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The 3DS has now been out for nearly nine months now and while many titles for the platform have been successful in their own right, most have been waiting in angst for Mario to debut and set the standard for all future releases. Why shouldn’t they though? Nintendo have made it a trend over the years to have Mario jump in and define a platform with one simple trek throughout the Mushroom Kingdom. Super Mario 3D Land isn’t just hyped because it’s yet another game from a familiar franchise. The anticipation of the title has been due to the fact that gamers expect nothing but quality from any Mario game, period. This romp has players return to the 2D roots of the series and traverse a world not really seen since the likes of Super Mario Bros. 3, with the Tanooki suit ability making it’s long awaited return. Of course the quality is great, but does Mario still have what it takes to not only provide an enjoyable experience but to also define a platform? Here is my review for Super Mario 3D Land.
I almost feel like writing about a story in a Mario game is rather useless as most should know what to expect. Super Mario 3D Land sticks to the same formula with Peach getting kidnapped by Bowser, where Mario must then travel through a set number of worlds to rescue his beloved princess. Bowser’s motives are a bit different from normal however, as his actions are due to a storm that causes a Super Leave tree to blow “Super Leaves” everywhere throughout the land. This in turn causes nearly all of the minions such as Goombas and even Bowser himself to gain a Tanooki tail, creating yet another challenge for our favorite plumber.
Like all Mario games, the story isn’t the most important factor to keep the player progressing through. Super Mario 3D Land is soaked in nostalgia and anyone who has ever played the legendary Super Mario Bros. 3 will instantly cling to the entire setting presented as past enemies, obstacles, and even famous faces all make their glorious return to cause chaos in this new adventure. Players also receive letters from Peach at the end of each world, which possess a nice 3D effect and offer a bit of humor along the way. Yes, everything that a Mario fanboy craves is in this game in one form or another to hammer away at your nostalgia sensors and every single Bullet Bill, Pokey, or giant boss ship encountered is sure to make fans cheer with utter delight.
Mario is now over 25 years old and those same simple control mechanics that we have seen in all of his past games are just as relevant in Super Mario 3D Land. You know, jumping with A, running with B, ect. Yes, all of the platforming basics are in and perform flawlessly. Other past abilities are also present such as the ground pound maneuver that lets our hero smash through objects and barricades, warp pipes and new warp boxes that let the player quickly travel to new areas of a stage, and wall jumping, making it easy to hop up an upward path. All of these techniques are easily executed with the 3DS’ button layout and the slide pad proves it’s worth well by allowing Mario to navigate the cleverly designed stages with ease.
While a lot of these mechanics sound familiar, the way the actual level design is implemented is where the true variety of Super Mario 3D Land comes into play. You see, each stage is built in a 2.5D manner, where players navigate in classic side scrolling form but are able to move forward or backward with the slide pad. The 3D effect adds to this even more and gives each area a true feeling of freedom and depth, allowing for Mario to scamper about each level and reach different blocks or items at any given time. Imagine if Super Mario 64 was sliced in half and put into a diorama. Most of the time, that is exactly how the game feels. If blocks or enemies are located in the back of the stage, you must walk back and hit them. If they are up front, well, you get the general idea. Nintendo have crafted these levels to perfection and while it takes a little while to get used to at first, most will feel right at home in a short time as thankfully, this game still captures that classic Mario vibe throughout.
Speaking of level design in general, there is a lot to see here as each stage is completely different from the next. As you would expect, the main objective for every level is to simply progress through, collect coins, and make it to the flagpole before the timer runs out. From start to finish, each area constantly changes up the player’s perspective as they try to progress. For instance, one of the stages starts out in classic 2D fare, with Mario just needing to smash Goombas and a few other enemies while collecting the usual coins and power-ups. Shortly after, the setting switches things up and takes to the skies where you must safely land on specific platforms in a 3D top-down perspective. Once the player lands on the ground, everything returns to the norm and the level comes to satisfying. That’s just one example. There are plenty of underground, underwater, and hazardous lava-filled stages to offer up variety and even though the concepts of each type may seem the same, Nintendo have brilliantly utilized the camera angles and new-found depth to create some of the most innovative and fluid worlds found in a Mario game to date.
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