E3 2011 – Super Mario Hands-On
The Tanooki suit finally makes its triumphant return to the Mario franchise in “Super Mario” (Working title) for the 3DS, but that’s not the only noteworthy aspect of this entirely new Mario game developed from the ground up for the 3DS.
While 3D and 2D Mario games have traditionally had their own separate styles of gameplay, “Super Mario “actually looks like it’s making an effort to bring the two styles together. Unlike other 3D Mario titles, such as “Super Mario 64,” “Mario Sunshine,” and “Mario Galaxy,” there is seemingly no main overworld, no star collection and no set of challenges to complete in each level.
Instead, it’s much more akin to the recent 2D Mario games, with players just challenged to get from the start of the level to the end. Like in “New Super Mario Brothers,” each levels comes with three hidden star coins for the player to find and collect. While several of these coins in the demo levels were in plain sight and easy to find, others required a little more exploration and skill in order to collect.
It should also be noted that much like the 2D Mario games and unlike the 3D ones, Mario will turn big when he gets a mushroom, turn small when he gets hit while big, and die if he gets hit while small. This is actually a pretty huge change from prior games where Mario’s health was determined by an actual health meter that could be refilled simply by collecting coins.
Similar to “Super Mario World” and “New Super Mario Brothers,” Mario can also store a power-up on the touch screen if he picks up a second tier power-up (Fire Flower, Tanooki Suit, etc.) while already using another second tier power-up.
There were four levels in the show floor E3 demo for attendees to play through. The first was a pretty standard Mario level, taking place on a green grass environment and featuring walled off areas where Mario could utilize his wall jumps to make it to the top. There were also several opportunities to head into a pipe for a small room with lots of coins. One room in particular was really cool because it was set-up in such a way that made it impossible to see everything the room had to offer, unless you had the 3D turned on. It was actually the first time I had seen a 3DS game that used 3D in a way that actually impacted gameplay.
The second level was a subterranean level that featured all of the usual mainstays of a 2D Mario game. Koopas, brick blocks, goombas, and ways to kick koopa shells into brick blocks so they kill all of the goombas.
The third level mostly featured these green switches that caused a line of platforms to fold out end over end, one platform at a time, eventually making a path for Mario to follow. You had to be quick though because the platforms would disappear after a set period of time. Not making it across the platforms in time typically spelled death for Mario.
And finally, the last level of the demo was appropriately a classic flying airship stage with the stage slowly moving to the right, constantly pressuring Mario to keep moving or get left behind. At the end, Mario faced off against a boss reminiscent of the Koopa Kids from Super Mario Brothers 3. He would spin around with his arms flailing until Mario stomped him on the head, at which point he would retreat into his shell and bounce across the room unpredictably. After three stomps, he was down for the count.
If you’re on the fence about buying a 3DS because the games so far have not been good enough to make you throw down the $250 bucks for the system, Super Mario 3DS has a good chance of convincing you that it’s worth it. The game is classic 3D Mario at its best while at the same time being optimized for a handheld system thanks to the addition of the usual 2D Mario staples.