Review by Sirius

Reviewed: 11/07/11

A love letter to Mario fans, albeit somewhat uninspired.

What if you could play Super Mario Bros. 3… in 3D?! That’s basically what we got here with Super Mario 3D Land. You’ll find a little bit of the original SMB and a little bit of Mario 64 in here, but its main pool source is SMB3. Clearly addressed at the fans and drawing from nostalgia, while at the same time accommodating newcomers, is the plumbing here immaculate or is it leaking?

As always, Koopa (Bowser) has kidnapped Peach, and it’s time for our inexhaustible loving hero to go rescue her. There is not a single line of script in this game. Only the vocals of our damsel in distress and our knight in his red overalls. That’s all there is, and that’s the only incentive we need.

Graphically speaking, everything looks fairly standard and nothing really stands out, but it’s acceptable. The 3D is good. Although it is not necessary to play the game in 3D, it gives a nice perspective and highlights backgrounds where secret rooms could be located. Musically speaking, a lot of classic tracks are brought back from the attic and it’s nice to hear them again. However, it can start to feel like you’ve taken out your old records and let them play longer than you had originally wanted to. They completely overshadow the new tracks that are here and you’ll be lucky to remember or even notice any of them. Still, the classics will bring a smile to your lips and jog your memory.

The 3D platforming formula hasn’t changed. You’ll run, jump and float down. Indeed, the leaf makes a comeback to transform Mario into a raccoon, or, if you prefer, a tanuki. The tanuki suit makes the game considerably easier. Being able to float is a tremendous aid when dealing with difficult jumping sections. Whacking your tail at enemies is also easier than trying to jump on them. Aside from the leaf, the classic mushroom and fire flower are up for grabs, as well as the new boomerang suit that’ll turn you into a boomerang bro. There’s also the exclusive-to-certain-levels helicopter block head that’ll let you fly up.

Make no mistake, this is a 2D Mario experience in 3D. The levels are extremely short, and you cannot deviate from the path. There is nothing to explore, only hidden holes in walls or forks in the way through floors and ceilings. It is also a relatively easy game. Mario games have, in most cases, always been only moderately difficult. But 3D Land feels even easier. Moreover, dying too many times in a level will send you help, in this case give you the possibility to take a special leaf that’ll make you invincible. The star coins are also disappointing. Three star coins are hidden in each level, used to unlock some other levels. Some of them are well hidden and in the later stages hard to get, but more often than not they just lie in sight, waiting for you to jump at them. There are also some purple mystery boxes on the overworld "map", which will let you get free extra star coins. Once you clear the game, you’ll have access to a whole new set of levels. The game then becomes more challenging, but there aren't any real difficulty spikes. Only the very last worlds will pose a pretty decent challenge, dare I say even difficult.

That being said, I have died countless times trying to reach stars or just trying to jump to the next platform. Though the controls are, I believe, very responsive and probably flawless, the ‘slide pad’ on the 3DS is difficult to use in a 3D platformer. The game doesn’t let you use the d-pad, so you’re forced to use the slide pad. There’s something awkward about it, and I never really got used to it. I’ve been controlling the little red plumber since his first big outing on the NES all the way through to his voyages to different planets in Galaxy, and I have never had trouble moving Mario around. Like I said, the problem does not reside with the game, but with the slide pad on the 3DS. To me, at least, it’s not optimal. Despite this control issue, this is classic Mario gameplay; simple, but it works perfectly. I could clear the main game with every star coin in a little over 10 hours. Add five or ten hours to this if you really want to complete everything.

Super Mario 3D Land is still a good game. It can also be lots of fun, depending on how you approach it. Familiar sights and enemies can be interesting to revisit. Per contra, it might come off as being a little bland. Some of the levels are nice and creative, but I found many to be slightly uninspired. Nostalgia is great, but there’s a spark missing here, a glitter that’s been wowing us nearly every single time Mario jumped forward into adventure before.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Super Mario 3D Land (JP, 11/03/11)

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