Nintendo is pulling out all the stops this year with a bunch of hotly anticipated games coming out on all its consoles, one of which being Super Mario 3D Land.
The adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rings true with the Mario franchise, which very rarely changes much from the original idea all those years ago. Of course with each Mario games comes the new interpretation based of the consoles “McGuffin”. The NES was simple but effective, SNES was just huge and colourful, N64 gave us a 3D platforming experience never rivalled, the GameCube gave us water effects (come on, it was good at that) and Wii gave us the galaxy. Now with the power of the 3DS we get to see them altogether in this perfect amalgamation of the series.
I will start with the graphics as it is the first thing that literally pops out at you. Seeing Nintendo work wonders on this little portable device is amazing, with numerous layers offering depth and an unrivalled level of 3D, from tricks on the eye to Bowser throwing fireballs right at you, all moving perfectly and giving you a small window into the Mushroom Kingdom, brought together with a very responsive thumb control allowing for perfect control of your favourite portly plumber and a sensible camera angle that never spoils the action. This is one of the few games where 3D on is a must.
Little has changed in this fantasy world with the ever evil Bowser yet again kidnapping Princess Peach and running off to the far corners of the kingdom, leaving it down to Mario and a few mushroom friends to give chase. For Mario aficionados this plays like a perfect blend of the original NES Super Mario, Super Mario 3 and the 3D elements of the more recent Wii titles; with levels that are mostly the simple left to right platform adventure, jumping ducking and butt stomping enemies to reach the end of level flag pole for you to jump as high as possible, either gaining a coin bonus or if you can figure out how, an extra life. To spice up the levels even more there are plenty of extras to look out for like hidden pathways, Toads offering their assistance by spotting them with stationary binoculars and also musical bounce pads that launch you into the clouds for more 3D platform trickery.
The classic side-on world navigation hub returns with around 8 levels per world to complete. In-between the usual mushroom houses and stages are the occasional challenge room levels. These offer a small but unique challenge with black ones setting a slightly higher difficulty that usually involves lots of moving platforms or you have the mini challenge rooms which take place inside a cube and require you to solve them in a few seconds.
Even though the levels are relatively straight forward you are offered plenty of power-ups to help along the way and even find some hidden extras. There is a decent assortment to utilise like the classic mushroom that can power-up Mario, allowing him to break blocks and take an extra hit; also returning is the fan favourite Tanooki Suit from Mario 3, allowing for spin attacks and a gentle drop from heights. Find those Boomerang Bros too much hassle? Then give them a piece of their own medicine as Boomerang Mario and hurl your blue boomerang from a safe distance. Finally, you can also get inside the Propeller Box, which hides Mario and allows you to reach all new highs with skilfully placed jumps. Though these are your standard suits are you skilled enough to locate special incarnations like a transforming metal Tanooki? All of the suits are picked up straight away and if you collect another they store straight into the bottom touchscreen, allowing you hold one extra item to tap and use at any point, which comes in handy later in the game, allowing you to store a vital suit to find all those deeply hidden secrets.
It’s not just perilous drops and spiked hazards populating these lands as we also have the return of plenty familiar goons as well as a few new ones; with classic Koopa Troopers and Goombas walking around waiting for a butt stomp but don’t expect an easy ride as Goombas can also now wear Tanooki Suits and a few new baddies offer unique challenges like a quick moving killer purse that spews out coins when killed or huge underwater eels bursting from holes in the sea floor.
Of course there are also plenty of boss fights with the game paying homage to the original Mario games; from classic Bowser battles with the run across a bridge to hit a button scenario given a punishing platform twist, to flying ships hosting a couple of the Koopalings returning from Mario 3 requiring well placed jumps on the head to best them.
Playing from start to finish, Mario’s quest to save Princess Peach will not take too long and even if you do struggle, (Bowsers final fight is a tough one) seeing the “Too Bad” often will make the game throw you a helping hand with a randomly appearing power block to smash and use its contents. However after a few sessions you realise it’s not just about getting to the final screen as there are loads of hidden paths and there’s also the lure of showing your Mario skills and getting all those special golden coins which come into play a lot later in the game. Wonder what’s happened to Luigi? Well just wait until you defeat Bowser, the surprise is well worth the effort.
Nintendo have not only utilised the 3D capabilities of this handheld but also incorporated StreetPass. Keeping your 3Ds switched on whilst walking about will attract gifts from other Mii’s as you walk past, these include the likes of power-ups that appear at the Mushroom houses dotted around the worlds and also challenge rooms to boost your golden coin collection.
Super Mario 3D Land is platform perfection with plenty of nods to previous Mario and other Nintendo classics plus a slew of new ideas which manage to keep this long running franchise fresh. Others come and go but Mario is clearly here to stay.
Rating: OutstandingReview Policy
Super Mario Land 3D is out now. You can and should order your copy here.