Super Mario 3D Land Review: The Third Dimension
The Nintendo 3DS was in serious difficulty quite soon after its release, with a lack of games available for it and sales falling well below expectations. Nintendo went to the series that has always come good for them in order to save their flagging new hand held console, Mario, and once again Mario came good for Nintendo. Super Mario 3D Land is the flagship title for the 3DS, being the title that I would point towards if asked what game is the centre piece of the 3DS library at the moment. Despite being a 2011 title I only got around to playing 3D Land recently, but it certainly left an impression with me.
There is effectively no story in Super Mario 3D Land, no character development or narrative. Quite simply, Bowser has taken Princess Peach again and Mario must take on 8 worlds, storm Bowser's lair and rescue the Princess. Its simple yet charming, as with a world full of game stories trying to be gritty and photorealistic its pleasant to play something that just embraces the nostalgia of a simpler style of game and focuses on having interesting gameplay hooks and design to get your attention. Rayman Origins did a fantastic job with this and Super Mario 3D Land has the same level of charm and style with its simple premise.
The 3DS is not a graphics powerhouse, but Super Mario 3D Land is a good looking game. The game is bright and completely filled with rich and abundant colours. Animations are extremely smooth and natural, and the way interactions with grass and other environmental features look are really fantastic. Its visually striking in the same way that Super Mario Galaxy was, with smart level layout used to bring the players attention to some really good looking areas. The variety of environments, from lava filled castles to snow areas to haunted houses is a great contrast and adds a lot to the games visuals. The 3D effect is well implemented, though I believe that it adds nothing of importance to the game and the 3DS as a whole. Still, the graphics of Super Mario 3D Land are one of the best on the platform, with a rich and colourful world on display.
Super Mario 3D Land also has music that appeals directly to nostalgia for fans of the series by including tunes from some of the past greats like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Bros 3. Its a simple track that will easily stick in players heads and make the game a memorable experience. The other game sound and audio effects are the usual for a Mario game, with Peach's screams of "Marioooo" being as annoyingly funny as ever. These faithfully classic sounds combine with the visuals to form an extremely charming and seminal Mario game, which is a smart move by Nintendo considering how important this game is in legitimising the 3DS as a viable platform.
The gameplay of Super Mario 3D Land combines elements of the 2D Mario games with the core of the 3D Mario games. An awful lot of Super Mario 3D Land is taken from Super Mario Bros 3, but in greater scale. The Goombas have Tanooki tails, as does Mario when you acquire the needed power-up. Many of the levels are also from that game, including the return of Airships and multiple Bowser Jrs. Its a 3D platformer at heart in the same manner as Super Mario 64, but supremely creative level design gives a taste of the innovation that Super Mario Galaxy contained. The game will also jump into 2D sections for certain areas, combining the beauty of current graphics with that style of Mario game. There are plenty of satisfying power ups to obtain, and the collection of large coins to progress through the game makes a return. My biggest issue with the gameplay was simply that the game is extremely easy, or at least it is for the first half. Super Mario 3D Land has a very slow start, which makes it accessible for every kind of player but it is far from challenging. Luckily the game does start to ramp things up towards the end and then additional levels are available after completing the main quest. These are a lot harder than the main game and are much more satisfying to succeed with completing.
The presentation and design of Super Mario 3D Land are great throughout the experience. Controls are very responsive and it really feels simple to get Mario to do what you want him to do in any given situation. The game is a little bit short, taking me 6 hours to complete the first 8 worlds. There is also some backtracking for extra coins that you may need to progress into the end game stages, and this can take away from the momentum of the game. However, overall its a well paced and fun platform experience which melds the old and the new in the Mario series together harmoniously.
Super Mario 3D Land is probably the best game on the 3DS at the moment, and is a must have for anyone who owns the platform. Having said that it lacks interesting innovation in many areas. It is "another" Mario game, and will change no ones mind if they are already burned out on this series. The game still has a life system and poor checkpoints, preventing it from reaching the heights of the sublime Rayman Origins for me personally, and it is annoying that Nintendo stick so stubbornly to their old design philosophy in these areas. It also lacks the sheer scale and production value of the Super Mario Galaxy games or Super Mario 64. There are no real boss fights as such, which was a disappointment for me personally, and I would not put it in the same bracket of quality as those titles, but that does not stop Super Mario 3D Land from being an excellent title. Its not worth going out and buying a 3DS just to play this game, but if you already have a 3DS you should get this game.
- Excellent level design
- Simple and responsive controls
- Great visuals that really showcase the platform
- Accessible while having challenging levels in the late game
- Surprisingly short and easy
- No real boss fights
- Lacks the brilliance of its immediate predecessors
- Peach really needs to get better security
- 8/10 - Great