Review: Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)

Wa-hoo! Mario returns in an all-new adventure on the Nintendo 3DS. This game is at least 6 months overdue, but better late than never!

Super Mario 3D Land is marks the debut of the world-famous plumber on Nintendo’s relatively new portable, the Nintendo 3DS. The plot revolves around the Tanooki Leaf Tree which was stripped of its leaves during a nasty storm, causing Goombas and Bullet Bills alike to sprout Tanooki Tails. Oh, and of course, Princess Peach has been captured by Bowser, wouldn’t be a Mario game without that, really.

If you’re finding Super Mario 3D Land familiar, it’s likely because you’ve seen this all somewhere before. Simply put, the game is a blend of the openness of Super Mario Galaxy with elements from Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES, with, besides the many landscapes, enemies and themes identifiable with Super Mario Bros. 3, the return of Tanooki Mario, which you’ll find carrying a Tanooki Leaf with you very helpful in case you time a jump badly.

The levels are pretty much point-A-to-point-B straightforward, but exploring the open spaces are limited to the time on your clock, although completing them in time should prove no problem to those who have Mario in their veins. Power-ups include regulars like the Fire Flower and Starman, with new inclusions such as the Boomerang power-up and the propeller box, last seen on NSMB Wii. If you fail a level miserably enough, the game will throw you a Invincible Tanooki Suit or a P-Wing to warp you over to the end and done with, should you choose to use them.

Unlike the overworld map of SMB3 and NSMB on the DS, level progress is filed in a linear path with a miniboss at the end. The path only deviates through warp pipes and unlockable levels, otherwise forcing you to take things one step at a time. Each level has 3 hidden Star Coins to take you out of the way to collect and a flagpole to conquer at the end of the level to come back for in case you missed the tip by that much.

Like most of Nintendo’s first-party titles, the game is designed to bring out the best features of the platform and make it shine. The game, of course, is laid out in spiffy graphics comparable to the Wii in one of Mario’s other exploits, and for the first time, in 3D. The 3D stereoscopic graphics aren’t just a gimmick, though. Sure, it adds depth to the plaftorming antics of Mario, but in some cases, the 3D is more or less a mandatory feature used in certain bonus areas, playing on depth perception and optical illusions, which will prove troublesome to those who can’t see in 3D or play with the 3D slider off.

The game also makes use of StreetPass to send and receive Mystery Boxes for you to crack open and grab the goodies inside. Another neat feature is the use of the 3DS’s gyroscope to allow you to pan and aim cannons or the sightseeing binoculars just by moving the portable device around to spot a Toad in the distance that may throw you a 1-UP or two.

To balance out the universe, Super Mario 3D Land, with all its flashy 3D features, doesn’t have as much of other features as the last main portable Mario game, New Super Mario Bros. There are no multiplayer modes, nor are there mini-games or ornamental unlockables, but I suppose that’s too much to ask considering the main part of the game is more exhilarating than ever. The fun doesn’t end once you defeated dear ol’ Bowser. You could say the game’s just getting started.

Super Mario games are the staple of all Nintendo consoles to date, and with well-rounded gameplay and an all-ages difficulty curve, there should be no reason why fans of the franchise shouldn’t get 3D Land for their shiny, new Nintendo 3DSes.

Graphics 8.0
Typical Mario-style graphics in 3D, but the stereoscopic 3D works very well for some of the gimmickier levels.
Sound 8.0
The soundtrack is your standard Mario fare, most of which are remixes of themes from SMB3.
Gameplay 9.0
Varied level designs keeps the platforming gameplay interesting. Deaths will result in a frustrating return to the midway checkpoint, though.
Lasting Appeal 7.0
With no co-op multiplayer like NSMB on the DS, players are left with replaying the levels to grab all the Star Coins and the additional batch of more difficult levels to really complete the game.
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Super Mario 3D Land is a Nintendo game for the Nintendo 3DS, and of course, Luigi is playable! (eventually)