Super Mario 3D World
What makes Mario Mario is your own capability vs the level’s. Mario is an almost perfect diction of man vs machine (designed by ingenious developers), which is what makes Super Mario 3D World so sad: it is a game primarily borrowing ideas. Super Mario Galaxy did not use the Wii’s motion controls to great effect, but radial gravity was a series first and it ended up defining 3d platformers for a generation. SM3D World on the other hand takes a great single player game and enforces multiplayer and a graphic identity so bland it could be mistake for earlier entries in the series. On top of this it throws in multiplayer that requires co-operation so exacting it might make the 3D platforming more frustrating. Part of Mario’s appeal is the way it is a puzzle you solve in private, a solitary experience that often leads to frustration in some parts, but the rewards for all those coins and stars are often extra levels etc. The multiplayer lacks the identity that made Super Mario Brothers 2 so awesome, while also failing to bring the SM2 mechanics of riding enemies and picking them up into the 3D world. Instead it expands on a classic game play already so stuffed full of great ideas over the years as to be ready to explode.
Mario suffers from bloat. The series has become such a huge system of symbols and abilities that players can easily feel overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of the game. But 3D World also reveals a flaw in Nintendo’s strategy: crafting new mechanics onto existing franchises. In 3D World we’re shown two new mechanics, clear pipes and cat suit. The pipes add a timing challenge where you have to navigate them and wait for things to pass by. The cat suit gives limited free climbing and a pounce kill. Here’s the problem: the cat suit doesn’t fit and would be better as it’s own game. Nintendo needs to step aside and ask a new question: what mechanics do we have that would make a new IP? Think of a game with the cat suit. Fabrics that can be ripped, the ability to clamber around objects, limited climbing abilities dictating new paths, enemies that can play with the pounce move more, and more importantly a new protagonist.
Give a 5 year old Super Mario 3D Land and they will be confused. The game’s basic mechanics are often lost on the touch generation and Mario games assume so much previous Mario gaming as to not even include a tutorial anymore. Nintendo knows it is running fumes. Cutting mechanics down to new games simplifies this process while also giving Nintendo a process to expand their player base with out alienating legacy players. I would have been more excited to see a platformer about cats than a plumber in a Cat Suit. Also, the multiplayer looks intrusive, but might work. Regardless I was expecting Nintendo to sell me on a Wii u instead they just highlighted what’s wrong with them. X from Monolithsoft was the most intriguing demo in the bunch, Nintendo has already profited from new ips like Pushmo, why they couldn’t cut the Mario crap and build a new world more suitable to an item’s abilities is beyond me. The company came across as one out of ideas and unable to innovate out of their now predictable strategy of new mechanics same old IP. Nintendo needs to build new identities around their already great mechanics or face the problem of trying to launch two systems with virtually identical software. Come on Nintendo take a chance for a change 🙂