I bought a 3DS right around the price drop – late enough to get the better price, but soon enough to qualify for the bad-ass Ambassador Program. Since then, I’ve beaten several games on the handheld: Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones, Mario’s Picross, Legend of Zelda, Zelda 2: Adventure of Link, Metroid Fusion… As you may notice, those are all virtual console (or Ambassador) games. Before this week, I had only beaten one 3DS exclusive: The awesome puzzle game Pushmo (in my opinion, the sequel Crashmo – which I broke my no-game-buying ban to pick up – is not nearly as good).
Honestly, I’ve barely touched any of the physical game cards I own. Super Mario Land 3D (buy here) is the only one I’d spent more than a couple hours on. And I really like it. I admittedly haven’t been drawn in by any of the 3D Mario games – sacrilege I know – but this one is a great blend of 2D and 3D with bite-size levels perfect for a portable. Even still, it sat unplayed for over a year.
I recently went back to it, only to find that I was already on World 7. Though it had been long enough that I was pretty rusty – especially since the button config doesn’t match old Marios – I was still able to get through the rest of the game in maybe an hour, to see Bowser defeated and Peach saved once again (spoiler? Yeah right).
Mario Land 3D is definitely built to cater to less-experienced players. It does this thing where, if you die repeatedly on a level, it gives you a pity white tanooki suit that is even immune to attacks. Die more still, and you’ll get the beloved P-Wing from Mario 3. While I see how these could be helpful, I was a little miffed. Sure, I could decide not to use them, but it’s very tempting. I didn’t touch that P-Wing, though; that’s cheating! It’s not as bad as Ninja Gaiden asking to bump you down to Ninja Dog difficulty, but it’s still demeaning.
I felt like I saw everything the game had to offer, which was not unsubstantial even though I only logged 5 hours and 11 minutes by the time the credits rolled. The level design is very creative, not just utilizing the 3D as more than a simple gimmick, but also having fun with Mario tropes throughout the series. I did not get all the Yoshi coins, which show up 3 per level. You need some to unlock nonessential worlds and even some boss sections, but I always had more than enough on hand.
The game alludes to “special” stages post-completion, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to bother. A look at howlongtobeat, however, showed that my 5:11 completion time is an hour below the average, even for just completing the main story. I’m usually a very slow, methodical player. And if you look at those who beat the main game plus did more, there seems to be 4 1/2 hours of extra content. So I decided to check it out.
I’m quite glad I did. Gone is the babying of gifted items and other hand-holding aspects. The all-new special stages – there are at least 40 of them – are more difficult, more clever, and just plain more special than the original levels. For example, there are levels when you have a very short time limit, and have to grab clock power-ups to avoid timing out. It’s almost like that first 5 hours and 11 minutes was a tutorial.
Now, I’m getting my ass handed to me in part because I’m still a little rusty and also because I’m drawn to Yoshi coins. Falling to my death is the norm, and I’m down about 20 lives after getting through the first baker’s dozen of special stages (that just means I have a stockpile of 75 now instead of 95). Sure, I’ve uttered some swears – or alternates to swears like “fut nuckers,” which I literally actually said – but I’m having more fun. Perhaps I just like the challenge after the lack of it for the first Act.
It reminds me of the original Super Mario Bros. That game presented a modest challenge, in part because it was something we’d never played before. When I say “we,” I mean those of us old enough to have been kids when the NES came out and either had one or had a friend with one. I initially fit in the latter category, so my friend Daniel and I would join Bobby in his basement every day after school to play Mario. We’d slowly but surely get further every time; of course, there was no saving, so we’d have to start from 1-1 each day. It wasn’t until we found the 3-1 infinite life loop that we were able to triumph.
A few years later, Super Mario 2 came out. While I love that game to this day, it was not the actual sequel to Mario 1. That was a game that we wouldn’t see here in the US until Super Mario All-Stars for SNES, under the title “The Lost Levels.” It was essentially Super Mario 1 part II, only much harder. Stereotype says Japanese gamers are more hardcore than us, so they got it and we didn’t.
But in the case of Super Mario 3D Land, its “Lost Levels” are included right along with the regular game! The Reddit nation would probably call that move Good Guy Nintendo. I just call it more time with an old friend, and I don’t mean Daniel and Bobby.
— Justin Leeper (@StillManFights)