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Plugged In

Latest Mario game aces multiplayer, may be Wii U’s first ‘killer app’

Plugged In

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Super Mario 3D World (Nintendo)

When Nintendo’s Wii U released a year ago, one of the criticisms it received was its relatively lackluster slate of launch games. While it did launch with the critically-well-received New Super Mario Bros. U (84% on Metacritic), that 2D platformer felt like more of a placeholder than a truly next-gen core Nintendo title. Where was this generation’s Super Mario 64, or Twilight Princess, or Super Mario Galaxy – a ‘killer app’ for the new generation of Nintendo games?

While it might be an exaggeration to say that Super Mario 3D World (releasing Friday with a retail price of $60) fits that bill, it’s certainly coming closer to earning the title than anything that has yet been released on the Wii U. Clocking in at an impressive 93% Metacritic score, Mario’s latest quest has gotten plenty of nods of approval from top game critics.

“3D World is an endless freewheeling treat of a game,” Eurogamer’s Christian Donlan raves in his 10/10 review. Donlan is particularly captivated by the much-ballyhooed Cat Suit, which “feels like one of the greatest power-ups of all time. … You can do astonishing things when you wield that fluffy uniform, but you’re vulnerable too.”

IGN’s Jose Otero singles out the multiplayer component for praise. “[M]ultiplayer stands out as one of Super Mario World 3D’s greatest accomplishments. … here the other three characters (Luigi, Toad, and Peach) aren’t obstacles, but rather competitive buddies all vying for first place at the end of each level. ... If you can find one, two, or three friends who can Mario as well as you can, you won’t forget the experience anytime soon."

[ Related: Super Mario 3D World screenshot gallery ]

Otero’s also impressed with the next-gen visuals, noting that “[T]here’s a surprising amount of texture detail stitched into these worlds, along with subtle lighting and effects that accentuate each onscreen action beautifully.”

Gametrailers’s Ryan Stevens, meanwhile, particularly praises the sophisticated design of the levels, which “play with different viewpoints, manipulate time, and provide plenty of opportunity for traditional leaps and flips.” Stevens gives the game a robust 9.5/10.

Quibbles float through some of these reviews, but nothing too serious. Eurogamer’s Donlan notes that the integration of the Wii U tablet is rather perfunctory, writing that “nods to the specific strengths of the Wii U - whatever they may turn out to be - are relatively few.” Stevens objects to some tweaks in the running/jumping controls, complaining that “the game’s take on acceleration is a step backwards,” and “it just feels wrong.”

Explicitly addressing the ‘killer app’ question, ZTGD’s Ken McKown states simply, in a 10/10 review, that “Super Mario 3D World justifies a Wii U.” That’s a bold statement, but surely music to Nintendo’s ears. Sales of the Wii U have long been disappointing – though a $50 price cut in September provided a much-needed uptick.

Everybody knows the Wii U is in danger of being relegated to ‘also-ran’ status next to the just-launching PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Equally, it’s a no-brainer that in order to shore up its sales, Nintendo must release the sorts of classics – preferably within the Mario and Zelda franchises – that have made them the last word in family-friendly gaming for almost three decades.

Super Mario 3D World, coming as it does in time for the holidays and after a Wii U price drop, may be just what the doctor ordered for Nintendo.

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