Review by materialweapon

"Super Mario 3D Land does, what most other games fail to do"

As always, before I review a game I try my best to make sure I beat the game 100%. This is to ensure that I see everything the game has to offer, before I make my judgement on it. Fortunately, I just completed Super Mario 3D Land today; and yes, I even completed the last secret level. It only took me 4 hours to do so (the final level that is).

I was a little late to the party with Super Mario 3D Land, considering I only got it on Christmas day; but I finally got my hands on this ‘proclaimed' superb title.

I'll be honest with you. I was very sceptical about this game whenever I got a chance to watch trailers and brief game play videos on it. I wasn't a fan of the linear, start to finish approach in a 3D Mario game. I just wasn't convinced. After all, among my favourite titles of all time are the two Mario Galaxy games and Mario 64, which all include the tried and true star collecting approach. Star searching and exploration is what I love about 3D Mario titles. “Why would they change something that works?” was my impression. [Ironically, the Galaxy titles were quite linear as well. This occurred to me when I realized traveling from planet to planet as opposed to having giant over world like Mario 64 was different.]

After the game released, I couldn't help but notice the game was getting praise and very high ratings. Knowing this, I naturally went into Super Mario 3D Land with a great amount of expectation. Prior to playing it, I was also bombarded by gaming news sites rating it the best 3DS game of the year.

I knew inevitably that I would have some fun with this title since Nintendo has never disappointed me, but I really didn't expect to be blown away. Ironically enough, I was. It might not have occurred right away, but days after playing the title, I realized that I had been having the most fun in a video game since Skyward Sword. That may sound funny since Skyward Sword only released a measly two months ago, but since then I have played a lot of games.

The first thing I noticed when I popped in the game was that the 3D effects immediately made an impact on the game. I literally felt like I was playing a different game with the 3D on, as opposed to having it off. In terms of the graphics, they were some of the best I've ever seen on a handheld; but that isn't saying much. I knew that in person it would look a lot better in my hands and on my actual 3DS, as opposed to screenshots of the game, but it wasn't. Don't get me wrong, they looked great; it just didn't drop my jaw. Nevertheless with saying that, as I progressed through the game, the graphics continued to amaze me as I went from world to world. My first impression was that they were pretty good and the 3D effects were great. Though, once I stepped into cannon and had a look around, is when I fully realized that the graphics were top notch, which kind of makes you wish the camera angle was different to be more zoomed in, etc. This tiny little gripe I had faded as soon as I kept progressing in the game. Many different stages use different camera angles and effects. Some stages have a bird's eye view straight down, while others have a closer up look. Overall I was very pleased with the amount of color and detail included in this game. This game me feel the same way Skyward Sword made me feel. Meaning I was sceptical about the graphics at first, but then falling in love as I progressed through the game. Patience plays a big part with these two titles.

The music of the game was definitely another strong point. Although Nintendo did recycle some of the tracks from Galaxy and past Mario titles, it just sounded really great on the 3DS' speakers. My favourite tracks include the bowser stages, post-boss fight, world map themes, and the final boss theme (which is incredibly epic, mind you).

In terms of power-ups, there is no doubt that the tanooki suit steals the spotlight. Gliding around with your tail is very fun to do and can make some of the levels a breeze to get through. The Tanooki suit also adds a new dimension into 3D Mario games that I'd really like to see in future Mario titles. It's a great way to travel around safely and also quickly.

Moving on to value, it surprisingly surpasses many Mario games I have played in the past. I clocked over 20 hours to complete the game 100%. The replay value is also very high too, since you're only completing a stage once or twice depending if whether or not you want to go to 100% (to collect star coins you missed &/or with Luigi). I would say it even has better replay value than the Galaxy games, because in the galaxy games you're revisiting the same galaxies again and again to acquire stars, while in this game it keeps stages fresh (I loved Mario Galaxy mind you, I'm just comparing the two). This in part, is naturally better suited for a handheld game. Once you complete the game, you'll have plenty of motivation to complete the special worlds and collect the star coins.

I definitely had a problem with the difficulty at first. It was pretty easy, especially for a Mario game. As the worlds progressed I didn't notice the difficulty getting any harder until about world 5. There are only a handful of challenging stages throughout the first 8 worlds and most of these are the airship or bowser stages. The final 3 stages provided a good challenge, but I was ultimately left wanting more. Fortunately for me, I was not aware that there were also 8 special worlds unlocked right after you beat the final boss (Since I tend to stay away from spoilers prior to playing a game and prior to its release). Just from the first special world, I knew these 8 special worlds were going to crave my difficulty cravings; and boy did they ever. There were definitely some nail biting levels, but it never got to the point where it was excruciatingly difficult (with the exception of the final secret level). The difficulty curve is one of the best I've seen in my history of gaming. Throughout the first 8 worlds, I probably only died about a dozen times. However, after I completed the special 8 worlds and the notorious secret crown level, I finished with 443. Go ahead and laugh, it really is funny. The game is pretty forgiving as well, meaning that if you die, it's almost always your own fault. Trial and error plays little role in the challenge the game provides. It's all about good old fashioned plat-forming and being quick and agile with some skill involved.

I can say that I really like this approach that Nintendo went with for this game. The first 8 regular worlds were easy enough for most gamers and especially casual and younger gamers alike to complete. The challenge for the hardcore that are craving more lies in the 8 special worlds. This is a very smart approach for Nintendo to make. I really enjoyed the idea of using the star coins to unlock future stages. Collecting and finding star coins was a fun little challenge to do

Mario 3D Land is perhaps the most brilliant thing to come out of 2011. It's too bad it got overlooked for the game of the year on most major gaming websites since it's a handheld game. It is quite possibly the best game of 2011. There was rarely ever a dull moment and the 3D effects and clever stages are enough to make you smile quite often throughout this game. What's funny is that I couldn't put the game down. Since I own all three consoles this generation and a 3DS, I undoubtedly have an abundance of games to play. I'd say around 50; seriously. Plus I also just bought about a dozen games on the Steam holiday sale. Yet, I couldn't put Super Mario 3D Land down. The tried and true plat-forming and sheer amount of fun had me hooked. Overall I was very impressed with Super Mario 3D Land, even after coming into the game with an enormous amount expectation. It definitely met, and even surpassed my expectations. At the end of the day, the game provides a special feeling that we all look for in video games; sheer fun. And boy, does it deliver that in spades.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 01/06/12

Game Release: Super Mario 3D Land (US, 11/13/11)

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