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Super Mario 3D Land

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Category: 3DS
 
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If you’ll forgive me for starting off on a tangent; Christmas day really steers my mind towards the post-apocalypse. Allow me to elaborate. Throughout the country, whole families shelter indoors, fearful of braving the cold and empty wasteland, eyes transfixed upon the one link to the outside world: a colourful flashing box of noises and lights that all the while transmits joyful wishes from our reptilian overlords. Lights and decorations lay strewn across the cityscape like shattered debris from the jolliest nuclear warhead in human history. A cavalcade of enforced merriment culminating in a state of food induced vegetation and rooms full of smelly granddad farts….Happy holidays everyone.

Although the introductory paragraph may make me out to be an embittered cynic, I do actively enjoy Christmas. The booze, the food and the presents, coupled with the warm family atmosphere are inevitably reminiscent of the bygone Christmases of my youth. This Christmas however, was closer to the holidays of my boyhood then any in recent memory, as this time around, I set aside a great deal of the frivolity, and sat in the corner with a new toy: a Nintendo 3DS and Super Mario 3D Land.

Graphics

Even at the best of times opinions on 3D implementation is divided. A lot of the criticism thrown at 3D effects in both cinema and gaming is the low budget Buddy Holly impersonation required to truly enjoy the experience. Personally, even with the autostereoscopic 3D employed by the 3DS, prolonged exposure tends to make my noggin sore. Hardly the fault of Super Mario 3D Land, but it is irritating that one of the main selling points of the console it’s played on causes my head to feel as though I’ve been slamming vodka shots off a strobe light.

To give credit where it’s due, whenever I did venture to turn the 3D slider up to its maximum setting the effects were rather impressive. Platforming titles are, more often than not, littered with boxes, platforms and stairways and seeing them all fully realised in 3D is a wonderful feature that makes you remember why you coveted a 3DS in the first place.

Although even with the 3D turned down, Super Mario 3D Land is a charming and colourful affair with a palette of shades synonymous with the legendary Super Mario franchise. The differing aesthetic of each level keeps the action fresh and part of the fun is wondering the theme of the next stage. Particular favourites of mine include: A see-saw style rollercoaster, luigi’s Mansion style Boo levels, levels dodging bullets aboard Bowsers sky fleet and one stage where you traverse across a giant pixelated representation of the plumber himself.

Sounds

We all know how it goes by now, a bellowing of Italian enthusiasm as the title emerges; followed by a chirpy rendition of the Mario theme des jour. Unsurprisingly, Super Mario 3D Land is no exception. The music of any Mario game (and most Nintendo games for that matter) are often difficult to classify. Zelda games may lean towards a faster paced theatrical score, but that’s to set the pace to a slightly more threatening and crueller world – at least in comparison to the Mushroom Kingdom.

The music on show in Super Mario 3D Land does a great job of setting an atmosphere in keeping with the environment. All of the examples I mentioned earlier include their own catchy tunes which add to the feel of each level. The Boo stages for example, offer an eerie soundtrack that your brain will instantly equate with the images of haunted houses we remember from childhood. At its core the music can only truly be described as ‘Mario-esque’. Running through the Mushroom Kingdom pursuing the Princess with a familiar soundtrack brings back all the fun memories of the Mario titles of old, but now with modern graphics and the convenience of a handheld system – you can’t go wrong.

The sound effects are understandably unchanged. Running over a coin or snacking on a mushroom sounds the same as it did years ago. They may be small touches, but they all add up to an enjoyable Mario experience.

Gameplay

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Mario, it’s that despite maintaining for years he’s a plumber, I’ve never seen him fix a boiler, bleed a radiator or even proposition a buxom housewife in a cheesy porno flick. In his relatively short life our moustachioed friend has been: A chimp wrangler, a tennis player, a golfer, a racing driver, an Olympian, a doctor, a baseball player, a paper cut-out and a parasitic worm inside Bowser’s stomach. An impressive CV and that’s only the games I’m aware of. As far as I know there could have been a lesser known title called Super Mario: Letsa go Dogging! He may have had a lot of jobs in his time, but Super Mario 3D Land is classic Mario platforming. A return to form for the erstwhile ‘plumber’.

The jumping from one platform to the other aspect of platforming (which ultimately is its essence) can only really be as interesting as the variety of the levels and mechanics employed to keep the experience feeling new and exciting. Super Mario 3D Land understands this principle and as a result mixes solid platforming with a host of interesting settings and devices. Take for instance, the roller coaster levels, in which you have to shift your weight from the front of the car to the back to control your direction. The list goes on; there are also platforms that shift whenever you press the jump button, cannons to blast yourself from, binoculars to find hidden stars and a mix of classic and contemporary power-ups to help Mario on his journey.

Returning power-ups include: the tanooki suit, the racoon onesie that grants Mario the ability of Wright brother’s era flight. The Fire flower which allows for fire ball blasting and the humble mushroom, which this time around, restores you to your original height after you’ve taken your first hit (which knocks off your hat and makes you tiny). As it’s a Mario game, stars also make an appearance, this time granting a short spell of invincibility. Two new power-ups enter into this Mario incarnation: The propeller box, a small propeller Mario wears over his hat to allow him to blast quickly into the air, and the boomerang flower which is essentially the fire flower…but with a boomerang.

Other secret power-ups lurk hidden amidst the levels, only to be revealed with the unique mix of ham fistedness and
a dire lack of skill. It wouldn’t be modern Nintendo if they didn’t hold your hand after all. After failing a level a shocking amount of times a white tanooki power-up appears at the start of the level. This ‘special’ (very much the key word here) tanooki mixes the flight powers of the classic suit and the invulnerability of the power-up stars. If this blessing isn’t enough then a second power-up appears: a small wing crested with a big red P, allowing you to skip the level entirely. A curious thing really, surely those who would need such a thing wouldn't have figured out how to turn the console on? Making the whole exercise fairly redundant.

When you first start playing Super Mario 3D land the difficulty curve (or the lack thereof) can allow you to feel a tad superior. The star coins you collect to unlock levels are, more often than not, easy to find and eventually you’ll have amassed a stockpile of lives to shame an assembly hall full of cats. Upon completion however, the game wakes up, slaps you across the face and says: “ok then, thought that was easy did you? Try my secret levels then you smug git”.

The eight secret worlds unlocked after you save Peach (is that considered a spoiler anymore?) are similar to the standard worlds they mirror but with a vastly heightened difficulty. Sometimes the time limit is punishing, sometimes a little poisonous Mario follows your every move and sometimes the platforming is just downright tricky. If anything, the first stages just seemed like an overblown tutorial for the secret worlds. Your vast collection of lives will soon be whittled down and this time not even the white tanooki suit of fools can save you, the secret worlds have a strict dress code.

If you own a 3DS then Super Mario 3D Land is a must buy. My 3DS library is measly at best but, remakes aside, Super Mario 3D Land is unquestionably the best original 3DS game on the market. You may be able to breeze through the main section of the game in a few days but the secret worlds offer a challenge that will keep you coming back for more punishment. At its heart its classic Mario fun that helps you remember why the Italian stallion of gaming has climbed to the heights he has. Also as an added ‘hell yes’ to all the younger brothers out there, you can unlock Luigi as a playable character, move over Mario, its Luigi’s time to shine.






 
 

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