E3 2011: Super Mario 3DS
Players: 1 Player Game | Genre: Platform
While the Wii U may have been grabbing headlines as Nintendo's main announcement at E3, it was the Nintendo 3DS that had the most gameplay to show off at the Big N's booth. Super Mario 3DS (working title) is definitely one of the highlights.
We don't know what the plot is, but honestly, does it really matter? I predict that Bowser's involved and something's happened to Peach. If my prediction is right, no one will be amazed. Mario 3DS takes a lot of elements from old school Mario games, and throws in a dash of new here and there. I have to say, the recipe is working great.
Mario 3DS is a 3D platformer, but there are plenty of sequences where the perspective is fixed and you are basically enjoying 2D gameplay. There is also 3D platforming as well, but even then, the camera seems to stay oriented in one direction as you clear a certain sequence of obstacles. It's like a blend of 2D and 3D Mario goodness.
The levels in Mario 3DS are short, just like you remember from games like Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. This seems perfect for portable gaming. Instead of large worlds with multiple objectives, as was the case in Mario Galaxy or Mario 64, you will instead be playing through levels with a clear start, and your only objective is to reach the end. To finish a level, you need to jump on a flagpole just like the original classic that started it all. There are other classic elements as well. The Tanooki suit from Mario 3 makes a comeback, and you can bet that's not the only special power available in the game. The E3 demo also featured the Fire Flower, but expect other power-ups to also make their way into the action. There are also new elements as well. Some of the Goombas were sporting Tanooki tails themselves, which poses a new threat to Mario. There's also a Piranha Plant that can spit ink at Mario and the player's screen.
If you've played a Mario game on the DS or Wii in the past couple years, then you know how well this formula works. Nintendo has been finding ways to delight us by including nostalgic Mario elements combined with plenty of new ideas.
The levels we played in the demo were a lot of fun. One level took a cue from Mario 3. Mario had to traverse a classic airship complete with a Boom-Boom miniboss at the end. Another level featured a mechanic seen in the newer 3D Mario games. Activating switches cause panels to appear that form floors and walls, and you'll need to quickly navigate them before they disappear. I really enjoyed this challenge. The E3 demo showed a nice amount of variety in just four levels, and as you can see from the screenshots below, there is a lot more in store. The levels are certainly smaller than what we've seen in Mario Galaxy, and they are also flatter. They certainly have layers and depth, but nothing like the large round shapes or gravity twisting effects of the Wii games. That's not a bad thing at all though. This is a 3D take on the level designs from 2D Mario games. It works really well. The short levels are also going to be perfect for portable gaming on the go. There are extra challenges. Like the Mario Galaxy games, there are Comet Coins in hard to reach places that will take an extra level of thought and skill to reach. However, you can skip these if you just want to complete the level. There are sure to be plenty of secrets like this to find.
Mario controls great. If you've played any of the 3DS Mario games, you'll feel right at home wall kicking, butt stomping, and long jumping your way through levels. The level designs and camera angles are well designed. You won't be messing around with the camera, and its movements didn't cause me any problems in the levels I played. I don't know what it is about Mario games, but they always manage to make running, jumping, and sliding a joy.
The 3D effect supposedly enhances your awareness of the environment and makes the platforming easier. While the 3D effects look nice, I didn't really notice a big difference in terms of gameplay between having it on or off. Graphically the game is eye-catching with its bright, classic Mario style. It will remind you of Mario Galaxy when you see it in motion.
Mario 3DS will be out later this year (with a proper title), and it seems to be shaping up quite nicely.