logan j. fowler reviews Mario’s first foray into three dimensions (on the 3DS) …
My 3DS has been getting dusty. The abundance of good games being released for the system have been moving at a snail’s pace. While the ports of Star Fox and Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time did a solid job holding my interest, there is only so much fun to be had with games you’ve played several times already.
But the holiday season is kind to us gamers, and Nintendo has released (finally) a game for the 3DS that is worth writing home about (and helped me to pick up my 3DS). It features the big N’s most popular mascot, returning to form with old school and new school power ups, having new worlds to conquer, and needing to rescue a princess in peril.
Mario is back in a 3D dimensional format that demonstrates the true power of the 3DS, while at the same time, revisiting the formula that has worked for the mustachioed plumber since the birth of his gaming days, only this time with more polish and different angles. Super Mario 3D Land has arrived, and is a must have for any 3DS owner.
The plot is simple, and it’s the same as it has been since the beginning; Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser, and it’s up to the little man in the red cap to save him. We also see a brief scene where a tree is blowing heavily in the wind, unleashing leaves. This leaves are the link to the Takooni power up, which is a throwback to Super Mario Bros. 3. In that game the leaf would just turn you into a raccoon, but here, you get the full Takooni suit. Since the leaves are scattered all over the mushroom kingdom, many of Mario’s enemies are now equipped with raccoon tails.
The game itself looks absolutely gorgeous, as the world of Mario has always been very vibrant, and none of that is lost on the 3DS. Try to imagine Super Mario Galaxy‘s little brother, and that’s pretty much the visual you get when you think of the game. This is also a game that doesn’t severely affect your eyes if you rev the 3D all the way up, but if you do tilt the 3DS a little bit, the screen becomes blurry. I played the whole game in 3D mostly, rarely switching it off. There are some elements of the game where the 3D is used to great effect, as a top down view of a level will have the hero jump “up” at you. It’s pretty neat.
The initial eight worlds are pretty easy to run through. However, collecting all the star coins will provide some added difficulty, as more searching and thinking skills are required. Also, certain stars coins may need Mario to hang onto to a power up, and running through a whole level while suited up provides an extra challenge to veteran Mario players.
Now, those same rules also can apply in the special worlds. Once you beat the first eight levels, those worlds become available. They also may be spin offs of the levels you found earlier, with different features, or levels where you have to collect clocks to beat the time limit, ones where you are running away from your evil doppelganger, or just the same levels where the enemy count is higher. Whatever the case, the difficulty found in the special worlds is much tougher, and brings the game a lot more variety and added frustration.
The levels themselves are very short, but packed with a lot of personality. My only real problem with this game is that the stages can be finished in a couple of minutes if you get through without dying, but the variety of levels scattered throughout the mushroom kingdom help ease that pain a little bit. Mario’s (and Luigi, who you can unlock in the game, thankfully) skills are put to the test very often, and the power ups provided (the aforementioned Takooni suit, propeller box, boomerang suit, fireball suit) are very fun and glee inducing when you get them. As much as I love the throwback to the Takooni suit (there is a Takooni power up statue alternative later in the game), the boomerang suit probably is my favorite in the game.
Is Super Mario 3D Land the best Mario game ever? No. But is one of my favorite Mario games? Without a shadow of a doubt. The 3DS needed a gaming kick, and Mario’s latest adventure is just the thirst quencher the system needed. With lovely visuals, a moderate amount of difficulty, a fun soundtrack that has new music as well as remixed classics, and of course, my boy Luigi as an playable character, Super Mario 3D Land is an epic adventure on a small screen, and another great installment in Nintendo’s flagship franchise.