Nintendo 3DS Review: Super Mario 3D Land
Mario is off to his first brand new 3D adventure on a portable system. The Nintendo 3DS has been released without much fanfare since March 2011. A brand new Mario game will definitely work to change things and boost up sales.
Super Mario 3D Land is being called as a "cross" between the 2D and 3D Mario series. The game plays more like the earlier Mario games where you have to reach a flag at the end of the level. But like the 3D console titles, you are allowed a limited amount of free roaming. In a way it feels very similar to the Super Mario Galaxy series - which is fairly linear itself, although it is without the space theme.
Elaborating on this point, even though the game allows you to move around, there are a mix of the 2D and 3D elements from the series. For example, Mario is unable to punch (like the 2D games) but he is able to do wall jumps and long jumps. Instead of a health bar, he will shrink and need to use power ups to return back to normal. Interestingly, it is now necessary to hold down the run button to run, despite the 3DS having a control stick. In all the console 3D Mario games, Mario can run when you just push the control stick harder. Also there is a time limit in every level, however in some cases it can be extended by collecting stopwatches.
The graphics in Super Mario 3D Land are superb, and feel very bright and vibrant like the Super Mario Galaxy games. The 3DS screen provides a very sharp display and there is excellent contrast. While the use of 3D is mostly optional, the 3D effects in the game help give the player a sense of depth, which is helpful in many levels. There are a few parts of the game when "3D" shows up on your screen that pretty much require 3D or it will become extremely difficult. The 3D is very fun to play with, looks cool, but it wasn't overused to a degree where it becomes gimmicky.
There are all sorts of familiar enemies such as Goombas, Koopas, Magikoopas, Boos, Thwomps and so on. Mario fans will recognize them, and it plays and feels very much like a traditional Mario game. Of course, Mario is off on yet another journey to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser, this is nothing new, but seriously one of these days they should make up a new story!
There are some new and returning power-ups in SM3DL, most notably the Tanooki Leaf, which lets Mario turn into Tanooki Mario, which is making a return from Super Mario Bros. 3. As Tanooki Mario, he can float around in air and use the tail to attack enemies, however he is not able to fly like in SMB3, perhaps this is to prevent the player from skipping vast parts of levels. Nintendo took the Tanooki so far in this game that even a lot of enemies have Tanooki tails!
Another interesting power-up is the Boomerang Flower, which allows Mario to throw boomerangs much like the Boomerang Bros. that you'll see throughout this game. Of course, the familiar Super Mushroom and Fire Flower are back as well.
There is plenty of help for new gamers. If you die 5 times, a special Invincible Tanooki Leaf will show up, that will basically make you indestructible, except to a few hazards such as lava. If you die 10 times, there will be a P-Wing that shows up that'll just bring you to the end of the level. Talk about holding your hand here, Nintendo doesn't want you to feel too down if you're struggling.
Super Mario 3D Land organized into 8 worlds, and each world has a castle. There are also a variety of levels such as the standard mushroom land levels, deserts, ghost houses, underwater, and lava levels. To make this feel more like a 3D game, SMG-like levels with moving platforms, rotating blocks, disappearing platforms, and even flip switches are here too. Each level has 3 Star Medals, these are similar to the comet medals in Super Mario Galaxy 2, collecting these medals will open up new areas for you to play in, which greatly enhances the replay value of this game. Compared to the main worlds - which are rather easy, the new areas are relatively difficult, and will be fun to play to put your Mario platforming skills to the test.
Super Mario 3D Land is another solid Mario platform title. It's not as epic as the Super Mario Galaxy games, however it is something that both new and experienced gamers can pick up and have fun playing. 3D platforming isn't new, but new adventures with Mario are always exciting, and playing in 3D for the first time is definitely very neat. This is definitely one of the best games on the Nintendo 3DS so far, and it's one you wouldn't want to miss! Super Mario 3D Land for the Nintendo 3DS is what Super Mario 64 is for the Nintendo 64.