BRR: Super Mario 3D Land Review

Super Mario 3D Land served as one of Nintendo’s two big titles near the end of 2011 to rake in some Christmas dough from children across the land.  But is it good, or is it just as bad and stupid as its title.  Yes, it is as dumb as the title, but the game is just straight Mario, and is that enough to hold a $40 title this day and age?  Hit the break and read what some dope has to say.

Super Mario 3D Land Review
Release Date: 11/13/2011
Platform: 3DS
Price: $39.99

Beginning as most Mario games do, Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser and it is up to an Italian handyman to save her.  I know that it is pointless to complain about how Mario has godawful plots, but this is just not even trying.  Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 both had some new and well design characters, but this just feels like Nintendo was phoning it in, a feeling that is common throughout the entire title.

The main gameplay is a mix of the run by holding a button, get hit lose your power up mentality of the 2D Mario titles.  While the levels are simplified versions of 3D mario titles, namely Super Mario Galaxy minus the large scope that came with a world that felt big since you were in space.  As a result the title has this odd feeling about it that I cannot place my finger on.  It is not exactly enough like a Mario game that I cannot accuse them of not trying to present a different gameplay method, even though I would have been perfectly content with a Super Mario Galaxy 3D, but there were apparently issues with that idea. 

I think I may just have a problem with the level design, which, while not bad when you are actually playing, is extremely simplistic when you analyse it.  It really feels like Nintendo made a level editor for a 3D Mario game, made it easy to use for normal people, and used an unmodified version of it to design the whole game.  Now, games that do provide all the designer’s tools can be very impressive if done right, see LIttleBigPlanet 2 and WarioWare DIY, but there is no level editor in this game, it just feels like they are all levels by community members.  But as I say that I feel a bit rude, since custom levels that I say using the New Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Galaxy 2 engines that make this look like a solid ROM hack.  

Going hand in hand with the whole jumpy-runny staples of Mario games, there is a disappointing total of 3 powerups.  One being new, one being a staple, and one being overused because everything from Goombas, to blocks, to Bullet BIlls have it.  I appreciate that Nintendo brought back the Tanooki suit, but it is everywhere and is used so often that it does not create a gleeful nostalgic feeling, but one of annoyance that makes you want to remove the lot of them.  And while on the subject, this suit is by a great margin, the best one in the game.  Fire Flowers let you use ground based projectiles, the Boomerang suit lets you toss objects halfway across the screen and back, but the Tanooki suit provides short range melee attack that Mario is devoid of when jumping is not an option.  But that’s not even getting into the floating ability that makes the actual platforming far easier, which was not needed due to the removal of most of the 3D Mario games’ jumping abilities.  While I always had difficulties performing a triple jump, that does not mean that I want everything to be scaled down to limit the abilities available to the player.  

Speaking of scaling down, let’s talk about the visuals.  I have heard claims that the 3DS is theoretically as powerful as the Xbox 360, which is far more powerful than the Wii, so why is there a massive quality dip in the visuals between it and Super Mario Galaxy?  Now I understand wanting to make a game simple and easy to play, but everything in this game just looks bland from a visual perspective, the actual graphical capabilities seem to be near par, but it all looks very heartless.  Pretty much every main Mario game before this had at least some interesting visuals, but it feels like they did not have time to chisel this brick into something appealing, just enough time to dip it in polish.  I understand how Nintendo experienced difficulties getting this game done, but that can be said for the entire 3DS system.  Just because you can do something now does not mean that you should do it now.  

But my criticisms seem invalid to me when I try to assess whether or not this game has $40 worth of content, and if it is fun.  While the first 8 worlds are an easy and brief romp, the 8 special worlds are where you get a real value and some challenge, although it is not alway the best kind.  Now I am okay with speed runs or simply harder levels, but the shadow clones from Super Mario Galaxy 2 do not make for very fun levels.  I just do not find it fun to go through a simple puzzle while I am constantly being tailed by my own spawn, or need to go across rotating platforms, or do a time trial in a lava area with a giant one after my bum.  But those times are the exception rather than the rule.  The main game is a chill little bit of platforming that remains enjoyable despite the fact that it is the blandest main Mario title I have ever seen, and that it follow the same mistake that will always hinder Mario games with a run button, the controls.  Now, this is a petty gripe, but I just find it to be bad design compared to games like Rayman Origins, where the run button is not next to the jump button, forcing you to hold the controller in a certain fashion, and increasing the finger strain.  There is a crouch button, but there is no reason for it to occupy both shoulder buttons, and it would not even disrupt the rolling ability by much, maybe just some minor coding adjustments, if that.

In short, Super Mario 3D Land is not very impressive, but it is solid and reliable fun, although it could have used a bit more tweaking to make it feel like a real game, rather than an alpha or a collection of solid and uninteresting user made levels.  It is worth getting if you already invested in the system, but will not, or at least should not, set anyone’s world on fire.

It’s held back by certain flaws, it manages to be a competently executed and fun product that is worth playing.

//I stand by what I said, and you can probably edit this in 15 minutes and make it into a review of New Super Mario Brothers 2: You Know What I Like?  MONEY!  Seriously, coins are fun to collect, but giving us the goal of a million is like giving a kid a basketball filled with chocolate, eventually they will just get sick and leave their sweet out for bigs.  And it is not even really good chocolate, just some generic brand, so it isn’t even that great in the first place.  What I am trying to say is, that Nintendo sucks at making candy… Wait.

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