Review by lukeguy97
"This is one mini Mario."
Usually, when someone hears about a Mario platformer for the first time, the first thing they wonder is "Is it sidescrolling or open world?". Super Mario 3D Land is actually best described as a sidescroller in an open world. Like the sidecrolling games, your job is to run across the narrow stage to get to a goal; however, this game mixes that up a bit with the camera. You never control the camera. Instead it switches perspective on each new section, with each camera angle allowing a different way to play. For example, sometimes the camera is at your side ala Super Mario Bros., sometimes the camera is overhead ala The Legend Of Zelda, and sometimes the camera is behind you ala Super Mario Sunshine. Either way, all the stages resemble sidescrolling stages with the big difference being that you can explore more. I think it works really well and makes for an experience that never feels boring or tedious. The camera never freaks out like it does in some other Mario games, so that's a good thing.
Anyway, the story is that during a big storm, Bowser nabs Peach again, leaving behind a letter for Mario ("It's from Bowser!") that contains a postcard showing Bowser... well... nabbing Peach again. Mario and a few Toads go out to rescue her. And the storm also knocked off all the Super Leaves from the "Tanooki Tree" in order to bring us another throwback to SMB3. Let's-a-go! The postcards play a more fun part in the game a bit later; at the end of each world, Mario gets another postcard from Peach, each one showing her progress on escaping. Some of the cutscenes are really cute, and this game really shows us more than ever how Mario feels when his Princess is in danger. Kudos to Nintendo for doing it all without any dialogue whatsoever.
The gameplay is meant to resemble that of Super Mario Bros. 3, as you've probably heard. The controls are a bit like a mixture of the controls from that game and Super Mario 64: the long jump and the backflip are present, and so is the run button from all of the sidescrolling games. The run button will take some getting used to, however it does allow for good control over how far you want to jump. So yeah, it plays like Mario, and that's awesome. But what really matter are the places we navigate Mario through. I'm glad to say that the levels are absolutely genius. This game abandons the notion of having realistic settings or any sort of justification for the layout of each level to let us prance among as many random floating objects as we want. However, the levels are held together thanks to the elaborate camera angles I mentioned before. Most levels rely on perspective, which is great, since this is a 3DS game. All in all, I found myself saying "Hey, that's pretty clever!" several times throughout the game. It seems the crew had more ability to let their imaginations shine than ever. The levels kind of resemble the FLUDD-less sections of Super Mario Sunshine except more pretty-looking, organized, and a bit easier. It's just a simple and fun Mario game.
So what are my problems with this game? Well, for one thing, I guess being simple isn't all that great. Believe me, the levels are fun as heck, but the game feels more like a demo than an actual game. You'll beat the main game in 4 hours if you're a Mario veteran, and in 6-7 hours if you're new to his games, which I suspect you're not. After that you unlock the Special Worlds. Even though they double the length of the game, I have to admit they don't bring much to it. Most of the Special World levels are old ones with an extra challenge thrown in (i.e. go through the whole level with Cosmic Mario trying to kill you, beat the level in 30 seconds) that still leave you wanting more. The boss battles are also very repetitive; the only bosses there are are Bowser (and his doppelgangers), Boom Boom from SMB3, and his girlfriend Pom Pom who is practically the same as him but with a boomerang for some reason. And the final problem: fake longevity. You have to beat every level with BOTH Mario and Luigi, get every Star Coin, AND reach the top of the flagpole (I really don't get this one) in every level in order to unlock the true final level. I mean, come on. Beating the levels over and over is something you should do if you really like the game. Here, it's enforced to shallowly compensate for the lack of content. All of these problems make the game seem incomplete.
But however incomplete this game may be, it's still worth your money. As dumb as it is that you have to play every level 2 to 5 times in order to unlock the secret level, I admit, I never got bored of playing the same levels. I guess the biggest problem for me was just that the game was too damn fun, and that's never a bad thing. I just wish the fun genuinely lasted longer.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/15/13
Game Release: Super Mario 3D Land (US, 11/13/11)
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