Thankfully, his latest portable foray not only delivers fun in spades, but it retains a distinctive Mario quality that stands tall beside the best titles in the series.
The arrival of a new mainline Mario title is a certifiable event in the gaming world. Whether you grew up with the rotund plumber or came in later, his adventures employ an artistry and charm that few, if any, in the industry can match. Thankfully, his latest portable foray not only delivers fun in spades, but it retains a distinctive Mario quality that stands tall beside the best titles in the series.
After heading into space (literally) and then back into 2D, Nintendo has corralled Mario into smaller, jam-packed 3D spaces. Levels are distinct and assembled as well-paced vignettes that never overstay their welcome and constantly surprise in their ingenuity. The variety is perfectly calculated too, as fresh power-ups inject satisfying surprise, and classic favorites such as the Tanooki Suit make pitch perfect returns.
This combination of old and new remains consistent throughout, and it adds up to some of the freshest level design the series has seen since Super Mario Galaxy. Also helping this design is great game balance, and a difficulty curve that builds wonderfully to the challenging end/post-game content. It's important to mention too that nothing ever feels frustrating in Super Mario 3D Land, but rather challenging in that perfectly addicting 'one more life' way.
As expected, this design is also complemented by incredibly tight controls that handle perfectly on the 3DS. This comes in especially handy here as platforming takes on a greater role than normal (something that's sure to please long-time fans), particularly in the post-game content, that will surely test the skills of even the most skilled Mario players.
Alongside the plentiful substance found in SM3DL are great aesthetics across the board. While the image quality of the 3DS may leave something to be desired, Mario's color palette is a certifiable star, and the level variety brings visual surprise while retaining great artistic continuity. The 3D effects are also used extremely well, cultivating space in the small environments and providing a new sense of spatial awareness not felt in the series before (a dynamic and almost character-like camera invigorates things too). It should be noted that while some may not find the art-style wholly absorbing, those with an appreciation for simpler expression will find the consistency and presentation found here to be in line with Nintendo's high standard.
Hovering alongside these vibrant graphics is a wonderful soundtrack that blends a combination of remixed classics and catchy new melodies; all of it coming together to sit in perfect tonal congruity with the visuals. Put quite simply, the game is a joy for your ears and eyes.
On the whole, this is a dazzling title with merit to spare and it serves as an affirming bit of classic Nintendo design. It also has some of the most rewarding end-game content yet seen in the series, giving it serious appeal at 40 pounds. Further, with the promise of additional street pass content, Super Mario 3D Land promises to keep your thumbs occupied for a very long time.