PAX 2011: Mario Stars in a Pair of Must-Haves for the 3DS

I do not own a 3DS. I have access to one for work, but my lack of interest in 3D effects, coupled with my serene satisfaction with my DSi, has so far prevented me from picking one up for personal use. Super Mario Land 3D and Mario Kart, both due out at the end of the year, may just change all that.

I got to play through two levels of Super Mario Land 3D while I was at PAX Prime, putting the Tanooki Suit to use slapping blocks and enemies alike. The game feels both familiar and utterly fresh, evoking pleasant memories of Super Mario Bros. 3 while delivering a brand new Mario adventure. All of the usual elements are there – blocks, goombas, coins, platforms – and navigating them to find the three hidden coins and reach the final flag was a joy. The visuals have the pop and fizz of soda bubbles, all joyous color and chunky shapes. I turned on the 3d effects, but ditched them after just a few moments. I didn’t find that they added significantly to the enjoyment, though if you’re not headache prone, you may enjoy them just fine.

I could’ve happily played through the same two levels of Super Mario Land 3D over and over, perfecting my jumps and walloping everything in sight with my raccoon tail (the Tanooki suit is second in my heart only to Kuribo’s Shoe), but I was obligated to give Mario Kart a spin as well. I’ve been over Mario Kart for years. It’s a fun game, but I played the crap out of it on the Super Nintendo and never really felt compelled to go back – but this 3DS trip around the race track is one hell of a good time. You’ll be able to upgrade your Kart with different tires and bodies to best suit the course you’re about to tackle. A hang-gliding attachment lets you glide past your competitors after taking a jump, and you’ll even spend time racing underwater. Powerups help give you the edge over your fellow racers as you speed through tracks inspired by other Nintendo titles like Donkey Kong Country; I made it my personal mission to ram anyone who used a screen-inking Bloober against me. Racing games are one instance where 3d really does add to the fun, and using it for Mario Kart proved no exception.

Super Mario Land 3D is due out in November; Mario Kart should hit shelves in December. Guess I should ask Santa to bring me a 3DS this year.

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