Mario is a gaming icon, when you think about video games; chances are you’ll think of the chubby little fella before you think of anyone else. I never really owned a Nintendo console until the Wii, I dabbled in the N64 and played a little bit of the super nes, but I fought at Segas side during the great console war. Despite this, my favourite platformer of all time was on a machine that I never actually owned, Super Mario World. Even second to that, it was not a sonic game; it was again Mario with Super Mario 64. I enjoyed the transition between 2D and 3D and to this day I still believe that Super Mario 64 is the finest 3D platformer ever created.
Super Mario 3D land is a hybrid of the side scrolling sections and the plumber’s most recent 3d outings. It’s not an exclusive side scrolling game, but nor is it an explorative title in the same sense as super Mario galaxy. The objective was to create an experience that allowed fans of 2D side scrollers to ease into the thought process of playing a game where Mario’s actions also go forward and backward. So, how did they do?
So once again, princess Peach has been gallivanting about and got herself captured by Bowser. It’s a shame that they never really experimented away from this story, but I guess it’s because they concentrated on the game play. Which, to be fair is the important part, rather than having to worry about the emotional stability of the main protagonist who must conquer his fears to save the girl he loves. Collect coins, stomp minions, defeat the bad guy, save the princess... That is all I ever expect to do in a Mario game.
Control wise, Mario feels very familiar, other than a forward roll while crouching it feels as though you’ve already played the game before. That is not necessarily a negative aspect but more of a compliment with the series consistency as you can just comfortably pick up and play without learning a bunch of new control mechanics. Reading it back it makes you feel that the lack of an inventive new game play mechanic makes you feel that perhaps they are scraping the barrel. The only new power up that Mario receives is the Boomerang suit which allows you to throw boomerangs which then come back at you, you catch them and repeat... The problem lies in the fact that this does not really deviate much from the fire flower power up and there were a majority of times I left the boomerang power in favour of the tanooki suit.
The important part of this game is the return of the tanooki suit which sees Mario wearing an adorable fur outfit with a tail which allows him to spin attack his enemies. It’s an integral part of the game as a even the minions seem to be in on the action as they seem to be equipping the power up. Personally, I would have loved them to go into the detail about the origin of the suit and why everyone is using it, but it never really explores the subject. The suit was made famous from Super Mario bros 3 and was pretty rare. However when you collect it you’ll mainly just have the ability of the super leaf (spin attack) however there are times later on where another power up will grant you the ability to turn into stone. Unfortunately, they took out the ability to temporarily fly upwards, perhaps a game breaker as I can imagine it’s very difficult to keep the player from just flying over every obstacle in a 3d world. Having the suit return is a great nod to the past, but having it less powerful without adding in a compromise does feel a little odd for veterans of the series who wish to relive classic power ups.
The game features 8 worlds, each of which has in a way removed the theme of each world, no longer are we forced to play a cavalcade of desert levels or underwater in a row. Whenever I tend to get to the water stages I lose interest quite frequently and this is an interesting way of allowing the player to progress with variety but also gives the developers the option to not make the theme represent the difficulty of that particular level. For example, early on there will be some easy desert sections but later on there will be more tricky ones. Unfortunately, it also does detract from the definition of the word ‘World” because now, there is no distinction that you have gone to another world at all.
Nintendo quite clearly want people to embrace the 3D setting on the 3DS and choose to fool the player with a selection of 3D images that fake depth in the game. Sometimes you’ll come across a section that looks like you are in line, when really you are a few steps out of place. It’s an interesting aspect that shows up a dozen times throughout the game and it is these segments that consistently remind you to play in 3D for a little while. However, I quickly turn off the 3D shortly afterwards for personal preference, but I admire the effort that was spent making the 3D work well. Legend Of Zelda ocarina of time has demonstrated the capabilities of the 3D on the 3DS and Super Mario 3D land comes just in second place.
On final thoughts, maybe I’ve sounded too harsh on the game, the new power up is made redundant by the franchises longest running fire flower power up, Mario has not really learnt any new moves and the world system is now not really necessary when taking away the themes... But the fact is the game never really deviates further from its roots, the controls are responsive, the levels are rich in colour, and it can deliver a challenge for those who have a desire to grab all the secret coins. In summary if you own a 3DS, there isn’t a great deal of titles out there for you to buy, but if you do own a 3DS chances are you’ve dabbled in a few Mario games, and this is a comfortable and enjoyable experience that I can recommend to every 3DS owner.