Super Mario 3D Land
3DS | Nintendo | 1 Player | StreetPass Support |
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12th December 2011; By Patrick
Super Mario 3D Land. The question is, is this saving grace a substantial enough experience that it can help the struggling handheld out?
Super Mario 3D Land incorporates an interesting gameplay philosophy: mix both 2D and 3D Mario games into one and then put it in stereoscopic 3D. This combination is quite successful, allowing you to move in a 3D plane on both 3D and 2D level designs. The game also utilizes many of the 3DS' functions that you may not even think would work in a Mario game, but Mario team manages to pull off successfully.
As far as story goes, you're really not going to get much in this game. This may seem obvious, but since games like Super Mario Galaxy (not 2) had such a moving story, this is a slight disappointment to me (which completely surprised me). The story is quite literally that Mario and his Toad friends go to the Tanooki Tree, which had all the leaves taken by Bowser (he took Princess Peach too, so go figure). Bowser gave the leaves to his minions and hid them in blocks (because he never learns) and it's up to Mario to go and rescue the Princess.
As you can guess from the idea of Bowser's minions having Tanooki leaves, there are several alternate versions of his minions. Tanooki Goombas are extraordinarily common, with other Tanooki-fied minions included the unlikely Whomps and Bullet Bills. These not only add aesthetic variation, but gameplay variation as they can now follow you, and in the case of the Goombas and Whomps, float after you.
Beyond new enemy variations, new power-ups are also introduced, as per the norm. There are two brand-new power-ups that sit right alongside the Tanooki Suit's glorious return. One of these is the Boomerang Suit, which, as it sounds, allows Mario to throw a boomerang similar to the Boomerang Bros. The boomerangs prove critical in several levels for obtaining items and killing enemies.
The other new addition is the Propeller Block, which is similar to the Propeller Cap from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, sans shaking motion. The Block provides a great 3D effect, and is a great idea, but is very sensitive. Even with the 3D, it's tough to properly judge distances and location, thus resulting in many a death. This is counterbalanced with the ease of level farming in this game. Seriously, there's one specific level that I can run through and pick up upwards of 20 lives, and it is only about three minutes long.
The game is spread out into worlds a la 2D Mario Games, sans World Map. You select your level from a slightly lifeless display of levels in the world. Interspersed between the levels, there are Toad Houses that give you a random item that you've encountered up to that point, and Mystery Boxes which provide ten-second distractions to earn Star Medals, Coins, and 1-Up's.
Progression is handled by means of collecting Star Medals. The final level of every world is locked until you obtain enough Star Medals (which are consumed by unlocking a level), with each level containing a total of three Star Medals. Star Medals are similar to the Star Coins found in the New Super Mario Bros. games, and are hidden with varying degrees of difficulty. The game makes you collect them sometimes in a way that feels like grinding, but seeing as it only makes you go through the already great level designs again and experiment with a new technique (or experience a new area), it is fully welcome.
As implied by its inclusion in the title, the 3D really is important to the game. In fact, there are certain areas where there are parts impossible to see with the 3D off. Because of the 3D and how it is used, the game denies you any control over the camera, which is surprisingly welcome. The camera is one of the best I've ever seen in a game, and is always exactly where it needs to be in the context of the level. For once, a lack of Camera Control is liberating, instead of restricting. If you can't see the 3D or you prefer not using it for whatever reason, the game is still fully playable and a blast in 2D, but the game is easier and more enjoyable in the 3D it was built for.
The music is full of compositions both old and new from acclaimed composer Koji Kondo; fun and bouncy when it needs to be while borrowing songs for areas such as Boo Houses, Castles, and Airships. Sound effects are also a blast, and I would actually recommend using headphones if you're in an area where you can't have the volume up; the music and effects are just that nice.
There have been a few complaints about the length of the game. The game spans 16 worlds, with the last eight being significantly more challenging than the former. The game should take you somewhere around six hours or so to complete counting the grinding, but the replay value is pretty high as per usual with Mario games. For the admission price, you may not feel like there is quite the amount of content you'd want, but for the amount of fun you receive, it is definitely worth the asking price.
Overall, Super Mario 3D Land is a high-quality Mario game -- and that's the greatest praise it needs. This implies that everything works together in almost-perfect harmony to deliver an amazing experience, and as that's true, I can without regret recommend this game to just about anyone that owns a 3DS, and as a reason to get one if you don't already.
29/30 - Excellent
Gameplay 10/10 - 2D and 3D Mario blended, plays well, Tanooki Suit back with other power-ups, excellent level design, Star Coins provide extra challenge
Presentation 10/10 - 2D and 3D are great, 3D implemented well and is very helpful, music and sound are wonderful, charming Mario style
Enjoyment 5/5 - Mario in his prime, great level design leads to ton of fun, power-ups vary levels for new fun and freshness
Extra Content 4/5 - Extra eight worlds after first eight, more than enough fun for $40, slightly low on content, need Star Coins to progress
Equivalent to a score of 97% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System