Super Mario 3D Land
I have to confess, I’ve never been a huge Mario fan. I’ve owned every home console from Nintendo since the Nintendo 64, but I have never actually finished a Mario game – that is until Super Mario Galaxy. Super Mario Galaxy is an incredible game by all standards, but the experience did not have those incredible moments I was expecting it to have. It did not hook me like Nintendo’s other franchises. I was convinced Mario games were not for me, it just did not fit my taste. So I decided not to purchase New Super Mario bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2. However last year with the 3DS game draught, I decided to give Mario another chance with Super Mario 3D land. Having completed Super Mario 3d Land – I didn’t think it was possible – but maybe the Italian plumber has turned a big sceptic like myself into a fan.
Funny enough – like all Mario games – the game begins with Princess Peach being captured by Bowser. It’s up to Mario to rescue the precious princess from clutches of Bowsers evil hand. Thus Mario’s adventure begins. The story probably won’t win wards for originality or for having compelling narrative. But it’s nice to have context into why Mario is jumping around and stamping on Goomba’s.
No one plays Mario games for the story. After all, the delicious Mario goodness is all within the gameplay. Super Mario 3D Land is rather different from previous titles. It’s best described as a mesh between Super Mario Galaxy and New Super Mario Land. Like Super Mario Galaxy majority of the game plays on a 3D plain. However the goal of the is not to collect stars but draws on the gameplay of the 2D Mario, where players are required to reach the flag at the end of the stage.
I actually prefer the core gameplay of the 2D Mario’s over the 3D Mario games. The gameplay, from going to Point A to B rather than collecting stars appeals to me more. Super Mario galaxy just had an overwhelming amount of variety (I’m not saying this is a bad thing), that a Mario newbie like myself just could not handle it.
Super Mario 3D Land goes back to basics. It’s all about Jumping – stages in Super Mario 3D Land act like obstacle courses. The challenge is to avoid traps, defeat enemies and clear jumps. Although the game starts quite easy, but towards the end of the game the stages become quite challenging. Therefore, in order to reach the flag in the challenging stages players need to memorize patterns, move accordingly and jump with precise timing. Super Mario 3D Land is simple but cleverly deceptive in challenge.
It is quite rewarding finally completing a stage that has haunted your dreams for a couple of nights. I remember struggling to beat the second last Bowser fight in the game. My pride refused to use the Golden Tanooki suit. To be honest I must of used up around twenty 1-ups before being able to conquer this stage. For a Mario newbie, the growth in skill and accomplishment after beating Super Mario 3D Land is a landmark achievement.
There is a sufficient amount of content in Super Mario 3D land to keep players happy. Well the main game has 8 Worlds with around 8 stages in each. It will probably take a couple of hours to complete the main game. However collecting all the star coins will definitely extend playtime. For additional challenge, Nintendo has included secret stages. These are usually reworked courses with an unique twist. There may be a tiny time limit, a shadow Mario chase or more enemies. The secret worlds compensate for the easiness of the main quest.
Fortunately Mario has been given a few tools to assist him during his journey. Power-ups make a welcome return in Super Mario 3D Land. Old favourites like the Fire Mario suit make a return. However new suits like the boomerang Mario make a debut. Like the name suggests Mario can fire off a boomerang. Although not very ground-breaking in terms of new gameplay mechanics, it is very handy in retrieving distant items like star coins. The Tanooki Suit celebrates a return in Super Mario 3D land. The Tanooki is probably the most useful power-up in the game. The Tanooki suit allows player to hover in the air and travel for a short distance. Mario can also spin the tail around to defeat enemies. Certain star coins and hidden areas require the use of Tanooki suit. Throughout my playthrough I made certain that a Tanooki power-up was reserved.
For players who seem to be stuck on a particular challenge, Nintendo has been kind enough to give them extra assistance. After a player has died a certain number of times, a golden a tanooki suit will appear. It functions similarly to the normal Tanooki but Mario is impervious to damage. I’m not going to lie; I did found myself in situations where I had no other choice but to use the golden Tanooki suit. I like the fact that Nintendo has given option to make Mario more accessible to the casual gamer and newcomers to the series.
From a visual standpoint, Super Mario 3D is definitely one of the best looking 3DS game released so far. Overall the visuals look clean and very polished. I love how Nintendo chose a bright and colourful palette in the same vein of Super Mario Galaxy. It is a breath of fresh hair from the brown and grey visual style that seems to be all the rage nowadays. The art direction is simplistic and in line with previous Mario games. Super Mario 3D land uses the 3D in clever ways. The Extra depth of field allows players to judge jumps accurately, particular when guiding Mario in free fall. Some blocks and platforms are deceptively placed closer to the player vision than the rest of the objects in the background, without the 3D turned on; it is very difficult to judge the jump. There are also instances where optical illusions are cleverly used, to deliberately force players to turn the 3D on. Super Mario 3D land is frankly the only 3DS game I recommend to have the 3D on for the whole game.
Super Mario 3D Land has a good soundtrack. Much of the music is comprised of upbeat and whimsical scores. The Scores were good but there was nothing outstanding or had that one tune that truly stood out. Maybe I am being presumptuous but I just feel that that the level of quality was missing, especially for a Mario games. Super Mario 3D Land repeats the same 4 tunes. Hearing the same tracks again and again, wears down the novelty. A little more variety and tracks that fit the theme of levels would add more weight to the product.
As a Mario sceptic, I was quite impressed with Super Mario 3D Land. The tight controls and excellent level designs prove that gameplay is king. The overall polish of Super Mario 3D Land has shown me a glimpse to why this plumber is loved by so many. Although I have not completely converted to a fan, I look forward to what this Italian Plumber has to offer next.