The lights are on
Like any young Nintendo system, it can’t be on the market long before it’s been greeted by yet another classic Mario title. The latest entry of “Super Mario 3D Land” continues this tradition with no less polish and prestige than less than its predecessors and displays some of the finest platforming fun the 3DS can ask for. Boasting great graphics, stunts, and tributes to the plumber’s glorious past, Mario once again delivers a fine time of goomba-stomping joy.
For any long-time Mario fan, it should be no surprise at all that the game begins with Princess Peach’s stereotypical kidnapping by Koopa baddie Bowser. As you might’ve guessed, Mario’s on the race to save her. Taking place over 8 worlds and 8 more special stages, Mario travels across all of the charming, colorful worlds you expect of the franchise with the addition of all of his classic enemies.
Like any Mario game of the last decade, 3D Land delivers an impressive display of top-notch worlds and character animations that once again does its system justice. Upon its first level, long-time Mario fans will immediately appreciate the obvious notes the game has taken from the look of Super Mario Galaxy. Each world is a lovely spectacle of charming color and Pixar-esque beauty and wonderfully demonstrates the extent of the 3DS’s graphic capabilities. Lush tropics and bone-dry deserts also make the game’s creative art design shine through, providing a diverse selection of locales, from ocean floors to Bowser’s fiery lava pits. The immense heights of its sky levels are sure to wow fans the most and harken back to Super Mario Galaxy’s size. Just for fun, fans will also recognize Nintendo’s fan service in the form of more than a few dashes of old-school Mario history references throughout its levels. Enemies are additionally detailed, embodying their classic designs with just the right touch of HD enhancement. It does further visual wonders with the 3DS’s 3D capabilities and the views you'll have of boss battles and the game's amazing heights add a definite sense of detail to the worlds.
One of 3D Land’s most valuable features of note is its smooth controls and creative variety of gameplay. Combining the best of Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 64, 3D Land offers players a satisfying balance of size and scope between the two. Alternating side-scrolling and open world levels, Mario will whip through what can be described as a blend of Mario Galaxy’s huge aerial-borne platforming levels and Mario 64’s ground based, exploration focused design. Star Coins galore can be hidden behind any corner and players will love collecting every one of them just for kicks. This strategy works perfectly and never lets players really get bored, allowing more and more clever level concepts to emerge. If deep-sea diving and sewer runs don’t do it for you, the return of airships and Boo houses give an appreciated change of pace. On top of that, the 3DS’s fine-tuned circle pad works wonders for the controls and I never complained a bit.
The power-ups are great additions as well. Along with classic items such as fire-flowers and stars, including the glorious return of Super Mario Bros. 3's classic Tanooki suit. Each adds a fun amount of unique gameplay to Mario's arsenal, including my personal favorite of the new boomerang suit, and whether throwing fireballs or whipping punks with your tail, Mario's moves leave him no slouch. The enemy variety is just as praiseworthy. From Boos to Bullet Bills, the whole gang is here to upstage Mario and their diverse moves are well appreciated.
Boss battles are diverse and entertaining and always seem to present players with many interesting opportunities for using quick-thinking to survive the heat of the moment. However, bosses are generally very simple and players will find them a cinch to handle even as entertaining as they are. I never found myself having a hard time reaching the goal in time and while the bonus stages do mix things up with longer and more complicated levels, 3D Land will prove to be a cake-walk for Mario veterans.
The only flaw to be had, then, is the fact that Super Mario 3D Land’s is disappointingly short. Although the main story has 8 worlds, few of them proved to be much of a challenge in the end. It is thus easy to say that 3D Land is never a hard game and other players will probably breeze through its in no time. This will be most welcome to new players, however, and arguably making 3D Land one of the most accessible Mario entries in recent years for newcomers.
Though over two years have already passed since the 3DS’s launch, Super Mario 3D Land should nonetheless be a consideration for any fan of either Mario’s past or present entries. It may not seek to be the ambitious Mario title, but what it does with what it has is nothing but commendable and gives a great glimpse at Mario’s future for the 3DS. If you see this on you store’s shelf, rest assured that 3D Land is just as much a great introduction to the the series for the Mario noob as it is a great blast-to-the-past for the Mario zealot. After the hours I spent running through Boo houses and conquering airships, I know I’ll still be returning to 3D Land’s worlds to go star-coin hunting for a while still.