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North America Details
Release Date: November 11, 2011
Genre: Action, Platform
Players: Single Player
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Dec 10 2012 10:50 PM
3D Land plays like a hybrid of tradition 3D Mario (Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, etc) and 2D side scroller Mario (Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros., etc). The goal in each level is to reach the flagpole before the timer runs out. Too bad most of the levels are so short, that only a 5 year old could possibly run out of time. You run, jump, collect coins, and various other things you are used to doing in Mario games. The Levels are like more constricted, linear version of Super Mario 64 levels. There is no real exploration to be done, and the levels are accessed by a New Super Mario Bros. like map. Unlike most 3D Mario games, there is but 1 single goal to each level - get to the flag pole. If they were making a 3D Mario game, why didn't they give you multiple missions per expansive world? The Star Coins from the New Super Mario Bros. games are also here, and just like in those games, there are 3 in each level. Once you reach about world 6 they will become necessary - much like Stars in Mario 64 or Shine Sprites in Mario Sunshine - to progress further into the game. The problem is you are given very limited options due to the levels being, small linear, and not having any missions to pick from. The game brings back some tradition Mario conventions, such as the tanooki suit, music blocks, airships, and boo houses but the overall experience is fairly dull. Pretty much everything in 3D Land, you have done before in another Mario game, and had a better time doing it. Things never really get too hairy at all, even in world 8, and even when you do die, you don't really care because the game is far too generous with lives.
The controls are fine for the most part, but I have one, very huge gripe. You have to hold either X or Y to run, otherwise Mario will simply walk. This is fine, and very conventional in 2D platformers, but in a 3D game with full analog control, there's no excuse to downgrade. Other than that, Mario controls as he should and is quite responsive.
Another cue this game takes from the 2D games is the hit point system. In most 3D Mario games, you have a life bar, but this time around they went with the traditional "Mario loses his power up and shrinks" method. While I would prefer a life gauge, this works better for this particular game because, as I mentioned, the levels are way too small. If you had a life bar, you'd pretty much never die for any reason at all (not that you'll die that much in the first place).
I pretty much despise the level design. With the exception of Airship levels, most stages are random blocks of land occupying the air for no explainable reason. Mario has always had certain levels that were like this, but this time they make up 90% of the playing area. It’s as if they wanted to keep the smaller separated island structure from the Galaxy games. Now, this was fine in Galaxy because it had purpose, and could be explained due to being in space, but this is just very uncreative.
The story is what one would expect. Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser, and Mario isn't going to have it. It's a story that hasn't been expanded on in 20 years, and I don't think we can expect them to do so anytime soon....if ever. It's very forgivable, because that simple, bland story is actually kind of central to Mario games. Soundwise, everything sounds very clear. My only complaint is that every song in the game, as far as I can tell, is either a remix of a rerecorded version of a song from another Mario game, and that seems pretty lazy to me.
Graphically, this is one of the best looking games on the system. These screen shots don't do it any justice, because they seem jagged and blurry. On the actual system, everything is crisp and clear, and brightly colored. The 3D effects are the best I have seen so far on the system hands down, and there are 2 modes of 3D. The first, and default mode, is what you see in other 3DS games. The world has depth, and it is as if you are peering into the game world. The second option which I call "pop out mode" is exactly what it sounds like. Fireballs and bullet bills seem to pop out of the screen at you. The world still has depth in this mode, but in a different kind of way. I personally had more fun with "pop out" mode, but both modes are beautiful. This is so far the only 3DS game that I have played entirely from beginning to end without turning the 3D effect off, and my eyes never got tired from it.
As a whole, Super Mario 3D Land is a well-crafted and beautiful game that is lacking any real depth - pun unintended. Everything is the game is something you have seen, done, or heard before somewhere else. If you're itching for a portable platformer, 3D Land might give you a little scratch. In the end, however, you'll probably wish you'd spent your money on a game with more meat on its bones.