard set by Odyssey?

3D World sees Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad enter the Sprixie Kingdom to rescue the Sprixie Princesses kidnapped by Bowser. It’s a standard Mario game plot, but hey, at least you’re not saving Peach this time. In fact, you can choose to play as any of the four starting characters right off the bat each with their own special abilities. Mario is the most average, Luigi has the highest jump but can’t stop on a dime, Toad is the fastest but can’t just as high, and Peach is the slowest but can float for a short time. For this new version, everyone has had their speed increased along with a reduction of how long it takes to reach full speed, which makes playing as my personal favorite, Peach, even better.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury Gameplay - Switch [Gaming Trend]

Players progress through the game much like 2D Mario games, by going through each world level by level for a total of 8 worlds. While each overworld might have a theme, the levels don’t follow it in the slightest, which makes for an incredibly diverse and well designed selection of stages. Basically, every course introduces something new and fun to experience, like one based on Mario Kart or another focused on using the Double Cherry clones to the fullest. While it may initially feel like these concepts aren’t fully explored, two of the four bonus worlds contain remixes of previous levels to revisit those concepts. Courses may feel very short, but each contains three types of collectables: a Stamp for use in Photo Mode (rest in peace, Miiverse), three Green Stars needed to unlock future levels, and a gold flag for reaching the top of the flagpole at the end of each stage. While I got everything in most levels the first time through, going back and searching for things you may have missed is somehow just as enjoyable as the first visit. Every level is so well crafted and different that they never get old.

Part of what makes this game so varied are the myriad power ups. The star of the show this time around is the Cat Suit, which sees Mario and friends gaining a kaboodle of kitten powers like climbing walls and clobbering foes with claws. It’s by far the most useful and most available power, on top of being downright adorable. There’s also the Boomerang and Fire Flowers, which let players toss boomerangs or fire respectively, and the Tanooki leaf which lets you don the iconic Tanooki suit for tail attacks and slowing your descent. Finally, we have the Super Mushroom for height challenged individuals, the rare Mega Mushroom for those who might be giants, the Super Star for people who like invincible rainbows, and a variant of the Cat Suit which lets you transform into a Lucky Cat when ground pounding for extra coins.

Speaking of moves like the ground pound, there are a variety of acrobatic abilities at your disposal. Many of them translate straight over from more typical Mario adventures in the third dimension like the side somersault and spin jump. The triple jump is sadly absent, but the backflip has been adjusted slightly to be more like its charged Mario 2 counterpart. Much like 2D Mario games you can hold the run button to start sprinting, but I still don’t understand why this is present here. Yes, in the Wii U version you could use a standard Wii Remote to play the game (Gamepad gimmicks like blowing into the microphone have been removed, though touch interactions remain) but here on Switch every possible controller has an analogue stick and the D-pad is now used for shortcuts like Photo Mode or taking a power up from stock.

What makes this more frustrating is Nintendo’s staunch refusal to use more than two buttons or have an actually useful options menu. You see, the run button also functions as the power up AND grab button, which leads to players inevitably picking each other up in multiplayer. Seriously, I have never played a session of this game with other people that didn’t have us lifting each other accidentally constantly. There are 14 buttons on the two Joy-Cons, just use them. In yet another loss for accessibility, the options menu is barebones only allowing you to invert the camera controls. It still baffles me that the big N can go on and on about their games being for everyone, but doing absolutely nothing to help disabled players enjoy their products. It’s truly a shame.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury - Switch [Gaming Trend]

Bowser’s Fury has the same exact problems, though now in a more fully 3D context. Bowser has transformed into a hulking beast, and Bowser Jr. asks Mario to help him turn his dad back to normal. This side game takes place in Lake Lapcat where Mario will have to collect Cat Shines on the various islands dotting the lake to activate the Giga Cat Bell and take on Bowser at his own giant size. Each island is designed like a level in the main campaign, but with multiple objectives. Lake Lapcat is essentially an open world, so you can tackle these levels in a somewhat open order, though each Shine will only become available after collecting the previous one on that island.

The main gimmick of Bowser’s Fury is that every few minutes Fury Bowser will rise from the lake to attack you. This changes the way you approach the game drastically, with some of Bowser’s attacks creating new platforms or hazards. There are also some blocks which can only be destroyed by the Koopa King’s fire breath, almost all of which hide Cat Shines behind them. Initially, this timed change is a lot of fun, but it quickly becomes much more cumbersome than it needed to be. Collecting any Cat Shine will immediately cause Fury Bowser to withdraw, and the timer for his coming out again resets. This is a huge pain when trying to collect the aforementioned Shines hidden behind blocks only he can open. As you can guess, this leads to a lot of waiting when going for all 100 Cat Shines. If there were some way to simply activate Fury Bowser after beating the game or eliminating his retreat after collecting a Shine this wouldn’t be an issue, but the gimmick gets tiring quickly, even if it remains fun in rare moments.

Activating the Giga Bell and collecting it when Fury Bowser is out and about will initiate a boss battle, with the now giant Cat Mario duking it out with the big guy. These battles are a highlight of the adventure, and Bowser has a lot of moves to avoid before finally being able to deal damage to him by ground pounding his belly and gains even more moves each time you fight him. Unfortunately these battles can be trivialized later on by simply throwing some of his plentiful hazards back at him. What started as a decently lengthy encounter I could end in just a few seconds. It’s disappointing to have these fights become so easy, even if the novelty of towering over Lake Lapcat is still neat.

The level design remains just as varied and excellent as the main game, and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Lake Lapcat in the few hours it took to collect all 100 Shines. While Mario isn’t locked to 8 directions in this mode and you can’t play as any other characters like the main game, you can take full advantage of his arsenal of power ups. Each type has a separate stock which you can access at any time by pressing up on the D-Pad. You can store up to five of each type, and you’ll need to make use of all of them to get all the Shines.

Since Bowser Jr. is also accompanying Mario (not that he likes you now or anything), he can help out as well, either as an AI or in Co-op. He functions in a similar manner to the Costar Mode in the Galaxy games, being able to collect or attack enemies to make things a bit easier for Player 1. It’s somewhat disappointing considering the main adventure’s robust four player, but it might be fun for young kids to take control. When not playing with someone else, you can direct Jr.’s Fury by tapping the screen or using a motion controlled pointer with R. I tried not to use this too much, as he can collect things from very, very far away which trivializes the Shines requiring you to collect Shine Coins. There are also some sections where he can spawn in a power up using his paintbrush, and he’ll also give you one after collecting 100 coins. Overall I feel he serves simply to add to the charm of the mode more than gameplay, his dialogue and interactions with Mario are funny, and he’ll even laugh when the plumber takes damage.

This expansion does something I don’t think I’ve seen a Switch game do when it comes to Docked and Portable modes: Bowser’s Fury runs at 60fps docked and 30fps portably. Going from the TV to the Switch’s screen can make this transition very jarring, and honestly made me a bit nauseous. It would have been great to be able to toggle a graphics option in portable mode to achieve 60 for this reason, but starting a gameplay session in portable mode plays just fine.

Bowser's Fury Gameplay - Switch [Gaming Trend]

While Bowser’s Fury is a very fun expansion, it’s strict adherence to the main game’s controls is a constant hindrance once again highlighted by the existence of a run button. When holding an object, pressing Y again will cause Mario to throw it which can be very bad in certain Shines where you bring kittens back to their parents, but the frustration is compounded by the now fully 3D camera. Players will naturally want to adjust the camera so they can see where they’re jumping to, and since Humans only have 2 thumbs you can see where this is going: to adjust the camera, you need to take your thumb off of the run button. You can center the camera behind Mario with L, but this doesn’t work vertically for some reason so either you have to deal with less visibility or consign yourself to going slow most of the time. Again, this could easily be fixed by allowing players to use another button or even rebinding controls in an actually useful options menu, but Nintendo seems intent on making their otherwise fantastic game just that more frustrating.

David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.

85

Great

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

Review Guidelines

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury contains two excellent Mario games, but is unfortunately held back by frustrating controls, especially in multiplayer, and a lot of waiting in Bowser’s Fury when going for 100%. If you can get past that though, you’re in for some of the best 3D platforming Mario has to offer.

David Flynn

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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