Super Mario 3D Land
In designing Super Mario 3D Land, Nintendo drew inspiration from some of the mascot's biggest adventures.
Hardcore fans will immediately notice elements from the original 1985 Super Mario Bros., like time limits (300 seconds to complete levels) and those bothersome one-hit kills, unless Mario has already used a Mushroom or Fire Flower, of course. Then he simply goes from big to small.
Meanwhile, the famous and universally beloved Tanooki/Raccoon Suit from Super Mario Bros. 3 makes a triumphant return, allowing Nintendo's plumber to whack enemies with his tail and hover for brief periods of time; sadly, he cannot fly.
Even the title serves as an extension of the 1989 Game Boy adventure, Super Mario Land, currently available on 3DS through the system's online store, the eShop.
Even more similarities exist, such as Mario's endless pursuit of the kidnapped Princess Peach, as well as his battle with arch villain, Bowser, complete with bratty children, the Koopalings, in tow.
Taking all of this into account, Super Mario 3D Land feels instantly familiar, and yet it's a brand new adventure.
For starters, and as its name implies, the game makes excellent use of the handheld's glasses free 3D better than previous titles that have come before it. Nintendo has done masterful work integrating feature, adding a newfound sense of depth never before experienced in Mario's 25 plus year history.
Adjust the portable's 3D Slider, and suddenly, everything takes on a different perspective. Spiked balls slowly swing toward the screen, a piranha plant spits ink at the player (similar to another enemy, the famous Blooper) and Mario bounds through each environment, sometimes in full 3D (ala Super Mario 64 DS), and other times from a more traditional side scrolling viewpoint that harks back to those classic 8-bit NES efforts.
All of a sudden, hitting coin boxes becomes much easier, and the same can be said of judging distances between moving platforms. Suffice to say, it's a much richer experience than what we enjoyed back in the late 80s.
Meanwhile, Nintendo takes full advantage of the system. Need a power-up? Tap the icon, located on the touch screen, and it magically appears on screen. Need 360 degrees of control? The 3DS circle pad makes guiding Mario effortless.
Well, as effortless as possible as stacks of goombas, goombas with tails and other bad guys seek to make Mario's life difficult.
On that note, the levels feel much shorter (perhaps another nod to the past), yet these boards still pack a challenge. One, in particular, forces you to quickly hop across floorboards that disappear every few seconds. Reaching the flagpole (Mario fanatics know all about those) is easy enough. Grabbing all the gold coins, though, ramps up the difficulty tenfold.
Then we have the exquisite graphics that appear to be just a shade below the smash hit Wii offering, Super Mario Galaxy, in terms of vibrancy and detail. That's no small feat, considering the 3DS doesn't come close to matching the console's power.
The best part? All of these many elements combine to form a video game that feels both instantly familiar and different. With Nintendo constantly reminding us that more surprises are on the way, and with Super Mario 3D Land slated to arrive this November, consumers will have plenty to celebrate.