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Super Mario 3D Land was released on November 3rd, 2011, for the Nintendo 3DS handheld console. It's Mario's opening debut into the glasses-free 3D offered by Nintendo's latest handheld, and is the only Super Mario title which Shigeru Miyamoto has described as a "3D Mario that plays as a 2D Mario game."
Players take on the role of--who else?--Mario himself, in an attempt to restore the blown away Toonooki leaves from the Mushroom Kingdom's Toonooki Tree. You'll run, jump, and stomp your way through familiar verdant areas dotted with anthropomorphized clouds, Goombas begging to be stomped, and an awful lot of Toonooki power-ups. It's kind of the name of the game.
Super Mario 3D Land gives players the chance to experience the difficult, yet sensible, platforming so loved in Super Mario Bros., with the 3D freedom and scope of field experienced in titles like Super Mario Sunshine. Just like the first Bros. title, there are 8 worlds to conquer, each chock full of various, 3D-inspired obstacles and baddies. Finishing the first 8 worlds unlocks another 8 special worlds, with a mild plot twist that most of you can probably guess, but will still be pleased about.
Where replay value is concerned, Super Mario 3D Land features an integrated system that requires players to attain a certain minimum of Star Medals in order to unlock the next levels. The 8 Special Worlds take the hardcore platformer to heart, asking for feats of jumping and gliding that run the gamut from reasonably challenging to rage quittingly frustrating; for instance, one level requires Mario to sort through Boo's mansion in 30 seconds, with Shadow Mario chasing him down just to add to the tension.
Super Mario 3D Land has something for gamers of all experience, with bright, colorful levels and familiar Mario tunes peppered with revamped harmonic structures. The StreetPass feature (where 3DS owners tag one another by coming into a certain proximity) allows for player-rewarded power-ups, comparisons of Time Trial scores, and constantly changing "special block" worlds that reward the player for quick, perfect completion; it's a great way to add a sense of community to a game that is, in all other ways, completely solitary. It's also a good way to grab that 1 missing Star Medal you need to, for example, unlock Special World 6-8.
While there's not much to do beyond perfectionist level completion, Super Mario 3D Land is still a must for any Mario fan, and certainly for anyone wishing to get the most out of their passive 3D technology. Soaring down over the clouds by just the integrity of one's Toonooki Suit, and feeling the depth of the yawning valley that is to receive you, is a unique and rewarding experience all its own.