Super Mario 3D Land is Mario’s latest adventure for the Nintendo 3DS that pushes the boat far out, sets new standards and was definitely worth the wait.
The story begins with a storm that strips all of the Super Leaves off a Super Leaf Tree, sporting a Tanooki tail, just next to Princess Peach’s castle. The next day Mario, Red Toad, Blue Toad and Yellow Toad go to check the damage and find a postcard next to the tree. It would appear that Princess Peach has only gone and got herself kidnapped by Bowser again! Fiddlesticks! Looks like Mario has to go and save her then.
Nevertheless, even if the story is tried and tested in just about every Super Mario game, it’s not usually the story that we’re bothered about, it’s the gameplay – which is just as great as ever.
The game is a cross between the classic, back-to-basics Mario and his third-dimensional self. To put it plainly, think of the health system in Super Mario but with the 3D movement and models of Super Mario Galaxy. Platforming elements are similar to both games, some are a side-scrolling affair whilst others are just like the platforming in Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy.
There’s even some amusing hybrid sections such as rooms that contain optical illusions, where nothing is quite what it seems…
The game makes fantastic use of the 3D capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS whilst operating in a way that isn’t too heavy on your eyes. Infact, Nintendo have pulled out all the stops and you can select between two 3D modes in the game, as well as using the 3D slider on the device. The first mode presents the stereoscopic 3D illusion in its default mode and makes objects and characters “pop out” more, whilst the second option gives the 3D effect a deeper and extended illusion of depth (imagine looking through a window and seeing an object in the distance). Honestly, its hard to describe these things because you’ll only understand when you actually play the game.
My preference was to go for the second mode as it was much less intense on my eyes but the first mode is more beneficial for judging distances and the positions of enemies in relation to you. I am baffled as to why these two brilliant options aren’t available in all other 3DS games.
Along your journey to save Princess Peach you’ll come across powerups that give you different abilities. You have your traditional Super Mushrooms that increase your size, 1-up Mushrooms that give you an extra life, Fire Flowers that let you throw fireballs and Starman that gives you a brief period of invincibility.
The Tanooki Suit from Super Mario Bros. 3 makes a big return and is also an integral part of the game’s plot.
The Super Leaves from the Super Leaf Tree have been scattered around the Mushroom Kingdom and have Tanooki-ified pretty much anything they’ve touched. As well as bestowing a tail which can be used to attack enemies and destroy blocks you’ll also be able to float in the air with it.
The ability to turn into Statue Mario has been made into a powerup itself, rather than being an additional ability of the Tanooki Suit like in Super Mario Bros. 3. By picking up a Statue Leaf you can turn into a statue for a limited period of time and evade damage.
The Propeller Box is the successor of the Propeller Block and Propeller Mushroom and can be worn alongside the powerup Mario currently has. When using the Propeller Box you’ll jump high into the sky then spin back down to the ground, allowing you to travel great distances
The Boomerang Flower allows Mario to throw boomerangs which allow you to pick up items and defeat foes from a distance.
Nintendo have always made the Super Mario series as accessible to everyone as possible and they’ve done pretty much that in Super Mario 3D Land as well. When you come back after losing a life you’ll be in the Super form rather than Mario’s usual small form. Die twice in a level and you’ll be presented with a flying Roulette Block that gives you a random powerup. If you lose 5 lives on a level you’ll be given an Invincibility Leaf which gives you both invincibility and the powers of the Tanooki Suit. Furthermore, if you’re really struggling with a level and lose 10 lives on it you’ll be given a P-Wing which will send you straight to the end of a level. Whilst these allow the game to be accessible by a more casual audience you do feel as though Nintendo is basically handing you a quick cheat to get you through the level and to effectively speed-run the game.
Obviously the more hardcore gamers shouldn’t really encounter any of these, as they really shouldn’t be dying very often, they should be looking for Star Coins. There are three in every level, and are used for… well,
I’m not going to tell you what it is, as I’m trying to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, just trust me and try the game for yourself to find out. Spoilers: It’s awesome.
Some Star Coins, especially the ones in the early levels, are easy to find whilst some are pretty challenging to obtain. The task of collecting Star Coins adds pretty big replay value to the game and you’ll find yourself going back to previous levels to obtain them.
Super Matio 3D Land includes eight world overall, and whilst this may seeem short, there’s plenty to do after completing them.
Mystery Boxes are a new addition to Super Mario 3D Land. They’re a bit like the Toad Houses featured from Super Mario Bros. 3 and onwards. They each feature a different task and with the Nintendo 3DS Streetpass capabilities these Mystery Boxes can be Streetpassed and shared to other devices. Perhaps you’ll find a Star Coin or a load of Powerups, you’ll never know! They certainly add a new layer to the game and are fun to complete, although some are quite challenging.
Speaking of Toad and their Houses, these dwellings do actually return in their own right to Super Mario 3D Land and award you with a random Powerup just like they did in previous incarnations. My only complaint is that the game, like New Super Mario Bros., only allows you to store one other Powerup that you can switch with your current Powerup, gone are the days of Super Mario Bros. 3 where you could stockpile up a few Fire Flowers in anticipation of a boss fight.
The enemies in Super Mario 3D Land vary considerably, with around twenty being new arrivals in addition to the thirty-six returning enemies.
Boss fights are also featured in Super Mario 3D Land and are restricted to levels set aboard Airships. You’ll come up against the Koopa Boom Boom (his first return since Super Mario Bros. 3) and his female counterpart Pom Pom. Other than the obvious fight with Bowser himself, the lack of variation of bosses is a bit disappointing especially when Nintendo went to all the effort of introducing loads of new enemies to the non-boss levels.
When Streetpass interactions are enabled, Mystery Boxes can be shared and Toad Houses are restocked for each player that you come across on your commute. The two also replenish themselves after a few days so even those who don’t get many Streetpasses with players wont miss out. I was quite surprised to encounter a lot of people with the game already and managed to exchange my easy Mystery Boxes for some rather of theirs. It’s a cool feature that I found engaging and exciting.
The slick jazzy piece that plays as the main theme to Super Mario 3D Land is up there with my favourite video game music pieces and the rest of the tracks played throughout the game are a nice audible treat to enjoy.
The graphics look fresh and crisp, with them bearing the most resemblance to New Super Mario Bros. in terms of level design. Seriously though, there’s some visual effects that are on comparison with the Super Mario Galaxy series in terms of high levels of “ooo’s” and “ahhs” throughout. By far my favourite is the first underwater section you come across. One minute you’re swimming along in the usual side-scrolling (or should that be side-swimming?) manner and then suddenly, “WHAM!” the camera perspective changes and is now looking over the shoulder of Mario and you’re just gob smacked. Well, at least I was. I’ve never been this amazed with the Super Mario series since the 2D-3D flipping ability in Super Paper Mario. This really does set the standards for all other Nintendo 3DS releases.
All in all, a solid game to pick up and play with the enormous familiarity of a retro title and the enjoyment of a modern day masterpiece. Super Mario 3D Land will definitely receive a warm welcome from newcomers and fans alike. Be sure to put this one on your Christmas list if you haven’t already donned your mustache, ran to the shops and bought it.