NYCC ’11 – Super Mario 3D Land Preview

Mario Galaxy meets Super Mario Bros. 3.

Erik Norrisby Erik Norris

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I come to you with this urgent message: Super Mario 3D Land feels like a Mario game. I know, that’s crazy talk. But at New York Comic-Con, I got my first taste of Mario’s latest adventure in three-dimensional space and walked away satisfied knowing that Nintendo is mining the franchise’s glorious past for this new iteration.

The demo available at NYCC let me play four different levels from the upcoming title. Without hesitating for a second, the first level I jumped into featured the classic Tanooki Suit from Super Mario Bros. 3. People have been making a big deal about the suit’s return with Super Mario 3D Land, and it definitely doesn’t disappoint. For the first time in a three-dimensional Mario game, Mario is able to raccoon-up in order to hover to platforms and slap Goombas with his massive, puffy tail. And it also goes without say, the fat little plumber looks adorable wearing the suit. The addition of the Tanooki Suit is definitely a fantastic call-back to classic Mario tropes.

Speaking of classic Mario features, Super Mario 3D Land seems to pull in a lot of inspiration from the past, gives it a spit-shine and inserts it nicely into this new, contemporary title. For example, flag poles have returned to close out every stage of Super Mario 3D Land. It’s once again a big deal to get to the high ground and make that leap of faith for as many points as possible. It’s a nice throwback to the classic mechanics of the Mario series.

Air-ship levels also return for Super Mario 3D Land. The demo I played featured one of these, complete with a Koopa mini-boss to cap it off. In typical Airship level fashion, this was probably the most challenging level I played during my short time with the title. Angry bullets were coming out of nowhere as I constantly jumped from ship to ship avoiding the left side of the screen from catching up to me, which, as hardcore Mario fans probably know, is instant death.

When it comes right down to it, Super Mario 3D Land feels like the best parts of Super Mario Galaxy mixed with Super Mario Bros. 3. For Mario fanatics, that’s enough to sell them on the game. But having now played the game, I’m happy to report that Super Mario 3D Land is more than just a throwback to capitalize on the wallets of nostalgic fans. The game’s also a solid three-dimensional platformer starring our favorite Italian Plumber. But then again, Nintendo’s track record with Mario as of late as been pretty spotless. Super Mario 3D Land appears to be keeping the franchise quite clean. Look forward to it in December.