If you’re reading this review, then there’s a VERY good chance you’ve heard of Nintendo’s super famous Italian plumber Mario. Not only is he considered the most famous video game character in history, but many people point to him as the face of the industry. It’s not surprising then to see new Mario games sell extremely well and will often sell many copies of the hardware the game is on. What also isn’t surprising is how good each new Mario title is, with 3D Land being no exception in the slightest.
One thing can be said about the story of many of Mario’s games: simple. However, when simple works fine and still gives you plenty of motivation to play, there isn’t anything wrong with that. For 3D Land, the story will be no surprise to people who have followed Mario’s adventures in the past: Bowser decides once again to kidnap the illustrious Princess Peach, leaving a letter for Mario to find showing his fiendish plot, and it’s up to our overall-clad hero to rescue her. What will come as a bit of a surprise is that a tree on Princess Peach’s castle grounds has been stripped of all it’s leaves during a storm, causing the leaves to blow all over the Mushroom Kingdom and bestow Tanooki tails or Tanooki suits to whoever happens to touch one. This gives some of Bowser’s minions, along with Bowser himself, tails used for additional attacks. With the completion of each world, Mario gets a letter from Peach showing how she’s doing. These range from motivating the player by showing she’s in trouble to giving the player a good laugh by showing her clobbering Goombas, and all the letters are in 3D. After Mario goes on to save the day once again, he goes back to the tree to see a new letter. This time his younger brother Luigi has been kidnapped, and Mario must venture into the Special Worlds to rescue his brother.
The gameplay of a Mario title has always been spot on, and 3D Land is no exception. Mario is platforming once again, jumping from area to area while occasionally taking the time to squash a Goomba or two or to pick up some coins to presumably take the Princess to a nice pasta restaurant after all this is over or something. The goal of each level goes back to the more traditional Super Mario Bros style over the normal 3D stylings such as Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy. This means you’ll just be trying to clear the level by overcoming platforming obstacles with a set time limit on your way to a flag at the end, jumping up or doing some sort of obstacle in hopes of raising the flag to as high as possible. While the system of getting an extra life for reaching the top of the flag is still there, instead of getting points based on how high you get you earn coins instead. The same goes for how much time is remaining when you clear the level: for every 10 seconds left on the clock you get an extra coin added to your coin total. Whenever Mario collects 100 coins, he gets another extra life. Along with score being gone and coins being the main incentive to do well, there are also hidden goodies along the way. Watches can be found in different areas of the levels, some in plain sight and others hidden deviously well, which will extend the time left on the clock. Sometimes this is purely for bonus coins, while other times you’ll NEED these watches just to reach the end. Also hidden throughout every level are 3 Star Coins, which are used not only to judge how well you did on the level but are also used to unlock extra levels and a certain amount is needed to enter the boss stages of the game. Also included are some awesome uses of the Nintendo 3DS’s 3D screen and gyroscope. Some puzzles and jumps will be much better viewed in 3D, while the gyroscope makes looking around with binoculars or shooting out of cannons much simpler to aim and control.
Along Mario’s adventure you’ll encounter a variety of power-ups. Among the more well known power-ups are the return of the Tanooki suit from Super Mario Bros 3 which gives him a tail to attack and hit switches with as well as the ability to slow his falls, the classic Fire Flower seen in many of Mario’s adventures that allows Mario to throw fireballs at incoming enemies or light braziers with, the also classic Starman that makes Mario invulnerable for a short period of time. Along with these, Mario also can get the Boomerang Flower to throw boomerangs at enemies and retrieve items Zelda style by imitating the Boomerang Bros enemies, the Propeller Box which allows Mario to not only slow his falls but also get a massive propeller boost with his jumps, and a rare item called the Prize Box which gives Mario coins the entire time he wears it. Later in the game a new variety of Tanooki suit pops up that lets Mario turn into a statue whenever he does a ground-pound. Two other items are available specifically for players who have trouble with the game: the Invincibility Leaf and the P-Wing. The Invincibility Leaf pops up if you die 5 times on a level, and picking it up makes Mario invulnerable for the entire level. Enemies will be no problem, but you still need to be wary of mistiming jumps and the like. The P-Wing pops up if you die 10 times on a level, and takes Mario straight to the end of the level. Kind of cheats you on gameplay, but can be helpful if a stage is REALLY annoying you.
Mario also has to deal with different bosses on his quest to rescue the princess. A few of the Koopa Kids from previous games make returns in this game, and they haven’t forgotten the trouble Mario has caused them in the past. These bosses, while simple, can be a pain if it’s your first time fighting them but are easy to fight once you learn the pattern. On the final world you meet the Koopa King himself, and while I won’t spoil what happens just be ready to see Mario do what he does best.
If you’re looking for more of a challenge like I was then you’ll absolutely love the Special Worlds after clearing the main story. The Special Worlds are 8 fully complete worlds just like the original 8 but with a higher difficulty and some intense challenges. These include things such as levels that start with only 30 seconds on the clock that make you collect watches throughout the entire level just to survive to having Shadow Mario chase you throughout the entire level, presumably due to jealousy over Mario’s awesome hat. Along the way you’ll end up unlocking Luigi, who plays similar enough to Mario to not alienate people but also just different enough to ensure he’s his own man instead of just a Mario re-skin. The Special Worlds also see the upgraded Tanooki suit mentioned above as well as the infamous Poison Mushroom that will shrink you to small Mario when hit or kill you if you’re already small.
The music and sound effects of Super Mario 3D Land will bring back many nostalgic memories to younger days. All the tracks are beautifully done, and many will be immediately recognizable if you’ve played previous Mario games. Both the music and sound effects are just like how a Mario game should sound: cheerful and iconic for the majority of the game, but not afraid to get serious or even spooky when dealing with things such as boss areas or levels focusing on the ghostly Boos.
As good as this game is, it’s sadly without faults. The game has a problem with difficulty pacing, mainly between the Normal Worlds and the Special Worlds, that can make new gamers feel frustrated when they hit the harder areas while more experienced gamers may feel the game lacks challenge until the reach the Special Worlds. The game can also be really hard in some areas with the 3D off, giving gamers who can’t see 3D normally or get headaches when viewing 3D for too long an unneeded extra challenge.
This game is definitely the game to get if you are at all thinking of wanting a 3DS or just want to expand your 3DS library. Mario’s adventure, while one that he’s been on multiple times before, is still as fun and engaging as ever and is worth checking out no matter who you are. While the game is more oriented towards new/young gamers in the Normal Worlds, the Special Worlds and collecting all the Star Coins will give experienced/older gamers a challenge as well. If you like Mario, Nintendo, or even just the color red, look into this game. This game solidly earns it’s 9 out of 10 and is well worth the $40 price tag.