By Gieson Cacho
Super Mario 3D World will ruin friendships. I can see it now. You'll be playing with buddies and while you meant to pick up a turtle shell, you'll accidentally toss him off a ledge instead. In retaliation, he'll come back and steal your Fire Flower. Things will devolve into a mess. It's gonna happen ... or not. I suppose it depends on whom you play with.
In my hands-on time at E3 2013, I spent a level fending off my teammates in a wild four-way free-for-all across a level with transparent pipes. One person had the Wii U Gamepad. The three others got around via the Wii remote. What differentiates Super Mario 3D World from say the New Super Mario Bros. series is that it features a free-roaming 3D environment with a fixed perspective.
SHADES OF SUPER MARIO BROS. 2: That means as Mario, Luigi, Princess and Toad, players can explore the 3D world and go in almost any direction on a level. Yes, there's still a lot of conventional platforming, but there are moments when they can jump on each other's head to get to higher levels or travel through those aforementioned pipes. We spent a lot of the level rushing through the stage and trying to kill the stragglers as they tried to catch up with the pack. It was a game with no mercy.
Super Mario 3D World seems to be more along the lines of 2011"²s Super Mario 3D Land but with the addition of a frantic multiplayer and a new cat suit power-up that lets users climb walls and ledges. In addition, each character has their own specific traits similar to Super Mario Bros. 2. Mario plays like Mario. Luigi has a higher, floatier jump. Princess Peach can float a little and Toad can sprinter faster instead of picking up objects quickly.
It scratches a nostalgic itch on the Wii U, but I'm more curious to see what the team does with the level design and multiplayer. That's what these Nintendo platformers hang their hat on. Perhaps when it comes out some time in 2013, I can play it with friends and we can find a way to just all get along.
RIGHT CONSOLE FOR THE RIGHT IDEA: Shigeru Miyamoto has been kicking around the idea of Pikmin 3 for years. He always wanted to make a third installment but didn't find the right moment until the Wii U. On the HD console, the game looks gorgeous and shows off the beauty of this miniature world. The high-definition visuals also helps players see the tiny creatures.
In the short demo, I played I still had the strict time limit. But unlike the 30 days set in the original, this time around players have unlimited days to complete the campaign. In addition, there will be a Mission Mode where players fight bosses and the like. The team also tossed in a Co-op mode where players have to find specific items in the world and try to fill out their Bingo sheet.
ADJUSTING TO THE CONTROLS: I played the single-player campaign and I was surprised that I mainly used the Wii remote and nunchuk. In this instance, the Wii U Gamepad served as a minimap. The control scheme worked well and it's intuitive as players point a cursor on the screen to direct the Pikmin. Holding the B button will call the tiny creatures to you. The A button will send them out to pick up objects or fight bigger monsters. The Z button can help you straighten out the camera.
The surprising moment was when I ran into the new type of Pikmin made of rock. These creatures are needed to break crystals with fruit inside. They're also vital to defeating armored enemies or getting beyond some obstacles. The one thing that bugged me about Pikmin 3 was that whenever I directed the creatures to pick an object up like golden fruit and take it to the ship, the Pikmin would just stay there. I'd have to run across the whole map to get them to return. It irked me and I suppose the hurdle made it difficult for me to accomplish everything I wanted within the short time limit.
It's something I'll have to account for when I get my hands on Pikmin 3 on Aug. 4 in North America.