[Super Mario 3D Logo]

[It's Tanooki Time!]

System: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Designer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Release Date: November 2011
Genre: Action/Platformer
Players: 1
Save Feature? You bet!

Mario, like Mega Man, is as solid and consistent as they come when it comes to the action-platformer genre. Super Mario 3D Land, while providing nothing necessarily new or original to the Mario universe, is still extremely fun to play! It borrows elements from classic Mario games, particularly Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES, and contains both 2D and 3D perspectives which keeps the gameplay experience fresh and smooth. This game provides quite the challenge too...especially once the Special Stages become accessible. Super Mario 3D Land isn't earth-shattering or revolutionary...it's just good clean fun!

Overview: Along with Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land was one of those must-have games that was cleverly released just in time for the holiday season. Even though sales for the Nintendo 3DS had been less than expected in 2011, at least Nintendo had the fortitude to release two of their franchise games at the best time possible. You couldn't go wrong with a new Mario platformer either...especially when you consider the success of the New Super Mario Bros. games for the Nintendo DS and Wii consoles respectively.

In terms of gameplay, think of Super Mario 3D Land as sort of a hybrid between Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES and Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii. Although the atmosphere of this game and the stage setup leans heavily on the SMB3 side, the 3D portions of the game along with some of the controls are taken right out of Super Mario Galaxy's (or Super Mario 64 I might add) book. As for the 2D sections, they are pretty standard stuff overall. If you have played any classic Mario game or even New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting up to speed and figuring out how to play Super Mario 3D Land.

Along with the classic Mushrooms and Fire Flowers, Super Mario 3D Land also brings back the popular Tanooki suit from SMB3! I'm sure that if you are a Mario fan, you probably heard about the return of the Tanooki suit or saw a picture at Gamestop or somewhere else showing Mario in his former "raccoon-ish" glory. Heck, even PETA had some negative things to say about this suit for crying out loud! The main perk of this game, other than the fabulous gameplay, was undoubtedly the return of Mr. Tanooki himself. In addition to being able to glide/hover and use your Tanooki tail to swat enemies or question blocks aside, the Hammer Bros. suit is also featured in this game which is awesome considering how rare it was in SMB3. All of these suits greatly enhance your ability to advance throughout the game's many stages unscathed and the Tanooki suit in particular is very valuable in some of the more difficult stages in Super Mario 3D Land. Since you can hover in the Tanooki suit, you can effectively make some super long jumps and also have slightly more time to weigh your options. Especially in the Special Stages (I will get to these monsters shortly.), the Tanooki suit can easily be the difference between success and twenty or so defeats.

As far as content goes, Super Mario 3D Land is yet another larger than life Mario experience! It isn't as huge as, say, Super Mario World or New Super Mario Bros. Wii but it is still a pretty meaty game. No overworld map is present in this game which was certainly a disappointment (I loved all of the random paths and secrets in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.) but there are a plethora of regular stages, Toad's Houses, Secret "?" areas, and Boss stages available for exploring in this game. The "?" areas are kind of cool in that you can share them with other 3DS/SM3DL owners you come across thanks to the handy wireless feature. And for all you treasure hunters out there, each and every stage in the game contains three golden Star Coins which will please gamers with a completionist mindset. Naturally, these Star Coins are oftentimes located in secret, out-of-the-way areas so lots of exploration and crafty tactics such as bowling through bricks (quite literally!) or Tanooki-tailing rotor objects will need to be learned in order to find them all. And by snagging all of the Star Coins, you will gain access to deeper and deeper realms of the Special Stages in this game.

Speaking of Special Stages, Super Mario 3D Land doesn't necessarily end once you beat the main game. *SPOILER ALERT*: Once you do beat the game, you not only unlock the Special Stages which are essentially re-hashes of the main game with new challenges involving the despicable Shadow Mario and/or fast-paced Timed Stages; Luigi becomes a playable character as well! And despite the nearly identical appearance of the game's many Special Stages, many of them have a fresh, new feel the second time around which is pretty cool. If you qualify as a completionist (I am certainly one of these which might not always be a good thing!), you'll enjoy many, many hours playing Super Mario 3D Land.

[You're on camera!]
[What would a Mario game be without the Big Boo?]

Graphics: Before the game hit store shelves, Super Mario 3D Land was touted as one of the defining 3DS games that would really show what the 3DS could do! And boy, Nintendo wasn't kidding! Whether or not you use the 3D feature, the graphics in Super Mario 3D Land are your typical, outstanding Mario fanfare! Lush, vibrant graphics with an emphasis on color, boldness, and attention to detail, Super Mario 3D Land is certainly a brilliant, lively game visually. Some of the 3D effects are really cool too. Platforms and blocks will literally appear to stick out at you creating a real sense of depth and precision and even the 2D sections will feel 3D at times since Mario can walk towards the screen or away from it (i.e. Some of the 2D sections have layers...kind of like ogres and onions actually!) You have plenty of other dazzling elements such as fireworks, bubbles, fire-related items that appear to scorch the screen (Ouch!), and even enemies themselves which love to play with your eyes at times. Overall, everything from the bold, cartoon-ish, incredibly diverse graphics to the impressive-as-always animated effects really make this game feel like another special Mario classic. Nintendo really nailed the graphics in this game.

Music: Like always, the music found throughout Super Mario 3D Land simply reaks of everything Mario-related and gives this game a fun, whimsical atmosphere. And Super Mario Bros. 3 fans in particular will love the fact that several classic SMB3 tunes are in this game in all their remixed glory! Everything from some of the nostalgic stage themes to the atmospheric Airship track make a grand re-appearance in this new game. The Airship tune in particular stands out now just as it did back in 1990. Even the Toad's House theme is a re-mixed version of the classic NES ditty. And who could ever forget the nostalgic underground melody which originated in the first SMB game? As far as I am concerned, no classic Mario platformer is complete without that tune present somewhere in the game.

As far as new music goes, nothing really stood out from the pack but everything I did hear was nice and pleasant. The underwater music was very soothing and some of the Castle/Bowser themes were intense as always. As much as I did enjoy hearing the beautiful, classic Mario melodies, I honestly would have liked to have heard more new tracks than what we got. A nice mixture between the old and the new (ala Super Mario Galaxy) would have been better but still, this game's soundtrack is a pleasant one and certainly caters to the old-school crowd (of which I am one!)

Play Control: If you have played a classic Mario game and especially if you have tried out Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy, you should feel right at home with the controls in Super Mario 3D Land. While the 2D side-scrolling areas mainly consist of running and jumping, the vast majority of this game feels like one of the more modern Mario games due to the 3D nature of this game. If you are expecting another New Super Mario Bros. Wii clone in terms of the perspective and controls, you will certainly be in for quite a shock! Despite the old-school feel and appearance at times, this game still plays more like one of the next-gen Mario games than a retro one. You can execute advanced moves like backwards somersaults, the running jump, the jump/smash attack, and the barrel roll...just like in your typical 3D Mario game.

Thankfully, even for retro gamers, the learning curve really isn't all that steep though. Just don't expect it to be as simple as any of the NES Mario games due to the 3D perspective. Although the controls in this game are executed rather well overall, I'm not sure if I will ever play a Mario game that feels as silky-smooth and crisp as Super Mario Bros. 3. For being a game that incorporates 3D elements, however, I'd say that the controls in this game rank just below something like Super Mario Galaxy.

[Return of the airship!]

Challenge: Super Mario 3D Land should offer something for everyone because the challenge level is all over the place in this game! As far as the main game is concerned, it is hard to make an argument that it is all that challenging. 1ups are extremely common in this game and by the time I had beaten the game, I had something like 170 or so lives in reserve! Yes, you heard me right...170 lives left! However, the Special Stages that you can tackle after beating the initial game, while relatively tame early on, become very Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels-like by game's end. Seriously, this game actually made me very frustrated at times due to some of the stages being incredibly demanding! Not only would you have to incessantly move in order to dodge Shadow Mario (He mimics your every move which means that you can't stop to save your life!) but sometimes, the time limit would be so low that you would have to rush through the stage anyway! And when you consider that some stages would involve very precise platform jumping with tons of additional enemies and obstacles other than Shadow Mario present, you can see how crazy this game could potentially become. Just do me a favor and don't pay any attention to what many gamers will tell you about this game being easy. Unless you use the Tanooki suit every single stage (which I didn't), the Special Stages get extremely difficult! Is this necessarily a bad thing? Probably not in the long run. But there will be times when you will want to throw your 3DS down. Trust me on that one.

It's kind of a strange place to be as a critic actually. On one hand, you have this relatively simple main game which is followed up by an insanely challenging second quest if you will. Granted, I think that Super Mario 3D Land has a pretty solid challenge level overall. I do wish that it could have been a little more balanced though.

One thing I definitely know is that, in terms of replay value, Super Mario 3D Land is yet another one of those Mario games that you can play over and over and still find immensely enjoyable. Although some gamers might see the re-hashed Special Stages and lack of an overworld map as a cop-out of sorts, I still found myself having a tough time putting this game down for a long time. It really sucks you in with its smooth gameplay, countless Star Coins, immense amount of stages/content, and even the fact that jumping and landing on a flag pole at its highest point gives you a gold flag. For perfectionists in particular, this game should offer enough meat to keep you entertained at least for a little while.

Storyline: Unfortunately, not all things are great and beautiful in Super Mario 3D Land. If this game does have a noticeable weakness, it has to be the lazy, lackluster storyline. Now to be fair, it's not like the Super Mario Bros. series has ever really emphasized the story/plot aspect of most of its games. But then again, at least Super Mario Galaxy featured an awesome opening sequence and gave us a somewhat unique story for once.

Super Mario 3D Land on the other hand? For a modern Mario game especially, this game had a shockingly lame story. Basically, like with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you have a very short opening sequence showing Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach. That's it in a nutshell. Not only is the whole "save the princess" concept shot to oblivion by this point (it is the year 2012 after all...not 1988) but the presentation in this game just came across as being unusually lazy for a Nintendo-made game.

The one saving grace I can think of is that the letters which Mario receives between stages are a nice nod to the classic SMB3 hit and these letters are actually pretty fun and hilarious to behold! They reveal classic hand-drawn pictures with some nice 3D touches and funny voices like "Mario!" or "Bwa-ha-ha!!" I particularly like the one with Bowser and like ten of his minions chasing after Princess Peach with appropriate sound effects (The barking sound of the Chomp-Chomp always makes me laugh!) At least the developers did make some effort at least.

[Look at that gorgeous background!]
[Under the Sea! Dum dum dum...under the sea! Oops...I got carried away there!]

Funfactor: Story aside, at least you can always count on good old Mario to deliver when it comes to anything gameplay related! Although I didn't find Super Mario 3D Land to be as imaginative or original as the recent Super Mario Galaxy epics or even New Super Mario Bros. Wii, it is still a darn good video game. There are still plenty of enjoyable stages (I love the one with classic pixelated shapes of mushrooms, Mario, and Princess Peach!) and the variety is still pretty solid. I would have liked to have seen a little more in terms of secrets and real Special Stages like the ones found in Super Mario World or the more recent New Super Mario Bros. Wii but that's just me. When it comes to polished, unadulterated gameplay, you can't go wrong with a classic Mario platformer. And this game will undoubtedly go down as yet another smooth entry in an already stacked Mario library!

Negatives: As you already know, I feel like the lackluster story in Super Mario 3D Land is by far the game's weak point. Granted, I didn't expect anything outstanding in this regard but the glaring lack of effort just seems so un-Nintendo like to be honest. I was hoping for at least something...anything new in this respect. And it truly is a shame because this game could have easily been Golden or at least Silver with a semi-decent story.

And while the core gameplay and content in Super Mario 3D Land is very solid overall, this game seems to lack any real originality. Although I love the 3D elements and the respectful nod to SMB3 in this game, there is nothing about this game that truly stands out from any other game in the series. If you are like me and love classic Mario platformers, you will love Super Mario 3D Land as well. Just don't expect anything fresh and original and you will be fine.

[You've GOT to love this retro action!]

Ratings: Graphics: 4.8 Music: 4.2 Play Control: 4.5 Challenge: 4.4 Storyline: 3.2 Funfactor: 4.6 Overall Score: 25.7 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Bronze Bravo

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Last Updated: May 21, 2012
WebMaster: Matt Hull tigmo55@yahoo.com
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