So, you were lucky enough to find a shiny new Nintendo 3DS under the Christmas tree this year. Or maybe you capitalized on one of those post-holiday sales at your local electronics retailer. Whatever the case, you have Nintendo's three-dimensional gamer in hand but with no games to play aside from the ones built into it. You can only play Face Raiders so many times.
Thankfully, the 3DS actually has some great first-party games under its belt now. The question is which one is most deserving of your hard-earned cash and which will help you burn through that 3DS extended battery pack time and time again. In this review roundup, I take a look at the three of the biggest titles: Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, and Star Fox 64 3D.
Super Mario 3D Land
No Nintendo console is really complete until you have a proper Mario platformer game in there somewhere. Super Mario 3D Land wasn't one of the Nintendo 3DS launch titles and I think that had a lot to do with its slow start. Thankfully, Mario and his goomba-squishing ways are back and they're back in a very big way.
In many ways, you could say that this game is a blend of Super Mario 64 (from the Nintendo 64) and Super Mario Bros. 3 (from the NES). There is very much a SM64 style of platforming within a 3D space, but the hovering with the tanooki suit certain hearkens to the SMB3 days too. The 3D-ness of the 3DS does wear on your eyes after a while (especially when trying to work on your depth perception for precision jumping), but this is a richly rewarding experience that will have you coming back for more.
The mechanism for getting through the various worlds and stages is akin to what we got with New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS, complete with those houses where you meet a Toad for a bonus item. Nintendo has built upon a winning formula without having to reinvent the wheel. There's a Boomerang Mario suit, for example, as well as a penguin suit, a helicopter hat, the fire flower, and the tanooki suit too.
Super Mario 3D Land comes with my full recommendation. It's not perfect, but it's a heck of a lot of fun.
Mario Kart 7
Sorry, that was a dumb joke, but I couldn't help but repeat it. I played both Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 at PAX 2011 and it's almost a shame that their release dates were so close together. They are both marquee titles that really breathe new life into the 3DS. Just like SM3DL, Mario Kart 7 doesn't reinvent the wheel (no pun intended); it just adds in some new bells and whistles to an already familiar experience.
Yes, you still drive around a track with some of your favorite Mushroom Kingdom characters like Luigi, Yoshi, and Koopa Troopa. Yes, you still hurl shells at one another as you race toward the finish line. But Nintendo has introduced some fun new weapons too, like the fire flower and the tanooki tail (via the super leaf). There's also a "Lucky 7" that gives you seven items all at once.
But it's not just about items or new tracks (following previous traditions, half the tracks are classic and half are new). You also get some brand new gameplay elements. For instance, the "gliders" are new. This allows your kart to float in the air after some big jumps. This changes how you can approach certain classic tracks, as new alternative routes can present themselves. Nintendo has also introduced underwater racing for the first time, as well as full kart customization.
Rather than sticking you with predesigned karts, you choose the base kart, the wheels, and the glider for your character. These have different characteristics and how much they change your attributes depends on the character you choose too. Monster tires are bigger and are great for off-road, for instance.
Don't expect a whole new world of racing here in Mario Kart 7, but if you're already a fan of the franchise, you can't really help but to pick this one up too. You can even race as Metal Mario, Lakitu, or Wiggler!
Star Fox 64 3D
You know how I said Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 are pretty much what you'd expect from their respective franchises, only with some new innovations that make the gameplay feel fresh again? I can't really say that about this game, aside from the addition of the glasses-free 3D perspective. The game is the same.
There is still the same ship, flying through the same stages, encountering the same enemies, while shooting them down with the same lasers. The stage design remains unchanged, so those already familiar will know exactly what to expect. You can try piloting through using the 3DS gyroscope, rather than the control stick, but it's otherwise the same.
Star Fox 64 3D does offer multiplayer battles for up to four people, but that is only available locally. There is no online multiplayer. You can identify your opponents based on the faces floating around their Arwings, but this really adds nothing to the experience. It's still the same.
Yes, you can go portable with Fox McCloud and his team ("Do a barrel roll!"), but that hardly justifies the $39.99 price tag.
More 3D Gaming on the Way
The Nintendo 3DS lacked a "killer title" within its launch window, but I think things are starting to look up. You can relive Ocarina of Time in 3D already, but we want some new games. Next year, we're expecting to see a new Paper Mario, Animal Crossing, Luigi's Mansion, Kingdom Hearts, Mario Tennis, and Kid Icarus, among others.
Now, we just have to wait for Mario Paint 3DS, Super Punch-Out 3DS, and Duck Hunt 3DS. Maybe we'll actually get to shoot the dog this time.