‘Bowser’s Fury’ is more than just a bonus in Nintendo’s latest release – it’s proof that Super Mario can keep evolving
There were a few things about ‘Super Mario 3D World’ for Nintendo Switch that we all took for granted (and that have been fulfilled). The first and most obvious, that the game that originally appeared for Wii U eight years ago had not lost any of its freshness or force. You just have to play the first few bars, go through a couple of levels, to check that it is. The Switch also injects some extra speed into the action which, strangely, suits the whole thing very well.
That peculiar experiment was part of the eternal flirtations of the ‘Super Mario’ with the mechanics of the genre (the genre “Mario”, that is), and that had led us to experiments with gravity and the spaces of the ‘Super Mario Galaxy‘, my personal favorites, or the challenging way of creating open spaces from very small, almost claustrophobic settings, of’Odyssey‘. ‘Super Mario 3D World‘managed to merge the classic 2D titles with 3D mechanics (and a cat that allowed you to explore vertically, little joke with that).
As a kind of rehearsal of the most recent ‘Odyssey’, the ‘Super Mario 3D World’ on Wii U too I was playing to create an expansive world from mini-levels or tests, yes, open and from which you could enter and exit at will. Each of these smaller levels function as independent tests in which to chase other characters or explore in depth. And to that are added the specific levels of Captain Toad, puzzle type.
In reality, few compliments can be thrown at ‘Super Mario 3D World’ that are not extensions of what was already said about the Wii U version, although the passage of time does make us verify something: the soft yet vibrant colors, the character designs and settings absolutely unrelated to any temporary fad make this game visually comparable to a current game. Nintendo is often accused of living in isolation in a bubble, but it is in games like this eight years later that that policy makes sense.
But also, this time we have an extra.
Bowser’s Fury: A Titan’s Fury
‘Bowser’s Fury’, apparently, is an addition to the main game (the new version of the Wii U classic) with nothing more than the confrontation / rescue storyline of Mario’s nemesis par excellence. And also a curious cyclical mechanics of light and dark that would say a mustachioed wink to the temporary springs of a Zelda.
However, we must not forget that no matter how long the original game ‘Bowser’s Fury’ is, eight years have passed. This game takes that advantage very much into account and, for example, allows the player to move the camera freely. Such a simple design decision is already one more step in a land unexplored by Mario: 2D airs in many ways, open worlds in others.
The game takes a couple of steps beyond the concept of its predecessor and pack companion, and here, as always, you have to collect coins to open new areas. But in this case we are in an archipelago, and each island is solved in one way: exploration, combat, obstacles against the clock, chases, puzzles. In other words, Mario’s world, almost like a summary of decades of playable career, is on this occasion, at the same time, the freest and the most closed in its history. Concise evidence and, hand in hand, pure freedom.
But also, the clashes with Bowser open a playable path little explored by Nintendo in general and the ‘Super Mario’ in particular: the bosses. The confrontations with the Dark Bowser (often with no other possible strategy than to flee from him) are not the culmination of a level, as usually happens, but the tremendous kaiju scale under which they take place (another novelty) open up new secrets and hidden paths with the impacts of the projectiles. That is, these fights (and their prologues without the option of a reply by Mario) are more strategic than it seems at first glance.
It is clear that ‘Bowser’s Fury’ is more than a simple gift game with another main one, although by duration (a third of the usual in marios, which is enough) it is clear that it fits well as a monumental gift. What it is, without a doubt, is an outpost of what’s to come, even if not in the form of a giant Bowser: is the promise that Mario can go on and on mutating, not to repeat himself but, at the same time, without ceasing to be true to himself.