Review by Marsford
It's just...SO MUCH FUN!!!
Ah Mario platformers. They have blessed our childhoods, and still continue to entertain wonderfully. With the releases of the Galaxy games for the Wii, and the current lack of outstanding new Nintendo titles for the 3DS, this game is sure to have high expectations attached to it. So how does Super Mario 3D Land hold up? Let's dissect.
STORY/CHARACTERS - 7/10
Um....story. Right. If you are familiar with Mario games, which I'm sure many of you are, you'll know that Mario platformers are not bought for their long, epic and engrossing stories full of lore, plot twists, and emotional moments. No. "Princess kidnapped by big turtle, go save" is pretty much the gist here, not that anything more needs to be said really.
The problem here is not the content, but the execution. I'm fine with the standard formula, but if it's not going to add anything to the adventure, it definitely shouldn't take anything away. Maybe it was just me, but hearing Princess Peach scream "MAARRIIOOOOO" about 5 or 6 times got pretty annoying quickly. With Peach having so many more roles in other Mario games, it's weird and just off to hear her still screaming like that, but I digress. It's not nearly as important as the other features of the game.
Mario and Bowser are exactly how you like them: one quirky and agile, the other big and ferocious, so no complaints there.
GAMEPLAY - 10/10
And alas we arrive to the meat of this package, and let me say, not only does it not disappoint, but it surpasses my expectations. Controls are so well done that it makes this game just a joy to move around in. Acceleration is fantastic, speed is great, jumping is easy to control, jumping off enemies feels natural, and other abilities make this game straight up fun. First of all, the backflip makes a return, as does my personal favorite jump, the pivot jump. The long jump and wall kicking also make a fantastic return. I was sad to see no triple jump, but I could live without it. Finally, there's the new added abilities, the roll and roll jump. As you are running, if you crouch and press the run button (Y or X), Mario proceeds to roll forward. To top that off, if you jump while rolling, you can perform a roll-jump, which is similar to the long jump, but gets more speed and distance, and is essential for hitting the top of flagpoles at the end of levels. Running, rolling, and roll-jumping through levels is a blast, and having used it so much, I cannot imagine a Mario game without it.
On a side note, I should mention the 3DS' circle pad. For some it is not easy to get used to. Took me a world or two to adapt to it. If you are in a really heated moment and start to sweat a bit, the pad might get slippery, causing you to slip on it and accidentally run off a cliff. This happens, but in my experience, it is quite rare. Fortunately, once you get used to the circle pad, moving in a 3D world with it works wonders and feels great.
Now we come to the power-ups. There's the regular small Mario, normal Mario, fire-flower Mario, as well as the much advertised return of the Tanooki suit. To start, the fire-flower is a joy to use. Fireballs can be shot quickly and with ease, and strategically getting them to bounce off walls and take out enemies takes some perception, but is rewarding - I'm sure Mario fans are used to that. And then there's the Tanooki suit. Early on in the game this suit seems to be everywhere, and it makes platforming a breeze, as it allows you to drastically slow your descent. You can spin with it to take out enemies, as well as activate switches. You can't fly with it unfortunately, but with the way the game is designed, you don't exactly need to. Another addition is the propeller block found in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. It isn't seen too often, and can't be taken out of levels, but it controls well and intuitively, and the levels that are designed around it make it an absolute joy to use. Lastly, there's one more power-up, my personal favorite, but I won't spoil that. Suffice to say that it's also, for the twentieth time, an absolute joy to use, and has it's own strategic uses built around it.
Next is level design. The game's speed and pace are much like any typical 2D Mario game, but the levels are fully fleshed out in 3D. The game isn't exploration based a la Super Mario 64, more goal oriented like Super Mario Galaxy 2. You are almost always travelling in one direction, with many hidden one ups and Star Coins (the game's collectibles, three per level) to be found if one wants to stray off path a bit.
In fact, if you have played Super Mario Galaxy 2, you will quickly notice how much Super Mario 3D Land takes from it, and considering that game got perfect tens all over the place, that's definitely a positive. The level design is great. Levels are quite short, some too short, but they feel fresh and are fun to experience again and again.
I can go on for pages about the various gameplay aspects, but to summarize they are simply familiar and awesome, 'nuff said.
SOUND/GRAPHICS - 9/10
One word to describe how this game looks would be colorful. Very colorful. The graphical power of the 3DS allows this game to look stunningly beautiful, with plenty of detail in all aspects of the levels, and art design that comes to life spectacularly.
The most important, or most advertised rather, visual appeal is the 3DS' unique 3D capabilities. It can be argued whether or not gameplay is affected by 3D or not. I say it is, but it's kind of difficult to concretely prove. However, that is besides the point. The 3D in this game feels very, very natural, which is important because badly implemented 3D can be strenuous on the eyes and become uncomfortable. This game does the opposite. It lures you into playing in 3D mode because of how well the effect is used. As you move through levels, things, be it coins, platforms, sand, etc. are always coming out of the screen somewhat, and looks amazing. I remember one part where a Magikoopa shot some magick at me. The Magikoopa was in front, so the ball of magick traveled past Mario and out of the screen. It came out of the screen SO well, that I even had the reflex to move slightly left to dodge it myself - THAT'S how good the 3D is. There are even a few rooms where 3D tricks are used that make blocks change places relative to each other when 3D mode is switched from off to on - this can be experienced in the opening tutorial, and is very impressive.
There are plenty of new tunes to listen to, and they are more or less well spaced out between levels. Some nostalgic tunes will get you to smile, while the new ones (especially the main theme) will have you humming it every now and then. Notable soundtracks are the epic final fight's theme, the desert theme, as well as my favorite: the beach theme. Sound affects are aplenty and alive as well, with some detailed ones being remarkable (like when Mario walks on wood, grass or stone, his footsteps sound different).
REPLAY VALUE/CONTENT - 10/10
First things first, if you enjoy Mario games, then this game will have you coming back again and again due to how much fun it is. There are 8 worlds for the main game, and quite a bit of endgame content that I won't spoil (feel free to look it up if you are particularly curious). Since most levels are quite short, and there are 5-6 levels per world, the main game will take less than 10 hours at a fast speed, around 10 if you move slower. To 100% the game however (collecting all the star coins, as well as the meaty end game stuff), I estimate it taking 25-30 hours for Mario veterans, and a bit more for newcomers. However, all in all, you get more than enough Mario for the price, and it is a definite must-buy Mario experience.
Spotpass, to my knowledge, is not used, but streetpass certainly is. There are short minigames called Mystery boxes, that allow you to get star coins and power-ups when you complete them in time. Streetpass allows you to exchange mystery boxes between 3DS' players. In addition to that, once you beat the game, your time of completion for each level is recorded. This data is also exchanged between 3DS through streetpass. Quite a nifty extra if I do say so myself.
With the way the 3DS' launch was received, Super Mario 3D Land couldn't come sooner to pick things up, and let me say, it lifts this console like you wouldn't believe, particularly because it uses the 3DS most prominent feature (3D) extraordinarily well and really shows it's potential possibilities. All in all, this game is one word: fun. It's just fun......SO MUCH FUN!! As soon as I beat it, I want to play it again. If you are hesitant to buy this, wait no more. If you like Mario games, WAIT NO MORE! If you are still on the fence, then weigh the pros and cons:
- Fantastic and intuitive controls
- New abilities and power-ups
- Vibrant visuals and best use of 3D to date
- Fresh new level design
- Typical catchy and enjoyable Mario tunes
- A plethora of content
- Endgame content is challenging and rewarding
- Final battle will rock your socks
- Game starts off much, much too easy for the first few worlds (great for newcomers, a bit annoying for vets)
- Levels are generally pretty short
- No multiplayer
- No minigames like in New Super Mario Bros.
- Peach comes off as much too corny
There it is folks. Mario at his finest. Good luck putting this one down.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Super Mario 3D Land (US, 11/13/11)
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