Super Mario 3D Land is hands down the best game currently available for the Nintendo 3DS and, in my opinion, is in the running for Game of the Year 2011. Mario 3D is the 3DS’ long awaited killer app, just in time for the 2011 holiday season. Bowser is at it once again, taking Princess Peach hostage leaving Mario to save the day.
Super Mario 3D Land blends the best aspects from the 25-year franchise together to create a new yet familiar game. The tanooki suit from Super Mario Bros 3 (NES) makes a return in Mario 3D Land and is easily the most important power up in the game. Unfortunately, until you finish the main game and unlock the special levels, it does not function as older gamers may remember. You will not be able to use it to fly, period; you flutter. This instantly becomes insanely useful as you try to delicately land on small platforms and collect the Star Coins that you’ll will need to advance in the game.
Once you complete the main story mode, you will unlock a special mode; it is here where you will find the Statue Suit that works much more similarly to the tanooki suit of SMB3 (minus the flying part still).
There are eight worlds, each with several stages that Mario will need to traverse and conquer in order to save Princess Peach. Each world is beautifully designed and shows off the incredible capabilities the 3DS possesses. There are some stages where you flat out need 3D turned on so you can solve the three dimensional puzzles; luckily I found it to be the easiest 3DS game on the eyes to date. The game is just plain fun, although if you allow yourself to get frustrated easily there will be plenty of opportunities to do so. The game has an overall mellow, but vibrant feeling to it. The bright colors, cheerful music and just the right amount of challenge will easily hook you in for long gaming sessions.
To make it to the end of any given level, you will need to have cat-like reflexes, precision coordination, a sense of urgency, and attention to detail. Every stage has three Star Coins to be collected; you will be required to have certain amounts in each world to open levels and the end-world castles. Collecting these coins is no easy feat in some cases, so be prepared to play each level a few times over.
The learning curve for SM3DL is gentle. If you die five times, you will have a sparkling tanooki suit available to you when you start your next play of the level. The sparkling suit basically is a combination of an invincibility star and a tanooki suit. It feels like a cop out, and yes you can still die by falling (which I did more than anything else), but for kids or even if you’re just eager to beat the level, then this is a nice feature. If you’re really stuck, after the tenth time you die in a level a “P” wing (originally seen in SMB3) will appear that lets you skip to the end of a level. You obviously won’t be able to pick up coins unless you got some before using it.
Generally speaking, the controls worked well. I did have some difficulty adapting to the 3D world at times, especially when trying to land on a small or moving platform (even worse, small moving platforms). I missed… a lot. I don’t feel like my lack of depth perception in this game can really be blamed on anyone but myself, so this did not hurt my overall opinion of the game. The game has some great new tunes in the soundtrack, but also goes back to some of the classics from various incarnations of the franchise. It was nice to have those little trips down memory lane, all the while enjoying a game that feels completely new.
As previously mentioned, when you complete the regular story mode, you will unlock special new worlds. These eight worlds are similar to the previous eight, but they are considerably more challenging. If you die repeatedly, don’t look for the invincibility tanooki suit or P-Wing to help you out. Some of the special levels will severely limit your time and will have to race through the levels dodging, smashing, and collecting clocks to give you just a few more seconds to make it through. Other levels in the special world will be frustrating, but still fun. After the first special world you will rescue Luigi and from there you may play as either Mario or Luigi.
Super Mario 3D Land also takes advantage of the StreetPass function built into the 3DS. When you StreetPass other 3DS owners, your game will restock Toad’s house (similar to SMB3 when you could pick a chest for an item from toad), and also reset challenge boxes that can reward you with Star coins.
Super Mario 3D Land is a must buy for Nintendo 3DS owners or those who’ve considered picking the system up. This fun, yet challenging, adventure is great for any and all gamers.
Pros: Easy learning curve, utterly fun, nostalgic rehash of many great Mario titles
Cons: It should have launched with the 3DS, it would have drastically helped sales.