Last time, I mostly talked about the 3D World part of the Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. I think Bowser’s Fury deserves its own section because it is a wholly new adventure included alongside 3D World and is available right from the start. The game’s story is pretty simple; it starts with Mario walking outside Peach’s Castle and seeing a black goopy “M.” The goop expands and Mario falls through the ground and lands in a place called Lake Lapcat. Mario then encounters a darker, much larger, ferocious Bowser: “Fury Bowser.” After collecting the first Cat Shine (the main collectible of the game), Fury Bowser temporarily leaves, and Mario meets Bowser Jr., who asks Mario to help him return his father to normal form.
The whole of Bowser’s Fury takes place within Lake Lapcat, a free-roaming, watery island that is open-world like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (no loading zones between “areas”). Mario retains the same moveset and controls as in 3D World with the addition of Bowser Jr., who can be controlled by a second player. Player one can also set his AI level so he doesn’t intervene at all, intervenes a little or intervenes a lot. His role is to help Mario defeat enemies and to paint surfaces with question marks on them, which usually contain power-ups. For a single player, a motion-controlled pointer directs where and what they want Bowser Jr. to examine.
Periodically, Fury Bowser will appear as you collect Cat Shines. The sky turns dark, and blobs of fire rain from the sky. Extra pillars appear, the friendly kittens turn possessed and he unleashes a stream of fire upon you. Some Cat Shines are encased within Fury Blocks, which only Fury Bowser’s fiery breath can break. Avoiding him can be tricky, especially near the end of the game. A real prop of Bowser’s Fury is that you can store five of each of the six power-ups in the game: mushrooms, fire flowers, boomerang flowers, super bells, super leaves and lucky bells. This really helps you progress through challenges without worrying about not having the right power-ups. Meanwhile, Plessie is wonderfully useful for traveling long distances via water. It’s fun, and there’s plenty of Cat Shine challenges that require him.
Some of the challenges can be a little repetitive, such as collecting blue coins or going through Plessie rings, and the bosses other than Fury Bowser aren’t difficult. Fortunately, the environment is very engaging, and Fury Bowser spices up the action. Now, when you get a certain number of Cat Shines, a very special power-up called the Giga Bell appears. With this, Mario transforms into a mega Cat Mario, allowing you to fight Fury Bowser head on. You fight him in this state several times, but unfortunately these fights don’t change in nature until the “last” fight. I should say you only need 50 Cat Shines to beat the game but there are a total of 100 for you to collect.
When I first played Super Mario Odyssey, I had expected “open-world” to mean you could walk from one world/area to the next without big loading zones or warps (like in Breath of the Wild). While I thought Odyssey was a blast and a masterpiece, I couldn’t help be slightly disappointed that it was only “open-world” in the Super Mario 64 sense. That is, each kingdom is surrounded by an infinite abyss so you need the Odyssey (the airship) to fly from kingdom to kingdom. Bowser’s Fury perfectly encapsulated what I took “open-world” to mean. I think (and certainly hope) this game is a small taste of what design direction traditional 3D Mario is taking.