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Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Super Mario 3D Land on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Last year saw Nintendo celebrate 25 years of Mario’s existence. The company milked the birthday event by pushing its back catalogue of Nintendo DS Mario-related releases, unleashing a port of Super Mario All-Stars on Wii, as well as launching a sequel to Super Mario Galaxy. Super Mario Galaxy 2 was by far one of the greatest products of 2010, yet unfortunately 3D Mario does not quite have the same mass-market appeal as traditional, old school 2D side-scrolling Mario. Therefore, despite focus being placed on its 2D elements, Super Mario Galaxy 2 was not a patch on New Super Mario Bros. Wii in the sales stakes. With this in mind, Nintendo has gone back to the drawing board for its first Mario outing on 3DS, incorporating as many heritage platform antics as possible, whilst giving the whole package a lick of three-dimensional paint and hoping to draw both groups of fans towards the one game, Super Mario 3D Land. Quite how well the amalgamation of styles works is a key question, though...

Many people have been talking about how, with Super Mario 3D Land, Nintendo are trying to further bridge the gap between fans of the traditional 2D side-scrolling platform adventures, like New Super Mario Bros. and the classic NES and SNES Super Mario Bros. titles, and the sprawling worlds found in games such as Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. However, rather than being a vast adventure with a few old school elements tucked inside, as with Super Mario Galaxy 2, the reality is that Super Mario 3D Land’s development team has almost lifted the template from both Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 on the Nintendo Entertainment System, melded the two together and then sprinkled some of the delights of recent home console entries.

Everything has older players reminiscing over how full of ingenuity the 8-bit and 16-bit Mario platform games were. From the step-climbing at the end of each level to launch Mario at the flag-pole, to the means of overcoming Bowser’s advances on the final stage of a world, right through to smaller elements, such as visiting Toad’s house for special items (complete with his abode’s classic NES theme, remixed), the level of nostalgia found in Super Mario 3D Land is simply flabbergasting. What Nintendo has done for Mario’s debut Nintendo 3DS jump-and-run release is to take that classic formula and merge it with the more ‘open’ feel of the Super Mario Galaxy duo on Wii that was tragically missing from both New Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo DS and its home console big brother.

Screenshot for Super Mario 3D Land on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The aim is not merely to reach the final flag on each course, but also to seek out three special coins in order to fully complete the stage. In order to discover some of these, however, a sufficient amount of scouring is required, meaning that a close eye must be kept on the clock counting down in the top-right corner to ensure straying off the beaten track does not result in a loss of life due to the timer hitting zero. There are sometimes timers floating around that add vital extra seconds, so there is normally a modicum of extra room to play with, yet erring on the side of caution and traversing levels post-haste is always advisable. Some of the special coins can only be offered up by the mushroom-hat-wearing Toad, who is hidden normally high up somewhere and can only be spotted using a set of binoculars stuck to a stand somewhere around the current level. Upon coming into Mario’s field of vision, he waves vigorously and throws a coin somewhere around the stage, with the player encouraged to pan around to locate the important item and make a mental note of its location until they delve into the heart of the platform section.

There are some technical limitations that hamper Super Mario 3D Land, unfortunately. Whilst following coloured notes that play small extracts from the first level of Super Mario World will have long-term Mario aficionados grinning from ear-to-ear, the general pace of Mario is surprisingly slow throughout, making for a very laboured trek across each setting. Equally frustrating is the low camera vantage point, making it extremely difficult to see far in front of Mario, and there is no option to go into the first-person viewpoint found in 3D Mario adventures since Super Mario 64, so the only time long distances can be seen are via the fixed-spot binoculars mentioned earlier, normally at the very beginning of a level. Clearly this camera restriction has been implemented to cover up either weaknesses in the 3DS hardware itself, or an unrefined game engine. It becomes increasingly apparent that something was amiss during development when heavy pop-up issues arise. Wandering around an open world and suddenly having enemies and items appear at the last couple of seconds is surprising for a Nintendo-produced title, and whilst it is not terribly drastic to the point of causing untimely deaths, it can be startling at times and mars what is otherwise a sterling effort.

Screenshot for Super Mario 3D Land on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

For its niggles in the technical department, there is simply no denying how deliciously tasty Super Mario 3D Land is for the most part. In general its 3D worlds are filled with the usual Nintendo level of fine detail, there are plenty of enemies running around, traps for Mario to stumble over, hidden sections that are cleverly disguised by the added three-dimensional depth, and a plentiful supply of throwbacks to the classic NES Mario of old, to the point of transposing old sprites from the 8-bit era directly into Super Mario 3D Land (as seen with the small Mario on the touch-screen’s level-select map and even in certain stages).

Super Mario 3D Land excels in its level design, with the amount of variety poured into the journey proving to be truly immense. Those with a penchant for simple left-to-right stages will be pleased to know they are in abundance, albeit with an aesthetically pleasing 3D makeover. However, there is also a wide selection of sprawling stages that take Mario high up into the clouds, across touch-operated platforms, over panels that flip open or closed dependent on how many times Mario jumps, as well as traversing great distances by grasping a helicopter-style item, called a Propeller Block, and bouncing on Para-Goombas along the way. Special mention should go out to the suits that Mario can don whilst on his mission to save Princess Peach once more. The one advertised the most in the run-up to the game’s launch has, of course, been the Tanooki Suit that featured way back in Super Mario Bros. 3 from the NES, yet whilst it is a predominant feature of most stages, it no longer grants the ability to fly. Grabbing a Super Leaf gives Mario a tail to flick at enemies and hover from down from high ledges, as well as allowing the Italian hero to become statuesque, but the running and temporary flying element from Super Mario Bros. 3 is not to be found.

Screenshot for Super Mario 3D Land on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

To top this off, Super Mario 3D Land is also strewn with such an amazing amount of special magic that it really is appalling tough to ever dislike it. Even the small Paper Mario-esque images that are shown between worlds are highly impressive, with the 3D effect playing a massive part in how superb the paper-thin imagery looks, with the added bonus of them being interactive, moving in subtle ways when shaking the 3DS unit, triggering the internal gyroscopes. For those struggling to cope with the completion of a particular level, Nintendo has brought back its extremely useful, yet perhaps condescending helper system, this time in the form of two special items: the Invincibility Leaf and P-Wing. The former appears after losing five lives in a row and leaves the player to breeze through to the final flag using complete invincibility, whilst the latter crops up when ten lives have been lost on one stage in order to transport Mario right to the end of a level, but with no achievements. Other than that, the Fire Flower returns for fireball shooting, the Star and its invincibility also re-appears, along with the Mushroom that enlarges Mario. The primary new accessory in Super Mario 3D Land is the Boomerang Flower, which gives Mario the opportunity to dress as the Hammer Bros. and wreak havoc in that way. It proves to be another example of how Nintendo and its internal teams are real experts in mixing old ideas with fresh new ones. Super Mario 3D Land, despite its technical drawbacks, is already one of the strongest Nintendo 3DS games on the market by far.

Screenshot for Super Mario 3D Land on Nintendo 3DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

Super Mario 3D Land marries the traditional 2D elements that the young and old both love equally, with the addictive and expansive nature of 3D Mario adventures. With some highly creative level design, plenty of references to years gone by, and the inclusion of plenty of useful upgrades for Mario, the game barely sets a foot wrong.

Graphics

Definitely one of the most aesthetically pleasing 3DS games so far, with so much variety on offer, great levels of detail, and impressively large worlds to explore. However, the slow speed, awkward camera height and restricted movement, plus moments of pop-up hamper what is otherwise a technical marvel.

Sound

Classic Mario tunes return, along with some new pieces that slot into the soundtrack perfectly, accompanied, as ever, by the light-hearted vocal talent of Charles Martinet for various voice snippets.

Value

Whilst the eight main worlds on offer may not take too long to fly through, there is certainly enough challenge here to keep even veterans occupied, whilst the amount of little extras included definitely more than help to extend its longevity.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

Super Mario 3D Land excels in so many areas, picking up the traditional 2D side-scrolling feel of the classic NES and SNES platform outings, whilst sprinkling in a pleasing dose of the 3D charm that made Super Mario Galaxy 2 so special. Anyone that had been hoping for a more well-rounded challenge than New Super Mario Bros. Wii need look no further, whilst those with a penchant for large open spaces for Mario to roam around in will not be totally let down either. There are some almost debilitating issues with slow pace, a lower than expected camera and pop-up, but the raw content is so delightful that it proves difficult to hold a grudge for long.

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12.11.2011

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Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (12 Votes)

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This game, like Super Mario Bros Wii, and New Super Mario Bros, appears to have been designed as an introductory game, I've got that impression after reading many interviews. With this being the third game like this in recent memory, I am a little miffed now. I don't think Nintendo needed to apply as much focus on this area, even despite recent uncertainty in the market. I know handheld gaming is a different ballpark where certain rules have to apply, most of the time, but after the Galaxy games on Wii, I think they could have afforded to experiment more and be bolder. There are some really neat looking concepts in this game, but they seem all too fleeting and appear not to be expanded on in any gratifying way. In some ways, the level design looks almost conservative, just like the original Galaxy was, and like that game it'll most likely leave you wanting more. Amazingly, this is all Kozumi-san's doing, this approach was his idea. It's really frustrating, I would have thought he would have wanted to do something more bold. I suppose in some ways this game is, but not in a way that really appeals to me that much, and I say that as a lover of the 8Bit and 16Bit games. The basic movement feels good and I know I will enjoy the game, but I know I will feel a little disappointed also.

Capcom are intending to put out what they consider to console experiences on this handheld, Nintendo could easily do the same if they wanted to, but they still work with the impression that games of this type have to be designed with short burst gaming in mind. I don't agree, give the audience what they want straight away, instead of making them wait for the more exciting inevitable sequel.

3DS Code 2578-3122-0744

Whilst it does look more interesting than New Super Mario Bros. Wii (though that's not hard to achieve), it still lacks anything special in terms of art direction, stage design and music. It features that repetitive art style which we've seen countless times before. Furthermore, the fact that it suffers from pop-up is unacceptable coming from Nintendo. Was this rushed out for Christmas and to help improve 3DS sales?

When I talk about stage design, I have no doubt they'll be great in terms of gameplay, but my points stems from the art direction again. The stages aren't beautiful to look at and vast like Super Mario Galaxy. This looks more like a 3D version of New Super Mario Bros. Wii and I find that a lot more dull.

The lack of variety in music is worrying and reminds me again of New Super Mario Bros. Wii which had one piece of music played throughout the game many times. Not that it's bad, but I've already heard it far too much on the trailers alone.

This is based upon what I've seen of the game. To me, it seems is if they took the safe option out in favour of higher sales and supporting the 3DS. You only need to look at the selling figures of the both Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 compared to New Super Mario Bros. Wii to see that this style of Mario game sells more.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Did you know that Super Mario 3D Land started off with just a two-man team and only reached a maximum of 30 in total, taking two years to complete the project?

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I have no problem with the art direction. The 3d marios always look appealing to me. I hate the direction they continue to go in with regards to 2d mario games. They look ugly and forgettable. They pale in comparison to Rayman origins ( a game that fully embraces the fact that its a 2d platformer)

shea (guest) 13.11.2011 01:52#5

i need to get this game

Chris (guest) 13.11.2011 02:00#6

@sqidboy actually dude the concept of most of this game was down to the
Director Koichi Hayashida and
Shigeru Miyamoto, Koichi wanted a quick game that you could pick up and play anywhere, anytime and wanted to back to basics nature, Miyamoto just went along with it giving approval. On the other hand it's Yoshiski KoiZumi who tends to normaly like doing things more grand and having more back stories (such as Rosalina'a back story) its the powers that be that are telling him what kind of game to make. He was the one that brought the star system to Mario 64, Miyamoto wanted the flagpole. Obviously he was told to make 3D Land more easy and more casual and more like 2D Mario.

meeto_0 said:
I have no problem with the art direction. The 3d marios always look appealing to me. I hate the direction they continue to go in with regards to 2d mario games. They look ugly and forgettable. They pale in comparison to Rayman origins ( a game that fully embraces the fact that its a 2d platformer)

This looks like a 2D Mario game though, it's just in 3D.

Our member of the week

Meh, beats Mario 64! Smilie Still, something with a lot of character like Mario Sunshine would be most welcome. This has the Galaxy look to it with the random blocks and platforms scattered throughout a generic (and linear) Mario world.

Mario doesn't need to reinvent the wheel with each game. Smilie I just want a beautiful setting like in Sunshine. Smilie

( Edited 13.11.2011 11:26 by Ifrit XXII )

gemma (guest) 16.11.2011 23:14#9

Is this coming out on the wii as i really want to play it but imnot prepared to buy a 3ds just to do so???

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

gemma (guest) said:
Is this coming out on the wii as i really want to play it but imnot prepared to buy a 3ds just to do so???

I'm afraid not, Gemma! This is a 3DS game that makes the most of the 3D features of the system. We won't be seeing another Mario platformer on the Wii now until the new console, the Wii U next year. So if you want to play this game, you'll have to save up your pennies to buy a 3DS :]

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
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wow just got this awome game today and so far it is a great game I only payed 12 bucks for it that right 12 buck I preodered my copy at gamestop plus I traded in enough game games to drop the price, oh i am on pins n needles waiting for the new zelda game to come I preodered my copy at gamestop along with the golden wii remote and sound track omg I am so pump can't wait for sunday nov 20 th It took me a long time to pay it off but it will be worth it .

Michael Burns (guest) 19.11.2011 02:46#12

There's absolutely zero pop-up in this game. I don't know what version this reviewer was playing, but I've put in over 21 hours with this game and haven't encountered it once.

Senior ModeratorCubed3 Member

Michael Burns (guest) said:
There's absolutely zero pop-up in this game. I don't know what version this reviewer was playing, but I've put in over 21 hours with this game and haven't encountered it once.

I didn't notice it until I looked for it actually, I've only encountered it in one place, but the level was a fair distance from me and I saw the enemies pop in all at once. But it hasn't effected gameplay whenever I have been in an area I haven't had enemies suddenly appear. So its not a deal breaker at all, no more than it is on open world titles.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Echoes221 said:
Michael Burns (guest) said:
There's absolutely zero pop-up in this game. I don't know what version this reviewer was playing, but I've put in over 21 hours with this game and haven't encountered it once.

I didn't notice it until I looked for it actually, I've only encountered it in one place, but the level was a fair distance from me and I saw the enemies pop in all at once. But it hasn't effected gameplay whenever I have been in an area I haven't had enemies suddenly appear. So its not a deal breaker at all, no more than it is on open world titles.

And it's why it isn't a reason for me knocking the score down - it happened in a couple of the more open levels where the camera has been lowered to an awkward position to help reduce pop-up. The things that knocked the score from a 9 to an 8 were the awkward camera, low difficulty level (even on later stages you'll have SO many lives it's ridiculous), and the terribly slow pace compared to the Galaxy games (even when running).

For me, if those niggles weren't there it would be a strong 9/10. Sadly they are, so it's an 8/10 - but still HIGHLY recommended due to its immense fun factor. People just definitely need to be aware that it's a case of 2D style Mario with 3D bits mixed in, not the other way round as in SMG2.

Michael Burns, Echoes - how are you enjoying the game so far in general?

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Staff Member

@Adam - I know you didn't ask me, but I'm loving this atm. I'm only on the start of World 4 because I've been busy with Skyward Sword. So far, I have no problems with the camera angle. It is quite a bit different to other Mario games, but it doesn't take too long to get used to it.

The 3D effect is beautiful and the visuals are really great too. Yes, it's quite an easy game but the fun factor is why you should really buy it.

Can't wait to play through the rest of the game and see what the harder 8 worlds are like. Smilie

Senior ModeratorCubed3 Member

Really enjoying it, just started on the Special Worlds now, its been far too easy so far, especially since you amass lives like nobodies business and can carry an extra power up. But I'm fine with that since I play it on the bus to and from uni, so I don't have time to concentrate much (Makes aiming with the stick a bitch as the gyro takes away your control).

The game itself is gorgeous and it really picks up towards the end in terms of level design, its just a shame that the earlier ones aren't quite as inventive, whereas the later ones have a more galaxy flare to them. Would of like to of had a few ice levels in there to make the platforming a bit trickier, but as a whole, I think 3D makes platforming easier. It helps nail timing and goomba stomping from a 3D perspective.

In terms of 3D though, there aren't that many sections that utilise it 'well'. Would of preferred more sections that you had to have the 3D on in order to see the layout, instead of the small stage ones. As it is, I don't think it is quite fleshed out enough and its missing the variety that Galaxy has, and even though I didn't enjoy it much, NSMBWii. It feels very short, having longer stages would of been much nicer, and perhaps having the star coins in more elaborate places would of given an added challenge. I have yet had to backtrack to pick up more coins to unlock extra stages and final levels, as I had to constantly on previous games.

But as the first 'proper' 3DS title from Nintendo, its quite good, and I like getting the use out of my 3DS again. But there is something niggling in the back of my head telling me that it feels more like a tech demo akin to pilotwings resort, than it does a full on, fleshed out mario title.

Can't agree more with the points that you put into your review and the overall score. If I'm honest, I think it pales in comparison to almost every other mario platformer out there. Its fun, but in terms of content and replayability, its weak.

Holland (guest) 19.11.2011 13:32#17

Maybe the reviewer should get a new 3DS. I've played and finished the complete game, and I have not seen ANY pop-up.

Rating the graphics with a 7 is pretty remarkable to be honest. I haven't seen anything better on the 3DS (including Zelda OoT), so what's up with that? It's a beautiful game, there is no pop-up (haven't seen ANY other reviewer say anything about pop-up or problems with the camera).

Apart from the graphics, good review, a fair one.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Holland (guest) said:
Rating the graphics with a 7 is pretty remarkable to be honest. I haven't seen anything better on the 3DS (including Zelda OoT), so what's up with that? It's a beautiful game, there is no pop-up (haven't seen ANY other reviewer say anything about pop-up or problems with the camera).

Have you played games like Mario Sunshine and the Galaxy games? If so, do you really not think there is a difference in terms of pace and camera angle? (I'm talking about the open-world sections, not side-on view parts). If you didn't, then perhaps it's a particular foible of the game that struck a nerve with me and it simply comes down to a personal bugbear more than anything. Visually, if it weren't for the slow moments and awkward camera parts, it would get a 9 as it is indeed a lovely looking 3DS game. However, in my personal opinion, it dropped a bit, which for me was shocking coming from Nintendo.

Saying that, as mentioned in another post, it didn't hamper my overall love of the game. The sheer ingenuity of certain levels is amazing and it made me sad that the timer system was employed as it meant levels seemed far shorter than they perhaps should have been. Sure, use it for some stages, but other, more open ones, could have done without the time limit and perhaps a few more hidden elements to encourage greater exploration.

Apart from the graphics, good review, a fair one.

Thank you Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I'm at world 6 now and it's been an off and on experience, it just doesn't feel like a Super Mario game, I'm not getting that same excitement when I first played New Super Mario Bros Wii. The 2D type levels don't work when the actual game is 3D, so many jumps I have done have been a hit and miss just because of the depth perception of the level. I would have liked a free camera instead of a fixed camera, especially in some levels when you want to face in the direction you want to jump, it can become too hectic at times. So far i've only got the tanooki suit and boomerang suit and it's been bit dull, if it was New Super Mario Bros 3D or something, I would have enjoyed it bit more. The graphics are best I've seen on the 3DS, some really nice specular highlights and beautiful water surfaces. Good game but just has some really bad elements re-ocurring from previous mario games.

Jman (guest) 23.11.2011 13:51#20

I can't believe I read about pop up in a Super Mario Bros game.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Believe it! Smilie Have you played it? Other people have noticed it, admittedly not as obviously as I did, but it *is* there. Shocking, right? Smilie

Irfy, at times it can seem very...'pedestrian' is probably the best word. It's almost a 'Mario by Numbers' style game, relying heavily on past ideas for the most part. In most cases that won't be a bad thing in people's eyes, though.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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