Ever since the 3DS launched in March, handheld gamers have been waiting for a new Mario title to make its home on the system. Now, the wait is over – and, it was worth it. Super Mario 3D Land is everything you could hope for in a new Mario title. Plus, the 3D world actually gets brought to life through the 3DS. Most of the 3DS titles have either been ports or games with tacked on 3D. It’s like watching Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in 3D where the feature is totally unnecessary, instead of James Cameron’s Avatar where 3D is absolutely necessary to the experience. Once again, Nintendo has done a superb job with Mario by giving gamers an excellent platforming game. Just when you think the game is over, it opens up with even more challenging platforming levels that easily make this the best original 3DS game of the year.
Guess what? Princess Peach gets kidnapped at the beginning of the game. Unlike Zelda games, which try to build up a slightly different reason for Zelda’s disappearance in each game, Mario sticks to the tried and true. Gamers are presented with eight worlds, each of which has five basic stages and a boss stage. There are also a few bonus boards sprinkled throughout, which can be unlocked by collecting giant golden tokens. There are three of these giant tokens on every level and it is worth investing the time in collecting them.
Most of the stages stick to the classic Mario formula that was born on the NES as opposed to the exploratory style of Super Mario Galaxy. The terrific platforming levels have 3D depth, but you’re still moving towards a linear objective. Boss battles stick to the Super Mario Bros 3 style with a mix of floating airships and lava-filled castles.
Mario has three primary weapons: the Fire Flower, the Boomerang Suit and the Tanooki Tail. The Fire Flower is somewhat diminished in this game. You will find that the Tanooki Tail is just about everywhere. It helps you to navigate the tricky platforming puzzles by giving you extra hang time when you jump. The Boomerang Suit is slightly less effective, but you will find that it is necessary to grab those hard to reach golden tokens. There are several boards that will require you to grab these collectible items with a boomerang. You can try to do so with the Tanooki Tail but will more often than not find yourself immersed in lava, screaming, “Ooo ooo, hot hot hot.”
Other items found in this game include stopwatches that add additional time to the clock and the helicopter box introduced in New Super Mario Bros Wii.
After the first eight boards, the game opens up with even more levels and one of Mario’s compatriots becomes available to play. The special levels conform to the same eight-world layout, with five stages. However, most of stages are totally new boards or hybrid versions of boards you played through before. Also, I found that the music boxes became more prevalent.
Many 3DS gamers have gotten used to playing the 3DS without having the 3D feature on. This game actually makes it worth it. There are a few stages where the 3D design will present some tricky platforming puzzles. The sense of depth can be misleading without the 3D. Sometimes you will think you are jumping on a box, only to realize that the box is further out or into the board . You will get a better feel for these boards by turning the 3D slider up by as little as 20-30%.
At least one stage per world will have a periscope. When you look through the periscope, it activates the 3DS’ gyroscope. You can then zoom in on kidnapped Toads. When you do, the Toads will point you to the end-of-the-stage flag, kick over a 1-Up mushroom or send you a special power up.
This game has some of the most vibrant visuals yet on the 3DS. The level design in Super Mario 3D Land is truly amazing and each board feels unique. This is accentuated in the Special levels. Oh, you will die. If you die five times, the game presents you with an Invincible Tanooki Tail. This makes you impervious to every attack for the entire board. Just don’t fall. Invincibility doesn’t save you from plummeting down an endless hole. If you die 10 times, the game gives you the option to advance all the way to the end of the level, risk free. It’s optional and won’t be the choice method for hardcore platform gamers. Plus, if you skip the board, you will miss out on the collectable token, which will unlock bonus levels that demand to be played.
The StreetPass functionality in 3D Land is somewhat limited. It is only used to compare your best times with other 3DS owners. Since this title is so robust, you would expect a little more with regard to StreetPass. But, that is not the case.
Long time Mario gamers, will really enjoy some of the Easter Eggs in 3D Land. There are several boards, which provide throwback settings to the original Mario. It just makes 3D Land that much cooler.
Super Mario 3D Land is a must own, platforming Wonderland for anyone who has a 3DS. This game will easily attract all the DSi owners who have been waiting on the periphery for a worthwhile Mario game on the handheld system. If you even remotely like platforming games, you will be overjoyed when playing Super Mario 3D Land.