Nintendo has several different major franchises like Kirby, Zelda, and Metroid. Mario, however, will always be flagship mascot for Nintendo. It seems like a Nintendo system isn’t fully christened until a Mario game is released for it. With the release of Super Mario 3D Land, the 3DS can now be considered christened. Now you can find out if Bowser pops out at you like he did to Reggie Fils-Aime during the 3DS announcement trailer at E3 2010.
When you first start up Super Mario 3D Land, it starts out feeling just like a side-scrolling Mario game, but after a few steps, you notice that you can see different planes of depth. Enemies jump out towards you trying to trip up Mario, and Mario can be moved into the different depths. The camera is fixed, but you can change the depth slightly by hitting up or down on the D-pad.
Controlling Mario doesn’t veer far from the DS incarnation. Movement is done with the slide pad, while jumping and dashing are done with the B/A and Y/X buttons, respectively. Using the shoulder buttons adds moves like rolls, ground stomps, long jumps, side somersaults, and crouch jumps. Mario can look through binoculars on some levels which can be adjusted by tilting the 3DS. This implementation of the internal gyroscope is much better than trying to tilt your 3DS to fly your Arwing in Star Fox 64 3D.
The worlds do feel more open because of the depth. It can cause some problems with lining up jumps and fireballs at first, but it will become second nature without too much trouble. Nintendo has made sure to use the 3D to full effect to show off the depth, and they really have hit it out of the park. Some of the levels give you a true sense of vertigo because of how far the jumps go. You truly wonder if you can land the jump without Mario breaking both legs when landing. While you can turn off the 3D, some areas were made for the 3D effects, and are actually enhanced by using it.
Many of the Mario characteristics you are used to are here in full 3D. Goombas, piranha plants, koopa troopas, and many other familiar characters are instantly recognizable from previous games. The question mark and brick boxes are scattered around all the levels. Mario uses pipes to travel to new areas, coins are collected throughout the level, and he lands on a flagpole at the end of the level.
The music and sound effects are instantly recognizable to any Mario fan. The music intro to the levels, the fanfare at the end, and Mario’s voice are all present here. Nintendo has a policy of, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, ” and that’s the policy they used here.
Many of the Mario side-scrolling games are deceivingly tough. Sure, the plumbers jumping on turtles are cute, but they certainly have their work cut out for them. Super Mario 3D Land starts easy. In fact, the initial levels are so easy that I wasn’t sure that I was playing a Mario game. Sure, I died a few times, but that was mostly due to carelessness more than anything the game threw at me. After the first eight worlds, things changed, and the challenge was ramped up significantly. The first levels get you familiar with controlling Mario. The later levels really test your skills
Power-ups like the fireball flower are here, as well as the invincibility star. The Tanooki suit from Super Mario Bros. 3 makes a comeback. The raccoon suit gives Mario the ability to spin around to defeat enemies and float in the air to make jumps easier. It’s a good edition that will be useful to younger generations who haven’t had to deal with more challenging Mario games. A new boomerang suit has been added that lets him throw a boomerang at foes. This is helpful against pesky air enemies. You can store one item, and that can be useful to switch abilities in the middle of a level, or to have some kind of backup if you get hit by an enemy.
Super Mario 3D Land is the first 3DS title that really takes advantage of the 3D capabilities of the system. It is an important element to the gameplay that would not be appreciated on any other system. While the initial simplicity of the first worlds might disappoint hardcore fans, the later levels should provide the challenge that they are looking for. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that you should buy a 3DS just to play this title, I would say that if you do own a 3DS you owe it to yourself to pick this game up.