Super Mario 3D World has been critically acclaimed, may become a commercial success story in the coming weeks, months and years, and has already played a role in switching up perceptions around what the Wii U can offer gamers. We're yet to see how substantial that impact will be in a purely financial sense for Nintendo, but at the very least Mario's latest demonstrates what can be achieved on the Wii U hardware, with Digital Foundry now producing a glowing assessment.
The article begins by outlining the presence of new in-game assets clearly designed from the ground-up, before exploring modern flourishes such as dynamic lighting, shadow effects and subtle usage of textures. Ultimately, it's argued that great care was taken with small details in order to create a consistent world full of life.
Overall, the presentational make-up of the game is best described as cohesive: there is a sense that close attention was paid to the way every texture interacts with other surfaces in each stage, and how light and shadow are used to enhance each scene. The use of heat waves, tumbling leaves, gusts of wind, cloud shadows, right down to the shaders used to imitate rustling grass all help to enhance the presentation. The game world is always in motion and feels more alive than in any other Mario title to date.
One aspect of the game's performance that we've highlighted a great deal is the rock-solid 60 frames-per-second gameplay, vital in delivering fantastic, tight platforming. Digital Foundry has produced its standard video test, and that 60FPS line never deviates.
The conclusion suggests that Nintendo's approach of design driving technology — demanding high performance aligned with creative artistic design — should be a priority for more development studios.
Despite this, there is never a sense that level design is compromised in order to reach this goal. Perhaps Mario benefits from the fact that some of the more demanding elements - such as physics simulations or a face-full of alpha textures - simply don't need to exist within the game framework. When it comes to designing a classic, however, it is perhaps a trade-off more developers should consider. The console version of Sonic Generations, for instance, was a beautiful game but the team's ambitions also meant that the frame-rate was lower and unstable, impacting the overall experience. Sometimes making the right sacrifices are necessary when it comes to reaching the desired level of performance and Super Mario 3D World stands as one of the best examples of this principle in action.
Ultimately, Super Mario 3D World stands alongside a number of other exclusive Wii U titles with its focus on clean visuals operating at a high frame-rate. The Wii U may not be the most powerful console on the block, but the fast, colourful, and clean library that it is amassing certainly suggests that it's more than ample. Emulators have already proven just how beautiful Nintendo's Wii efforts could be operating in high definition, and the Wii U is finally offering a way to experience these titles natively with good image quality. Years down the road, Super Mario 3D World is the type of game that will continue to look attractive in the face of even new technology.
With Nintendo's struggles in making the leap to HD game development there were concerns that it may encounter some of the pitfalls encountered by other Japanese developers last generation. That may have indeed occurred, but the end product certainly doesn't show it. When examining the technical merits of games, the argument is often raised that gameplay is more important than technology. What Nintendo proves is that a great technology base is necessary in order to deliver world-class gameplay. Say what you will about Nintendo's place in the market, but it clearly understands what it takes to produce a classic.
The Wii U now has a number of varied, high-quality experiences that look fantastic and perform rather well, with Super Mario 3D World arguably the pinnacle. If you don't own a Wii U there are multiple reasons to now consider taking the plunge, and if you have the system and not Mario's latest adventure, we'd suggest fixing that situation promptly.