Ah, do I love me some Mario. He’s the only iconic video game character that doesn’t need a convoluted story or intricate subtext to make a new game. The outings are straight-forward but the level design will make you let out a laugh and even a “damn that’s clever” and you’ll have a smile on your face the whole way. And generally, the overall satisfaction you get from working out a difficult Mario level is completely unparalleled… well, maybe Portal. There’s a reason why these games have been going for over 25 years and it is consistency. But that can bring it’s own downfalls too. So let’s have a look at Nintendo’s new offering : Super Mario 3D Land… just rolls off the tongue, huh?!
Ok, I’m going to get personal for a second. I’ve been playing these Mario games since my primary school friend Leon showed me his Famicom in year 1. Instantly, I loved Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros. Even playing as Luigi. So for this review, I’m going to be SUPER critical of Super Mario 3D Land‘s gameplay features from a veteran’s point of view. So, for those of you who have somehow NEVER PLAYED A MARIO GAME, here’s my review for you: get it. It’s good and simple. You don’t need mad skills to enjoy it, it’s the archetype on which most games should be built and if you own a 3DS and don’t buy this game it’s because you have forgotten you own one.
There… now for you seasoned Mario players or you folks who have bought your kids a 3DS and want to know if the new Mario stacks up against your childhood recollections of past glories, Lets-a go!
First off, the 3D effect is amazing and has been used tastefully. The way Nintendo have built this game is under the idea of “you don’t NEED to play it in 3D to enjoy it” and they hit the nail right on the head. Playing in 2D is absolutely fine and you don’t get disorientated or hindered by the camera or perspective at any time. Even the hidden areas are well masked without the depth of 3D but truly, the way to play this game is with the full effect. The resolution has a tendency to drop a bit with most 3DS titles when you switch from 2D to 3D (especially in Street Fighter and Dead or Alive) but Mario keeps crisp regardless. The main difference I noticed is that your jump trajectory is easier to predict and your landing zone is clear as day in the 3D mode and considering that jumping is basically 90% of Mario games, this game is playing with the console’s strength to full advantage.
The controls are super tight, which came as the biggest surprise to me. All the levels have, very cleverly, been made around a set directional path. Now that may seem like “well frikken DUH!” but this is a 3D modeled gaming world and you now have an analogue thumb pad for movement so what Nintendo have done, is made an almost undetectable “dead spot” when changing your direction so you keep the same path as the level. Obviously, if you move the thumb pad outside the slight dead spot, Mario will move in that direction but when you are avoiding fireballs, jumping over pits and head-butting question mark boxes, it makes a world of difference to not stray off course from a twitch.
The level design needs no introduction. It’s Mario. Enemies are meticulously placed. There are hints to where the hidden secrets are, some evil and like finding Elvis, others like a billboard broadcast. Each world has a theme like desert, forest, lava, snow, etc like all the other Mario games. There are jumps and falls that make you think twice and puzzles that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. There’s the much beloved Tanooki suit making a return (the full body raccoon suit from Mario 3) and the new boomerang suit as well as the fire flower to mix things up. So it has it all. Everything is where it needs to be. It’s so damn hard to fault this game until you take a look at the trend that Mario seems to be heading.
I’m sure I’m going to cop some flack for this, but here goes.
Dear Nintendo, STOP REUSING SO MUCH STUFF FROM MARIO 3!!!!! It’s a game that’s been out for 20 years and you have borrowed EVERY aspect of it over your last 3 games. Everything from the music to the bosses (how many times do we have to beat up Bowser’s kids in different games but in the SAME DAMN WAY?!) and even the power up suits. Mario Galaxy 2 used a lot from Mario 3 and it was a great way to show the company’s appreciation for one of their best, and most important titles. But then you continued with New Mario Bros on Wii with the bosses (those darned kids again), music, stages and that bloody penguin suit! Now with Super Mario 3D Land, it’s almost like you’re trying to make a 3D Mario 3… hmmmm, maybe that’s what I’m missing? The title is Super Mario 3-D Land. Like it’s supposed to be Mario 3 to begin with? But either way, what they have done is take all the magic from the original Mario 3 leaving it NOTHING to offer new players. Sure, it’s 20 years old but it used to offer enough genuinely original gameplay to lure newcomers to it’s awesomeness. You have now killed one of your best releases leaving it an empty 8-bit husk. Ok, thanks. Bye.
Maybe I am being a bit harsh but this game has no new features besides the stereoscopic 3D graphics. No multiplayer, no internet extras and there is an extremely rudimentary street pass ability. Why, Nintendo? Mario Galaxy 1 turned us all on our heads and even Paper Mario dared to be different and that’s the only place this Mario lacks, originality. Take a goddamn chance more often Nintendo, it’s paid off in the past!
In summary, is this the 3DS game we’ve been waiting for? Yes. Absolutely. The graphics are amazing and the 3D effect is used properly but isn’t required to love the game. The levels are brilliantly thought out and Mario is as lovable as ever. The absence of Yoshi is always a lurking question but he just wouldn’t fit in this outing. You’ll be tapping your feet to the tunes and it’s sure to bring back fond memories while creating some new ones. Like “this is the moment I realised why the HELL I bought the 3DS in the first place”.