Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Director – Koichi Hayashida
Producer – Yoshiaki Koizumi
Released relatively early into the shelf life of the 3DS, Super Mario 3D Land was universally praised upon release, and has since sold over 10 million copies, making it the third best-selling game for the system, as of this March. Though the series has been lacking in innovation for the past few years, and this game can be seen as an example of this, it’s nevertheless a fairly enjoyable game, and has a decent level of challenge, which is unusual for a Mario game; even to veteran players.
Graphics – 7.5/10
As with most instalments in the series, the conceptual design of the game is quite varied, with the game set in several differently themed worlds and levels. There aren’t a great deal of new elements to most of the scenery, and the same boss is recycled a good number of times, as in New Super Mario Bros 2, but there are also a few hidden secrets to be found, along with many of the hidden coins throughout the game, such as a dungeon area, paying homage to The Legend of Zelda series. References to Mario have been rife in The Legend of Zelda series since it’s inception, but it’s interesting to see that in this case, it’s very much the other way round.
Gameplay – 7.5/10
In a lot of ways, 3D Land plays out a little like a mixture between Super Mario Galaxy 2, in that levels have to be unlocked via the discovery of three hidden coins through each other level, and any classic Super Mario game, due to it’s linear progression, as opposed to the free-roaming style of play synonymous to many 3D Mario games. It’s quite satisfying to solve each elaborate puzzle placed through the game, and to complete it to 100%. However, I think I would have bitterly disappointed if one half of the game hadn’t have been unlockable after finishing the first half. I think if it had ended at the point of rescuing Peach, I would feel very differently about it.
Controls – 10/10
Super Mario 64 pioneered the 3D platforming genre, and an integral reason why was because it had a very innovative control scheme, yet one that was simple to get to grips with whilst players were experiencing the transition from 2D to 3D gaming. Since this game uses more or less the same control scheme, and because each level is of a much more linear progression, there are absolutely no complications, and its interesting to see how many more functions have been added to the overall formula.
Lifespan – 7/10
As I alluded to, the first half of the game can take up to an average of 7 and a half hours to finish, which is why if it had ended at that point, even after taking in the side quest, I would have been left feeling much more jaded by the entire experience. Taking the second part of the game into account, however, it can be made to last roughly 15 to 16 hours, which for a linear Mario game, is fairly impressive.
Storyline – 4/10
As thoroughly milked over the past 30 years, Mario is on yet another expedition to stop his arch nemesis Bowser, and save princess peach. The only difference being is that afterwards, he must then save Luigi. Mario game are generally not played for their story, but for what great gameplay there is, but I can’t help but think that even after repeating the same story beyond the release of this game in 2011, Nintendo could have come up with something different. They have since worked to alter this formula slightly in recent games by introducing new characters and elements to the series, but to me, there isn’t enough of that in this game in particular.
Originality – 6/10
Though combining gameplay elements from different Mario games, and making the entire thing into a fairly cohesive concept, this game is regardless most definitely not one of the most unique titles of the time. It certainly isn’t even one of the most unique Mario games throughout the series’ chronology, since some of the others have helped to pioneer gaming in many different ways. There are certain elements that give the game a fair bit of charm in its own right, such as new power-ups for Mario, but there are also many things that made me think that more effort could have been made in this respect.
Overall, Super Mario 3D Land, whilst pretty unoriginal and lacking in story, in lieu of the franchise’s tradition it would seem, is still pretty enjoyable to play, and satisfying to complete. Things would pick up with the arrival of its Wii U counterpart Super Mario 3D World and various other spin-off Mario games, but none of this is to say that this game is a failure.