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Jarrod Mawson
28 Nov, 2011

Super Mario 3D Land Review

3DS Review | Dressing up as your favourite furry animal never felt so right.
Where Nintendo would be without their flagship franchise, the Super Mario Bros. series, we have no idea. Perhaps they wouldn't 'be' at all. So much more than a stepping stone to global success, Nintendo has, for most part, managed to keep the playful plumber as inventive and relevant to today's world of gaming as he was over two decades ago in his Donkey Kong debut. With a some-million strong army of loyal fans, and more spin-offs than you can shake a fire flower at, Super Mario Bros. goes with the Nintendo territory, and if there's any guarantee one can give it's that if you buy a Nintendo platform, you will get a Super Mario Bros. game eventually.

For owners of the Nintendo 3DS, that time is now. Super Mario 3D Land jumps to the system after eight months of a sporadic software releases and underwhelming titles, arriving at a time more important than ever on a platform with much left to prove. With the big question of 3D relevancy to gaming and worries of the platform lacking that truly system defining title still lingering, it really shouldn't be surprising to see Nintendo's premier franchise set it's sight squarely on quelling these concerns, let alone doing so a degree of polish, creativity and value that proudly matches the series' consistent high standard.

Mario: The World Is Yours

Mario: The World Is Yours
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Taking a few cues from traditional 2D Super Mario Bros. (mostly thematically from Super Mario Bros. 3), with a dash of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy for good measure, Super Mario 3D Land conjures the best of all worlds and blends the pieces together to create something else entirely. Absent of gravity defying shenanigans and other gimmicks, here Mario and co leap and bound between platforms as the game distills and focuses on the most basic running and jumping platforming fundamentals and trademark tight controls that have served as a backbone to the series for all these years.

The open, free form design of Super Mario 64 is forgone in favour of compartmentalised stages geared towards quick bursts of play, even more so than Super Mario Galaxy 2, with short and snappy designs aimed to fill in time on an early work commute or while waiting for your call to the dentist chair. Levels are heavily grounded, composed mostly of linear pathways and floating platforms that hybridise structured 3D platforming environments and traditional side scrolling for what can best be described as '2.5 Super Mario Bros.'.

Usually perceived through an isometric camera angle that goes hand-in-hand with the stereoscopic 3D, from the very first stage it is clearly evident that Super Mario 3D Land was built to encompass the visual advantages of stereoscopic imagery, either as a cheeky visual gimmick to show off an impressive vista or optical illusion, or as a surprisingly functional gameplay aid to help perceive distance between two platforms for the most accurate jump. We don't doubt that Super Mario 3D Land would be quite playable in 2D, but there's no denying how thoughtfully Nintendo has designed stages and perspective to capitalise on the system's unique selling point.

Forever haunted by the ghosts of the dead.

Forever haunted by the ghosts of the dead.
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The overflowing well of creativity that is the Super Mario Galaxy titles unquestionably acts as a significant influence behind the level gimmicks prevalent throughout Super Mario 3D Land, sometimes directly replicating the most memorable ideas from the former games, such as musically and jump timed platform switches, though on a smaller scale. Influences from Super Mario Bros. 3 are perhaps most obvious, successfully integrating numerous classic items and set pieces into a 3D game environment, while the iconic Tanooki Suit makes a welcome return, not just on Mario himself, but anything and everything Nintendo felt they could stick a tail on to make it spin and float. To prevent cheapened retreading of old ground, Super Mario 3D Land makes sure to introduce it's own host of new enemies, items and tricks, doing an admirable job of coupling these twists on familiar features for every single stage of the basic eight worlds.

The push for a consistent flow of inventive gameplay holds strong for most part, though at a few unfortunate points slips up and exposes some of the more unpolished corners of the game. As enjoyable as the Tanooki Suit is, as well as the new introduced Boomerang suit, there's no denying that the former is grossly overpowered, far more versatile and useful for all stages than any other item. And though the stages themselves are inventive, Super Mario 3D Land drops the ball on boss fights, recycling the same two Kooper bosses (Bowser excluded) throughout, sorely lacking the varied bosses found in the Super Mario Galaxy duo. Issues like these coupled with an almost criminally easy eight worlds that can be completed in the blink of an eye run the risk of leaving players asking "Is that it?" as the credits first roll.

But deceptive presentation soon surprises as post game content literally doubles the game's offerings and at least triples the difficulty with additional challenges and stages that too introduce their own new mechanics and ideas, keeping the experience fresh and inventive until absolutely everything has been conquered. Mastering every stage on offer, which includes finding the three star medals hidden in each, is no small task, and when all is said and done it's hard not to step back and admire one of the most content rich games available on any portable Nintendo system.

Not a furry, no sir.

Not a furry, no sir.
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Though it channels multiple Super Mario Bros. titles in gameplay, the aesthetics most accurately resemble the Super Mario Galaxy games, capturing the same impressively clean visual fidelity, while calling upon the system's graphics processor for more advanced shader effects to counter more simplified geometry. Many of the visual effects truly come into their own when playing in 3D, as flower petals gently floating atop the breeze pop out of the screen, and layered downfall of snowflakes give a tremendous sense of depth to the imagery, all at a rock solid thirty frames per second and comfortable 3D that rarely, if ever, stresses the eyes. Moments like running past the rain drenched stone walls of Bowser's castle, glistening in the illumination of nearby torches, are quite a sight to behold and littered throughout the entire game, leaving little room to doubt that Super Mario 3D Land is nothing less than the best looking game on the system.

Expecting an orchestrated score in line with Super Mario Galaxy would probably be asking too much, but nevertheless audio production here follows a little too closely to the New Super Mario Bros. musical formula, made up of your typical Super Mario Bros. beeps and boops and remixed backing tracks that, while inoffensive to the ears, simply lack the punch of original, catchy compositions that keep you humming well after the game has finished. Thankfully the audio samples themselves, for both the music and sound effects, is of exceptional quality, leaps and bounds over the Nintendo DS, making Super Mario 3D Land the crispest sounding portable Super Mario Bros. title ever released.

Keeping you at full mast.

Keeping you at full mast.
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There's always room for every game to grow and improve, but the best are the ones you don't feel need to, and Super Mario 3D Land sprints much closer to the latter than the former. A steeper difficulty climb would have been welcome, especially for platforming veterans, but ease of play cannot detract from the wealth of creative level design and inventive mechanics that keep the game stimulating and joyful from start to finish. The amount of love, care and polish poured into Super Mario 3D Land acts as yet another note on the pile of mounting evidence that suggests Nintendo's EAD Tokyo Mario team is in their absolute prime.

As a stand alone video game, Super Mario 3D Land is yet another top tier entry in the Super Mario Bros. franchise. But as a Nintendo 3DS game, it single handily validates the system as a whole, both as an impressive showcase for stereoscopic visuals and, most importantly, as a gaming machine capable of delivering the goods. It is the title Nintendo needed at the system's launch, but as they always say, it's better late than not at all, and for what the plumber lacks in timeliness he makes up for droves in wonderful gameplay. Super Mario 3D Land is a must-have for all Nintendo 3DS owners.
The Score
Inventive, beautiful and dangerously addictive, Super Mario 3D Land is the 3DS defining game, capitalising on the system's strengths and value of portability, while recalling the best qualities of both 2D and 3D iterations of the franchise. Not to be missed. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Super Mario 3D Land Content

Super Mario 3D Land commercials
21 Oct, 2011 Plenty of new footage, and the usual Japan weirdness.
Super Mario 3D Land Preview
10 Oct, 2011 Dare you enter the third dimension?
Two new Super Mario 3D Land trailers
07 Oct, 2011 Some pocket sized fun.
83 Comments
2 years ago
@Benza: I'm not calling you close minded and you are well within your right to dislike whatever you want. I merely meant to say people tend to be less close minded when they mature a bit, it does not mean they have to like everything!!!!
2 years ago
Why does everyone always troll the Nintendo reviews? We get it, you like fighting giants. Go play Skyrim.
2 years ago
Probably because of how sickeningly rabid mario fans are?

I mean shit I didn't even really mean to start an argument but after reactions like "Next time somebody tries to tell me an opinion cannot possibly be wrong, I am going to show them this post." to saying I'm not a fan it's kind of asking for an argument.
2 years ago
Yeah I have to admit, it's pretty funny how a simple "mario doesn't interest me" kind of response turned into this huge "LOL UR WRONG" debacle.
2 years ago
Karai Pantsu wrote
may well just be the nostalgia bombed Mario 64 stylings giving me a geek half-chub.
That's kinda a comment that would make me check it out, as Mario 64 is the only one of the series I've found to be truly brilliant*. But it's really not a comment that'd make me go get a 3DS. The system sellers at the moment seem to be Starfox (a 64 remake), Zelda (a 64 remake), this (with 64 stylings) and Mario Kart 7. Out of them all, Mario Kart is the most likely to make me get the system.

*I've not played either of the Galaxy games.
2 years ago
You're right about the 3DS having no games. Like Karai said earlier, this is the first reason to own one, and Mario Kart when it comes out on Saturday. They are both just rehashes of older ideas, especially Mario Kart, but they are just damn good ideas that stand the test of time.

Mario fans in their 20s and 30s probably feel like it's an attack on their childhood, most franchises don't enjoy such longevity.
2 years ago
Quote
Mario fans in their 20s and 30s probably feel like it's an attack on their childhood, most franchises don't enjoy such longevity.
That's the thing, it's the kind of reaction I'd expect from a 16 yearold on x-box live defending Cod 3 as being the best game ever.

People in there 20's and 30's should be able to understand basic concepts like not everyone shares there opinion.
2 years ago
I have Zelda, Mario 3DS, Mario Kart (Pre-ordered and paid for on Saturday), Ridge Racer and Pilot Wings. I have spent more time in 3DS Zelda than Skyrim, Assassins Creed, Call of Duty, Gears, Uncharted 3 and Halo Aniversary and am loving 3DS Mario. Most of these experiences are not available on none Nintendo consoles, Sony and MS just don't make 'em like Ninty. Mario 3DS has made me proud of my purchases too, Roll on 3DS Zelda and Kid Icarus!
2 years ago
rjgbyrne wrote
I have Zelda, Mario 3DS, Mario Kart (Pre-ordered and paid for on Saturday), Ridge Racer and Pilot Wings. I have spent more time in 3DS Zelda than Skyrim, Assassins Creed, Call of Duty, Gears, Uncharted 3 and Halo Aniversary a
Gotta ask did you play Ocarina originally? Cause that's gotta be the one thing really turning me off is that I fucking loved star fox and ocarina on the 64. I played those games to death. I booted up Starfox again recently and while I had a blast, playing it for like an hour but after that. Man I'm done with that game, I've done absolutely everything that's possible to do and picking it up again after I got the hang of it I had run through hard mode in like an hour.

There's just nothing left for me to do and I feel like I'd be the same playing Ocarina of Time (It's the only big game I ever really 100%, I fucking destroyed that game to the point of beating it without ever getting the kokiri sword) but I feel like if I got the 3DS and the remake, after the nostalgia wheres off, I've beaten that game so throughly that I wouldn't want to replay it.
2 years ago
Benza wrote
Probably because of how sickeningly rabid mario fans are?

I mean **** I didn't even really mean to start an argument but after reactions like "Next time somebody tries to tell me an opinion cannot possibly be wrong, I am going to show them this post." to saying I'm not a fan it's kind of asking for an argument.
I didn't argue with you at all though. I just put you on the list.

admeister wrote
Is is possible to grow out of the Mario series? Because I think that's what happened to me after Mario Galaxy. I bought Mario Galaxy 2, but never finished it (sorry Jarrod and DIU), and I find myself with no interest in Super Mario 3D Land.
GooberMan wrote
*I've not played either of the Galaxy games.
You're both going on the list too.
2 years ago
Goobsauce: I will bring it next time we drink, you can has your own brief fondle and pass judgement on that.
2 years ago
DancesInUnderwear wrote
You're both going on the list too.
I think I'd rather be labelled several different kinds of homosexual on Xbox live. At least the kids get over it once the match is over and they've got new people to bash.

trololol
2 years ago
Typed Goodsauce instead of Goobsauce, corrected it... somehow it doesn't sound much better.
2 years ago
I want to get it.
But I think I can wait a bit, gunna get MK7 first and jump into some portable MK, just like MK DS.
2 years ago
Benza wrote
Probably because of how sickeningly rabid mario fans are?

I mean **** I didn't even really mean to start an argument but after reactions like "Next time somebody tries to tell me an opinion cannot possibly be wrong, I am going to show them this post." to saying I'm not a fan it's kind of asking for an argument.
It was a joke, Benza.
2 years ago
Mario is forever, you cannot escape Mario.
Mario is forever, you cannot escape Mario.
Mario is forever, you cannot escape Mario.

...oh god.

Hey guys, guess what games we'll see on the WiiU?
2 years ago
ThunderCurls wrote
Hey guys, guess what games we'll see on the WiiU?
Less of whats already available, inevitably. They have been kinda slack on the wii tbh on thier selection of AAA titles. I'll just hope for a new fire emblem before I commit to Japanese lessons.
2 years ago
One thing I dislike about the Wii is that the first party 'AAA titles' do not drop an inch in price. Ever.

Games like New Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong Country Returns, etc.. are still full price! What gives Nintendo..
2 years ago
Nintendo really like money.
2 years ago
It definately won't do them any favours as this viewpoint isn't shared by their competitors in the marketplace. I realise that 80% of their third party title selections are shovelware but to stay competitive, Nintendo should really think about adopting a 'Platinum Hits' / 'Greatest Hits' philosophy.
2 years ago
Jaws wrote
It definately won't do them any favours as this viewpoint isn't shared by their competitors in the marketplace. I realise that 80% of their third party title selections are shovelware but to stay competitive, Nintendo should really think about adopting a 'Platinum Hits' / 'Greatest Hits' philosophy.
In Europe and the States they have the Nintendo Selects range. I bought Twilight Princess for about $20AUD not long ago on Zavvi. The first Mario Galaxy is also pretty cheap. Not sure why Australia still doesn't have the range though, I'm still waiting for NSMB Wii and SMG2 to get cheaper myself.
2 years ago
Jaws wrote
Nintendo should really think about adopting a 'Platinum Hits' / 'Greatest Hits' philosophy.
But then people would be paying less money for there games.

And nintendo really like money.
2 years ago
Yeh nintendo are sorta different in that new games are always cheaper than other consoles but they stay the same price for 2 years. I had a copy of pokemon battle revolution and fire emblem which traded in at a higher value than i bought it though....
2 years ago
BigBoss wrote
Yeh nintendo are sorta different in that new games are always cheaper than other consoles
That's a straight up lie.
2 years ago
No it isn't. I'm not sure if it applies all of the time, but on numorous occasions I have seen newly released Wii games cheaper than their PS3/X360 counter-parts.

It's usually not by much though.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  24/11/2011 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Nintendo
Genre:
  Platforming
Year Made:
  2011

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