Let's-a Go!

In the 90’s, there were two heavyweights in the video game world. Sonic the Hedgehog, and Super Mario. I was always more of a Sonic guy, having owned the Sega systems over the course of the decade, but I’ve always had an admiration for Mario and the level of care Nintendo gave the Italian Plumber. Every game I’ve played of his has always been a polished, unique, and memorable experience (Something I cannot say for my favorite Hedgehog) and I’m pleased to say that Super Mario 3D Land is no different.

Ok, so maybe its not exactly memorable, but I’ll get to that in a second.

I did have a Gameboy when I was young. In fact, my first exposure to Mario was actually the “Super Mario Land” series on the original Gameboy, since that was the only Nintendo system I had at the time. Perhaps as a result, my favorite game in the Mario universe is Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins. It was a long, deep, and feature rich game. All the staples of a Mario game were there, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. There hasn’t been a real “Mario Land” followup since, though, and I’m surprised that Nintendo hasn’t re-released the two originals at some point. They have a history of re-releasing games instead of making new ones, and Mario Land 2 is ripe for a re-release with full color and other modernizations.

When I heard another Mario Land was finally coming to the 3DS, I was intrigued. I wasn’t really hell bent on a sequel, but I was definitely welcome to the idea. The truth of the matter, though, is that this really isn’t anything special when it comes to Mario games. It does not build on the past Mario Land games, and instead just takes a new, fresh take on modern Mario games and throws the word “Land” in the title. This isn’t a bad thing, though. The game is fun and feature rich, but I have to say that it feels an awful lot like games I’ve played in the past, such as Mario 64 or Mario Galaxy, only now on a handheld .

One quick thing: I hate the current 3D craze. The gimmick of the 3DS handheld in general is just awful to me, and while this game may be the best use of 3D on the platform, it has no bearing on the game’s quality or factored into my decision to purchase it. I really just wanted to play new Mario content instead of another damn rehash. That being said, the 3D isn’t half bad and I found myself playing it more in 3D than in 2D. Once again: the 3D didn’t matter to me at all, and doesn’t really factor into my opinion of it at all.

For the sake of clarification: I will use the term 3D in the remainder of this post to refer to the gameplay style (for example, Mario 64 was a 3D game when compared the 2D sidescrollers of the past). I will not be commenting on the 3D display technology any longer. Thanks for playing.

Gameplay:

This game plays exactly like every 3D Mario game you’ve had the chance to pick up in the past. Mario’s acrobatic stunts are all here, including wall-jumping and hat-wearing. Your normal power ups are all here too, such as the Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, and the Tanooki Suit, made famous in Super Mario 3. (The Raccoon Suit, to us Americans who don’t have the time to look this shit up.)

Enemies include Goombas, Koopas, and Hammer Brothers, among other Mario mainstays, and you’ll go up against Bowser and his kin as you attempt to rescue the Princess from another kidnapping.

Mario wearing the boomerang suit.

Setting:

DATELINE: Mushroom Kingdom. Princess Peach was suddenly and unexpectedly Kidnapped by giant dinosaur/turtle Bowser and his bumbling band of Koopas!

Ok, so maybe not so unexpected, although the fact that Bowser is the primary villain is another departure from past Mario Land titles. He was absent from the previous two, as was Princess Peach. In fact, Super Mario Land 2 was the game that introduced the now infamous Wario.

Mario attacks Bowser's sky fleet.

Anyway, the levels in this outing are quite familiar, but are well designed and very colorful. Most are a series of platforms hovering in the sky (don’t fall down if you want to live) and follow the typical Mario format: Outdoor level, Cave Level, Water Level, Ghost House, Bowser Fight. You’ll progress through 8 worlds (16 if you are talented enough to reach the star worlds) which consist different world themes, like Ice, Desert, Forrest and so on. Each level has 3 Star coins for you to grab, and after awhile you need to have certain numbers of star coins to unlock more levels. A new twist comes with the traditional flag raising action at the end of the level. As always, Mario raises the flag when you reach the end, but now you can earn a “Golden Flag” when you raise the flag by landing on the top of the flag pole. To fully complete a level, you have to collect all three golden stars and raise a golden flag. I’m typically a bit of a completionist, so I found this to be a perfect motivator, and I can see this being a strong replay-ability feature.

Much like Frosty the Snowman, Mario loses his mojo when he loses his hat.

Other Thoughts:

Overall I really enjoyed this game. It was not that difficult, nor was it particularly unique in its approach to game play. It was Mario through and through, but I feel like this game could have been so much more. The story (if you can even say it has one) was identical to all others in the history of the series, a trademark that I feel Nintendo should not rely on. Story is important in modern games, and this has nothing going for it. The traditional and surprisingly addictive game play is really the draw here, even if things like the power-ups and villains are not that exciting. When compared to New Super Mario Brothers, which released a few years ago on the first DS, this game falls a bit short. New Super Mario Brothers had much more to offer. More worlds, more powerups, and most importantly: Multiplayer.

This particular Mario game is a solitary affair, and even though it has some length thanks to collectibles and additional levels, I put it down feeling like I never actually played it. It was the most fun game I’ve played that, unfortunately, will not carry on in my memory.

In the end, I call that a victory for Mario, but a loss for Nintendo. Mario is sacred in the gaming world. This game… well… it just doesn’t stand out in the grand scheme of things. That being said, I judge the game on its own merits, not on that of the franchise. 4/5 Star Coins.

 

4 out of 5 Stars. The fifth star is hidden somewhere in Nintendo's other Castle.

 

-Jimmy “No Yoshi? Dang.” the G.

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This post has a Shenanaganary rating of:

“Sonic and Mario are now starring in games together, but they are all mini-game laden affairs. I would absolutely LOVE an actual adventure/platformer game where the two are both the main stars against some sort of Robotnik/Bowser axis of Evil.”