Mario takes a break from his New Super Mario Bros games and jumps back into the 3D world; and this time he's back in a familiar title to original Gameboy owners. That's right Mario makes his triumphant appearance on the 3DS with Super Mario 3D Land. Super Mario 3D Land is a combination of both 2D Mario gameplay with his modern home-console 3D world gameplay, or as game designer Shigeru Miyamoto says "a 3D Mario that plays as a 2D Mario game" (quote here). Playing Super Mario 3D Land is a fantastic experience especially for the elder Mario players who fondly remember his old 2D adventures. Super Mario 3D Land brings back many classic features from older Mario Bros games and integrates them into a way that makes them seem fresh and new so that all players can enjoy it.
Once again, the story in a Mario game is a simple one, in which it revolves around Mario, Princess Peach, and Bowser. One night, a special tree that lays nears Peach's Castle, called the "Tail Tree", was stripped of all its leaves (the Super Leaves also known as the Raccoon/Tanooki Leaves). The culprit was none other than Bowser, who gave the leaves to all his minions, granting them new abilities, and kidnapped Princess Peach while he was it. Now, with Mario finding a letter of Bowser's misdeeds, he sets off on his journey to rescue the Princess.
Super Mario 3D Land gameplay is similar to that of a home-console 3D Mario game, with many platforming aspects similar to old 2D Mario games. Mario's ability to dash, wall-jump, dash-jump, and crouch are all there, playing similar to that of Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario 64. In addition, there are many old-school throwback features in the game like the Tanooki Suit, Flagpoles at the end of each level, Music Note Boxes, holding the crouch button to charge a high jump (SMB2), even the old style of swimming from Super Mario Bros. 3 is back! (meaning you only sink unless you press the jump button).
All Mario levels are basic point A to point B levels, with each stage having a different theme, sometimes placing Mario in the sky, in the desert or even underwater. Super Mario 3D Land is filled with eight worlds, around five to six stages each, and all are crammed with unique puzzles, with some requiring the aid of power-ups. The classic Fire Flower makes another appearance, as well as the triumphant return of the Tanooki suit, although flying is not an option in this 3D-adventure. One new powerup that is brought to the table is the ability of the Boomerang [Bros]. Similar to the idea of Hammer Mario, Mario can take the power of a Boomerang Bro and get access to two boomerangs to reach items or coins that are not able to reached in normal circumstances.
A huge and integral element in Super Mario 3D Land, is the 3D integration for each stage. Not only is platforming in full 3D, where a straight path is not always what it seems, but 3D is required in some of the levels, to ensure victory over optical illusions that can't be seen without activating your 3DS' 3D. A level will indicate that the section has a 3D segment with a box before each level telling the player that 3D is required, making the 3DS 3D feature not feel like a gimmick, but more of a necessity.
Each World has a boss ranging from Bowser in a classic Super Mario Bros Bridge fight to the Air-ships and a fight with a Boom-Boom (the mid-boss in SMB3 castles). There are no mini-bosses in the game, but there are special bonuses on the level-selection map to help the player like Toad Houses or Mystery Boxes. Toad Houses provide Mario with powerups he can save for his journey (he can carry on extra powerup like in Super Mario World) and Mystery Boxes give Mario plenty of 1-UP's and sometimes Star Coins. Now, this is where the Streetpass comes into play for Super Mario 3D Land, because after one use of either a Toad House or Mystery Box causes it to disappear. With a Streetpass, you reactivate these areas in turn letting you use them again. If a Player is a 5-star player, you receive a greater bonus etc.
If you were worried about that the graphics of Super Mario 3D Land were not going to be better than Super Mario 64 then do not. The graphics in this game were fantastic, nearly looking like a port of Super Mario Galaxy, fit perfectly for the 3DS. The levels are vibrant, Mario, Peach, Bowser, all look fantastic making you wonder how far the graphics of the 3DS can actually go. Once again, music in this Mario game is catchy, but maybe that's because most of the tracks are redone classics, with a modern ring to it. You will hear the old Air-ship theme from SM3, the Bowser Castle/Area theme from Galaxy and Super Mario 64, and you will hear all new takes of the original Mario Bros song. My personal favorite song of the game was World Special 8 Over-world Theme (listen here)
The game overall itself in difficulty is a bit on the easy side, which in turn makes the game a quick experience, especially for any Mario vet. For those who have trouble, Nintendo allows you to obtain a Super-Leaf if you've died 5 times or more on the same level, therefore continuing Nintendo's everyone needs help self-thought process. However, the replay-value, of the game is phenomenal because after completion of the game the first time; you unlock eight special worlds, roughly countering the entire first playthrough, except with a difficulty jump. In addition, to unlock the final special level, which is quite a challenge, you need to re-beat the entire campaign as Luigi (who is an unlockable), get all the Star Coins in each level, as well as get a Gold Flag in each level, and then finally beat Bowser again, so in turn you will find yourself coming back to playing Super Mario 3D Land so you can get that 5-star ranking.
Super Mario 3D Land blew past my expectations and we everything I ever wanted for a new Mario game. The game felt like a combined Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Mario Bros 3 with some Super Mario Bros homages to make a game that was fantastic from the second you started. The controls are great, the puzzles are fun, replaying the game was not a hassle at all, and to just see what they did with some of the level design was always something I thought could be done with a 3D Mario game. It felt like a successor almost like a Super Mario Bros 3 to Super Mario Bros 3D. When I first fought Tanooki Bowser in Bowser's Castle on the bridge, and I jumped forward (meaning jumped towards the camera/you) and floated back on the bridge it truly felt like I played a Mario Bros game in 3D.
- Fantastic Game
- Excellent Graphics
- Fun Music
- Throwback Homages
-First couple of worlds were too easy, making the game a bit short
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