Do you have a preferred style of Mario game? Do you prefer the classic 2D Mario games, where you run left to right until you jump onto the flagpole? Or do you prefer the 3D Mario games like Mario 64 and Galaxy, where the primary objective is to collect stars? Ever since the release of Super Mario 64, the 2D and 3D styles of Mario platformers have diverged into their own entities. I’m not saying that people can’t be fans of both, but I think most people prefer one style over the other. With all due respect to the Galaxy series of games and Super Mario 64, which is one of my all-time favourite games, I generally prefer the classic 2D style of Mario games.
Super Mario 3D Land is the first Super Mario game that tries to marry the 2D style and 3D style into one game. Is this game able to please both crowds? Or does it just leave everyone underwhelmed?
First off, let’s talk about this game’s approach to merging the two divergent Mario styles. The overarching level structure of the game is taken from the 2D Mario games. You navigate from level to level through a linear world map, have the option to collect three big coins in each level and end each level by grabbing the flagpole. The actual levels themselves, however, play out in 3D. With that said, there’s a fundamental difference to how this game handles 3D level design.
Taking advantage of the system’s strengths (3D) and working around the system’s weaknesses (no default second analog stick), Nintendo’s crafted a 3D Mario game that doesn’t require camera control and makes great use of depth perception. The lack of camera control doesn’t hurt Super Mario 3D Land, as the levels have been designed in a way where the fixed camera will never give you problems. In a way, even though it’s technically a 3D Mario game, the fixed camera and level designs make it feel a lot more focused without removing your ability to explore and find secrets in weird nooks and crannies. 2D Mario fans who may not like the open-ended feel of the 3D Mario games of the past will have a more pleasant experience with this one. The other cool new wrinkle is the 3D effects thanks to the 3DS. While they’re not mandatory, the levels were designed in a way where depth is always a factor. I found that playing with the 3D on made it a lot easier to navigate the world.
The end result of this mash-up is a pretty fun Mario game with no shortage of magical moments that only a Mario game can provide. I felt right at home with what the game offered and blazed through it pretty quickly. It was an enjoyable experience all the way through. The first few worlds are a bit easy, but the challenge definitely picks up towards the end. I don’t know if Super Mario 3D Land stacks up compared to the best Mario platformers, but that’s not a slight to it at all. It’s on par in quality with the most recent Mario games such as the New Super Mario Bros. and Mario Galaxy series’.
Super Mario 3D Land is an excellent addition to any Nintendo 3DS owner’s library. If you don’t have a 3DS, I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to pick a system up just to play this, but if you’re getting this alongside Mario Kart 7 and/or the Ocarina of Time, you’ve got yourself a sweet starting package.