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Nintendo's Super Mario 3D World: fun but what's new?

Super Mario 3D World encourages cooperation, but that's no way to win.

Nintendo's Super Mario 3D World is the first multiplayer 3D Mario game and the goal, as ever, is to get from one end of the level to the next.

But the points traditionally accrued for collecting items and stomping foes are divided up among four players scrambling to complete a level.

At Nintendo's 2013 E3 press briefing, the traditional family-friendly experience devolved into a profanity-laden free-for-all when a pack of journalists with no allegiances fought for first place.

"Hey, who's Toad?" someone asks as the game progresses. And I snigger, barreling ahead of the pack to scoop up coins and power-ups, grabbing players who wander too close, and hurling them away from my goodies--off the level entirely, if they prove persistent.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

If you've played the Nintendo 3DS' phenomenal Super Mario 3D Land, you'll be right at home, although, this time, up to four players can get in on the action as Nintendo mascots Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad.

You'll generally be moving from the left side of the screen to the right, scrambling over blocks, dodging obstacles, and helping or hindering your erstwhile friends. The colorful 3D environments are a treat and, while the game is still in its early stages, the action is fast and fluid.

So, what's new?

Unfortunately, there isn't much in the way of anything, well, new.

Some of the Mushroom Kingdom's iconic pipes are now transparent, allowing you to see your character as they're traveling through them, and change direction to avoid enemies or obstacles--I suspect it'll play a larger role in the full game, but our demonstration was rather limited.

The characters offer some variety--Luigi can leap a bit higher than Mario, and Princess Peach can hover in the air after a jump. There's also a cat suit power-up, which gives characters the ability to climb up walls and scale the iconic goal posts at the end of Mario levels.

But there's a bigger problem here: while my demonstration was rather limited, it's fairly easy to get a general idea of how the adventure will play out--it's a bit like a 3D version of the excellent New Super Mario Bros. series.

I'm sure the levels will be plenty interesting on their own merits, but it really shines when multiple players get in on the action, lending each other a hand or, in my case, vying for supremacy.

But all signs point to Nintendo taking its traditional myopic approach to, well, technology, and neglecting to add any sort of online multiplayer component, which is a shame.

The game shines with a bit of friendly competition, and being able to take things online would do wonders for its longevity. Perchance to dream, I guess; Super Mario 3D World launches in December.


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