"Thought 3D Was Just a Gimmick? Think Again."
Times are tough and money's tight, so I didn't intend to buy this game right off the bat. However, I ended up biting the bullet and becoming the owner of Super Mario 3D Land. Luckily, now that I have played it, I no longer feel any regret for having given in to buying it with such little resistance.
Shigeru Miyamoto said that the game was made to be a "3D Mario that plays like a 2D Mario game." After spending hours with it, I can testify to that statement. While the controls and the graphics are akin to the Super Mario Galaxy games, the gameplay and the level design in Super Mario 3D Land borrows considerably from Mario's classic side-scrollers, making it feel more like an evolution of the classic design, as opposed to simply being the first 3D Mario game on a portable.
In keeping with series tradition, the plot remains simple. It begins on a dark and stormy night, in which a tree is stripped of its Super Leaves by the harsh wind (this is essentially just Nintendo's way of justifying the prominent usage of the [ever controversial] Tanooki Suit). Following the requisite scene where Mario learns of Peach's kidnapping at Bowser's hands, the game begins.
Gameplay in Super Mario 3D Land doesn't deviate from other games in the series, which makes it remarkably accessible for nearly anyone who has ever played a Mario title. Like I said before, the game plays more like a 2D Mario than a 3D one. For example, you only have a limited amount of time to clear each stage, and the health system from the side-scrollers is in play here - get hit as big Mario, you turn into little Mario; get hit then, and you die. Also, stages are cleared by grabbing onto the flagpole at the end. Having played several of the classics, it was neat to see how Nintendo incorporated elements of those games into a 3D space.
Speaking of 3D, I've yet to make mention of the 3D in Super Mario 3D Land. Rectification time! Here's a sad fact about me: I've never played a 3DS game with the 3D turned on for very long. Usually, I'd flip it on for a little bit, just to see how it looked, before flipping it off due to the eye strain and the narrow viewing angle. Super Mario 3D Land changed that. The whole time, I was playing with the 3D turned on. At last, all those who think 3D is just a lame gimmick can see how it can be usefully applied in-game. As a platformer, Super Mario 3D Land benefits greatly by making it possible for you to gauge the distance between one platform and another, something that was occasionally tricky to do in previous three-dimensional Mario games. In addition, every now and then, you'll come across areas where the 3D is necessary due to the clever use of fixed camera angles and deceivingly-placed platforms.
I have to admit Super Mario 3D Land is definitely one of the easier Mario games in recent years. More often than not, I died not from the enemies and obstacles, but from some poorly-executed jump that sent me to a bottomless pit-based doom; that's not really a gripe, but an observation. Also, the levels themselves are rather short; you can easily beat most of them in less than three minutes. However, since this is a portable game, it actually works - you are never far from a point where you can turn the game off if you need to without having to worry about losing your progress.
Luckily, this game doesn't really suffering due to the short levels, since Nintendo gives you a lot of them. Once you clear the eight main worlds and save the princess, the game effectively doubles its length by giving you eight new worlds to tackle through. These special Super Mario 3D Land worlds ramp up the difficulty with more obstacles and trickier challenges, ensuring that you won't get easily bored. Not to mention, the game offers some of the most creative stages in a Mario title and it's incredibly fun to play through.
It looks beautiful and vibrant, it sounds authentic, and it plays great, so what else could you ask for? Between the new enemies, new platforming mechanics, and creative level design, it will be tough to put this one down. At last, the 3DS has a truly awesome original title in Super Mario 3D Land. For months now, all we've really had to tide us over were remakes of classics and a couple of sequels to others. That is no longer the case, and we are all the better for it. With several nods to both the 2D and 3D platformers that have made Mario legendary, this game more than earns its place among the most noteworthy titles.
GameDynamo's Score for Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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