Search This Blog

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review: Super Mario 3D Land

System: 3DS
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release: Nov 13, 2011 USA / Nov 18, 2011 EUR / Nov 3, 2011 JPN / Nov 24, 2011 AUS
Players: 1
Rated: E for Everyone

Mario is the undisputed king of platform games, having been at it for nearly 30 years now. He has awesome platformers in 2D, 3D, on the consoles and on the handhelds. There really hasn't been a bad Mario platformer (well except The Lost Levels), just those that are far greater than others. It was a pleasant surprise to see Super Mario 3D Land get released in the same year as the Nintendo 3DS, considering The Big N's history with delays. Super Mario 3D Land is a wonderful reason to own a 3DS and is another fine game to add to Mario's long line of excellence.

One dark and stormy night in the Mushroom Kingdom, all of the Super Leaves are blown off of the Tail Tree, a special Tree which produces the power-up that allows Mario to transform into Raccoon Mario. During the storm, a familiar evil laugh can be heard. While inspecting the tree, Princess Peach is, wait for it, abducted by Bowser. Again. Well, you gotta give the big guy credit. At least this time he was smart enough steal a power-up that would greatly increase Mario's chances of victory. So it's up to Mario to once again, saver Peach. His job would be so much easier if he just strapped the gal to his back and carried her around like a backpack, but then, how would Mario get in his exercise?

Tanooki tales are all the rage. Even the mooks
are sporting them.
Navigating the world maps couldn't be simpler. Each
level also gives you an idea of what to expect.

Despite the title, Super Mario 3D Land plays more like a 2D Mario game. Oh sure, you can still move about in three dimensions like every other 3D Mario platformer, but you aren't granted the same level of exploration that you'd get from the 3D games, though elements from those have been lifted and transported here as well as Mario's classic 2D adventures. Super Mario 3D Land is filled with many of the things that made us fall in love with Mario decades ago. Mario runs, jumps, collects coins, breaks bricks, get power-ups, stomps Goombas and all that other good stuff. Anyone that's played a Mario game will feel right at home here. The addition of a run button in a 3D Mario is a first, though. Instead of just pressing the thumb pad all the way in the desired direction you wish to move Mario, you'll need to hold the B button, just as you would in a 2D Mario game. It isn't a big deal though. In no time at all it becomes second nature and you'll be running and jumping with Mario just as well as you would in any other Mario platformer.

It's not a Mario game without power-ups and Super Mario 3D Land is loaded with some old favorites and a few new ones. The Super Mushroom is the same as it's always been, though you start the game as Super Mario and even after losing a life, you'll be Super Mario again. The Fire Flower's fireballs bounce off walls. Picking up a Boomerang Flower turns you into Boomerang Mario, letting you throw a single Boomerang at a time that can be used to defeat enemies, collect coins and nab power-ups. Starman as always, turns you into a running epileptic seizure, and just like it did in Super Mario Bros. 3, you flip each time you jump as long as you have it. Of course what got many fans excited about this game was the long awaited return of the Tanooki Suit. You can't fly with it, but it makes jumping that much easier since you can float and the power-up's importance is not to be taken for granted in this game. Many times you'll have to make jumps over bottomless pits over small landing platforms, even in the earlier levels. Unless you have unwavering faith in your platforming skills, you do not want to be without the Tanooki Suit. Bowser didn't take the Super Leaves in ? Blocks, but it looks like the ones he stole were distributed to this Koopa mook army. Boos, Goombas, Bullet Bills, even the Fake Bowsers at the end of most castles are sporting the Tanooki tale and can spin with it just as Mario can. Again, this is one of Bowser's better ideas.

Boom-Boom! It's been a dog's age!
Pom-Pom, Boom-Boom's female counterpart prefers
long range combat.

Like New Super Mario Bros.Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2 before it, there are tools to assist those that are struggling to get through a level. Die five times in a level and an Invincibility Leaf will appear next to Mario. Picking up this item makes Mario dawn a white Tanooki Suit with invincibility that last throughout the whole level. Lose ten lives in a stage and a P-Wing appears. Picking up a P-Wing places it in your storage circle on the touch screen. Touch the P-Wing it will send you all the way to the end of the course, effectively doing all of the work for you. Some players will probably bemoan the inclusion of such power-ups, but these are entirely option. In no way does the game force you to use them.

Similar to the Comet Coins from Super Mario Galaxy 2 are Star Medals. Each level in the game has three Star Medals and from time to time, you'll have to go off the beaten path to find one. Outside of helping you complete a level 100%, Star Medals are also used to unlock some of the levels, including castles so you really don't want to pass these things up.

With the abundance of bottomless pits in this game, the
Tanooki Suit will make you feel so much safer.
Propeller Boxes work the same way Propeller
Blocks do in New Super Mario
Bros. Wii.

Super Mario 3D Land may feel shorter than the last few Mario games. There are only eight worlds and most of them are only comprised of about 6 levels each. Like Super Mario Bros. 3, these stages aren't very long, though there are thankfully checkpoints. When you topple Bowser at the final castle in World 8 and the credits roll, you'll be in for a shock: that was merely the halfway point of the game. In order to truly complete Super Mario 3D Land, you must complete the eight Special Worlds. These worlds contain levels that play like remixed versions of the stages from the regular worlds, though the Special Worlds are understandably harder. The Special World levels also contain a nasty surprise lurking in ? Blocks: Poison Mushrooms. They actually follow you around this time. Thankfully, they can be killed with a fireball. Cosmic Clones also make more than a few levels from the Special World levels frustrating. In Special Worlds 7 and 8 you get the feeling that Nintendo couldn't think anything else more annoying than a Cosmic Clone as they show up on some of the hardest levels from those worlds. It's ultra satisfying to get a Starman and put them out of your hair whenever you're given the opportunity. Special Worlds are home to the Statue Leaf, a superior version of the Super Leaf. It basically gives you the power to temporarily turn into a statue and it lasts longer than it did in Super Mario Bros. 3. You also wear a nifty scarf while using the Statue Leaf, further differentiating it from the standard Super Leaf.

You can play Super Mario 3D Land with the 3D turned off but at a certain points in the game, it can really help you out. You're always notified when using the 3D is recommended via a small icon in the corner of the screen. With the 3D off, some platforms may look easily accessible. Switching the 3D on reveals that they are at a slightly different perspective. If you're the kind that gets eye strain from the 3D effect, worry not. The 3D does not need to be all the way on to fully see the difference when the need arises. Even having it switched on low can give you all the aid you need.

Guess who becomes playable after completion of
Special World 1? He plays the same way Mario does.
False Bowsers put up much more of a fight than they
did in the original Super Mario Bros.

A few themes are lifted straight from the Super Mario Galaxy titles, but for the most part, the compositions in Super Mario 3D Land are entirely original. The main Ground theme for the game is an excellent remix of Super Mario Bros. 3's Ground theme. The ever catchy classic Ground Theme from the Super Mario Bros. gets one of the best arrangements yet, though sadly, the only times you ever hear it is when you get launched to the clouds or do levels where you platform on giant sized sprites from the aforementioned game. What original music the game does offer is of the same jovial nature you've come to expect from Mario games with some dark and foreboding tracks playing when it comes to castles and battles with Fake Bowsers, who aren't as gullible as they were all those years ago. The game looks like a portable version of Super Mario Galaxy 2, though being on a handheld, there are some noticeable jagged edges, but said minor imperfections don't stop the game from look great with all the vibrant colors. When you can stand to play with it, the 3D effect is really nice and as stated above, actually enhances gameplay at key moments.

With it's challenging platforming across sixteen worlds, use of old and new power-ups, many homages to previous entries in the series, Super Mario 3D Land comes out as one of the 3DS' best titles. You may feel a bit put off by spending $40 on first party games, but this one is well worth it and will keep you busy for some time. The difficulty of the game ramps up quicker than most Mario platformers but it shouldn't be anything veteran players can't handle. If you own a 3DS but not Super Mario 3D Land, what's wrong with you?

No comments: