The 3DS has been lacking in great games that aren’t remakes or ports of existing games (Ocarina of Time 3D and SSFIV). A game like Super Mario 3D Land is one that should have been released around the system’s launch. Perhaps it would have given more people reason to purchase Nintendo’s newest portable device. Now it has been almost eight months since the system launched, and Super Mario 3D Land is the game to own if you want something to validate your decision for buying the system. It is amazing.
Super Mario 3D Land combines elements of the old 2D Mario games with the 3D ones into a hybrid. You don’t have a life bar, and you’re jumping on flagpoles to complete levels instead of collecting stars. Even though you control Mario in a three dimensional space, it makes you realize that all the 3D Mario games have been slowly progressing towards this style that resembles the old 2D games.
Story does not need much mentioning because everyone knows what to expect from a Mario game. Bowser kidnaps Peach, and as Mario you have to go through eight worlds in order to save her. The game starts off really, REALLY easy, and I breezed through the first four worlds in one session, including collecting all the star coins. If you’re really good at Mario games, or video games in general, you might think that this game would be too short and not worth paying 40 dollars to buy. Well, there’s more. After finishing the main eight worlds, you’ll get access to eight ‘special’ worlds, which is similar to that of a second quest from Zelda. Most of the levels are the same from the regular eight worlds but they ramp up the challenge real good that it becomes satisfying. Also, just like the Galaxy games, you’ll unlock Luigi so you can choose to go through the whole game again, making it slightly more challenging.
The level design follows the ideas of the Galaxy, minus any space or gravity elements. Levels are very linear, and because of lack of camera control, they don’t get too complex or twisty. When there’s a spot in the level where you have to turn, it’s either a 45 or 90 degree angle, or a curve where the camera rotates as you push the analog disc in a direction. It feels a bit like how Metroid Other M handled camera control when the player did not have any control over it. While the screen does not show huge portions of the levels, some levels will have little binocular posts where you can look around the level and see how big some of these levels can get.
Everyone has seen the Tanooki suit being shown everywhere with this game. You have that suit, the fire flower, and then you have a boomerang flower (I guess that’s what it’s called), which dresses Mario as a Boomerang Bro and lets you throw boomerangs. There are very few suits, and the one that is best to use, the Tanooki suit is helpful because it lets you fly in the air for a brief period of time, and on more than one occasion it saved me during the later levels in the special world. And for Tanooki suit purists who have expressed their disappointment that the suit does not turn Mario into a statue like it is supposed to, well, you should keep playing.
Of course, this is a 3DS game, so how good is the 3D on this game? Very good, I say. Miyamoto has constantly said how 3D can benefit games like Mario when you’re jumping in and out and don’t have a clear sense of how far an object or platform is. Guess what, he is right. Because the 3D gives the game proper depth, as well as really good use of shadows, it eliminates the problem of 3D platformers were the size and distance of an object was not clear. During the levels, you can find little bonus rooms that serve as optical illusions for people not playing with the 3D on. In one room, the blocks may all look like they’re stacked neatly, but turning the 3D on may reveal that one of them is really floating in the air in front of those blocks. These areas are only off to the side, and are not mandatory for completing a level, which is good for those who may be unable to see the 3D. In fact, it was kinda more fun to go into those rooms with the 3D off and try to figure out which part is the illusion.
So you got eight worlds and eight special worlds after that, and then you got the opportunity to play them all as either Mario or Luigi. Does any of this sound like it’s worth forty dollars? I certainly think so. If you’ve been waiting for a really good game for your 3DS, by all means go get it. If you haven’t bought a 3DS, I say go and buy one along with this game too. It is unsurprising that the best game to come out on the system yet is, of course, a Nintendo property, but man, if it’s not an excellently well made product. You owe it to yourself to play it.