There might be an older topic for this game but it's not in the past 2 pages so I'm too lazy to look for it.
I held off on getting too far into Zelda so I could complete 3D Land since I didn't want to spend $40 on another game I wouldn't go back and finish as often happens when I buy more than 1 game within a reasonable amount of time. This game is amazing. No one is really talking about 3D Land. It's odd to see a brand new Mario game get eclipsed, even by Zelda.
3D Land is the game I would have expected Super Mario 64 to have been. It's seems like the natural and logical step to bringing a 2D series into 3D. It's the direction I think almost any other developer would have taken, instead of blazing a trail like Super Mario 64 did. We'll never how different gaming history would have been had Nintendo gone in this direction instead of Super Mario 64. However, I think 3D Land benefits greatly from being released in 2011 rather than 1996. A lot of the game's charm comes from nostalgia, from being 21 years removed from Super Mario Bros. 3 instead of 6 (in the US). More importantly, it's obvious that the developers have learned so much from the progression of 3D Mario games, from Super Mario 64 to Super Mario Sunshine and finally Super Mario Galaxy. That said, I don't think 3D Land would have been as polished had it come out in 1996.
I think Nintendo had to struggle with the camera in past Mario games before realizing that taking camera controls away from the player actually makes the game better. The player can focus on the game rather than jangling with the camera. The camera never broke the game but there were definitely moments when it made things far more difficult than it had to be. I guess that's the nature of 3D games. There's only once instance in Super Mario 3D Land where I wanted to backhand someone because the camera angle sucked. It's in the very last level of the game.
I don't have any serious issues with the game. With the Special World levels, the game is a good length and I wouldn't have said this without them. The game is fun, it controls very well, and it has the best look of any 3D Mario game. The colors aren't as bright as the New Super Mario Bros. series and the art direction is kind of a mix between Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario Galaxy (naturally) which I think works really well.
Unlocking Luigi is a nice bonus, but the only purpose that serves is to artificially extend the length of the game and unlock the final level of the game in the most asinine manner possible:completing every level of the game with both Mario and Luigi with all of the Star Medals and the gold flags. As far as I know, you get nothing for all of that trouble though I haven't beaten the last level with Luigi or had the patience for it. That level is so fucking hard. It took over 2 hours to beat it. There's this jump about 2/5 of the way through the level where the camera is positioned behind you and you have to land on Toad standing on a single block then use him to jump to a higher platform. That was one of the most difficult jumps in any 3D platformer ever. Literally, EVER. The rest of the level is not nearly as difficult as that one jump. The game doesn't ever prepare you to make that jump because you never have to make a similar jump in any other level of the game.
Still, that's the worst thing I can say about Super Mario 3D land which at that point in my experience with the game is inconsequential. I wish there was some reward for all of that besides a "Thank You for Playing" message. Additionally, the Special Word levels where you're chased by Shadow Mario are annoying but not impossible. He chases you but the trick is that he literally copies everything you do so as long as you don't stop or double back, you should be fine. In the future, Nintendo absolutely must have Mario launch with their systems, especially if they're going to be this amazing. They need to time these releases better because having nothing at launch and then Zelda, Star Fox, Mario and Mario Kart coming out in a 6 month span is ridiculous. Anyway, for anyone who has a 3DS, there's no reason not to buy 3D Land unless you have some strong aversion to fun.