Giant Bomb Review

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Super Mario 3D Land Review

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  • 3DS

Super Mario 3D Land wastes a bit of time up front with some levels that are a little too basic, but once it gets going, it reveals some terrific moments that make the 3DS make sense.

Swing by Toad's place to grab some power-ups and listen to that "hey, you're at Toad's place" music that originally appeared in SMB3.

After the first couple of hours, I was just about ready to write Super Mario 3D Land off entirely. It's not that it's a poorly made game or anything--it's actually a great-looking, colorful game that controls well and makes good use of its platform's unique 3D abilities. It's just that it was easy to a fault, almost like it was made primarily for people who don't play a lot of video games. Most of my deaths in the first few worlds came from my own carelessness rather than any sort of tricky gameplay. But just as I was starting to get bored, the game started ramping up. So don't be alarmed by its slow start. Between some tricky moments in the later worlds and a whole "second quest" sort of situation that opens up once World 8 is complete, Super Mario 3D Land handily overcomes its early game doldrums and turns into a more engaging set of levels.

Hey guys, spoiler warning over here, but Bowser has kidnapped the Princess again. Crazy, I know. That's the only real impetus you'll get to go traipsing through another set of decidedly Mario-esque levels, but by this point, that's more than enough. The level design is what's truly special. Though you can run in any direction with full analog control, the game works from a set of fixed camera perspectives that, at times, look like the old 2D sidescrollers with a little bit of Z-axis movement in them. Occasionally you'll get a top-down view of the action, which enables the developers to create a quick homage to The Legend of Zelda. And some spots play around with perspective as it relates to the 3DS' 3D abilities by placing platforms in spots that would look easily reachable if your 3D slider is turned all the way down, but when you flip it up to 3D, you'll catch that things aren't quite what they seem. It's worth noting that, in these specific cases, the game has a platform you can stand on that rotates the room a bit so you can see the illusion for what it is--useful if you're unable to process the 3D at all. The levels span the typical assortment of lava levels, fields, underwater zones, and the like, and they bring back enemies and concepts from more than a few different old Mario games. You'll see some Super Mario Galaxy in here, but you'll also try to hop on top of a flagpole at the end of nearly every level, just like the original Super Mario Bros. did.

The optional-but-not-really-optional goal for each level is, once again, to collect three star coins along the way. Some of these are plainly visible and easily accessible. Others are stashed away behind secret walls that you might only find if you're really paying attention or running behind objects in the world as you search through every little area you can think of. Later on, they just start to get devious. I've always been more of a fan of the Super Mario World-style secret exit concept than any of this coin business, but they both serve a similar purpose by getting you to do more than blast through every level as quickly as possible. Some optional levels have coin requirements, and you'll need 100 coins to see the game's first "final level." The second set of eight worlds that opens up afterwards has even higher requirements. At some point, this means you'll probably have to return to earlier levels to mop up some stars you ignored the first time around. If you're a completionist, you'll probably enjoy that aspect of the game. For me, I mostly just wanted to see the exciting new levels and the harder twists on existing levels, so the backtracking was a real momentum-killer.

The bottom screen lets you get at a stored item.

The game makes the most of a few buttons, using one to jump, another to run and shoot fireballs (or boomerangs... or spin your tanooki tail), and a trigger for butt stomps and crouching. This version of Mario doesn't punch or kick, but he can wall jump or crouch to charge up higher backflip jumps, giving you more than enough mobility to handle your business. The tanooki suit gives you the ability to flip your tail for a gentle glide, which is great for simply drifting over obstacles instead of dealing with them directly. If you run into a level that's too tough for you, a golden tanooki suit will appear at your respawn point, and this makes you invincible to everything other than falling off of a level. Think of this as your "Super Guide" equivalent. It's... kind of useful in a few levels. No shame over here. Look, I used it a few times, just for the review, OK? Stop judging me! Point being, the control is tight in the ways you'd expect from a Mario game.

The game makes good use of the 3D effects both in its level design and with a few little camera tricks that remind you "hey, this is in 3D, remember?" The camera tricks are things like caves that have you heading back into the background of a stage, only to be chased out by a sea monster that's swimming directly at the camera. Fire blasts that pop up out of the lava and launch platforms into the air also look really great, and the 3D provides you with information that isn't conveyed quite as well in 2D. Yup, it's a game that wouldn't be quite as cool anywhere else. The audio is also warm and memorable in that classic Mario way. You'll get a lot of remixes of existing material, and most of it's great. I thought the remix of the "you got a star and dude, you're totally invincible now" music was kind of weak.

Everyone seems to keep asking if this is the game that makes the 3DS worth owning, as if they're waiting for one single game to send them off to the store so they can invest in a new platform. I don't know that I'd go quite that far--the slow start burns up a lot of levels with areas that aren't particularly challenging or effective as tutorial sequences to prepare you for the rest of the game. But if you've already made the investment in a 3DS and you're looking for something--anything--that resembles a must-own game, Super Mario 3D Land is precisely that.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
56 Comments
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Posted by Eazyrider1

Good review Jeff.

Posted by ManMadeGod

Still holding out on the 3ds. Glad to see this game came out well.

Online
Posted by tyxja

Can't wait to play this!

Posted by Lelcar

I can't wait for this game! Awesome review!

Posted by SlightConfuse

cant wait to play, just beat zelda the other day

Posted by rjayb89

What the fuck, that was barely a spoiler warning, Jeff. EAT MY COMMENT.

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Posted by Robiin

Only 4 stars? Seriously. What a joke site this is. Will go to IGN from here on, at least they gave it a 9.5.

(it's a joke, sorry, super tired)

Posted by TheKing

Maybe I'll turn my 3DS on again...

Posted by byterunner

Hoping to get it for Christmas

Posted by MooseyMcMan

As always, a very good review. Glad to see it picks up later on.

Moderator
Posted by GooieGreen

I'm almost tempted to get a 3DS now. Almost.

But not enough.

Posted by A_Norman

i'd rather play Luigi's Mansion 2.....

Posted by RE_Player1

Good to hear of a game that actually has some neat 3D effects that somewhat effect the gameplay. Not a system seller for me, still hesitant on getting a 3DS, but for people who do have the system this seems great as there is literally nothing else to play...

Posted by jasondesante

3d has 2 modes. one is familiar to every other 3ds game, the other is like a new version. the new mode gets rid of the ghosting around things with a dark background, and completely gets rid of the eyestrain when looking anywhere that isn't the center of the screen.

This a very big important thing about the game. Reviews should at least state the major techincal features.

Posted by Cincaid

@jasondesante: From what I can tell by your posting history, all you do is insult the editors on this website non-stop. Why the fuck are you even here if they're clearly so incompetent as you constantly spew about?

Posted by algertman

And with a jump and spin of the tail the PSVita was dead before it ever had a chance to live.

Posted by sirdesmond

This game is great, super great. I'm having more fun or at least as much fun with this as I did with either of the Galaxy games. Plus, this game just looks stunning and the 3D is the best on the system. Great job, Nintendo!

Posted by sonicrift

From my experiences with this game so far, I agree with every word. I've been rationing my play with this one and didn't realize there would be a second quest. That is great to hear. I've been so worried that I would pound right through this game.

The game is excellent, and I hope to see more like it, but it's no Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Edited by big_jon

I am getting a 3DS for this and Luigi's mansion 2.

Posted by foolman

Gppd review Jeff, Thanks!

Posted by rcath

YAY MARIO!

Posted by SpudBug

good review, and as early and awesome a system seller for a nintendo platform than any i can recall in years. Wii Sports was a system seller in a different way, this is just an awesome experience. A great blend of SM64 and Super Mario 3/World style of gameplay.

Just wish you could pick up objects like turtle shells.

Posted by Jolt92

@Robiin said:

Only 4 stars? Seriously. What a joke site this is. Will go to IGN from here on, at least they gave it a 9.5.

(it's a joke, sorry, super tired)

Thing is, this review was actually good unlike that other one.

Posted by buzz_killington

The QuickLook had me all sorts of excited for this game. Too bad I don't have a 3DS, and I don't think it makes sense for me to buy a $180 system for one game.

Posted by CitizenJP

I for one absolutely love this game.

Posted by ballblaster

This makes me a little sad. I owned a Virtual Boy until one day I pulled it out to play with it only to discover one of the displays went out. I loved that thing except for the searing red monochrome display. I just loved the 3D effect, plus the fact that you felt like you were looking at a 50" screen from 6 feet away. I was hoping the 3DS was going to be a color, higher res virtual boy, but so far it seems that the 3D effects are lacking, and simply not enough worthy games to justify purchasing the handheld. I paid $50 for my Virtual Boy at a Toys R Us that was trying to get rid of them. Best $50 gaming purchase I've ever made.

Posted by freakin9

Ah Mario, tempting me into some eye strain.

While the system is cheap, it still feels like a overpriced paperweight.

Posted by TooWalrus

I'll pick this up when I inevitability end up with a 3DS, but that won't be until Luigi's Mansion 2 comes out at the earliest.

Edited by sociald1077

Woah woah woah!!

You saying this game is as good as the new Zelda and BF3?!?! GB is messing UP!!!

Huh? Whats that? I'm late to the hater party?

*Conjures Raphael from the first TMNT movie*Damn!

Anyway, I had a chance to play a few minutes of this at PAX, kinda makes me want to get a 3DS.

Posted by beard_of_zeus

Just finished beating this game earlier tonight, definitely a lot of fun! Jeff is spot on about the game's slow start, but the levels are nice bite-size chunks and you move along pretty quickly, getting to some of the cooler stuff. 
 
The 3D is really great, and the parts where they use that to mess with perspective are cool. Speaking of the 3D, you can use D-pad up/down to switch between two types of 3D - one where the 3D is conveyed by things popping at you (non-headache inducing) and the other where the 3D is conveyed via a lot of depth into the screen (super headache inducing). I definitely preferred the first way (if you couldn't tell :P), but maybe it's different for others; it's nice that the option is there, though.
 
The "second quest" that Jeff mentioned is definitely worthwhile, I've gotten to the second world on that so far. The way the levels are remixed is actually fairly significant - big jumps in difficultly, different level order, and at least one completely new level that I've seen. Honestly, I kinda wish the difficulty of the second time around was more representative of the first run-through, but maybe I'm a masochist or better at platformers than I realize. Also, minor spoiler: you just might unlock an upgraded version of the Tanooki suit powerup the second time around... ;)

Posted by Linkster7

So your saying that I´m only going to own Zelda and Mario games for the 3DS, that´s unusual for a Nintendo system.

Posted by Shaka999

*sigh* Jeff "4-Star" Gerstmann is at it again...

I keed, I keed

Edited by vinsanityv22

Another golden review by Jeff!

I have no problem with 4/5, considering this Mario decidedly lacks ambition or that "wow factor". At first (and second, and third) glance, it's just more Mario Galaxy engine. Which is always welcome, but nothing here was every guaranteed to be mind-blowing. Unless you've been ignoring Mario games for about a decade.

It probably would've been better served even serving up the craziness inherent in the other Mario Land games, just so it could give us something fresh. But instead, it runs into that "un-exciting zone" headfirst by putting elements we've already seen in other Mario games front-and-center, like the Tanooki suit. So, 4/5 stars for you, Mario. You'll earn that 5th when you come back with something imaginative.

Posted by mariokart64fan

best game so far ,

Posted by Forum_User

Hey guys.

Posted by DeadPan

Hmmm, might pick this up, looks like it plays like galaxy, which I love .

Posted by animathias

Good review, Jeff. I bought it Sunday night and have only gotten halfway through world 2, and I'm quite enjoying it.

My mind keeps going back to how downright amazing this game would have been bundled in (or even released) with the 3DS at start. I know, I know, that's not how it works anymore, but it's an interesting line of thought. The initial reception to the system would have been much higher, they probably wouldn't have had to drop the price - which would have been justified with a $40 bundled-in game, and developers would have gotten a day-one example of how to do 3D.

I keep getting the feeling that Nintendo really dropped the ball. They should have held onto the system until now. Stock up, do a worldwide release smack dab in the holiday season with Ocarina of Time and Mario available at the start and Mario Kart only weeks away. The 3DS would likely be a different story then - and it needed all the help it could get.

Posted by Shaanyboi

Good review. I'm not totally in-love with the game so far, but I'm enjoying it well enough.

Posted by HaroldoNVU

And now I must start wearing fur

Posted by KiddoMac

@animathias said:

My mind keeps going back to how downright amazing this game would have been bundled in (or even released) with the 3DS at start. I know, I know, that's not how it works anymore, but it's an interesting line of thought. The initial reception to the system would have been much higher, they probably wouldn't have had to drop the price - which would have been justified with a $40 bundled-in game, and developers would have gotten a day-one example of how to do 3D.

I keep getting the feeling that Nintendo really dropped the ball. They should have held onto the system until now. Stock up, do a worldwide release smack dab in the holiday season with Ocarina of Time and Mario available at the start and Mario Kart only weeks away. The 3DS would likely be a different story then - and it needed all the help it could get.

Thanks captain hindsight!! ;-)

I'm sorry i could not resist. I agree with you 100 %. This game at launch would have totally made a perfect first impression and i'd probably own a 3DS, as would lots of other people. The promise of the system would have been delivered with this game, making the possibilites seem almost unlimited.

Posted by Simplexity

Sounds about right for a 2d mario game at this point.

Posted by kalmis

Sounds good, but still not quite enough for me to buy 3DS

Posted by xJollyx

This game alone shouldn't be the reason to pick up a 3DS. It's an awesome fucking game, but it's not groundbreaking or anything. If you have a 3DS, you must buy this game. This game represents what the 3DS is all about.

Posted by AndyMacneil

Was thinking of getting it. Now I will get it.

Posted by TehFlan
@Forum_User said:

Hey guys.

Hey.
Posted by CyleMoore

Great review Jeff!

Posted by Supertom11

You guys have made my month with all these games rightfully getting 4 stars. Other sites become so predictable you could guess all the 5 star reviews 6 months before the games even come out.

Posted by vhold

I'm about half way through the game, and yeah "Burning up levels" is definitely the right way to describe this, but it is getting better. It's a difficult line Nintendo is trying to tread, they really are trying to make games that appeal to both a brand new gamer and a seasoned gamer. In this case they're leaning heavily on fan service for the 2nd group.

What I find most impressive is the camera work, everybody who ever makes a 3D platformer needs to study this game's camera behavior and associated level design carefully. You can tell in most games the camera is an afterthought, and that the world tends to be designed to make sense from far away. What the player sees in this game seems to be the starting point in the whole thought process. I also think this is the first game I've played where the 3D adds intelligently to the gameplay as opposed to just being.. hey.. 3D graphics I could just as easily turn off and it'd make no difference.

Posted by nickux

It makes me a little sad to think that not even a Mario game seems to be inciting the kind of rabid excitement for a Nintendo handheld/console like they usually do. I'm really glad to see this game turned out good, it's just not enough for me to go in on a 3DS yet. I'm not sure what that would be. Maybe it's never really about one particular game but an actual library of many titles that will sell me on it. Also, something must have happened between Super Mario Galaxy 2 and this game because for the first time in 20 years I am just not very interested in a new Mario title.

Edited by Forum_User

@Supertom11 said:

You guys have made my month with all these games rightfully getting 4 stars. Other sites become so predictable you could guess all the 5 star reviews 6 months before the games even come out.

I'm kind of surprised that Jeff is the one who reviewed this game. For some reason, I figured that if anyone would really go for it, it would be Brad. Similarly, I figure that when a new Halo, COD, or GTA comes out, odds are that Jeff will review it, though it's getting harder to call as they bring more writers aboard.

Looking back, though, I see that Jeff also reviewed New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I still for some reason have this idea in my head that Jeff is like the one least likely to particularly care for a more traditional Mario game.

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