I recently wrote a piece talking about how much I loved Super Mario 3D Land, and having missed out on the WiiU version of 3D World I was there day one for the Switch release. 3D World is everything I was expecting from it, and I am still making my way through the perfectly crafted levels, but I have completed it’s companion piece, Bowser’s Fury.
Fury takes a different approach to structure than any other Mario game before it, and it seems that Nintendo wanted to try an experimental format. Instead of consisting of a hub world with discrete levels to visit, Bowser’s Fury takes place in one location, a huge archipelago, and these islands form the basis of the game’s levels. There are a number of main islands with lighthouses on them which act as the main levels, and smaller islands scattered all over the map.
So what’s the setup? Mario turns up to find Bowser Jr. in a bit of a fluster. His dad has been infected with some black goop which has given him Godzilla like proportions, and he needs Mario’s help to return him to normal, which he does by collecting Cat Shines which from all over the islands. There are 100 of these to collect, but you only need 50 to be able to see the credits. The twist here is the way Bowser is worked into the game. At regular intervals, Bowser will emerge from the lake and the whole environment changes. The sky goes dark, and Bowser rains down fire, jumps around the map breathing fire, and generally causes a nuisance of himself. To vanquish him, Mario must collect a Cat Shine, avoid his attacks for a few minutes, or use a Giga-Bell once unlocked which turns him into a gigantic Cat Mario allowing him to battle it out with Bowser.
It’s an interesting mechanic that works well for the majority of the game. Some of the Cat Shines you need can only be collected when Fury Bowser is around, and the fights are not too difficult to negotiate. However, as you get close to 50 shines, and again at 100 shines, Bowser appears a lot more frequently, and cannot be vanquished by waiting him out. Getting a shine while he is attacking can be incredibly frustrating at this point, tricky platforming sections can’t be attempted because of the constant interference, and this gets pretty frustrating. Honestly though, once you push through these it becomes more sedate again and you learn to leave some easy shines ready to grab when Fury Bowser appears.
The levels themselves are varied and delightful. Everything, and I mean everything, is cat themed, from Goombas to Piranha Plants, even the bushes and lighthouses sport cat ears. The main islands also change once you grab certain shines, replacing enemies or obstacles with a new challenge to discover.
Getting around is easy thanks to a multitude of Plessies who are used to travel from island to island, and more areas open up as you collect shines and black goop vanishes. The sheer variety of mechanics that Nintendo throws in puts other developers to shame, you rarely feel you are repeating something to grab a new shrine. Even when the structure is roughly the same, grab 5 shine shards for example, the variety of the locations makes each challenge unique.
Once you beat Bowser after claiming 50 shines, icons are added to the map to show where the missing ones are, though you still have to do some searching to find them all. One shine icon was moving around the map all of the time and it took me a while to figure out exactly where it was and how to reach it.
Bowser Jr. can be used to help Mario if needed, but I switched this feature off for my playthrough. You can still direct him to complete paintings on walls which yield power-ups, or you can have another player control him to help take out some of the annoying enemies. Power-ups can be saved to be used later, you can have a stock of 5 of each, and they can be activated at any time, so if you see a shine that needs Cat Mario, it’s easy to switch to. There are also no lives to worry about. You gain an extra power-up for every 100 coins you collect, the penalty for failure is simply losing 50 coins, and there are so many scattered over the map that it is never an issue.
To complete the game with 100 shines will probably take around 6 hours, this is not a full Mario game by any stretch, but the length suits the format that Nintendo have put in place. I’m not convinced that a whole Mario game based around the single world concept work, but it does fit well in this bitesize piece of gaming. The controls feel a little strange as well, as you have a full 3D environment to run around in, but only have the 8-way movement from the base 3D World game to work with. This makes some sections that require precise platforming a little tricky and frustrating, but it doesn’t spoil the experience.
Bowser’s Fury is a lot more than just a throwaway addition to Super Mario 3D World, it’s a fun and engaging side story that certainly deserves to be pushed as a big part of the overall package, and while you are unlikely to want to revisit Lapcat Lake, you will have a ton of fun while you are there.