|Release: November 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Super Mario 3D Land is, in my opinion, the best 3D Mario I have played yet. Yes, this means better than Mario 64, better than Mario Galaxy, and better than Mario Sunshine. (Well, that last one isn't saying much.) In my opinion, this is the first real 3D Mario game.
Before Mario 64, the Mario games were 2D side-scrolling platformers with a simple formula: Power-ups make you stronger. Get hit, and you lose your power-ups. Get hit with no power-ups and you die. The only goal was to make it to the end of a level, and sometimes jump on a boss's head three times. It was genius in its simplicity.
Then Mario 64 came around and that all changed. Mario had a life bar, power-ups were all timed instead of acting as hit shields, and the simple goal of getting to the end of a stage was replaced with overarching fetch quests for stars and other collectibles. It was a great game formula that stuck with us for some time, but it wasn't really Mario. At least it wasn't classic Mario. It was something new that we all came to know and love.
Super Mario 3D Land, on the other hand, is classic Mario in every way other than the fact that it's in 3D. Once again, your main goal is to stomp on enemies, avoid traps and bottomless bits, and navigate complicated levels in an attempt to reach a goal. This formula is only deviated from when you have to put the hurt down on one of the infamous Koopa Kids. Mario's life is dependent on the power-up he has. He starts out tiny (and without a hat), grows into the Super Mario we all know and love, and then takes on any number of powers that we fondly remember, from the Fire Flower to the Tanooki Suit. Coins don't restore your life, they just up your score and give you 1-ups.
In addition, each of the power-ups has new functionality. The Fire Flower lets you shoot fireballs like normal, but now different aspects of the environment can be lit on fire in order to solve puzzles or progress further in the level. Mario doesn't begin the game with a spin attack, but getting the Tanooki Suit allows him to whip his tail around in a circle, mimicking both the tail whip from Super Mario 3 and the spin attack from Super Mario Galaxy. (However, you can't turn into a statue with the Tanooki Suit anymore, nor can you fly.) It feels like you are playing some sort of 3D version of a Super Mario 3/Super Mario World hybrid in the Super Mario Galaxy engine.
The gameplay reminds us of everything that is good about 3D Mario games. All of Mario's popular 3D acrobatics are here. He can long jump, backflip, wall jump, and more. It appears as if these moves get better (or, in some cases, are enabled) by Mario being Super Mario instead of Little Mario. So for the first time ever, being Super Mario does more than allow you to break bricks with your head and survive one hit before dying. In addition, these moves help Mario get to the top of the flagpole, which once again gets him more points and extra 1-ups.
Mario will encounter new enemies, such as Goombas with raccoon tails. Stomping these Goombas will net Mario a leaf which allows him to put on the Tanooki suit. Most likely there will be other enemies that can do the same, which is reminiscent of the flying shell-less Koopas from Super Mario World. Mario can hold one extra power-up in a reserve slot, and just like in New Super Mario Bros., you use this item by tapping on the touch screen.
Once again, Mario will travel to a variety of worlds with a variety of themes in order to rescue Princess Peach. The story of the game hasn't yet been revealed but I'm pretty sure that a cake is involved somehow.
There are throwbacks to several various Mario games from the past. For example, traveling down the right pipes can lead Mario to one-item treasure boxes like in Mario 3. Other pipes or teleport blocks lead him to short underground levels that teleport him to another section of the world. Still other pipes will put you in a top-down view like in Super Mario RPG. There's nostalgia everywhere.
Simply put, the game is a blast to play. It feels like the best parts of 3D and 2D Mario games combined. Set for release in November, this might just be the killer app the 3DS needs to get off its feet.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer