Super Mario 3D Land review
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Nintendo's classic title proves super in 3D...
Avatar proved that 3D could enhance the movie going experience; can Super Mario 3D Land do the same for gaming and the 3DS?
How can one game justify a handheld console purchase and prove that 3D gaming isn’t a fad? That’s the question Nintendo has had to seriously consider since the launch of the 3DS over six months ago. In the time between then and this title’s release gaming fans and business analysts have been very vocal about their disappointment with the impact and sales of the follow up to the DS, the most successful gaming hardware ever.
The criticisms have been widespread and varied, but one of the loudest recurring questions has been: Where is the trademark Nintendo killer app title, a la Wii Sports and Nintendogs for the Wii and DS platforms, which showcased what made these platforms special graphically and more importantly the respective gimmicks of the platforms (motion control and touchscreen), which couldn’t be replicated on competing hardware. This generation it is even more important with the ever rising popularity of iOS platforms (iPhone and iPad) and Android phones and tablets and their burgeoning downloadable game stores with cheap and cheerful bite sized gaming. There’s the impending arrival of the PSP Vita, the powerhouse gaming handheld from Sony with near PS3 visuals.
The biggest title up until now has been Ocarina of Time 3D which was well received and still was a great gaming experience but it’s a near fourteen year old game at this point. Equally as niggling has been the growing apathy of the consumer with 3D as an whole and the 3DS’s glasses free 3D feature with the initial excitement worn off; there was an recent survey that said only 22% of the people asked thought that 3D enhanced gameplay and 13% saying they preferred to play with the 3D turned off. So there was a lot of pressure on EAD Tokyo the team responsible for the amazing Super Mario Galaxy titles to squeeze some impressive visuals out of the display and prove that 3D isn’t just a gimmick. Have they lived up to the expectations?
In this gamer’s humble opinion yes, the game is the prettiest 3DS title yet and does an great job of squeezing the vibrant Pixar-esque visuals that the Super Mario Galaxy titles did so well into an portable experience. It also makes use of the analog control pad with Mario’s trademark pleasingly responsive controls and is greatly enhanced when you have the 3D turned on allowing you to judge jumps better and spot items hidden in the scenery that you might have missed in 2D proving that 3D has a role in the future of gaming. It does all this and most importantly is a ton of fun, I’ve lost track of time so often while playing the game, constantly being enticed to play one more level or retry one of the eventual frustrating levels that you face.
There are a few caveats but they’re relatively small, it’s not the revolutionary experience that Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy were for their respective moments in time. But you get the feeling Nintendo were never aiming for those heights, it’s an unspoken piece of trivia that the 2D throwback side- scrolling Marios (the New Super Mario Bros DS and Wii releases) have connected with the mainstream consumer in a way the more “revolutionary” 3D (Super Mario Galaxy) instalments unfortunately haven’t, with sales of the former dwarfing the latter. Many believe this is because gameplay feels more straightforward and unthreatening to the casual Mario fan.
So I feel EAD’s goal with SM3DL was to bridge the gap creating a hybrid of the best elements of both sides of the Mario platforming legacy to attempt to show cautious 2D Mario fans that 3D gameplay can be an equally welcoming and pleasant experience. The levels are mainly structured around the straightforward linear layouts of 2D Marios while allowing the freedom to move in 360 degrees looks for useful power ups, gold coins and bonuses. This leads to the second flaw for the more experienced 3D Mario fan, the initial journey to beating Bowser doesn’t get very challenging until the last two worlds. However, once completed, Mario vets looking for an test of their skills can try the “Special Worlds” entirely remixed versions of the previous levels, which are immensely satisfying to overcome.
So the game had a lot to prove but I feel it lived up to the pressure and is a title that every 3DS owner should have in their library. It’s a title which uses every inch of potential in the hardware and can’t be replicated on other devices, it has a meatiness which overshadows the mostly shallow games of the IOS/Android App stores and their imprecise touchscreen controls, and even when pitted against the upcoming platformers on the PSP Vita (the other dedicated gaming handheld), not many developers can match Nintendo’s knack for making Mario feel like an extension of the gamer. I also feel that this is a landmark title for 3D gaming as it has shown that 3D can add an extra layer of fun if the developer spends enough time designing the game with it in mind. But the thing that makes the game so easy to recommend is that it is a constantly entertaining gaming experience; no other game recently has made me grin so often with its wildly inventive levels, winks and nods to Mario’s gaming legacy and vibrant cheerful character design, hopefully it will do the same for you too.
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