Midnight last night, and instead of getting some well-earned sleep or thinking about my upcoming essay's structure, I was sitting in front of my TV waiting for Super Mario 3D World to download.
Truth be told, I haven't been wildly excited about this new Mario title: when compared to the revolution that Mario Galaxy was, it seemed like Nintendo might be playing this one just a little bit too safe. I didn't expect it to be bad (Mario games very rarely are), but I didn't expect it to be exciting or particularly innovative: an evolution as opposed to the revolution that Galaxy was when it released.
When you fire up 3D World it does indeed feel very familiar and reminiscent of the 3DS adventure - hardly surprising, given the shared art and music styles. From there, you jump into a world map that you're free to roam around and explore (and even contains some secret areas - only one of which I've found so far!). Already, the HD visuals make a difference: the detail in the little icons depicting each area is a really neat touch, and goes to show just how much more can be packed in with all those extra pixels.
Of course, the real meat comes from bounding into one of those courses. I can't spoil much of the game, as I've only made it through the first world so far, but the game shouts from the rooftops about some of its new features. Super Bells abound in the first few courses, and instantly it becomes very clear that this is a far less linear game than its 3DS counterpart. The cat suit allows for exploration that really couldn't be done before - you'll be scrambling up walls that don't actually have a top, or taking a risk and diving off platforms to see if there's anything underneath in order to ensure you don't miss anything.
The stage design is hugely impressive, mostly because you don't realise its there as you're playing it, but thinking back on it now it's obvious that a lot of thought has gone into each course: ensuring there are enough nooks and crannies to be explored, while also ensuring that there are enough opportunities to simply jump around and do regular platforming too. Again, the courses look stunning - reflections, grass, and the characters themselves all gain from the extra oomph of HD graphics.
While the Galaxy games were definitely designed around single-player gaming (there's no way a camera could have stretched from one side of a planet to the other), the multiplayer implementation in 3D World feels completely natural, and is a shot in the arm for 3D Mario games. I played through the entire first world with my flatmate, and while there were occasionally camera issues, for the most part it was huge fun helping and (rarely, of course) fighting each other to be the top scoring player each round. I had been looking forward to trying out the multiplayer for a while, but it wasn't until we started playing it last night that I realised just how much fun it can be - for my money, it's far better than the multiplayer available in the New Super Mario Bros series.
There are lots of other tidbits as well that should be mentioned - the variety of control options ensures that there is something for everyone, and I can see myself stealing the GamePad to my bed and playing the game on that alone. The green stars and stamps make for some great collectibles, and my Miiverse posts are going to get a lot prettier very quickly! And with other additions like Plessie, there's variety amongst the levels that open up, which gives the game a bit more zeal.
And this is all within the first world! World Two awaits me tonight (once I've got my essay done, of course), and I can't wait to get stuck into the game proper.
Have you started Super Mario 3D World yet? What do you think of it?