Other than ToTK, it's been a while since I've played a first party, main-line Nintendo game and nearly forgot how insanely polished and refined the gameplay can be. Despite the vast ocean area, it's nigh on impossible to find yourself lost. Despite it being fairly easy to fall back down to ocean-level while climbing the islands, you will always land next to something that will pick the gameplay right back up. Mainline Marios are magically crafted, and I really do mean that. They are Disney movies in game form (in the best way possible).
That being said, there are some points of failure that drag the gameplay. Bowser always seemed to spawn at the worst times for me, and I started to wonder if there really is a good time for Bowser to spawn. At any given moment, I'd be part-way into a Cat Shine mission, and I would just feel annoyed that Bowser was going to interrupt the fun challenge with his shitstorm making bullshit flying everywhere. Alternatively, I'd be moments away from collecting the Cat Shine and he'd just turn around and leave just as soon as he walked in. To add onto this pain, when I actually did want him to spawn so I could destroy some blocks, I'd find myself sitting on my hands, too afraid that if I started wandering off, I'd get distracted with another Cat Shine mission and leave the vicinity of the blocks. Just like the Blood Moons in BotW/TotK, they never happen at the right time and just feel like a needless interruption. I'm not a fan of either mechanic.
One silver lining to this is towards the end of your run to 50 shines, Bowser is suddenly undeterred by any additional shines and won't leave until you fight him in super bell mode. It was a pleasant surprise when I realized I was going to have to collect more shines during Bowser's shitstorm whether I liked it or not. It was no longer an interruption, it was a hard-mode-esque challenge, and I very quickly went from "oh, great" to "oh... great!!".
It is very silly to package a game as wonderful as this in a bundle with a game most Nintendo fans have already relatively recently played. It is silly to force some of 3D world's otherwise sensible mechanics into an open-world Mario game (one-hit kills like lava are no fun at all). However, this game is still sheer joy and despite everything, I found myself lost in the world of Nintendo's iconic charm.