December 1, 2011
By Nick Larsen
Super Mario 3-D Land, Nintendo’s newest installment in the Mario franchise continues the classic line of “Mario Land” titles. Following the classic formula of Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach, and Mario coming to her rescue, this game marks the return of classic items as well as updates to old ideas. The long awaited return of the tanooki suit makes its way to the spot light as everything from Mario, Bowser, various Bullet Bills and the title screen are given the classic raccoon style tail. From the return of fan favorite creations to new villains, the game prides itself on dominating on the 3D aspect of the 3DS. It does this through 3D plat forming puzzles and multi-view abilities. Now let me take you along into the land of Super Mario 3D and discover the highs and lows of Nintendo’s newest continuation of the complicated love triangle that is Mario.
The game itself plays like every Mario game that has come before; jump on your enemies, advance to the next world, and eventually defeat Bowser to save the Princess; a tale as classic as any that normally meshes perfectly with every retelling, but this time it didn’t work as well as in the past. While, yes, there’s not much room to change the story with out removing the old charm of each Mario game, each title normally introduces something new in the way of an item or plat forming puzzle that enhances the game play or story giving the players something more to make them feel the need to continue playing. In Mario 3, this was seen through the uniqueness of each new world as well as the end boss for each world that would allow the player to save each king, and in New Super Mario Bros DS players were given lengthy unique worlds yet again, with new power ups, as well as the introduction of the hunt for star coins in each level. This goes for each Mario game along the way up to this point.
On one hand it can be argued that yes there are new costumes, a few new level challenges, and continuing plot told through brief cut scenes and still photos between worlds. On the other, these new costumes are redesigns of classic originals, the new level concepts are used too much at some points and the progression of the story is almost pointless other than the fact that it retells you what you already know, the princess is captured.
Granted, me complaining over a repetitive story is not the point here, I thoroughly enjoy the story – rescuing a princess is a classic game story. It is in the game play that I find the problem. I understand the love for the tanooki suit, I really do, but there’s a point when enough is enough and one must sit back, and see that almost every object in the game does not need a raccoon tail to allow it to “fly” or spin. The suit itself comes in two flavors, with scarf and without, the difference? If a tanooki has a scarf it can turn to stone in midair. I am going to be a nerd here so bare with me please, the tanooki suit originally came in two version just like the one we have now but, one was just a tail and ears, and the second (which allowed the stone transformation) was a full raccoon style suit. Okay, nostalgic nerd rant over, back to the game play.
The suit also took away from the challenge of the game; at times I could be stuck attempting to beat a boss or just make it through a level, then the tanooki suit would appear. This power-up allowed me to soar through sections of the game with ease and hover past whole areas of enemies finishing worlds in no time at all. The worst part was, if you died enough times, first a random power-up block would appear, then if you still failed, a golden tanooki suit that made you invincible would become your free pass through the levels, no skill or practice required. I’m sorry but I grew up on having to learn how to get past each level through trial and error, not having a game take pity on me and giving me a free ride out. You can refuse this of course but, it will still be next to you the moment you are put back into the level.
Another “new” suit is the Boomerang Bro. suit. Why did I quote “new”? Simple my fine feathered reader, ye suit is new in the sense that we have never seen a “Boomerang Bro” suit but it is a redesign on the classic Mario 3 Hammer Bro. suit, just a boomerang instead of a hammer. That aside, this is easily one of my favorite suits of the whole Mario franchise. It is a blue shell suit, firing a single boomerang that bounces across the room in an effort to return to Mario taking out all enemies in its path, before it can be thrown again. Where the tanooki suit is nearly every where in the game, the Boomerang Bro. suit is nearly impossible to find until the final levels of the game, and even then are introduced in areas that make it nearly impossible to keep. The game keeps bringing back the function of holding a second item on the touch screen allowing the player to use it at any given moment, so you could carry a second suit if needed. Aside from these suits, the classic fire flower, mushroom, and poison mushroom return to help and harm the Italian plumber whenever possible. It should be noted though that this time around, the fire balls from the fire flower now bounce around the room off walls until disappearing or destroying an enemy.
The enemies you face are a mix of familiar faces with a few changes as well as some new faces too. Goomba, Bullet Bill, Boo, and Koopa Troopa along with a few others make their return with everyone except the last noted all wearing the occasional raccoon tail. Piranha Plants return as well, classic biting and fire spitting versions too but there is also a new version that spits ink over your screen. New enemies like Wallops, Biddybuds, and Spike Eels are welcome additions into the Mario universe, creating ever more hazardous roads and paths for the player to traverse.
Where the Land is filled with enemies and power-ups both new and old, my biggest complaint comes down to the levels themselves. You are given eight worlds to fight through (with eight secret worlds as well), the majority of which only have, on average five levels, before a boss. In all that’s roughly eighty levels in all, lengthy yes, but the previous title on the DS could have seven or more levels, a mini boss, multiple mushroom houses, and a boss per world. I understand the secret world is to make up for that but in reality, most of the secret world levels are levels from the first play through of the game with an added challenge like a time limit or a redesign on Cosmic Mario from the Super Mario Galaxy game. Speaking of the DS title, there was a multiplayer mode as well as a slew of mini games that could be played with other people that are missing. Is this important? Well, the mini games may not be, and since the game is not a Super Mario Bros. game but rather a Super Mario game, I guess multiplayer could be skipped. Then again Luigi is a playable character and a secondary multiplayer mode, or competitive mode would be more then welcomed. Using the 3DS’s street pass technology, if you pass someone with Super Mario 3D Land their game reopens mystery and mushroom houses allowing you to claim more star coins and power-ups. A welcomed idea, but the game feels lacking without any multiplayer support like its previous titles.
Graphically the game holds up well compared to more recent games. It looks similar to the New Super Mario Bros. Wii and controls just as well. At times enemies drop in at random or at the last moment as you reach a platform if you are moving to fast but generally the game holds up well and runs smoothly. The levels themselves feel as timeless as ever, with the charm of classic Mario games from the 8-bit and 16-bit era and the feel of the Nintendo 64’s Super Mario 64. I would recommend this to anyone who needs a game to play on the go or wants a fun game to play over a weekend. Definitely a must have for Mario fans out there and anyone who wants a worth while game for their 3DS. While I may be disappointed in select aspects (as I have rambled on about here) the game holds up well to its predecessors welcoming in a bright dawn for any future Mario titles on the 3DS handheld system. I give this game a 3.5 out of 5!