By Isaac Espinosa
Take on the definitive edition of Mario’s new cat-filled adventure and try to tame the gargantuan rage-fueled Bowser! Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is a Nintendo Switch port of the original Wii U title released in November, 2013. Super Mario 3D World has gone through a plethora of changes on its way to the current console, the most significant being the inclusion of a brand new game: Bowser’s Fury. In it, Mario must team up with Bowser Jr. to take down an angrier, even bigger Bowser.
Before we get to the new, cat-filled content, it’s best to go over how the original Super Mario 3D World has changed in its move to the Switch. The story is familiar: Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad are roped into Bowser’s latest nefarious scheme. After finding out that the King of the Koopas intends to remake the Sprixie Kingdom in his image, the gang gives chase in order to put a stop to Bowser’s plan and save the Kingdom. In the Switch version, you’ll see several ways the gameplay of Mario 3D World is different than before. Most noticeably, the game is much faster. Loading times are cut in half, and the running speed for the cast has increased significantly. All told, the experience that feels fresh even though it uses recycled material. Even some of the more subtle adjustments make the overall experience feel much better to play through: the rolling technique is easier to pull off, there are multiplayer Captain Toad levels, and the transition into pipes is quicker and more seamless.
The second half of the latest release, Bowser’s Fury, has a perspective entirely different from the adventure within Mario 3D. What starts as a casual stroll for Mario leads to him being inhaled by a strange black vortex. Once through the vortex, the plumber arrives at a group of islands humorously named Lake Lapcat, which he finds coated with a black paint-like substance. Upon his arrival, Mario unexpectedly encounters Bowser Jr., who explains to the plumber that Bowser was corrupted by the black paint and grew in size and rage, becoming a monstrous threat. The Koopa Prince is reluctant to ask Mario for his help, but Mario happily agrees to team up and the two venture through Lake Lapcat to try to change Bowser back to normal. Lake Lapcat is filled with many different trials and obstacles, all of which use elements of the original Mario 3D World to create a unique platforming adventure. You’ll be able to unlock more parts of the islands as you discover Cat Shines, collectibles that feature detailed cat heads, sometimes drawn with sun rays around them. You’ll also be able to see how the areas differ in their hurdles and hazards. Some have you traverse lava-filled mountains, and in others, you fight your way through an army of mini bosses.
But the most exciting part of Bowser’s Fury comes from the Koopa King himself. As you journey on, you begin to see Bowser’s shell emerge from the center of Lake Lapcat. And as the rain begins to fall, the clouds darken, and the beast emerges from the water! Bowser’s jaw-dropping size isn’t the only problem you’ll have with him. In this half of Bowser’s Fury, you have to continuously avoid the Koopa King’s powerful attacks as he relentlessly chases you through the storm. This part of the game seems designed to make you panic: Bowser rains spikes from the sky, spews large jets of fire breath, and jumps around to get even closer to you. With the added drama of an epic and terrifying heavy metal score playing in the background, this is by far the scariest and most intimidating Bowser has been in a VERY long time. The only way to calm Bowser down when he awakens is by either collecting Cat Shines and using their light to send him back into the ocean, or by growing to his size using the Giga Cat Bell and facing him directly. I absolutely adored these sections of Bowser’s Fury because of how the tension escalates as you keep trying to avoid the wrath of the Koopa King. No other Mario game has made me fear dying like this before.
There is a single underwhelming aspect of Bowser’s Fury. You would expect the fights with Bowser in this mode to live up to the thrills and excitement of the relentless chase sections, but only one of them does. Especially in the beginning, Bowser’s attacks are pretty predictable and can be easily avoided and countered. It doesn’t help that most of the time Bowser will leave the fight part-way through, so that the next time you fight him, you’ll have the advantage right away since he’ll immediately have less health. And because Mario uses the Giga Cat Bell to match Bowser’s size, you have much more space to move around and avoid Bowser’s attack. Making Mario normal-sized while taking on Bowser would greatly benefit the game, since the fights could then have been oriented around platforming and working your way towards the boss from a distance. It was truly disappointing that this new Bowser, despite how menacing he looks, doesn’t put up much of a fight.
My gripes with the boss fights notwithstanding, I absolutely believe that Bowser’s Fury, along with the updated Super Mario 3D World, is the most fun I’ve had with a Mario game in a long time. While Bowser’s Fury provided an exciting, and surprisingly scary, new experience, the updated Mario 3D World did a great job at making the gameplay feel more modern and new, without making big changes to the original game. I can confidently say that Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury has me extremely excited for the future of our wonderful red-capped plumber.
Bronx native Isaac Espinosa is a senior intern at the New York Videogame Critics Circle. Recently, Isaac was named the Circle’s first assistant mentor.