There’s no getting around the fact that I’m a Mario fan. It will inevitably paint everything I say in reviews of either any Mario game or any game that Mario would be rather comfortable in (that being platforming, kart racing, and arcade-style sports). It shouldn’t then come as a surprise that when Super Mario 3D Land was announced, I had already made up my mind that it would be good. But now I’ve had the chance to stuff the game into my 3DS and ravenously consume as much as possible. So does my initial judgment still stand? Well let’s find out in my review of Super Mario 3D Land on the Nintendo 3DS.
Mario, while quite the versatile mascot, has always been best when platforming. Personally I’ve rather enjoyed his 3D games better as it takes longer to complete each, plus when you’re really moving, man does it feel good. Super Mario 3D Land takes cues from everywhere with a play style similar to Super Mario 64, an art style similar to Super Mario Galaxy or New Super Mario Bros, the return of the Tanooki Suit and Boom-Boom from Super Mario Bros 3, and the combined efforts of all previous Mario games to squeeze something in for good measure. In the simplest terms, this is the sum of all Mario games as viewed on a handheld device.
Thankfully, for a handheld everything is pretty smooth. My biggest complaint with a lot of Mario’s handheld adventures has been the size of the screen as it can restrict just how much of the area I can see while platforming. Super Mario Land made Mario smaller so that more level could appear on the screen whereas Super Mario Land 2 made Mario bigger and slower with less level on the screen at one time. Super Mario 3D Land has a good balance as I never felt Mario was too big or too small for the purposes of the game, plus everything just looked so nice that I didn’t have time to worry.
It’s amazing that this wasn’t a launch title, or rather it’s a shame it wasn’t as it would have moved quite a few more 3DS systems due to the graphics and the 3D effect alone. Finally, there is a 3DS game that must must MUST be played with the 3D slider on in order to fully enjoy the experience. For some reason you even have the option of making the game’s 3D even better, which is essentially just a button you leave turned on at all times. The use of 3D is great and makes every level pop out in such a way that you stop outwardly noticing by the end of the first level, though you never forget it’s there. That’s hard to do but that’s the true goal of 3D.
Everything comes down to the controls. Does Mario control well? This is where I’m starting to see some faults. I got used to Mario, but he’s starting to become a bit slower in his old age, at least a little bit. You have the standard 3D Mario platformer moves such as the long jump and the backflip, but you won’t need to make much use of either. Part of this is because Mario cannot grip edges, something that will take quite a bit of getting used to and result in more deaths than you’d prefer.
The real star here is the Tanooki Suit. It doesn’t play quite like it did in Super Mario Bros 3, but it’s still just as awesome. You can control your decent in the air, making it easier to time jumps and make precise leaps, specifically the final flagpole jump at the end of every stage (and it’s important to hit the top in every stage as the game keeps track that you’ve done so in every level). The Boomerang Flower is a welcome addition as it grants Mario the ability to retrieve coins and items from a distance, and the Fire Flower is a classic standby, but the Tanooki Suit will take preference over all others, which makes sense as the entire loose plot of the game revolves around Bowser stealing all the leaves off the Tanooki Suit Tree, or something like that, resulting in enemies having Tanooki tails. It’s remarkably charming to see Bullet Bills with tails or even Bowser himself sporting the ringed addition to his backside.
As far as difficulty goes, I can’t really say. I’m good at Mario games, there’s no getting around that, so when I tell you my progress you have to assume that’s from someone who knows what they’re doing. After two days playing at a relaxed pace, I had beaten the entire main game (Worlds 1-8), including obtaining all possible Star Coins (three per level) and hit the top of the flagpole in every stage. By the time I had beaten Bowser I had accrued over 200 lives.
Thing is, lives are dished out like candy, so you can easily die three times in a level but finish with a total of ten for the stage. I’m very thankful that lives do not top out at 99, instead continuing into the hundreds. Oddly, this does in fact make me care more about then since I want to have as many as possible, if only for bragging rights. There will be some later stages where beginner players will desperately need some extra lives, and the game offers a fairly generous help system of giving a random power-up after two deaths, a Super Tanooki Suit (Tanooki Suit plus Starman) after five deaths, and a P-Wing that instantly beats a level after ten deaths. I was never given the Super Tanooki Suit, but many players no doubt will want to make use of these simply implemented aides.
One thing I will say about the game is that I’m extremely pleased with the finale against Bowser this time around. The last three 3D Mario games haven’t really captured the feel of a full-on fight with the Koopa King, so when I found myself with sweaty palms and a panicked stare attempting not to die at the last second, I was very pleased.
Also, the game may feel short at first, but upon completing the first eight worlds, eight new worlds appear as variations of the first eight. These Special Worlds as they’re called take elements from each level and tweak them a bit to increase the difficulty, and while I’ve still yet to find any unbearably difficult by the second Special World, I will certainly say that they’re harder, so I’m enjoying myself. Plus, Luigi gets unlocked and plays like he has in the Super Mario Galaxy games, so who can be unhappy about that?
And that’s really what you can take away from all this. I really am enjoying myself, despite some frustrating deaths at the hands of Mario’s slow momentum or the weird tricks the 3D can play on you. You just can’t get that mad at deaths when you have 200 lives I suppose. I fully recommend Super Mario 3D Land to anyone with a 3DS, and especially to anyone considering purchasing a 3DS any time soon. This is the software you were waiting for, so it’s time to finally adopt.