Another Nintendo system, another Mario game. Super Mario 3D Land is exactly what the system should have had at launch, but you know what they say: better late than never. This is the first game in the series to use stereoscopic 3D effects, but as a whole, how good is the game?
First off, the visual effects are great, showcasing some of the best 3D effects the 3DS has seen to date. The effect gives you a better perspective of your environment, makes it easier to gauge your jumps and just looks all-around cool! The graphics are also top-notch, featuring visuals that closely mirror Super Mario Galaxy. Not bad for a system that's not even a year old.
The sound is classic Mario, containing familiar tunes as well as some new ones. The tunes are quite catchy as there's even a jazzy version of the game's main theme! Familiar sound effects, like the 1UP chime and the sound of a flag pole ascending are all present.
As for the gameplay, don't expect this to be another Mario 64. Lately, Nintendo has been abandoning hub worlds and free-roaming exploration in favor of world maps and linear stages that emphasize fast reflexes. In other words, it's a 3D Mario game that plays a lot like the 2D ones. The familiar items like the stars, one-up mushrooms, fire flowers and, of course, the Tanooki suits are back for the ride, along with a new item: the boomerang. The boomerang acts as an advanced version of the fire flower, allowing you to take out multiple enemies and retrieve items that are out of reach.
The stages are impeccably designed, allowing for some fun challenges and a wide variety of environments. The game's eight worlds won't take you that long to finish, but the "Special Worlds" unlocked at the end do a lot to prolong the game's longevity. Plus, once you complete all the challenges, you'll be treated to a level so difficult that only serious Mario fans will ever get through.
If there are any complaints, it is the fact that other than the 3D effects, the game doesn't have much to offer that you haven't seen before. Its design is largely inspired by Super Mario Bros. 3 and New Super Mario Bros, so it struggles to maintain its own identity. Another problem is that the controls take some getting used to, especially when you're weaned on the 3D console Marios. For example, Mario now uses a run button, making him slightly less agile and the long jump is harder to pull off with three buttons instead of two.
Aside from that, it really is a great game and the sole reason to own a 3DS. Catchy tunes, tight gameplay, awesome graphics and all-around fun. Get it. You won't regret it.