Game Review: Super Mario 3D Land
Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Available Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Just 7 months and ½ months, 233 days; that’s how long it took for Nintendo to finally release what should have been a launch title for the 3DS. This is the first 3DS game I had to force myself to stop playing; and when I finally did stop, I couldn’t wait to play again. Nintendo took the best of Super Mario Galaxy and the best of the Super Mario Land games and blended them together with this game. The level design is both simple and brilliant. The new and old power-ups and the enemies look great and play naturally. But the best part is the utilization of 3D. It is adds to the experience without being obtrusive or annoying. While possible to play and solve every possible without the 3D turned on, it is much more immersive to keep it on.
Super Mario 3D Land doesn’t spend much time establishing the story: Bowser kidnaps Princess, Mario travels through worlds to rescue Princess. If Bowser wasn’t such an egomaniac, he might have thought better than sending postcards to Mario flaunting the kidnapping. But within about a minute Mario embarks into the core of the game, the gameplay. With a very simple overworld, each level is represented by a floating, spinning 3D dynamic icon giving a hint about the environment and/or obstacles inside. There are three star medals to collect in each level; some in plain sight others hidden very cleverly, while others may exist in a special warp area you must find or unlock. You’ll need these medals to unlock special levels in some of the worlds and for the main castles you encounter mid-way through and at the end of some worlds. I collected the medals with ease, never lacking enough when I encountered a level to unlock. I didn’t get every medal, but averaged about 2 on my first try through each level.
Super Mario 3D Land is very generous with lives, and boy will you need them later. There are many ways to accumulate them from the ones hidden throughout the levels, every 100 coins collected, hitting the top of the flagpole at the end of the level, even the time left at the finish of each level turns into extra coins. By world 8 I had collected over 70 lives without trying. And Nintendo’s kind code makes an appearance in this game as well. Die 10 times, get an invincible Tanooki suit and continue playing. Die some more and the Super P-wing will appear to help you fly through to the finish of the level.
All in all, every part of this game has the Nintendo “polish” on it. Once I finished a level, I started the next until I forced myself to stop. The level environments weren’t over-used nor the mechanics within each level. The perfect pacing of the levels and gradual increase in complexity never overwhelmed me. If there was one drawback, the built-in tutorial didn’t teach all of the mechanics. Long jumps and rolling are helpful moves to execute, but they only appear in the paper manual. Super Mario 3D Land, exceeded my expectations for fun and innovation, which were admittedly already set very high. Jam packed with Nintendo homages, Easter Eggs, and hidden areas, and levels, the replayability level is very high. I can’t recommend this Mario game enough. And in the end, who doesn’t want to save the princess?
+Brilliant level design
+Simple and complex environments
+Fantastic 3D integration
+Short levels suit short or long gameplay sessions
Final Score: 10 out of 10