Super Mario 3D Land – 3DS

10 Overall Score

Makes 3D Vital | Great length of content | Nostalgia Galore

Early levels too easy for veterans | Wears out your battery

This is a review I’ve been wanting to write since I got a 3DS way back when it came out.  It has been quite a long wait for the title that we really should have had at launch, and now I can finally say to everyone who asks ‘Yes, you should buy a 3DS.’.  Honestly up until this point that recommendation always came with caveats, but I’m now happy to say I see the reason that Nintendo thought 3D was a good idea.  Do you remember that opening shot in Avatar when it pulled back and you saw the military base in the thick of the jungle and 3D in a movie all of a sudden made sense?  3D helped that movie, and it was what finally convinced me that 3D didn’t have to be a gimmick, when treated properly it could be fantastic.  You get the same sense here, that Nintendo knew what it was doing, it just took awhile to actually show us.

Just like when the Wii came out, we got 3rd party developers throwing in motion controls for no reason at all, just replacing an easy button press with shaking your game controller.  It added nothing, and in fact at times detracted from the experience.  Sadly the same thing happened with the launch of the 3DS.  3D seemed to be included simply because that’s what the new system had, and wasn’t used or needed in any way.  Nintendo themselves was guilty of this with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and StarFox 64 3D. They were both games that were very well received and thoroughly enjoyed years before anyone thought a 3DS was something that could exist. It was neat, just like pointing at a screen and shaking a controller were, but that is all it was, neat.  This brings me to probably the most important part of the review, as this game doesn’t show me a game I should tell people to buy, it shows me a system that can do things that the system they own cannot, and they are things that have value and are entertaining.

So, what about the actual game?  It’s Mario, and he’s in 3D.  For many of you that will simply be enough, and honestly it was for me.  I’ve played every Mario platformer released, and aside from Mario 2 for the NES, I’ve never been disappointed.  This Mario though, he’s a little different.  In the last several years we’ve had Mario games split into the 3D worlds of Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, and the 2D of the New Super Mario Bros. games.  (I’m ignoring Paper Mario, because they aren’t strict platformers).  This game is a mix of the two, as well as a mix of every classic Mario game ever produced.  The end of level flagpoles are back, the Tanooki (raccoon) suit is back, the multiple-lives Koopa trick is back, the flying airships and beating Bowser by jumping on a switch are both back, and that’s not all.  The music is full of remixes, remasters, tweaks and compilations of songs old and new from the Mario universe.  Those new to the series might have a couple of confused moments here and there, but the rest of us who have played and loved Mario for years will constantly be stopping and asking in quite a loud voice ‘if you totally heard that?’.  As cliché as it is to say, it feels very much like a love letter to fans from those who have laboured over Mario games for decades, and it shows in every part of the game.

Power-ups are pared back to the Tanooki suit, boomerang suit, fireflower and the occasional boomerang box.  This is a nice choice, as it focusses the levels less on the this-is-the-cloud-level-itis that the Galaxy series occasionally suffered from.  Mario’s moves are also lessened, as he’s forgotten how to triple jump or spin jump, no matter how many times I forgot and tried to do them, he wouldn’t.  Again, what might have seemed an odd choice works, as I didn’t really miss the moves I had lost, other than the occasional time I wanted the triple jump to make getting up a ledge easier than the game wanted it to be for me.  So with less stuff to use, you might be thinking it would make the game a bit harder, but that’s where you’d be wrong.  In fact this would be the one thing I might fault the game on, and was certainly already saying in my head as I finished what I thought was the ending.  The game was too easy, and too short.  I didn’t feel challenged up until the very last level or so, I was enjoying myself but I didn’t really feel that tricky Mario-ness.  However if you do feel it, if you die 5 times in a level you get a special invincible Tanooki suit, and if you die 10 times in a level you get a P-wing that lets you skip the entire level. You don’t have to use either of them, but you can if you want.  But thankfully, there was a twist.

As soon as you’ve beaten all 8 worlds and Bowser, you unlock 8 more ‘Special’ worlds.  These may involve you on a timed run and picking up clocks to stay alive or trying to stay ahead of an evil version of yourself as you sprint through the level.  In these instances, you’re working through a tougher version of the level you’ve already played.  Platforms may be replaced with bounce pads, and goombas with spinys to make things more difficult.  If they aren’t one of those kind, then they’re a completely new level, one that will challenge you.  Speaking as a 26-year veteran of Mario games, the later worlds and levels are difficult.  But they’re not difficult in a way that will cause you to hate the game for being broken or impossible, they’re difficult in a way that rewards you, as is collecting the three coins in each level you use to unlock some bonus levels and Bowser stages.

The difficulty reminds me of this stage in Super Mario Brothers, World 8-1.  You’re on the last world and feeling good about yourself, flying through the first level when you get to a difficult jump, a small section between two pits. No matter, there’s enough space to stop and jump again, you’re good enough at this point.  Then, as soon as you’re finished with those and feeling confident, they throw the same idea at you, but much, much harder.  The platform is half the size and the pits are bigger. But the reward is bigger, not just in the coins that are there, but in your confidence in the game.  At this point you have a couple different players: me at age 7 and my sister at age 9.  I would try that point and die, and die, and die, and die.  I would use the exploit to get 100 lives and then make it there and die continuously until one time by a fluke slip of the finger I jumped while pressing hard back, to stop myself from slipping off the platform to my death for the 10th time. It worked!  As I jump I use the limited air control, pilot back to the platform, tiptoe to the edge and speed off to finish the level, I did it!  Exhilaration from a massive challenge handled past the point of frustration, something I loved to do.

My sister would reach that point, with me inevitably watching, would take one look at it and without even attempting it would tell me to do it.  It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy the challenge, she did.  She could just see the frustration and the lack of enjoyment that was going to come if she tried to use her 9-year-old co-ordination to handle this task.  She knew I could do it, because she had watched with some amusement as I tried, squeezed the controller in epic frustration and tried again until I mastered it.  But I wouldn’t want to deprive her of being able to play the game, which is why the ‘You’ve died a bunch of times, here is some help’ doesn’t bother me, and why I’ve been playing this game not to review it, but simply because I’ve been wrapped up again in that challenge.

Constantinople is waiting for me to climb it’s buildings in a half-finished game of Assassin’s Creed:Revelations.  Friends are waiting for me to get back to Battlefield 3 and shoot the bad guys.  Link is waiting to adventure with me, and fly around in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. The new Ferrarri 250GTO is sitting in my garage in Forza 4, waiting to be thrown into a corner on the Nurburgring with reckless abandon.  But because of Super Mario 3D Land, the first game I killed a battery with and sat on the floor playing while it charged, they will all have to wait.  The game uses 3D in ways that make sense, to give the world life and you new challenges.  It ramps up the difficulty, and holds it there while your life counter tumbles away.  It extends hooks into your 3DS and refuses to leave, even if you’d really like to play a bit of StarFox before bed.  Simply put, it’s the game you need to own if you have a 3DS.


Want to know what our review scores mean? Read about it here.


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Author: Micah View all posts by
Micah has been playing games since his first pong machine, and has been writing for as long as he could grip a pencil and not drool on the paper. So, for about a week.

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