The 3DS had been down in the dumps till November last year, and even though it’s sales had picked up after the massive price drop, we were yet to see any good, must-have games on the system. Sure, we had Ocarina of Time 3D and other such titles, but none of them really appealed to the masses. And then we were all treated to Super Mario 3D Land, Mario’s first ever fully fledged, proper outing on a handheld system. It’s been a while since the game came out, but is it all that it’s cracked up to be?
In a nutshell- yeah, it is. In fact, I’d say it’s even better. Not only is it one of the best handheld games I’ve played in a long time, it’s also right up there with Super Mario Galaxy/2 and Super Mario Bros. 3 in my best Mario games list, irrespective of the systems.
When Super Mario 64 first came out back in the day, it successfully ported the series from 2D, side scrolling visuals, but the series lost a huge chunk of its identity. And ever since then, the only few games that have been in vein of the good old Mario are the few remakes and re-releases that we have gotten and the two New Super Mario Bros. games. Super Mario 3D Land, however, ingeniously combines the best of both worlds- old Mario and present day Mario, and gives us one solid package. So while you will still be seeing several time based platforming challenges like in the Galaxy games, you will also be reminded of the old Mario Bros. games a lot.
Super Mario 3D Land starts as Mario’s old nemesis, Bowser, kidnaps Princess Peach (gasp!), and the titular Italian plumber sets off to save her. In typical Mario fashion, we must go through 8 worlds, each world having five main stages, one boss stage and some special stages. The worlds all have a theme, like desert or forest or underwater levels, and you’ll play through some very well designed levels in your time with the game. I cannot stress this enough- the level design of Mario 3D is excellent. Sure, the game is a bit too easy at first, but the difficulty does pick up later on. The levels are well thought out and creative and present you with some memorable sequences- including some platforming based puzzles that might take a minute or so to figure out- and you’ll remembered them long after you’re done with the game. The platforming is also always a ton of fun. Not just because Nintendo has developed the levels so well, but also because of how responsive, tight and intuitive the control scheme feels.
The boss levels are also a ton of fun, basically because the boss battles are so enjoyable. They don’t really present a challenge, it’s not hard to bring them down, and it’s easy to figure out the strategy and pattern the game wants you to, but implementing that strategy is always fun; so much so, that you actually look forward to the boss battles. You’ll face the old school lava castles or airships again, reminiscent of the old Mario games.
But where Super Mario 3D Land truly excels is how well it represents the old school 2D Mario games in a 3D world. You will jump on flagpoles, focus is on speed and platforming rather than exploration, there is no health meter, and you will also use the tanooki suit. The game relies on nostalgia heavily, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Not in this case, at least. Because when nostalgia results in gameplay so damn fun, it can only be a good thing.
And yes, the tanooki suit reminds me of power ups. As everyone would expect from a Mario game, the power ups are brilliant and simply genius sometimes. Oldies such as propeller boxes, tanooki suits and fireball abilities return, and new ones such as a boomerang suit, a leaf that lets Mario invincible if you’re dying too much till the time you end a stage and others are not just very well built, but also a ton of fun to use, and add that much more enjoyability to the gameplay. And it’s this very nature of the game- the fact that it’s so damn fun and addictive, not to mention the fact that it has just much items to collect and so many stages to complete- that lends it so much replay value.
One major complaint everyone has had with the 3DS so far is that it has no game that particularly defines what a 3D game should be like. Fortunately for us, Super Mario 3D Land is that game. The visuals by themselves are fantastic as they are- charming, have great art design and are nothing but eye candy. However, with the 3D effect turned up to a full 100%, the game looks even more fantastic, making it one of the most visually pleasing and best looking handheld games you’ll ever play. It looks so good, you won’t even mind the headache you get from the effect.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the 3D effects only the visuals- no, it impacts the gameplay greatly too. There’re many platforming sections in the game that require you to judge depth or study the environment using the 3D effect. It may not be a ground-breaking implementation of the visual style, but it’s the best I’ve seen so far, and I’ll take what we’ve got.
So at the end of the day, Super Mario 3D Land is an outstanding game- yes, it has a few problems. It’s a bit too easy in the beginning, and a few controls like the gyroscope feel tacked on and pointless, but these negatives can be easily overlooked, and they don’t affect the gameplay or how much fun you’ll have with the game even a bit. Mario 3D is an awesome game with excellent level design and replay value that will get you hooked and won’t let go.
This game was reviewed on the 3DS.
Excellent level design; Wonderful visuals; 3D effects is fantastic; Lots of reply value; Charming; Great soundtrack; Power ups and items are awesome; Excellent, intuitive controls; Boss fights are fun; Addictive;
Game is very easy at first; Gyroscope controls seem tacked on
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