Review: Super Mario 3D Land
Posted 17 Nov 2011 at 13:30 by Ashley Jones
While all Mario titles feature the titular plumber making jovial announcements such as "let's go!" there is something much more pertinent about it in Super Mario 3D Land. While the Nintendo 3DS isn't the first Nintendo console to launch without a Mario game it has certainly faced criticism for this and even Nintendo themselves have been using the launch of two Mario titles (this and Mario Kart 7) as a big promotional punch. So after all this waiting and hype is Super Mario 3D Land any good?
The series has recently been split into two strands; Super Mario Galaxy was a large more open game that gave you more control over how you progressed with New Super Mario Bros. was more akin to classic games that guided you on a route. Saying Super Mario 3D Land is a combination of both is not a new statement but that doesn't make it any less pertinent.
Super Mario 3D Land offers gamers bite-sized chunks of pure Mario goodness. It will only take you a few minutes to progress through a level but Nintendo has learnt what works since the first Super Mario Bros. title 26 years ago and each level is bursting with platforming joy. As is typical in the series the early worlds are straight forward but as more enemies, power ups and challenges are introduced you find yourself having to make your jumps tighter, your evasion more successful and your senses more alert.
The difficulty level in Super Mario 3D Land may be lower than some fans have become accustomed to recently. I quickly racked up over 50 lives and never really dipped below this level at any point during the game. The later levels do become much more challenging but overall it feels like Super Mario 3D Land wasn't made to be a difficult challenge but rather an enjoyable title, which it most certainly is. As is becoming increasingly common with Nintendo titles there is a help system for anyone who is struggling; if you die several times you get a Tanooki power-up with unlimited star power, or if you die even more times you get an even more powerful power-up.
Nintendo has once again included a challenging element in the shape of Star Medals, giant coins that players can collect 3 of in each level. While initially this appears to be something for those who just enjoy collecting everything later levels require a certain amount of Star Medals to progress, meaning you may have to revisit older levels to seek out any you missed first time around.
While the 25th anniversary of the Mario series was last year it feels as if Super Mario 3D Land should have been included. As well as capturing the feeling of the early games it also features numerous homages to the series' roots. As you move between worlds Mario is represented by a 2D sprite version of himself and more than this a number of villains from the early games are included such as Monty Mole, Spiny and others who may have appeared in numerous Mario titles over the year but still have that 'classic' aura. This is all helped by the pirate themed nature of the world bosses, which are captained by Kooplings.
The story in Super Mario 3D Land is, as expected, not exactly groundbreaking. Once again Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach and Mario seeks her out. However, between each world you are given a snapshot of Peach in a state of peril that makes great use of 3D to give the photo depth. Nintendo has long maintained that Nintendo 3DS games shouldn't require playing in 3D and Super Mario 3D Land would make full use of the console's 3D abilities. Super Mario 3D Land is a showcase for using the console's stereoscopic 3D abilities without falling back on them. Worlds are given depth as landscapes seem to stretch into the distance, or on occasion beneath you, and while the visuals are helped by 3D they are not solely reliant upon it.
Much has been made of the return of the Tanooki power-up since it was hinted at when the game was first teased months ago. The power-up allows you to swipe at enemies and, much more importantly, hover for a few extra seconds. As the levels progress and platforms begin to move, disappear or host dangerous enemies you will be thankful for the extra control that the Tanooki power-up gives you. In addition to this Nintendo has introduced the Boomerang power-up in Super Mario 3D Land, a power-up that can really help with clearing away enemies at a distance before having to navigate across platforms. Of course classics such as the Fire Flower and Star appear this game is focused on the Tanooki and Boomerang power-ups. Thankfully you can keep one power-up in reserve and crafty gamers can switch between these, providing you don't get hit along the way.
The game is treat for the eyes and ears thanks to the crisp visuals and score that will have you humming for days to come. The music featured in Super Mario 3D Land harks back to tunes we've all become familiar with over the years and fans of the series will love the soundtrack. The vibrant graphics are typical of the Mario series and really pop out on the Nintendo 3DS screen; from watery depths to cloud-topped platforms Nintendo has really pushed the colourful visual style to a point that it feels like you're in control of a cartoon.
Controlling the game is intuitive, with the circle pad being used to move, A and B perform jumps while Y performs an attack providing you have a power-up. If you press and hold either Y or X you can dash, which is particularly helpful at times when you have to collect red coins quickly before time runs out. As with other Mario games the controls are easy to pick up but you must master them if you want to finish Super Mario 3D Land.
Super Mario 3D Land is a real treat for both veterans of the series and anyone coming into it fresh. Filled with nods to the past and carefully mixing elements from the series' long history it plays as a 'best of' that some veteran players may find easy but it is undoubtedly fun. Mario is the king of platforming games for a reason and this newest title reminds us why. It never completely relies on being nothing more than a nostalgic game in a new package as Nintendo has sprinkled new elements that will delight and challenge gamers who have butt-stomped more times than they can count.
There is no doubt that Super Mario 3D Land is the Nintendo 3DS game we've all been waiting for, Nintendo included. With a large advertising campaign it is bound to do well during the Christmas period and for good reason; it's a damn good game. Anyone looking for a 'must have' title on the Nintendo 3DS that isn't a remake you can't do wrong with Super Mario 3D Land. The levels may be short, the challenges may be easy but it is a heck of a lot of fun and ultimately isn't that what you want from a Mario title?
N-Europe Final Verdict
A brilliant entry into the much loved series, it's just a shame it has to end so soon.
Classic Mario gameplay
A number of new elements
Music you'll be humming for days
Can be quite easy
Shorter than we'd like