Hands On Preview | Super Mario 3D Land

I will most definitely admit that even after having had Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D for a couple of months now, I hardly go back to play my Nintendo 3DS. Bought at launch, I can’t find too many titles that appeal to me as a handheld gamer. Don’t get me wrong, Ocarina 3D is absolutely fantastic, but it isn’t something I can see myself playing for hours straight. However, my view on the console has certainly changed after playing through the Super Mario 3D Land demo at New York Comic Con.

The demo consisted of four levels, each showcasing something the game brings to fans of the Mario series. The first level I played, which the Nintendo rep stated was one of he more difficult stages, required awkward switches to be pressed to create platforms that can be walked on to reach the end of the stage. The other stage was your typical underground Mario stage, which utilized the 3D effects of the Nintendo 3DS system pretty well. The third stage was a brilliant return to roots as it was your basic point A to point B Mario game mainly focused on a 2.5D plane with several camera pans to a third person view. The fourth and final stage plays out like what many remember as the haunted house Boo levels, which has Mario platform jumping across a 2D plane with a moving backdrop that could ultimately lead to his denise. Mind you, this isn’t a Boo stage, although there are said to be a few in the game. This level takes place on what appears to be a ship, ending with a boss fight – or what I believe to be a mini-boss fight due to the various videos I have seen that depict the same boss fight style – against an unnamed spinning koopa.

While the game’s intention is clearly to go back to the series’ roots, it does so without disappointing the more modern Mario fans. The game’s levels are all focused on one thing – to get to the flag at the end of the stage. Classic fans of Mario will clearly reminiscent the good old’ 2D days of Mario in getting from one point to the other in a time limit. Those fans will be glad to know that this is once again the case in Super Mario 3D Land. The game appears to be loaded with Power Ups with a newly revealed Boomerang suit added to that roster. However, this was revealed after NYCC so I only got to test out the famed Tanooki suit. When fans saw the tail on the logo, they grew in excitement. I kid not when I say this is worth getting excited about. The Tanooki suit works (and looks) just as remembered, and fits well with the more contemporary setting of Super Mario 3D Land. With the suit, Mario can reach higher ledges with an extended jump as well as spin his tail to deal devastating results to enemies. It also is said to play an important role in the game’s story, but that is yet to be assured.

While the game clearly is set on aiming towards the more hardcore Mario fans, it adds control elements seen in the more modern 3D Mario adventures, namely Super Mario 64′s remake on the original Nintendo DS. The controls and moves are practically the same as always – run, jump, ground pound, etc. The newer additions to the 3D formula (as far as handhelds go) is the various, recently 2D Mario centered power ups. These range from the Fire Flowers to the Tanooki Suit. The Fire Flowers work great, even on a 3D plane and as I recently stated, the Tanooki suit works great as well.

If I have any gripes with Super Mario 3D Land, it’s certainly the short level designs. While this could be due to the fact that, the levels seemed much too short. Even though the game is meant to feel like a point A to point B game, it is still very well a Mario adventure game. Recent titles like Super Mario Galaxy and the late Super Mario 64 featured levels that featured a more open approach with fantastic platforming. The root approach can be utilized with the more open style to craft a much more in-depth and long experience in each world. Again, this level design could be merely for the stage demo, and I could be incredibly mistaken. Only time will tell.

The game’s visuals are a fantastic sight and prove to be one
the better looking Mario games to date. The 3D effects are also a sight for eyes, with certain sections actually using what was a gimmick in gameplay. That is indeed right, 3D effects actually being utilized in gameplay. I definitely look forward to seeing how this is used in the more advanced levels.

All in all Super Mario 3D Land is looking to be the first game to have me pick up my Nintendo 3DS system and plays for hours and days to come. This game is looking so fantastic it might be Nintendo’s biggest selling point for their fantastic system this holiday season. However, only time will tell. I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it hits shelves on November 13, 2011.