Since New Super Mario Bros. 2 just came out this week on the Nintendo 3DS, to celebrate I am going to review it…later. In the meantime, here’s a review for its counterpart, Super Mario 3D Land. It’s great to have a brand new Mario title to play, and Super Mario 3D Land is fun, albeit flawed in a number of ways.
Super Mario 3D Land has a rather simple premise – it’s a “3D Mario that plays like a 2D one”. It plays exactly the way you’d expect, New Super Mario Bros. breeding with Super Mario Galaxy. The graphics are quite reminiscent are those two titles too. Of course, just like most Mario games, there is plenty of nostalgia and elements from past titles. Yes, Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser, but that’s been the premise of nearly all Mario platformers, and the last thing a Mario platformer needs is a plot.
Gameplay involves reaching the exit in each level, just like the classic games, but you do so in three-dimensions this time as well as in stereoscopic 3D if you hit the 3D slider. Fire Flowers and Super Mushrooms return as power-ups to help you on your way just like all of the traditional Super Mario Bros. games since the 1985 original. If you don’t know, basically if you are hit as regular Mario, you turn into small Mario and if you’re hit as small Mario, you lose a life. Grab a Super Mushroom and you’ll go grow to regular Mario again. You gain an extra hit point if you have an additional power-up. These include the Fire Flower, allowing you to shoot fireballs; the Tanooki Suit, allowing you to hit enemies with your new tail and float in the air; and the Boomerang Suit that gives you an unlimited arsenal of boomerangs to throw.
Most of the boss fights are lame, and evident that Nintendo want to stick to traditions again as you fight the Boom Boom from Super Mario Bros. 3 many times and defeating involves…you guessed it, jumping on his head three times. The Bowser boss battles repeat themselves, but are pretty damn cool nonetheless and at least they don’t involve just hitting him three times in the head. This game seems to be a call-back to Super Mario Bros. 3 in a lot of ways that become obvious as you play. This isn’t New Super Mario Bros. though, so it shouldn’t be resorting to old elements from old titles, it should be in a zone of its own, like Super Mario Galaxy. It takes the special coin system from New Super Mario Bros., so each level features three special coins to find that unlock more levels.
The game is a rather short experience, even when I played through the second quest (not all of it as I couldn’t be bothered finding the special coins to unlock the last few levels), I only put in about 10 hours into the game. Yes the game is fun, which is the most important thing. The problem is the level design. There are some really cool levels here, but a lot of them seem to lack inspiration, especially during the first quest. The second set of levels you unlock, are much better, although some of them are copied and pasted from the first quest with small changes, which is disappointing. The other good thing about the second quest is that the levels are much harder. The first quest is way too easy. If you’ve played a 2D Mario title before, have no fear because you’re almost guaranteed to never run out of lives. Honestly, having a life system at all in games these days is pointless, but Mario games will never remove them because 1-Up Mushrooms are a tradition.
This is hands down the best use of 3D I’ve seen on the 3DS so far. Turning it on does make it easier to see where to jump at times, not that it’s hard with the 3D off. It certainly adds to the very nice visuals too. Despite this, it doesn’t change the fact that 3D is still a very optional thing, and turning it off won’t detract from the experience much at all.
Super Mario 3D Land is fun with tight gameplay and tight controls. It does lack the inspiration of other Marios, such as the wonderful Super Mario Galaxy. It also suffers not just from cutting and pasting from other games, but also from itself. After playing the incredibly innovating and near flawless that was (yes once again) Super Mario Galaxy, I was hoping Super Mario 3D Land would break new ground, rather than turn Super Mario Bros. 3 in three dimensions. I do recommend playing this game, because even though it lacks the spark of other Mario titles, it has more newness to it than the New Super Mario Bros. subseries. The 3D effect works great, but I’ll never use the 3D effect to recommend a 3DS game to anyone because it’s completely optional with such little effect on the gameplay. I rate Super Mario 3D Land 3.5/5, but it would’ve been a 3 if it wasn’t for the awesome second quest.