Remember: all pics here are 2D representations of 3D. Don’t complain or I will ground pound you.
It is always challenging to review Super Mario titles; while there are a whole whack-ton of them, they are all just so damned good. Of course, there is a big pile of expectation placed on our plumber friend’s shoulders due to the fact the his latest adventure, Super Mario 3D Land, is a first party title on a relatively new platform (that has some less-than-stellar titles available for it since launch). Of course, there are other great titles available already; but there is just something about Mario that brings out the best in Nintendo hardware; it really defies description. This 3DS title is no exception, no matter which dimension you’re looking at.
First of all, you should know that you don’t actually have to have 3D enabled to play the game; it is definitely possible to play the game entirely in 2D. The question that I would ask, though, is: why would you want to? It is obvious that a lot of effort went into making this game as fantastic as possible in 3D; it is also -from a precision standpoint- a lot less frustrating to play in 3D. In fact, using the 3D feels downright natural and serves as a useful function on top of being an aesthetic enhancement. You would also be hard-pressed to delve into the hidden secrets of the game were it not for the ability to view the x, y and z at the same time (in a meaningful way).
An old sight viewed in a new light.
Not only is this mechanic useful and nice to look at – it is also adjustable! In addition to the 3D slider on the 3DS, you can adjust whether the 3D effect “pops out of” or “sinks into” the screen. It is a subtle effect that can actually make a difference, depending on what level you are currently playing. All of these factors point to careful thought in regards to the elevation of our moustachioed friend into an additional plane.
The game looks fantastic, demonstrating that Nintendo was clearly capitalizing on the power of the 3DS in the creation of this latest title. The general look of the game reminds me a lot of Super Mario Galaxy 2; and yet, everything seems crisper and clearer – more colourful. The characters also look amazing; their level of interaction with the environment has been ramped up (in a subtle way), adding to the depth of the game*. Level design definitely borrows heavily from the later Mario games in form; functionally, they feel like the earlier, classic NES titles that resulted in more than a curse word or two being uttered.
As for the music and sound effects, there really is not a lot that is new to report. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I suspect that it is more of a choice than a limitation. The cutesy songs and 8-bit-ish sounding soundscape would be missed if they were not there – and that’s just fine. Quality-wise, everything sounds fantastic; once the music starts playing and you perform your first jump, you will feel like you are entering familiar territory. It is important to mention here that while Nintendo continuously chooses to stick to their guns in terms of the more classic sounds and music, these elements do sound better with every new Mario game; Super Mario 3D Land’s music and sound effects sound nice and full – they carry weight; impressive, considering the cartoon-like nature of both parts.
Even level-select is fancy-shmancy!
The first few levels are definitely easier than I thought they would be. While it would have been a nice challenge to have slightly more difficult stages, I suspect that it is probably better for neophytes to not feel the urge to throw their hand-held across the room. In any case, it is good to have those “slower” levels to get used to some of the mechanics before the difficulty ramps up later on**. I tend to breeze through Mario games; but I found myself slowing down as I progressed. Careful strategy is required to complete the later levels; however, you have to be quick on your feet given the timer that is counting down (what was laughable in the early stages because a source of joyful stress in the latter half).
What makes this version of Mario so much fun is the accumulation of a vast number of tricks from almost every other Mario title! Sideways flips, crouch jumps, and even Ricky’s dreaded ‘run’ button make moving about sheer bliss. Careful implementation of these controls allows you to learn them quickly and enjoy mastering them (some of them are tougher to grasp than others – but it is possible). Additionally, new abilities (like the boomerang suit) add some spice to the mix along with gadgets like the binoculars (you use them to scout out the level ahead, using the motion controls of the 3DS to move them about). Clever use of Street Pass allows you to pick up (and redistribute) “Mystery Boxes” that contain various challenges and bonuses.
Absolutely stunning! Enabling 3D makes things look good and helps you do better!
Super Mario 3D Land is a title that really allows the 3DS to shine. Brilliant level design, fun game-play mechanics, new tricks and old favourites are all here. Street Pass is used to expand the value your gaming dollars by giving you more to do and the 3D functionality -while not needed- makes things easier and more fun! This is one of those games that is a no-brainer to purchase; or, at least you can put it on your Christmas list so that Santa will get it for you.