Review by PChaosWM
"An Oasis In The Desert That Is The 3DS Library"
Since I was around 3-years-old I have played Mario games, and even with all of the advances in technology the classic side-scroller Mario games have always been my favorite. While I considered the free roam (or what was called 3D before the 3DS) Mario games to be exceptional they still did not have the pure magic that the side-scroller Mario games have had for me.
Super Mario 3D Land changed all of that for me.
Mario's new adventure on the 3DS beat all expectations for me with its classic Mario format in a 3D environment. In much the same way that New Super Mario Bros. Super Mario 3D Land takes the format that the side-scroller Mario used (collect coins, acquire power-ups, reach the flagpole), throws in the best elements of the free roam Mario games, and creates a gumbo fit for King Bowser himself.
One thing I have always enjoyed about Mario games is that they are quite easy to learn and control, and SM3DL is no exception. The controls on the 3DS take slightly more time to get used to but after a short amount of time they seem second nature. My only complaint in regard to this is the circle pad, which can be a bit problematic at times. However, this cannot be exactly be blamed on the game, but the system.
There is also the benefit you get from 3D; if you leave the 3D slider on you will be able to more accurately judge distances than if you turn it off. That is not to say the game is unplayable without 3D (though it is more difficult in some non-essential areas), but the 3D is used very well in this game.
Another thing I have always loved about Mario games are the power-ups. SM3DL includes the always popular Fire Flower and Super Star, retro Super Leaf (though it is split into the normal and statue type), and the brand new Boomerang Flower which gives Mario the ability to throw a boomerang projectile. Mastering the new Boomerang Flower will take some getting used to but once mastered it will be one of the most useful items available to Mario. All three of these normal power-ups have their place and are all fun to use.
There are also a couple of power-ups that you can only get by dying a certain number of times in worlds one through eight. First is the Invincibility Leaf which essentially is a combination of the Super Leaf and the Super Star that lasts for the rest of the level; this item is available if a player dies five times in one level. The second item is the P-Wing which teleports you directly to the flagpole if you die ten times in one level. To the beginner these will be considered a godsend that will get you through a tough-to-beat level but to the seasoned player it will be considered an insult that will probably end in much complaining on online forums.
The difficult of this game is hard but not impossible. The first seven worlds are fairly easy to get through though there are some levels scattered in there that will almost certainly require several attempts to complete. World eight is moderately hard you are still able to get the benefit of the Invincibility Leaf and P-Wing during your first play-through.
The special worlds are where the true challenge of the game sets in. The special worlds are available upon completion of the main story (or the first eight worlds); think of them as worlds nine - sixteen. On my first play-through through these worlds there was rarely a level that I could get through on my first attempt and several of them took more than ten attempts.
Having said that, and even though the special world levels are difficult, they could have been much more challenging. Some of the levels in the special world are slightly redone versions of the normal levels though with some challenge involved, such as being chased by a shadowy Mario that mimics your every more or restricting your time limit to one that will be a challenge to complete the level in. The shadowy Mario challenge can be hard to deal with because essentially you can't stop moving and it would be wise to run. The time limit restriction challenge, however, is almost a joke; they start you off at thirty seconds and scattered throughout the level are enemies that can be defeated for bonus time as well as some clocks that will do the same. This translates into almost no challenge, as a competent player will be able to stay well ahead of the clock nine times out of ten.
One last nit-picky point I would like to bring up. Unlike all of the side-scroller Mario games where Mario starts out as small in this game Mario starts out as big. This means that from the start of the level it will take two hits to defeat Mario instead of one. As someone who appreciates difficulty in my video games I was a bit disappointed in this, even though I was sometimes secretly glad that I was not automatically sent to the start if I made a mistake after getting hit once.
In the end though, if you don't count the first seven normal worlds, it will be a challenging Mario game with enough difficult to sate your appetite. Even if you include the first seven normal worlds you are still in for an exciting ride.
The graphics in this game are unlike anything you will have ever seen on a hand-held Mario game. Mario and his environment have never looked better unless you count Galaxy 1 and 2 for the Wii, but the hand-held game holds its own very well.
As mentioned before, the game takes full advantage of the 3D without ever being obnoxious. As always, you can play the game without the 3D and aside from a couple of bonus areas you won't actually need the 3D at all. No matter if the 3D is on or off the game still runs at the same number of frames per second.
All and All, I can't name one problem with the graphics. No game I have played on the 3DS so far has been able to compete with what SM3DL has to offer.
The sound in this game is basically what you would expect if you have played any recent Mario games. For those of you who have not you will be in for a treat, but for those of us who have you will hear a lot of the same stuff we have been hearing since Super Mario Bros. 3.
Though the music is good, my main complaint is that there is very little progress made in the tracks. You will most likely have heard all of the songs before but they will have been redone once again. The Bowser confrontation tracks in this game are the only real places where anything significantly new is heard (though they are outstanding tracks).
Having said that I still enjoyed the music, but I was disappointed that there was very little that was new.
Normally I like to include a story section in my reviews, but since SM3DL is not a story driven game I won't bother even including it in the final score. If you've played a Mario game before you know the drill: Bowser captures the princess and Mario rescues her that's it... same old song and dance.
For the most part this game simply shines and is an oasis in the desert that is the 3DS library. If you own a 3DS you simply must own this game. This game had the potential to have a perfect score if there had been some newer music and a true hard mode (e.g. starting out as small Mario, less power-ups, less 1-ups). Without these two crucial things I cannot in good consciousness give this a perfect score. Still, this is a game that should not be missed.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 12/02/11
Game Release: Super Mario 3D Land (US, 11/13/11)
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