For the most part, the 3DS’ most touted feature, glasses free 3D, has failed to impress. In most games, the effect feels too gimmicky and underutilized, leaving us to wonder if all that hype was much ado about nothing.
Super Mario 3D Land changes this. After plowing through the upcoming adventure with the 3D slider all the way up, we’re happy to report that the game’s developers did a phenomenal job showcasing the third dimension in new and exciting ways, so much so, that we beat the entire game with it on, ignoring the occasional messages to take a break.
Nintendo spent much of its time playing with distances to offer a unique sense of depth never before experienced in a Mario game, where the camera transitions to a top down perspective to showcase platforms hundreds of feet below. From there, Mario does his best Pilotwings: Resort impression, slowly floating to the ground picking up gold coins and stars along the way.
The same can be said of using the Propeller Box, but this works in reverse, so instead of simply falling, Mario quickly shoots upwards into the screen; while on the subject of the Propeller Box, we highly recommend using one whenever possible. It’s a blast.
3D also makes Mario’s showdowns with Bowser more exciting, especially when the big lug shoots fireballs towards your face. This also happens while exploring different castles, where the game once again transitions to a top down perspective while Mario runs across grates. You’ll occasionally need to stop, as giant streams of molten lava explode into the air and slowly recede.
Other 3D effects are subtle, like the way bricks pop off the screen, or how Peach’s castle seems several miles away. Nintendo excelled at distinguishing between objects in the foreground versus the background.
We’re also huge fans of the postcards that Bowser sends to Mario, all of which look cool with the 3D turned on. One in particular features Bowser with Peach in his clutches, where his head and claws jut from the screen; gently shake your 3DS to make things move.
What’s especially cool about all of this is the lack of fatigue. Most 3DS titles make us go cross-eyed because those developers did such a poor job with 3D, but here, we experienced only a moderate amount of discomfort after playing for several hours straight on two separate occasions, a true testament to the game’s quality. We couldn’t put it down.
With this in mind, we give Super Mario 3D’s 3D effects two big thumbs up. Playing in 2D is fine since it’s such a cool game, but you’ll definitely miss out on all the virtual fireballs, enemies and puzzles. Just be sure to occasionally give your eyes a break.