Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 hands onPlatforms: Nintendo 3DS
The life of a computer game critic isn’t all hard graft, lonely slaving away in dark rooms with bright screens for hours, all in the name of the general public’s interest. No, Sometimes we venture out into the light of day, shade our eyes, and then congregate together in other dark rooms to experience some more bright lights. One such recent event was the launch of the incredibly sharp and snazzy red Nintendo 3DS where we also got some hands on time with the soon to be released Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7.
Getting our mitts on the awkwardly named Super Mario 3D Land first it was actually a joy to discover that I missed the 90s. In those halcyon days platformers were all the rage. Disposing of enemies was usually performed by a peaceful foot to the head rather than a vicious bullet to the face and chest-high-walls were used to climb to higher levels rather than hide snivelling behind.
I am very happy to report that playing Super Mario 3D Land feels like you are playing Mario again. Nintendo have not let the glory of 3D blight their plans to make a satisfying platformer but instead let it work its way in gently. After just moments of playing you realise that the 3D aspect fits, possibly better than any other title that has been released, and while turning off the actual ‘3D’ aspect doesn’t hinder the play it does feel right to enjoy it as Nintendo intended. When game designer Shigeru Miyamoto said it would be a "3D Mario that plays as a 2D Mario game” he really was not far off the mark. Unlike Mario Galaxy where depth was used to an almost confusing level, essentially Super Mario 3D Land plays more like the 2D side-scrollers of yore with a small use of the Z-dimension, but then at times it enjoyably throws you into the background and foreground.
In the process of the short one and a quarter worlds we managed to explore there were several memorable moments including controlling a balance beam that moves forward and backward depending on your stance and trying to stop on water fountains that shoot you onwards. Falling between clouds and watching the 3D actually come out and grab you. Ink firing Piranha plants that splash your screen obscuring your vision for a few moments and binoculars that make use of the console’s gyroscope by physical movements that allow you to view the virtual world around you.
It is easy to see that simply by itself Super Mario 3D Land could revitalise the flagging 3DS sales but Nintendo have another Italian plumber shaped ace up their sleeve in time for the Christmas rush and we were quickly whisked away to experience Mario Kart 7.
Mario Kart is an institution. It defined a generation of kids all starting fights over who fired that red shell moments before they hit the finish line. Any Nintendo console lacking Mario Kart is almost lacking its purpose entirely, so it is great to finally see the 3DS getting the karting treatment.
We played a sadly neutered build of Mario Kart 7, lacking multiplayer features which is in essence its raison d’etre, the final version we are told will feature full 8 player local and internet gaming. However, after this initial let down, we were soon all happily zooming around the 3 provided tracks, all the cares in the world disappearing in a screech of wheel spins and exploding turtle shells. It was still an absolute exploding barrel of fun and it is hard to doubt that Mario Kart 7 will still be fun even on those lonely trips when there is no internet available.
One of the first additions pointed out to us was the ability to change your tyre set-up. While we’re not talking Gran Turismo reality here (to summarise the BIGGER the wheels the slower you
move but the better you grip the road), it is good to see that Nintendo are happy to add a little bit more depth to the set up, beyond the driver and kart. Other excellent additions to the series include traversing underwater areas, paragliding through canyons and, we are told, many more weapons and characters.
I am not entirely convinced that the 3D aspect of Mario Kart 7 is necessary. While it may help judge distances and give a little more depth to the experience, I would argue that most would be just as happy (and possibly a little less ill) with it switched off.
Nintendo rarely, if ever, put a step wrong when it comes to Mario - He is after all their most reverent and famous mascot and it looks like with the release of Super Mario 3D Land on the 18th of November and Mario Kart 7 on the 2nd of December will see them striding further towards success. While I am surprised these games were not released with the console it is about time the 3DS got some games that demand the gaze of the world. These games, along with the previously mentioned stunning red 3DS could see Nintendo stealing Christmas once again, and not in that angry Jim Carrey Grinch manner either.
The launch of the Red 3DS was at Red in Soho. Thanks to Ruth and the Nintendo team for a great night