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Super Mario 3D Land

Super Mario 3D Land

There is no video game character more iconic than the Italian plumber known as Mario. He’s been in the business for nearly 30 years, and has dotted every Nintendo console and handheld with at least one platforming game. Now, the 3DS sees its very own Mario game in the form of Super Mario 3D Land. Blending together elements of both 2D and 3D Mario games, Super Mario 3D Land marks its entry with a new approach while carrying some incredibly potent nostalgia.

It’s often been debated why Mario bothers to keep Princess Peach around. All she ever does is cause the poor guy trouble, somehow always finding ways to get kidnapped by the overgrown dinosaur Bowser. Maybe it’s love that keeps him chasing after her, or perhaps she’s just a really damned good cook. Whatever the case may be, Bowser has yet again snatched her up and thrown her into another one of his many castles. With his brother Luigi in tow, the plumber duo run, jump and bash their way through bricks, goombas and koopas to thwart Bowser yet again, for the millionth time.

Although Super Mario 3D Land greatly resembles the Super Mario Galaxy games, Mario fans will instantly recognize the old school roots of Super Mario 3D Land‘s gameplay. Gone is Mario’s segmented health meter, and coins no longer replenish his health. Mario starts out each level as Super Mario, and if he gets hit, he shrinks to Little Mario. One more blow and strike another life off the plumber’s extra lives count. Levels are also timed to keep you zipping along to the end, jumping on top of flagpoles as high as possible to net you an extra life.

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Speaking of lives, the game throws out an immense number of them at you. You’ll find them anywhere from hidden blocks, to lines of enemies that you chain kill with a Super Star, to bouncing off a stack of goombas. For the first time ever for a Mario game, Super Mario 3D Land actually allows you to break the 99 lives limit, and it’s quite easy to do so. Mario veterans will find little challenge in the game’s eight worlds, but once you beat the game, a set of eight new special worlds will unlock remixing the previous eight with new layouts, enemies and hazards. If, however, you aren’t as adept in the ways of Mario, the game features two crutches. If you die five times, an Invincibility Leaf will turn you into the invincible White Tanooki Mario for the remainder of the level. If you continue to die, a P-Wing will appear that if taken will warp you immediately to the level’s end.

[pullquote_right]It’s taken a little from column A and a little from column B to create a unique Mario game all its own.[/pullquote_right]The prevalent power-up in Super Mario 3D Land is the Tanooki Leaf. It appears so often in the game, it’s almost as if to apologize for the tanooki suit’s rare occurrences in Super Mario Brothers 3. Tanooki Mario works a little differently in this game, though, as you’re not able to run and take off to the skies. You can only glide gently to the ground and if you want to turn into a statue like in SMB 3, you’ll need to unlock the special worlds and find a silver leaf for that ability. The Propeller Suit returns from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but it’s modified as the Propeller Block, which works exactly the same propelling Mario straight up into the air while gliding back down to the ground. A new power-up, the Boomerang Flower, is introduced and lets Mario throw boomerangs that not only knock out enemies as large as giant Bullet Bills, but also snag out of reach items, such as Star Coins.

Although there are no Stars or Shines to hunt and collect in Super Mario 3D Land, there are Star Coins, three per level. Although it’s not necessary to collect every coin to beat the game, it is necessary to access every level, especially the final levels of the Special World. These Star Coins can be in plain sight and easily attainable, or they might require some tricky jumping to reach. Some will be cleverly hidden, and others will require a special power-up in order to collect. The game’s true difficulty lies in being able to snatch up these most precariously placed precious medals in the later levels.

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As for the levels, they are all excellently designed and quite varied. You’ll run across grass-laden castle grounds reminiscent of Super Mario 64, explore tricky haunted ghost houses, swim underwater avoiding squids and giant eels, ride moving platforms on a set of rails, hotfoot it across desert sands and for the SMB 3 lover in you, hop across a fleet of moving airships. A real treat for those who love trips down memory lane, the Bowser castles feature a return to the end-of-world encounters: Mario must run past Bowser across a bridge and press a button to destroy the bridge and drop Bowser in a pool of fiery lava.

Super Mario 3D Land makes use of Street Pass to grant passing players Mystery Boxes that appear sporadically through the game’s worlds. These mystery boxes contain a quick 10 second challenge of killing and collecting everything in the room, and it’s a great way to earn Star Coins if you’re finding yourself low on them. The 3DS’s gyrometer is also put to use by allowing you to control binocular stations to look for Toad in certain stages. If you find him, zoom in on him and he’ll drop Star Coins, power-ups or 1-Up mushrooms for you. This does present a slight problem, though, because you may not want to move your 3DS around, so you’ll find yourself fighting the gyrometer with the circle pad.

Mario made himself look terrific on the Wii with the Super Mario Galaxy games, and he’s made sure he’s spiffed up for the 3DS. Super Mario 3D Land is one of the best-looking titles on the system. Characters and environments are well-built and wrapped with colorful textures. Animations are of course top notch, expecting nothing less from Nintendo’s flagship franchise. Special effects are terrific from goombas being flattened to other enemies doing backflips and poofing into a cloud of dust. The 3D effect unfortunately does very little to really enhance the gameplay. Sure, it provides a nice diorama-like depth effect, but there’s rarely a time where something pops out and catches your eye.

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Mario fans, prepare to have your hearts melted away with Super Mario 3D Land‘s superb soundtrack. The game is composed of wonderful new themes and excellent renditions of old music selected from the first Super Mario Bros. game to Super Mario World. The sound effects are all classic Mario fare with fireballs bouncing around, boings of Mario as he jumps off spongy platforms, clicks of rotating blocks as they change direction under Mario’s feet, and of course the deafening roar of Bowser as he’s enraged to see Mario yet again, for the millionth time. Of course, what’s a Mario game without the voice of Charles Martinet!

Super Mario 3D Land has taken a little from column A and a little from column B to create a unique Mario game all its own. It may not offer the challenge that hardcore Mario fans want, but it’s solid enough in the gameplay and level design to still appease those fans. Oddly enough, its heavy reliance on reminiscence and fanfare has also held the game back ever so slightly in the creative department, so any incredibly high expectations won’t be met. With that said, Super Mario 3D Land is still a fantastic title that all Mario fans and 3DS owners should add to their collections.

The Good

Great sense of nostalgia | Excellent level design | TANOOKIS EVERYWHERE!

The Bad

Far too easy for a Mario game | Camera angles can throw depth perception off | 3D effect put to minimal use

4.5/5

Born and raised in Denver, CO in 1979, I've been playing games since I was old enough to hold a controller. I was weened on Atari, then Nintendo and Sega, and currently own just about every console and handheld made. I'm an avid hip hop fan and I love to read books. Favorite authors include Dean Koontz, Stephen Hunter, and Christopher Moore. I'm also an avid movie watcher and I try to collect as many Blu-Rays as I can.
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