by Matthew Thompson
My newest pair of mini-reviews looks at two Wii U games related to Nintendo’s biggest franchises: the Zelda/Dynasty Warriors crossover Hyrule Warriors and the famed Italian plumber’s latest mainline entry, Super Mario 3D World.
A large amount of Hyrule Warriors’ appeal for me was seeing many elements of a franchise I love (The Legend of Zelda) in a new light. Similar to games like Super Smash Bros., PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and Marvel vs. Capcom, I get a real kick out of seeing these characters along with their animations and movesets transferred to a genre that they might not typically be seen in. While Hyrule Warriors doesn’t turn Zelda into a 2D fighter, it does approach combat in a decidedly different way than Nintendo’s flagship adventure series, so it still delivers a similar kind of joy to the fighting games I alluded to above.
On top of this, it lets us play as a number of characters we never have in the series before. These range from well-known villains like Ganondorf to beloved sidekicks like Midna to more absurd additions like Agitha the bug girl from Twilight Princess. Being able to play as Zelda in such a significant role was definitely the highlight for me. I’m not sure I imagined her wielding a rapier in combat, but seeing her weave through a horde of enemies with it before unleashing a hail of Light Arrows on the crowd was quite the sight. Even characters I didn’t expect to enjoy were capable of putting a smile on my face. That includes Fi whose twirling fighting style is surprisingly fun and original character Lana who allowed me to swoop down at enemies with a Deku Leaf. The fan service extended to levels and common enemies which it picks and chooses from multiple Zelda games from over the years.
While it delivered for me in these areas, the core gameplay unfortunately did not. There isn’t a shortage of things to do here with a myriad of characters, weapons and upgrades to unlock as well as several different game modes. But there is just not enough depth here to keep things compelling. As you gain new moves it certainly improves and managing the battlefield adds a bit to smacking down waves of enemies with the game’s shallow combat, but repetition sets in before the story mode is over. Switching characters and weapons when possible helps, but it only staves off boredom from setting in for so long.
Coming in as a Zelda fan, the fun of Hyrule Warriors simply didn’t last all that long. As much as I enjoyed all the Zelda fan service and the novelty of seeing the characters in a new type of game, I guess Dynasty Warriors gameplay just isn’t exactly my cup of tea. Your mileage may vary depending on how the core gameplay meshes with you, but for me the melding of these two series resulted in a fairly average overall experience. Grade: C
Super Mario 3D World
My favorite gaming genre is platformers. While the last generation saw a resurgence for 2D platformers, it wasn’t so kind to those of the 3D variety. Quality ones are few and far between these days, but I’m happy I can still rely on Mario to deliver in the third dimension even if he spends as much time back in the second these days.
As a sequel to the handheld entry 3D Land, Super Mario 3D World is a big success. As much as I enjoyed 3D Land, I wasn’t sure I wanted a game in that vein as the next console entry, but it is hard to argue much with what we got. 3D World builds on the formula set up in Land while adding a slew of improvements to create a superior experience. There is now up to 4-player multiplayer and with it comes Super Mario Bros. 2-style unique character traits (Peach’s floating is particularly fun), both welcome additions. There are some fantastic new power-ups too. The Super Bell gives you cat-like moves which is both adorable and incredibly useful. Your new climbing abilities mean you can scurry up walls and pounce down at enemies allowing for clever new twists on level designs as well as different ways to hide secrets away around Mario’s colorful levels while the associated cat sound effects will melt even the most jaded gamers heart (or they should at least!). Along with the Bell, 3D World adds the Double Cherry which will make a second copy of Mario or one of his playable cohorts. Grab some more and up to five can run around at once. It will make your head spin a little trying to keep them all from dying while hopping bottomless chasms or sliding down slopes with disappearing tiles, but it creates some fresh and fun challenges. Another good addition were the puzzle levels featuring Captain Toad (which are being expanded into their own game next month). They’re a nice change of pace from Mario and company’s typical run and jump stages.
Much like New Super Mario Bros. Wii before it, 3D World shows that the true way to handle a final boss in a Mario game is with a platforming level. Admittedly this one is a bit too easy, but I still prefer finishing the game this way. Plus it works in some other key elements introduced throughout the adventure which is another thing I like to see developers do when closing out a game.
While 3D World is a nice improvement on 3D Land, it doesn’t quite top its console predecessor Super Mario Galaxy 2. But that is about the biggest knock I can make against it. Super Mario 3D World is excellent and something that any fan of the barren 3D platforming genre needs to play. Grade: A-
That will do it for this set of mini-reviews. Thanks for reading!