Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) Review
There’s usually always two things you can rely on Mario games for. The first being they’re going to be great, since Nintendo doesn’t stuff around with Mario’s platforming outings. The second thing is that they’re usually right there on launch day, beside Nintendo’s latest hardware and there’s only been a couple times now where this hasn’t been the case. As we know the 3DS didn’t have a Mario title at launch and look how things turned out? People turn to Mario to show them what a new system is all about and without that Mario game at launch the 3DS failed hard. However it’s not all bad news, as the Mario game we’ve got today might not have been the same if it had launched in March. I’m kinda glad for the delay, because we now finally have a reason to run out to the stores and pick up a 3DS.
Super Mario 3D Land draws upon all of Mario’s previous outings; it’s a 3D game but lots of elements from the 2D games have been mashed into the design. From the 8-bit and 2D titles you have the level select screen, which sees the game split up into 8 worlds with 4 or 5 levels apiece. The boss levels are either an airship level ala Super Mario Bros 3 where you fight a koopa boss or an old school battle with Bowser, where you drop him into the lava by dropping the bridge from under his scaley legs. While the levels draw upon these themes of the past, they present them in an entirely new way, leveraging the 3D effect. You’ll be happy to know that the flag pole at the end of every level has made a return too as more than just decoration. Nope, you’ll want to make sure you hit the top to get the extra life and that wondrous golden flag.
While the flag pole at the end of the level is the finish line, it’s obviously the journey to that special moment that we all care about. While each level in Super Mario 3D Land is smaller than you might expect, it really does suit the portable format and despite the size the levels are jam packed full of content. Gold star coins are hidden throughout the levels, giving you yet more things to search for. There are three coins on each level and while some of them are out in the open, you’ll need dig around to find most of them. Thankfully you can bypass some of them though, as not all are needed to progress and it’s a nice reason to come back. Everything in 3D Land feels a lot bigger on the screen; Mario and the enemies both seem a lot more ’zoomed in’. The levels play nicely on your nostalgia, with older level styles getting the 3D remix, such as the: classic ghost houses, Bowser’s castle as well as the usual assortment of volcano, ice and underwater levels, which look amazizng on the small screen. Smoke, particle and rain effects on certain levels show off that ’under the hood’ grunt we all suspected the 3DS had in her. 3D effect is put to good use, not only providing a great sense of depth to the game but also in puzzles as well as just helping you to land that next jump. Finally, a justification for the 3D effect outside ’looking pretty good’.
Powerups are back in a big way in 3D Land and the biggest one is no doubt the Tanooki suit. Ever since it was announced we knew the suit would be a big part of the game [It’s on the box after all – Ed]. However it’s not just Mario who wears it this time, with Goombas and even Bowser himself sporting the tail. Mario of course makes the best use of it and while you can’t fly anymore the game really opens up once he starts floating around. You’re given the suit so often now that after a while it feels weird to play the game without it. While the suit certainly plays into it, the game is pretty easy overall.
The Tanooki suit isn’t the only powerup in of course, there’s also a ’propper hat’ which lets Mario fly up super high before floating back down, the fire flower is back and worse as expected while the final suit is the boomerang suit. It’s finally time for Mario to chuck one back at the Boomerang Bros. There’s another powerup which also unlocks after you finish the game once, but I’ll keep that a secret for now.
The last two power-ups are essentially Super Mario 3D Land’s version of the Super Guide. A Golden Tanooki suit appear after a number of deaths and will make you invincible for the duration of the level. You can still fall off so while it’s not a complete cheat, it does makes things really easy if you’re struggling. The last one is a reinvention of the P-Wing which will play the level for you through to the end.
Those features are completely optional however the game is still relatively easy without them. It’s still not a complete cake walk and the game does get harder but even Mario newbies will be able to complete the game within a couple play sessions. As per newer Mario titles, 3D Land is overly generous with 1-Ups, on my first play through I had over 70, which makes them kind of pointless. After you finish the game though, it not only ramps up in difficulty but also opens up another round of levels to boost the replay value. This means that even after your first time through, it feels pretty good to jump right into a second playthrough.
While a 3D Mario game (in both senses of the word) the game fluidly moves between playing like a 2D game and a 3D one. The games controls are limited to a 8 way axis, so it’s not full analogue control. Then there is the 2D style of holding down a button to run. You’d kinda think that with a slide pad it would have been better to go full analogue. Well, I too thought this when I first picked up the game, however after playing for a while you realise it’s a better choice to go with these controls. The levels are designed around it to the point that having full analgoue controls could have been a huge mistake. While there are some gyro controls in the game, they’re only used for the in game binoculars to take a look at the level ahead or find a hidden goodie. StreetPass features are also included and passing a friend will swap the best time on levels, along with unlocking some new Mystery Box challenges.
There’s no hiding it, Super Mario 3D Land is a Mario game and it makes no bones about not looking too different from past Mario games. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s both tidy and clean while the 3D effect is the best on the system to date (and as mentioned before it actually affects the gameplay). You can even switch the 3D between ’innie’ and ’outtie’. It’s one of the first times I’ve booted up the Nintendo 3DS and felt like I was actually playing a game designed for the system. The graphics, the lighting, the particle effects are all excellent. The same goes for the soundtrack, which is bubbly and alive, consisting of both fresh tunes as well as a few remixes of old. Like all the game’s elements it draws upon all the past games, but still feels new. Every inch of this game is polished to the nth degree.
Super Mario 3D Land will fly past on its first play through. You’ll be going back and back for more, it’s an addictive game. The amount of hidden Star Coins and further challenges to unlock after the first round of the game means you’ll have this in your 3DS for a whle.
It’s different to the Mario’s you’ve played before. It’s not Bros, World or Galaxy games but it’s the best of those games wrapped up in a fresh 3D bow. Mario invited the 2D Platforming genre. Super Mario Bros defined 2D platforming, Super Mario 3D took Mario to a 3D world and Super Mario 3D Land brings Mario into the real 3rd dimension.