Super Mario 3D is the latest adventure for Nintendo's iconic plumber. It also marks Mario's debut on the Nintendo 3DS, mixing some of the best elements from the 2D games in a brand new 3D title. We go hands-on with Nintendo's E3 2011 demo to see what's new and what's old in Super Mario 3D.
After hopping between the stars in Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2, it seemed that there was nowhere left for Mario to go. Space is, after all, the final frontier. But there is one place Mario has not travelled before: the third dimension. Sure Mario has appeared in games using 3D polygons before, but as we discovered today, the third dimension added by Nintendo's 3DS hardware is a real game changer.
Super Mario 3DS screenshots: Raccoon Mario and Mario Galaxy-style special stages
Going the distance with Nintendo's 3DS
Ever since Mario entered the third dimension in Super Mario 64, the most challenging enemy wasn't a goomba, koopa, or even Bowser: it was the game's camera. Jumping from platform to platform required a great deal of precision, which often required players to stop and shift the camera, breaking the flow of gameplay. This is no longer the case thanks to the 3DS hardware's 3D effect, which provides an accurate gauge for depth perception. The effect is subtle, but only because it feels completely natural to judge the distance between two platforms just by looking at them.
The added 3D depth extends to more than just making for easier jumping. Some levels consist of side-scrolling segments where the camera is fixed to a side view of the action. During these segments, Mario still has his full 3D range of movement, allowing for him to find hidden passageways by exploring the level's background. The 3D effect makes these passages significantly easier to spot, opening up new level design possibilities.
Super Mario 3DS screenshots: Kicking shells and dodging Bullet Bills
Same old plumber, brand new tricks
Nintendo is tapping into nostalgia in a big way for Super Mario 3D. Specifically, many gameplay elements return to the series that have not been seen since Super Mario Bros 3 on the NES. The tanooki suit is back, giving Mario the ability to leap higher and spin to defeat enemies with his tail. Also returning are bouncing music blocks, side-scrolling airship levels and a flagpole at the end of each level. All of these elements work exceedingly well in 3D, with the airship stage especially standing out. Bullet Bills fly in from the background as Mario walks across tightropes, culminating in a boss battle against one of the infamous Koopa Kids from Super Mario Bros 3.
On top of the nostalgic elements from Mario's distant past are the moves he learned only in his more recent adventures. Mario can crouch, backflip, wall jump and ground pound with all the moves made for Mario's 3D games. He also adds a new trick to the list by performing a somersault with the right trigger. The somersault can't hurt enemies, but it does allow access to small passageways otherwise only accessible to Mario after shrinking from taking damage. The Mario series has always been focused on how players traverse each level, and Super Mario 3D gives Mario his largest set of moves yet.
Super Mario 3DS E3 2011 reveal trailer
A bright 3D future
Nintendo's E3 demo gave only a brief glimpse at what Super Mario 3D will have to offer, but it has already managed to impress. The platformer genre is one that particularly benefits from the 3DS's capabilities. In 1996, Super Mario 64 set the template for platformers that would follow, and if the E3 demo is any indication, in 2011 Super Mario 3D will set the same standard in 3D.
Super Mario 3D will be available on Nintendo 3DS before the end of the year worldwide.
More 3DS coverage from E3 2011:
> Super Mario 3D trailer released, out 2011
> Luigi's Mansion 2, Mario Kart revealed for 3DS
> Kid Icarus, Star Fox 3D out this year
> Zelda: Four Swords free for DSi users
> Zelda: Link's Awakening available from 3DS store