The move to 3D was a difficult one for many classic games, some chose to change while keeping elements of what made them famous, but it still wasn’t the same. While Mario 64 had shown 3 platforming can be done and not by being on a set track like others had chosen, it still didn’t feel like a true example of translating Mario gameplay into 3D. The new Super Mario Bros games also brought back classic Mario but it wouldn’t be until the 3DS that we saw classic Mario gameplay in a 3D environment, in more ways than one.
To the surprise of some, the 3DS wasn’t a success right away. In fact they needed to drop the price before it started to sell and the late president of Nintendo Satoru Iwata even took a pay cut to help compensate the company (truly a great man, look at your Bethesda’s, Activision/Blizzard and EAs and vomit at their greed compared to this). I had gotten it when it was new but Id admit the range of games wasn’t great, and unlike the Switch there was no real must have mega game like Breath of the Wild. More so the 3D gaming of the 3DS though neat hadn’t really enhanced any games. That was for me, until Mario 3D land.
Mario 3D Land starts with the tree with super leaves (and a raccoon tail) hit by a storm and magic leaves fly everywhere granting Bowser’s minions the tanuki powers (the leaves were seen in Mario Bros 3 and this is its return) and using them have… it’s a Mario game, you can guess.
The game is set over 8 worlds; each has around half a dozen levels so the main game isn’t that long. However as said these levels feel like 3D Mario playing through classic style get to the end of the level rather than complete some task, and we hadn’t seen that before outside of boss levels. As well as completing the level you need to collected Star coins of which 3 are located in places in the level, some cunningly hidden. These are used to unlock levels so if you collect every one in the levels as you play you can skip quite far ahead.
Mario has to traverse the levels with the aid of power ups. As mentioned you can get the super leaf that now rather than just giving you ears and a tail give you the full tanooki suit, but sadly you can’t fly anymore instead it gives you the tail attack and floaty jumps, Fire flowers and a boomerang bros suit not to mention the power star for invincibility.
The Bowser stages sadly work like they did in new Mario Bros games, so it was a return to running to the switch and dunking him in the lava, though it’s now a fair bit more strategic as you have more of a gauntlet of avoiding fire balls than just a straight line. But at the end of one of the more dramatic Bowser chases you rescue Peach and fly her to safety, game over.
And then you find 8 special worlds.
Now these are where the real game starts, right away you are provided with a powered up version of the super leaf that grants the additional power to turn you into a statue that can’t be harmed, just like the tanooki suit of old. These levels introduce new challenges, like short clock times and the need to get clocks to increase it or being chased by a black shadowy doppelganger so you can’t linger.
At the end of the first world of these harder levels is a castle stage but Bowser has been replaced by Dry Bowser (it’s also one of those clock levels so can’t be slow) and completing it grants you Luigi, yep he’s playable again.
Now you think that’s the only bonus challenge? Just a bunch of extra hard levels? Nope. Complete all levels including bonus ones with both brothers, always grabbing the top of the flagpole, you unlock the super hard true final level to test your skills.
So as you see, while the game seems short at first there is a lot more to do after you “beat” it. But that’s just what you do, as said this is a 3D game and if you can handle 3D it’s a massive boon to the game, not just the puzzles designed to use the 3D but jumping and landing where you want is much MUCH easier now with 3D on. In older games I kept having to look for my shadow to work that out, but better depth granted by 3D means I can judge where I’m landing much easier, though I often do find using the super leaf helps even more.
Mario 3D Land showed me that 3D gaming could work, it had found a niche that it enhanced, sadly that wasn’t widely used as work was already well underway on the 2DS and experimental use of the 3D dwindled and some games dropped it all together, which after playing this game was a shame.