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Super Mario 3D Land preview: We clear World 1 and kick Bowser's butt

The largest transformation in Mario’s history came with the shift from 2D to 3D in Super Mario 64. He handled the transition well, but the platforming plumber was never the same. From that point on, Mario’s console releases started to take on a form of their own, with new mechanics and nuances exclusive to the 3D iterations. With Super Mario 3D Land, it seems like Nintendo is trying to make a 3D Mario game that feels more akin to the earlier 2D games in the series, bringing back what was lost when Mario leapt out of the second dimension. We recently had the opportunity to clear World 1, and you might be surprised by how “classic” Mario’s newest adventure feels.

Above: The long question blocks are like the regular question blocks except they're... longer

It’s not because of the controls, and it’s not even really because of the presentation. Mario looks and feels a lot like he has in the past 3D games, with most of his movement involving either jumping or jumping, spinning around and landing hard. The only new trick up his red sleeve was the ability to roll, letting him tumble through hard-to-reach spaces and smash blocks that he otherwise would need a shell to destroy. It’s not an offensive attack – more of a slow, leisurely tumble that allows for more navigational options.

No, the way 3D Land manages to grab the classic feel is with its level design. There’s no hub world, and no over-world to explore. When we beat a level we pressed right on the d-pad, watched Mario walk a few feet, and then hit A to jump in. And once we jumped in, the levels themselves offered throwbacks to different eras in Mario’s career. First up was World 1-2, which was most traditional, playing like a classic side-scroller (though we were able to move back and forth in the environment to dodge obstacles). It still controlled like a typical 3D level, but 3D Land’s 3D-ness was kept in check, maintaining experience more reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. 3 than anything else. But when the third dimension did come into play with moderation, 3D land used it well. New enemies and obstacles still came into our path – like a black piranha plant that took advantage of the camera angle by breaking the fourth wall and shooting ink that stuck to screen – making the familiar feel fresh.

Above: Good news! You don't need to blow into the microphone to get the ink off your screen

The next level couldn’t have been more different. It started Mario off near binoculars, which utilized the 3DS’s gyroscope to look around. Here, we were given a look at the level ahead, filled with large drops and multiple paths. We also saw a Toad, who tossed a collectible coin into the middle of the level. Once we stepped back and started traversing the level we got our first Super Leaf, transforming Mario into Raccoon Mario. The return of this fan favorite has been wildly publicized, but what surprised us most, was how useful it was, again, thanks to the level design.

17 comments

  • shawksta - September 16, 2011 3:49 p.m.

    Its Nintendo Magic, as far as teaching us how awesome classic platforming is, nintendo does it best, I honestly cant wait for this game! Didnt bowser have a racoon tail? Or its just not on world 1?
  • GameManiac - September 19, 2011 11:29 a.m.

    He did have a racoon tail. I just don't know why.
  • CitizenWolfie - September 16, 2011 6:58 a.m.

    This looks great and hopefully it'll give me a reason to hold on to my 3DS. More of these plese Nintendo! And possibly a Wind Waker in the virtual store or a 3D remake? Anyway back on topic - the graphics are great and all but I'd really like to see a proper 2D Mario again with sprites or more of a cartoony animation (like the upcoming Rayman game). Even if they just tried it as a DS Ware release. I'm also reserving judgement for the rolling move - I remember back in the day that if you missed an item block or secret entrance because of not saving a shell, you'd have to replay the level. Gives you more incentive to keep playing the levels to see what you can find.
  • tomthespesh - September 16, 2011 3:21 a.m.

    Dammit I've been secretly hoping the anything and everything to do with the 3DS would be rubbish as I can't really afford one. But with this, Zelda, Mario Kart, Starfox and so forth I fear I'll be living off about 20p in my bank account as I really want 3DS now.
  • taokaka - September 16, 2011 2:09 a.m.

    so does the side scrolling level play like LBP's 3 layers?
  • AuthorityFigure - September 16, 2011 1:59 a.m.

    I hate it if they make it so that his hat can come off...
  • Hobogonigal - September 16, 2011 1:09 a.m.

    I am super looking forwards to this game! Can't wait!
  • ncurry2 - September 15, 2011 8:23 p.m.

    This does look awesome but I'd have to say I'm more excited for Skyward Sword than any other game atm.
  • fullmetallegend - September 15, 2011 8:09 p.m.

    This looks awesome. I want a Mario more in the vein of Mario 64 and Sunshine, though. Haven't had one of those in a looong time. (No, neither of the Galaxies felt like them to me.)
  • MrDuracraft - September 15, 2011 6:03 p.m.

    Oh man this preview has me much more excited for the game. Previous previews on GR and others made the game seem too easy and boring, but this has made me decide to definitely get it, especially considering this was only World 1.
  • mikeleddy83 - September 15, 2011 5:34 p.m.

    Should I feel guilty for wanting this more than Uncharted 3 or any of the other "big" games?
  • crispychicken - September 15, 2011 5:43 p.m.

    If it is, I guess I feel pretty guilty.
  • isimikehinde - September 17, 2011 2:56 a.m.

    Nope, u shouldn't feel guilty at all.Uncharted 3, battlefield 3,Arkham City, are awesome but so is Super Mario 3D Land.

Showing 1-17 of 17 comments

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