IMPRESSIONS: Super Mario 3D Land

14 12 2011

If you’re one of the 5 people who read my previous post, you know I’m a long-time fan of the Super Mario series… even if it hasn’t quite tickled my fancy as of late (read, the last 3 years).  Up pops Super Mario 3D Land, a game that Nintendo would like to be a system seller for their 3DS portable game machine.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m far enough along (world 6-8 as of this post) to share some thoughts and feelings on Mario’s latest adventure.

Let me start by saying that my favorite Mario game has been Super Mario 64.  That game is now the great-great grandfather to all modern third person action adventure games.  It set the standard with it’s control, camera, and open world roaming.  I could go on and on about Mario 64; but I won’t.  Just know that it’s an important game and the true high water mark for the series.

My God... I called it a high water mark...

Many reviewers have pointed out that Super Mario 3D Land is the bridge between modern and classic Mario adventures.  This is true.  The game successfully mixes the feeling of old-school 2D Mario and his modern “3D” incarnation, while bringing the series into a true 3D realm.  Some have said that the use of 3D is sublime… I have no idea what that means; but I will tell you that the sense of 3D is real.  There is an actual feeling of depth and placement when the game is played in 3D.  This is the game Nintendo should have in every kiosk selling their system.  Playing Mario 3D Land sells the 3D aspect of Nintendo’s handheld like nothing else can.  It’s that good.

This level simply shines in 3D. As a still picture... not so much.

Just like the classic Super Mario Brothers, this game is broken up into 8 worlds, each with 8 levels.  As you beat one level, the next becomes available.  The twist here, though, is that within each level are hidden 3 special coins.  Some levels can’t be played unless you have X number of these coins, and so the challenge becomes not only to finish each level to advance the game; but to collect all the special coins to truly beat the game.  It’s a nice concept that has you replaying certain levels again and again looking for that last token… although to be honest, most of them are very easy to find your first go around.

What really shines through for me is the level design.  I can’t tell you the last time I played a game and thought “Wow, this level design is genius!” or, “This just looks cool… what a great idea!”  Wait… I guess I can.  It would be while playing Super Mario 3D Land.  Simply put, it sets a new standard for level design in platformers.

Levels are vast, varied, and very pretty to look at.

But it’s not all milk and honey for the famous mustachioed plumber.  For all its awesomeness (and make no mistake, this is an awesome game) 3D Mario does have some hidden dents and dings that keep nagging at me.  First off, as I said earlier I’m currently on world 6-8.  I have 104 lives.  That’s right… 104 little Mario lives.  I would have to consecutively die 104 times in the game before I got to “Game Over.”  That is more than ridiculous.  Do you remember playing the original Super Mario?  You got a 1UP and you felt lucky… they had to be earned or discovered.  It was a challenge to beat that game.  Well, those days are gone, my friend.  Many modern gamers complain that games of late have become too easy, and I’m inclined to agree with them.  Sometimes I can get 4 or 5 extra lives per level…. heck, I’m guaranteed one if I just jump on the top of the flagpole that marks the end of each stage.  And Nintendo didn’t stop there with the over niceties.  See, Nintendo really wants you to beat this game, so they gave you a special item: a white, glittery tanooki suit.  This appears after you’ve died 4 or 5 times in a level.  Once you get this power up, Mario becomes invincible for the entire level.  Yes, the entire level.  And yes, it works with boss fights.  I don’t like my games to be overly hard; but I don’t like them handed too me, either.  Sure, you don’t have to pick up that particular power up (which is tantamount to cheating, really) but the temptation… oh, the temptation of ultimate power…!

Mario was bad. He went to bed without supper and then ran away to a land full of monsters where he became their king.

The other thing that detracts from the game is the 3D itself.  The only times I’ve really died in the game are when I’ve lost a sense of perspective.  This is inevitable with the 3DS because its 3D effect depends on your eyes looking at the screen from an exact angle; there’s very little room for head turning or hand moving.  When I tend to make a running jump, or quick succession of jumps in a Mario game, I have a habit of jerking my hands ever so slightly.  On the 3DS this results in disorientation, which results in death.  When that happens, I don’t feel so much that I’ve screwed up; but rather a design mechanic has screwed me over.  Like I said, it’s unavoidable, but it could be a cause of minor frustration that taints an otherwise near perfect gaming experience.  I’ll post a full review once I complete the game.


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14 12 2011
James Bacon

104 lives?! Geeze, man. That seems a bit excessive. I can’t say I agree with the last post about Mario, as I generally love him blindly (which is a fault, I know), but it makes a lot of sense.

I do, however, agree with you on this one. 🙂

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