“Wanted: One half-tortoise, half-dinosaur answering to the name Bowser, for the repeated abduction of Princess Peach. Do not approach if discovered, instead report whereabouts to plumber and Movember advocate Mario Mario. By order of the Mushroom Kingdom.”
It’s an unlikely premise for what has turned out to be the world’s most famous gaming franchise, but one that works again, and again. In the hands of anyone else perhaps it wouldn’t but Nintendo, under the creative gaze of Shigeru Miyamoto, have mastered the art of the subtle tweak and wholesale redesign to successfully port their mascot through the generation of consoles; now it’s the turn of the 3DS.
Super Mario 3D Land borrows and innovates in equal measure. Its 3D (by that we mean its go anywhere depth, rather than patented 3DS technology) is reminiscent of Mario 64; that joyous leap for the flagpole at the end of levels harkens back to 2D Mario outings of yesteryear; while that classic Tanooki suit is of course straight out of Super Mario Bros. 3.
Other powers, the brand new Boomerang Flower for example, indicative of Nintendo’s constant search for innovation. It is, however, the level design which is the real standout, 3D Land is every inch the homage to the best and brightest Mario entries (of which there have been many), all delivered novel twists, knowing sound effects and always interspersed with lashings of originality.
Take an early World 2 level which takes place on a gigantic 2D Mario straight from the NES original, complete with retro flagpole for the moustachioed one to cling on to, the beautifully designed visuals suddenly taking us back 25 years and raising yet another smile.
The 3D effect is used to great effect here too, as blocks marked with an eye symbol can be hit in order to shift perspective, so enabling the user to view the layout and depth of platforms never before achievable – finally a use for the 3DS’ capabilities beyond the mere cosmetic.
Mario’s response to user input is as tight as ever too, the analogue stick providing enough to range of movement to ensure, with practice, total control. The camera angle is mastered once more by Nintendo and levels, though initially on the simplistic side, ultimately deliver a huge challenge and come packed with enough secrets to please anyone intent on exploring every inch of Mario Land.
Both veterans and newcomers alike will find plenty to delight in during this first 3DS Mario adventure and, though yielding at first – you know, for kids – expect to be performing deft manoeuvres soon enough. Veterans should be happy to simply delight in the numerous in-jokes, as Nintendo revel in the art of creation once more.