Whenever I think “3D”, I still have visions of an episode of SCTV, when comedian John Candy, during a sketch involving a Monster Chiller Horror Theatre movie, stares at the camera asking the audience, if they want any … Pancakes?!? He then proceeds to move a stack of pancakes back and forth with eerie music to match. It’s still one my favourite moments of that show, mainly because even after all the years that 3D has existed, it’s still a great way to explain how gimmicky and useless the technology is.
I am a firm believer in the idea that 3D does not enhance a movie, nor does it make the story or plot or special effects more exciting. It’s just a way to charge moviegoers an extra fee to wear stupid glasses and watch a movie that has one or two scenes that have aforementioned pancakes moving towards you.
So when Nintendo releases the hardware sequel to the widely popular and incredibly fun Nintendo DS portable gaming device, and only gave it a 3D release, I was sceptical of purchasing it. After all, I could never get those damn posters to work, where you have to cross your eyes and see a rocketship, or whatever. I still think there was nothing there, and everyone was in on the prank. But after several price drops and a mail in rebate offer, how could I refuse? At least they have the slider option on the device that can turn off the 3D if need be.
The first game to try out on the new device is a no-brainer. I had to pick up Super Mario 3D Land. I mean, what Nintendo console wouldn’t debut with a Super Mario game? (Except for Gamecube with Pikmin and Luigi’s Mansion, but that doesn’t count. Because I say so.)
In this instalment, the portly plumber now has to save the princess from the evil forces of Bowser. I know, it’s the same story, but usually there’s a twist, like the castle is mysteriously empty, or they have to save her in space, or something of the sort. Nope, not this time. There’s not even a lot of characters making a showing, like Yoshi. And still no sight of Geno or Mallow anywhere. Bowser was just bored this time, and takes the princess away for a weekend getaway. He even sends random pictures to let her know that she’s fine, so take your time getting to the castle, like saying we won’t start the pool party and barbecue without you. After all these years, I still think Princess Toadstool and Bowser are secret lovers, and Mario is the oblivious boyfriend. How else can you explain where Bowser’s children came from?
Mario has to go from world 1 to world 8, with similar obstacles along the way, including goombas, water, floating platforms, spiky things, ghosts and flag poles. Surprisingly, not a lot of Koopa Troopas are in the game. Must have been a strike from the local Koopa 416, demanding better wages and health coverage, leading to Bowser firing all of them. There are unique levels along the way that make it quite interesting, like the one where the platforms disappear and reappear to the beeps of the background music, and the tribute to retro level, where all the platforms are memories of pixelated bliss. They definitely designed the levels to be similar to the Mario Galaxy levels so that not all the levels get the classic “Get to the Right side of the screen as fast as you can” method. Now there are levels where you have to go northbound, or plummet from a platform in the sky and land on clouds to get to your destination. They really wanted to emphasize the fact that it’s in 3D, but the levels feel unique and interesting.
The power ups seems much less this time than recently. You get the standard issue fire flower and mushroom, but the raccoon leaf and tanooki suit makes its triumphant return after retiring from Super Mario 3, but there’s no flying that I can see. You can float but that’s about it. There’s also a boomerang suit, which is pretty cool, but the weapon is so slow that using the fire flower is slightly better. You can boomerang some coins and items which makes it a lot more useful and effective.
The lives system is so pathetic now. There’s no 99 cap now, so dying is no longer part of the challenge. Now that it saves after every level, there’s no reason to stock up on them. Without farming for green mushrooms, I hit well over 110 lives, and have been hovering around that mark ever since. The only purpose I can see using all these lives is when the Mushroom Kingdom falls under a zombie infection and our red-suspender protagonist runs out of shotgun shells.
The game is pretty short, but makes up for it in more than just “now that you’re done, go hunt for large coins and report back to me later”, like most recent nintendo games. Now you have an alternate universe where you do the levels again, but with different twists. Most of them are just different stages, but some have a hampering challenge, like beat the level in 30 game seconds, or have a weird purple demon thingy chase you. That thing is freaky and makes some levels tougher and frustrating, but adds a sense of challenge to the level.
Overall, the game is fun, and at the end of the day, that’s the main thing. It feels like they took every good aspect of a game with Mario in the title, and threw it in a blender and added new spices, but when it’s still successful after all these years, why go back to alter the base formula. If you like Mario, this game is still mandatory to at least try. It means that you have to buy a new console to get it, but be honest, when has that stopped you? The 3D is surprisingly not a hindrance to the concept, but I played most of the game with the 3D off, and it didn’t affect the game mechanics at all. I’m just glad there’s no mandatory glasses to play the damn thing.
But seriously, where’s the mother to all Bowser’s children? Or does Bowser reproduce asexually? … …