It’s about time that the Nintendo 3DS got its killer application; Super Mario 3D Land be thy name. Sure, the revisit to the Ocarina of Time was a great title but it didn’t quite pack the punch that Super Mario 3D Land ended up having. From the moment Mario game started, the 3D effect was used perfectly, and for the first time in my 3DS’s history, I wanted to keep it turned on to the maximum.
There’s never really much to a Mario title when it comes to story, and this is no exception. Princess, yada yada, Bowser yada yada, rescue her. As you guide Mario through the initial eight worlds, you’ll encounter some old friends and enemies along the way. While this familiar territory is expected and respected within the game it quickly becomes obvious that the old tricks are relied on a few too many times, specifically the boss encounters at the end of each world – you’ll run into one of only three bosses each time, and one time they double them up for good measure. Sure, Bowser was the boss on each level in Super Mario Brothers, but we’re a long way from those gaming days – and rather than showing up as homage, this comes off a little lazy. But in all honesty, this is my only gripe with the entire game.
Did you notice that I said eight initial worlds? Just because you complete the main quest and rescue the Princess doesn’t mean the game is over. Once completing the main quest and sitting through the interactive credits a short cut scene plays, and guess who’s trapped now? That’s right, Luigi is in need of rescue. Also once the credits are finished rolling new special worlds are unlocked, these special worlds are essentially remixes of the first worlds you’ve played through, but are different enough to warrant the time spent running through each, collection medals and red coins. Speaking of medals, through each level there will be three medals hidden in plain sight that you should make an effort to collect. As you progress through the game there will be some sections which require a specific quantity of these medals to progress further, as you might expect getting all three on each level isn’t always the easiest task but in the long run collecting them when you can makes things smoother.
So what makes this such a great game, not just a great Mario game? A lot of it is just the way it feels to play. Controls are amazingly tight, never did I have a moment of grief due to shoddy controls. I did have a couple instances where I veered off my expected path simply because I was too busy staring at the depth the 3D created, but that is more a testament to how well Nintendo can use their hardware than a control issue. Each and every level utilizes the 3D, not just as a gimmick to make you think that it’s a cool feature, but actually makes use of it. Whether it be a level that plays out in an overhead mode a la Gauntlet, or the stellar underwater levels where each dimension is perfectly emulated – this game hopefully will be used by every other developer out there to demonstrate how 3D can and should be done.
With it’s borrowing from the best of Super Mario Galaxy and keeping the levels linear enough to appease 2D purists, Super Mario 3D Land has rocketed to near the top of my best of list for the year, and I’m not just talking about handheld games. With a two stage 3D setting, one for added depth and the other for more ‘pop’ (press up or down on the D-Pad) – the game is a feast for the eyes and ears. Every owner of the 3DS should have this title in their library, and fans of Mario’s other outings are sure to find a lot to enjoy in this title. Don’t have a 3DS? Perhaps now’s the perfect time to take that plunge.
Score: 9.5 –A fantastic platforming title that uses 3D in gaming ways that no other title has yet to do. Classic costumes like the Tanooki and Hammer Bros. suits make appearances, and easy to earn extra lives make this accessible by all age groups.