Super Mario 3D Land
If Mario can be compared to one man it would be Robert De Niro. He has been around for years and is still going strong. The Godfather of acting who takes centre stage when he needs to, and like Mario has starred in some epic titles. Granted, they both share a few turkeys between the two such as Meet The Parents and Mario’s Early Years: Fun With Letters, but for every poor outing, ten classics spring to mind. Raging Bull, Taxi, Super Mario All Stars and who could forget Super Mario 64. Even today, these legends are still relevant with De Niro’s finest acting in Limitless and now we have Mario in his 3D debut. The new kind of 3D that is.
The reason Mario games are looked on so highly is that each one is different but at the same time is pretty much the same game. What Nintendo have done with the moustachio plumber is make noticeable changes to the way the game works but keep the same formula. Almost all games involve Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach and Mario setting off through various worlds to save her (and maybe get that cake she baked for him back in Mario 64).
Not surprisingly Super Mario 3D Land follows the same formula. Mario wakes up one day to check the trees in Princess Peach’s garden and notices the leaves have been blown away. But these are no ordinary oak trees, these are the precious Tanooki trees which give the power of the Tanooki (raccoon) to anything that touches it. A letter is also found from Bowser. Surprise, Surprise, he has Princess Peach and is giving the leaves to many of his minions to help defeat our portly plumber once and for all.
And off Mario runs into the game. The worlds are set out much in a 2D fashion, with a simple yet effective left to right level select. Each of the game’s eight worlds has 5 main stages and a boss castle to contend with, as well as the usual toad houses and new mystery boxes. Much like New Super Mario Bros, the toad houses give away extra lives and items while the new mystery boxes can supply Mario with Star Medals.
These gold medals are replacements of the big coins seen in the older SNES games and are used to open up certain levels as well as boss levels, which means exploration through the game is key to progression. To help Mario on his way we see the return of a few helpful items but this time, it is a more condensed number than we are used to seeing. The Mushroom and Fire Flower are present as is the propellor box, a slight modification of the mushroom we saw in New Super Mario Bros Wii. The Tanooki suit returns after a long absence. A new addition to the wardrobe is the Boomerang Suit, which as the name implies lets Mario throw boomerangs at enemies. The Bee, Penguin, or Boo suits are dropped in favour of a “less is more” approach, meaning the game relies less on power-ups and more on the gamer’s skill.
By no means does this mean Nintendo won’t help you in times of need. Dying 5 times in a level brings a shiny white Tanooki suit which means Mario won’t get hurt if he is hit by an enemy. Also the Winged “P” box will be used to take players to the end of a level as a last resort if death happens 10 times in a row. While Mario is running around the levels in his cute Raccoon suit, it is hard not to notice how well the levels are designed. Levels vary in length and as the game progresses, they seem to get harder. Most players will get through the majority of levels with ease but a few can get irritating. This is good because Nintendo do not want you thinking that the game is a walk in the park!
Bright and vibrant colours fill the screen, and the key feature – the 3D – is used fantastically, in fact players have the option of the standard 3D view and by flicking the down button on the D-pad, it can be changed to give a better perception of depth for those tricky jumps. Of course the game works with 3D turned off but if this is done so, the game doesn’t seem to work. In 2D, the levels are made confusing and it is tough to judge how much pressure to put on a jump or where to aim for to land. As with the visuals, Nintendo have worked their magic on the music and the usual Mario tunes are all present, mainly a modern twist on the old SNES music but it still has you humming along while playing or walking down the street doop-wooping the menu song.
While you are whistling down the street, this brings a function that is slowly being implemented more and more with the 3DS. StreetPass is used to unlock extra bonus levels to play through. These give the opportunities to play for more star coins or just enjoy the game that little bit longer. Once a pass has been made, icons on the map will show where Mario needs to go in order for him to pick up these items.
As with other recent titles, Mario has returned to his 2D roots and have a simple world select rather than a larger hub for exploration. This time however, Nintendo have scaled the selects way back and leave us with a simple system of pressing right for the next level. It feels like all of the design was thrown into the level design and presentation suffered as a result. A level select that looked like New Super Mario Bros would have been an ideal fit for Mario’s first 3DS outing.
However, with this aside it is once again hard to fault a Mario game. The levels are fantastic in their designs and difficulties, the collection of Star Medals means a degree of exploration is needed to progress through the game, and unlockables and StreetPass keep extend the lifespan of the game. It has been a long wait for Mario to make his mark on the Nintendo 3DS but Super Mario 3D Land is worth the wait. It is one of the most original and enjoyable titles on the console and up their as one of the best Mario outings. Every 3DS owner should have this title in their collection.