The iconography and imagery of Mario all follow the same old motifs and themes, but if you look at them deeply enough, they each tend to fall into a few camps. Mario 64, for example, laid the foundation for Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 and Super Mario Sunshine. The Super Mario World game provided the multiplayer foundation for the New Super Mario games. Oddly, Super Mario 2 and 3 have been largely ignored in later games, aside from a few cameos by random characters like the Shy Guys.
As a major Mario fan, I’m happy to see at least the basic ideas of Super Mario Bros. 3 taking presence in the upcoming Super Mario for the 3DS. With no official name, “Super Mario 3DS” is the best bet for a title; regardless of what Nintendo calls the game, it’s one of the most exciting new additions to the Mario universe.
First and foremost, this game is the first 3D Mario game built for handhelds. That in itself is exciting, but that’s not the big news–that’s the addition of the classic Mario power-up, the Tanooki suit. Last seen in Super Mario Bros. 3, this outfit (courtesy of a magic leaf) dresses Mario up in a raccoon costume that allows him to spin attack, float, and run. It’s a fun retro revival, and seeing familiar Goombas wearing the famous raccoon tail is an adorable return to form. The fire flower is also properly back. It’s like the 1990s never ended!
Other details make this a Mario game to look out for. Health bars are gone. Like in the days of old, Mario will change size. Starting out as a mid-sized dude, the plumber loses his hat and shrinks when damaged–a useful tactic for collecting coins under overhanging barriers. Mario tends to move a little slower than what we’re used to, and this is partially because of his new dash-run. It’s actually a button to hold, which is somewhat weird in a 3D Mario game.
After a few minutes, it was clear that the game is a fusion of old and new ideas. The level I played was fairly short, with nothing you haven’t seen before in a Mario game. However, the actual controls felt a little stiffer than other 3D Mario games, probably due to the unique angle the game uses. It feels like a middle ground between 3D and 2D, with Mario running along linear paths between open areas. This is something Nintendo is consciously doing, so it’ll be interesting to see how it works for the game in the long run.
In the end, it’s all about the goal. Unlike other Mario games, there isn’t a star or shine sprite at the end of a level. Like Mario games of old, this one ends with a quick jump up a flight of stairs and a leap to a flag pole. Even in 3D, it’s a classically satisfying moment.