Mario Spins a New Tail

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A Super Mario title for the 3DS was inevitable, though I was surprised to hear it would come to the system as quickly as it did. There was a time when Mario games went hand-in-hand with the launch of a new Nintendo console, though that trend has been on the decline. Rather than rush a Mario game to market early, Nintendo has elected to hold back and make sure the game was up to fans' high standards. Considering the last few games in the series, it is hard to argue with the approach.

Super Mario 3D (which is a working title) is a brand-new Mario game combining elements of the plumberís 2D and 3D adventures. The game was specifically designed for the 3DS and, like so many other Nintendo first-party games, is a great example of what Nintendoís new handheld is capable of in the right hands. Iíve been on the fence regarding 3D, but I like the way the effect is used here. There are a couple of "cheesy" 3D effects like spikes flying towards the player, but I was more surprised by how it improves platforming. The 3D effect makes it easier to judge depth, especially when jumping to a moving platform or stomping a goomba. I tend to misjudge both in Super Mario Galaxy, but rarely missed in the demo.

The demo was split into four areas showcasing different gameplay aspects. The first section was reminiscent of Marioís console adventures. Mario can run in every direction using the circle pad while the face buttons are used to run and jump. The shoulder buttons are used for ducking and using Marioís ground pound. Nearly all of Marioís 3D moves are in place, including his backflip, which for whatever reason is my favorite move in the plumberís arsenal.

Super Mario 3D also marks the return of the Tanooki Suit, which we havenít seen since Super Mario Bros. 3. The Tanooki Suit grants Mario the familiar spinning tail attack, as well as the ability to stay afloat for a few seconds after jumping. However, it doesnít look like Mario can use the tail to fly, though I imagine this is a design decision based on the levels on display in the E3 demo.

Each of the levels was short, which is actually perfect for a handheld experience. The levels reminded me of the micro-levels found in both Galaxy games. In one, Mario had to jump on green exclamation panels and stay ahead of the collapsing platforms. Another level was a more traditional side-scrolling level, similar to New Super Mario Bros.. Here, Mario is confined to a 2D plane, with the 3D effect used to add depth.

The final section featured the return of Boom Boom, a boss from Super Mario 3. The boss fight itself was easy, but I enjoyed seeing the old wooden airship. Super Mario Bros. 3 is still my favorite game in the series, so returning to those elements can only mean good things.

I wasnít expecting to see a new Mario game this early in the 3DSís life-span, but Iím happy it is coming. I had a lot of fun with the floor demo and can only imagine what else Nintendo has in store for the final game.

Super Mario 3D is currently set for a Holiday 2011 release.