I've had my eye on Super Mario 3D World since it came out for the Wii U. I didn't even own a Wii U. I considered buying that system solely for the title. An apparent modern-day sequel to Super Mario Bros. 2 was just up my alley, I thought.
I never got around to buying that Wii U, but I went Day 1 for the game's rerelease on the Switch. And...while I enjoyed it, I wanted to LOVE it, and I didn't LOVE it. Part of it was adjusting to stomping stuff in a 3D environment with a pulled-out camera: I'm a lot less accurate in that department than I'd like, and it's a lot less satisfying compared to the 2D equivalent. Part of it was learning through experience that it's more a sequel to the 3DS 3D Land than Mario 2. (This complicates my comments below somewhat, as I haven't played 3D Land, and I'm experiencing and approaching as "new" stuff that's actually pulled from that game and interated upon in ways that I'm not equipped to judge.)
Part of it, though, is...a lot of other stuff. This makes the laziest form of content generation, the listicle, very convenient for relaying my overall positive but still mixed emotions for this game:
LOVED: Just playing the SMB2 quartet again. (Well, I played Peach straight through, but you know.) I know that Miyamoto insists on simple princess rescues for the mainline Marios so that the plot doesn't distract from the action, but it's so much more satisfying to have Real Toad and Princess Peach out in the action, part of one big party with Mario & Luigi. Adventures are more fun with friends.
DIDN'T LOVE: I mentioned that I was approaching this as a somewhat-sequel to the U.S. Mario 2, but the gameplay here demonstrates how much of Mario 2's character is derived from the "picking stuff up and throwing it" mechanic. It adds a lot of freeform, rough-and-tumble joy to gameplay and is a better palette for accentuating character differences. Here, even though I was playing Peach, the action often felt samey to the other Marios I'd played.
LOVED: The cat suit. The ability to climb walls really changes gameplay dramatically in a fun, innovative way. The climbing feels good, really scritchy and sticky (and, when claws eventually fail, appropriately cat-slidy), and the extra combat hops & bops are a fun, useful bonus.
LOVED: The boomerang suit! It's a more successful incarnation of the Hammer Brothers suit from 3, where the arc & weight of the hammers is too much like jumping in Ice Climber for my liking. The boomerangs are way more useful and feel lighter and genuinely different from the Fire Flowers. It became a genuine toss-up in the game whether I wanted this or the cat suit. Fortunately, with the inventory system, I could always keep the other in reserve!
DIDN'T LOVE: The depowering of the merged Raccoon Tail/Tanooki Suit to an altered version of Peach's float. I know that allowing honest-to-goodness flight would explode a lot of the level design and require the creation of tons more real estate, but I'd rather the leaf not be included at all than to get this limp version of it. I always way preferred the rock-solid mechanics of the leaf to the fiddly sproinginess of World's cape - the leaf was always the definitive Mario flight experience to me - and this seems like a desecration rather than a revival.
LOVED: The new art in the traditional NES style, bursting with personality. These originally functioned as Miiverse stamps in the Wii U version, but they're rewarding enough to collect on their own.
LOVED: The jazzy, brass-heavy music and its laid-back, gamboling energy. It's fun and a great match for Mario.
LOVED: This incarnation of Bowser. He's not unique to this game - they use this model in Super Mario Party, too - but he has a weight and heft that give him a real presence and menace but also lots of expressive personality that lends itself to comedy.
I like his car, too.
DIDN'T LOVE: You can pull off a number of trick jumps that are mainly just for show with different contextual combinations of the directional stick and jump button: somersaults, wall jumping - which is its own mechanic, of course, but hardly ever used here. These overlap, though, with the controls of the cat power-up, so I frequently found myself, say, bouncing off the side of a platform for a wall jump when I meant to get on top of it. It's dumb, useless stuff that interferes with actual gameplay and makes the game - this Mario game - actually control outright poorly at times.
LOVED: The Captain Toad levels. Yeah, it's blatant marketing, but, well, it was a success. I'm actually interested in the full Captain Toad game now.
LOVED: Something I didn't learn until after I finished but I found really neat: the game includes a bonus slot-machine minigame for extra lives, like in SMB2. If you hit the blocks in time with the music (a remix of Mario 2's character-select track), you'll get the maximum reward every time.
DIDN'T LOVE: That I found that gold train of Bowser's but was put in a weird spot at the start where I got scrolled off the screen within not even a second of gameplay and therefore missed the entire chance to do what seemed like a really cool level. What a big cheat.
LOVED: The idea of "let's make the timer a thing again" in the 100-second levels. They have a go-go-go lightness and a see-what-you-can-get-away-with exhilaration.
DIDN'T LOVE: The idea of "let's make the timer a thing again" in standard levels. The level design, green star and stamp collectables, all the secrets, and just the appealing look of everything all encourage exploration, but the very tight timers often cut that short in an unwelcome way. Except for the above 100-second levels explicitly designed around hurrying and amateur-grade speedrunning, I never felt that the tight timers added anything - they just cut my enjoyment of the game short and cheated me out of content.
LOVED: The final nighttime carnival-themed level, complete with looming Bowser animatronic. What a great visual.
For that matter, the fake final level is also awesome. Bowser's castles of flame and lava have never looked so good.
LOVED: The maverick sleepytime beddy-bye levels and cake & cookie levels, though I understand they're expis from 3D World. Also, the Japanese castle siege, right down to the kung fu movie soundtrack.
DIDN'T LOVE: That over 30 years after Mario 3, we're still using the same stock themes for Mario worlds, right down to World 2 being a desert world. In fact, we've regressed - there's not even a big world or sky world here! The (admittedly terrific) carnival world is the biggest departure we get. What a disappointing failure of imagination - one that goes a long way toward what should be a departure feel like every other Mario.
DIDN'T LOVE: The fiddly touch controls for certain platforms in the sleepy worlds. I understand this is a replacement for mic nonsense in the Wii U version, but in a platformer, the last thing I should be doing is taking my hands off the directional pad & buttons.
LOVED: That the final battle is against Bowser as "Meowser" romping Mogzilla-like up & around a giant cat tower.
DIDN'T LOVE: That this battle, which should be joyous and funny, is instead a memorize-or-die obstacle course where you need to know in advance where Bowser enters & exits the stage and what platforms are going to be destroyed and when - as just reacting to Bowser on the fly won't get you far, you're forced to grind this stage over and over, sapping it of any enjoyment. Worse, the devs inexplicably refused to put a checkpoint before the tower, meaning that you have to fight through a half-stage and sit through a cutscene before every attempted climb for absolutely no reason.
All things considered, though, I'm still happy to have played this.