Super Mario 3D Land review
It’s Mario. It’s awesome. Do I really need to say more?
Okay, I guess saying just that is really not doing this game justice, since there’s actually a lot to say about it. Its original game design philosophy is something to be commended and that’s what I want to talk about here.
So read on!
Date of Release: November 13th 2011
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: 3D platformer
Rated E for Everyone
A 3D side-scroller?
Okay, so this is fairly standard Mario fare: Peach gets kidnapped and you have to travel through 8 worlds to find Bowser, beat him up and save the princess. Each world features 5 levels (+1 boss level), all in the format of a standard jump and stomp Mario platformer. This is where it gets interesting.
You see, this IS a 3D Mario in the veins of 64/Sunshine/Galaxy, but there’s something very unique about it. I’ll try my best to explain, but at worst you can just buy the game and experience it for yourself… While the game IS a standard Mario 3D Platformer, the levels are designed in such a way that it feels more like a 2D side-scroller. It’s just the way the enemy placement is thought out, and how the various obstacles work that give it more of an “obstacle course” feel that you get from side-scrollers than most 3D platformers which tend to more often be about exploration rather than straight out platforming. A lot of the action takes place in more side-scrolling settings, but there’s almost always options to go in any direction for shortcuts/alternate paths and such. Even the more “exploration based” levels have that side-scrolling feel to them due to smart enemy/trap placement (with an exception or 2), as well as requiring precise jumps. It all has a very unique feel compared to other Mario games… Yeah, I guess it is a bit hard to explain, but it does have a very unique gameplay design.
I will never hide my mildly fanboy-ish attitude when it comes to Mario. I really can’t, because Mario games were a big part of my growth as a gamer, with Super Mario Bros being probably my first game (or at least the first game I remember playing), and every successive “main” Mario game being amongst my favorites. Other than a couple spin-offs and the CD-i game, Mario games have mostly been high-quality (yes, even the american Super Mario Bros 2), and every one of the main series Mario games are still very replayable now, barely showing their age. As with every modern Mario release, this game will tug at your nostalgia nerves. Old music, old enemies (Boom Boom makes a reappearance!), old power-ups making a comeback in a big way (Tanooki suit for the first time since SMB3? Yes please). It forces you to revisit old Mario memories…. and fuck, it works! Anyways, on to the normally scheduled review.
The game takes a very… Super Mario Galaxy take for its basic look. All the levels other than underground, mansion and Bower Castle levels take place high in the sky, where you’ll be running and jumping along various floating platforms.You’re never clearly on the ground like in other Mario games, the bottomless hole you can fall in is made quite clear. I think it’s an interesting look and it makes everything look open. The underground levels look nice too, with their (generally) side-scrolling nature and hidden paths and items (while they look side-scrolling ,they aren’t, which I find is what makes them interesting).
Technically, the graphics are great. Everything looks really nice, the textures are good quality, nothing to complain about here. I’d say it’s very close to Super Mario Galaxy level, just… a bit less due to the tiny screen on the 3DS. I’ve come to accept this though: The 3DS screen, partly due to the 3D and the relatively low resolution, will always have aliasing problems. It’s easy to ignore, but there are times when you’ll clearly see that the edge of objects are super pixelated (moreso for Mario than any other object in the game I find). Yes it’s annoying, but it’s a very easy detail to get over when the game is fun to play.
Sound-wise… It’s Mario. There’s a good amount of recycling here, with a lot of older music and sound effects. Basically nothing out of place for a Mario game. It’s good, nothing to add.
The gameplay is fantastic. As previously mentioned, it controls something akin to other 3D Mario games. Running around and jumping feels great, stomping on stuff is good. You have most of the Super Mario 64 moves here (sideflip, backflip, long jump, ground pound) but no double/triple jump strangely enough, and the backflip is triggered by crouching and charging it up ALA Super Mario Bros 2(US version). The goal of every level is simple: get to the end without losing all your lives (note: You’ll never lose all your lives unless you’re really bad at games… in general). You’ll find a flagpole at the end of every level signifying the end, and a way to jump to the highest part of said flagpole (for extra lives!).
As always Mario has a few power-ups. Making a long-awaited return is the Tanooki Suit. It enables you to swing your tail around for an attack, and also glide in the air (the flying function was removed, partly because it would make the game way too easy). It’s very fun to use, though it does make some platforming segments a bit too easy. There are actually 2 versions of this, one which enables you to transform into a statue to become immune to damage for a limited time. You have the fireflower, as always. I love bouncing the flame on walls to hit enemies that are behind barricades with it. Finally there’s the boomerang… flower? It gives you a costume similar to the Hammer costume in SMB3, but instead you throw boomerangs, which you can use to hit enemies or grab far-away objects (similar to Zelda). Overall these are pretty fun to use.
This game is actually stupidly easy. Let’s just forget the fact that you can gather up over 1000 lives in about 5 minutes in the second level using one of the koopa shells, this game is really easy. While it features amazing level design, said level design will not challenge you much. As an example, I died around 8 times on my first playthrough of the main game. The jumps are generally easy, and the enemy/trap placement, while really cool, is never really that tough. But that’s obviously not all there is to the game.
After finishing the main quest, you gain access to the “Special” worlds. There’s 8 of those with 5 levels each (+1 boss level), and there’s a final level in addition to that once you’re done completing both the normal and special levels 100% (including playing through them all with Luigi). The levels in those 8 worlds constitute of re-made levels from the main games with tougher enemy placement, tougher/faster traps, and crazy gimmicks (such as giving you a super-short time limit with the only way to increase it being killing goombas, or a shadow Mario that follows you around to try and kill you). The game actually gets pretty hard at this point. Sure, you’re never in any danger of game over (the game not only has the infinite lives trick in level 1-2, but it gives away 1-ups like crazy so you’ll be well over 100 lives by the time you reach the special worlds), but some of the levels WILL frustrate you and actually challenge you quite a bit with really evil enemy placement and complicated to navigate traps.
I think it’s a good balance really. And it does end up having tons of content (96 levels, each with 3 star coins to pick up and having to get the top of the flagpole in each), and overall a good amount of gameplay even if you don’t plan on 100%ing everything.
Just a quick blurb on it. It looks very nice. That’s… about it… I mean, there’s some moments where the 3D definitely helped me with platforming, but nothing really major. There’s a few moments with clever use of 3D, but they’re very few and very far between. It’s nice, but it’s not required. There’s an option to have “deeper” 3D, which you can toggle by pressing up or down on the d-pad. It’s pretty good, though some people who tried the game told me they saw it blurrier with the “deeper” setting on (not a problem with me though). Overall I think that reviewers have been blowing this way out of proportion. It’s nice, but it’s not game-changing, not anywhere near close to that.
It’s by far the best game out now on the 3DS. Nothing more to say here. If you have a 3DS and you don’t already have this, you have to remedy this now.
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