A lot has been said about Super Mario 3D Land’s (ugh, that title) use of the 3D display. Yes, it makes platforming easier as you can more accurately judge distances thanks to the Nintendo 3DS’ fancy screen. Something I haven’t seen mentioned is the in-game 3D toggle. Unlike the 3DS’ hardware toggle that varies the amount of 3D output on the screen, 3D Land has its own toggle that changes the way the game is presented in 3D.
The icons representing this setting appear for a few seconds at the beginning of the game and then quickly fade away with no mention of their purpose. Pressing Up and Down on the Directional Pad will switch between the two. The difference between them is substantial. The bottom setting presents the game like most 3DS games, as if it were a window into another world. Everything seems set back deep into the screen. The top setting, however, is the default for Super Mario 3D Land and uses 3D more subtly presenting Mario himself on a plane closer to the actual screen. They are listed as “Normal” and “Extended” in the instruction manual. I found both to be acceptable and even switch between the two every once and a while as I play. The lower “Extended” setting has a stronger 3D effect and seems to be more immersive. This is generally the setting I use when playing.
I found World 5-2 (besides being home to a Zelda homage) to be a great place to toggle between the two settings as the camera is positioned overhead and there are blocks you can position Mario on top of there. From this point, if you jump your character will pop-out of the screen. Switching between the two shows that Mario does indeed pop-out more when using the top setting. This same spot is also a good place to see what the 3D functionality brings to the game. Turning it off can make the game much harder to control because of the camera angle. You’ll just have to trust me seeing as the 3DS doesn’t have a screenshot feature.