The 3DS has been hit with more criticism than pretty much any system in recent memory. A lack of launch games along with the lack of enthusiasm for the third dimension has made it hard for the Big N to push units.
Thankfully for them, Mario has come along to save the day. Make no mistake – 3D Land is a system seller.
Like most Mario games, 3D Land has absolutely no story – in fact, once the intro starts, you’re basically in action within thirty seconds – and that’s perfectly ok with me. The gist is that Bowser has once again captured Peach, and in the process, disturbed a racoon leaf tree, allowing many enemies in the game the ability to hover, a la Mario 3.
3D Land hosts a world map screen similar to Mario Galaxy 2, with a linear path connecting all eight worlds with 5 or more levels in each set. Although it’s a bit dishevelled at times (lush, green, happy levels in World 8?), Mario 3D Land provides some of the best level designs in the business.
There were a ton of stages that gave me flashbacks to older classics such as Jumping Flash, which is in part due to the emphasis on 3D. There’s even one level where the camera is panned in such a way that it feels like you’re looking down into a 3D shadowbox: it’s easily a proof of concept for a remake of the original Zelda. This level diversity persists basically for the entire game – to the point where you’re left wanting more.
At the end of each world, you’ll either face Bowser’s castle, or one of his many airships – complete with confrontations with Bowser himself, or the underutilized Boom Boom – the mini-boss from Mario 3′s castle levels. Both encounters are reminiscent of old titles, but have plenty of their own unique spins to them. In fact, I think the final encounter with Bowser is probably my favorite out of the entire franchise – there’s something about running from an invincible Bowser that gets your blood pumping!
After the game’s complete, you’ll have access to 8 more secret worlds, consisting of both harder remakes of older levels, and all new content. Although these extra levels aren’t neccesarily that much harder than the main game, they are still tons of fun, and extra content never hurt anyone. Additionally, completionists will have a ball finding the three golden coins hidden in each and every level.
For those who are interested, there are extra “Mystery Box” levels that can be completed once per playthrough, and more can be unlocked via Streetpass. While these boxes are literally only 10 second distractions, it’s still a nice little addition for Streetpass fans.
Graphically, 3D Land is one of the best looking games I’ve ever seen. To be perfectly blunt, it looks better than most Wii games, and really does a good job showing off the power of the 3DS – hopefully more developers than just Nintendo will be able to take advantage of this horsepower in the future.
Like Ocarina of Time 3D, the 3D effects themselves are second to none, and really augment the graphical style. If you’re not a fan of 3D, the game can be completed without it, but you may have trouble every so often with some deliberately 3D puzzle rooms.
Words cannot stress how great Mario 3D Land really is. Although I would have liked to have seen a handful of concepts expanded, 3D Land does pretty much everything right: if you’re looking for a new Mario game, this is it.