Never fear Nintendo fans--despite missing the launch window, Super Mario for the 3DS is definitely scheduled for release this year, with the company confirming the later-in-the-year date at its press conference this morning. Straight after the show, we managed to get some hands-on time with the upcoming platformer, and while our time with the title was brief, it was just enough to whet our appetite for more.
Super Mario 3DS is a brand-new Mario platformer made specifically for Nintendo's stereoscopic handheld, and the first level we played in our hands-on took place in the second world of the game. The top screen of the 3DS was the showcase for the action, while the bottom screen contained a menu of sorts, including items Mario will pick up during the game. For the purposes of our demo, Mario was already packing a familiar brown leaf in his inventory, and we quickly pressed the highlighted object on the bottom screen to equip the portly plumber in his familiar brown, stripy-tailed suit, better known to fans of Super Mario Bros. 3 as the Tanooki suit.
As in that classic game, the Tanooki suit here allowed Mario to extend jumps, with the tail letting him descend from leaps at a slower rate. Pressing B also made Mario do a spin attack with the tail, and coupled with the better jump mobility, this allowed us to easily traverse this world's basic jumps, Goomba foes (even larger variety Goombas armed with their own stripy tail), and other obstacles. The game played much as other 3D-environment Mario titles--you can manipulate Mario to move in and out of environments, with the handheld's 3D capability giving the whole experience a nice sense of depth.
The next level we played was primarily a 2D side-scrolling level a la New Super Mario for the DS, although even this level had some "depth" in that you could guide Mario back and forth. This level was set on a flying airship, and we had to dodge numerous Bullet Bills firing in the background and racing towards Mario in the foreground. At the end of a level was a warp pipe (we had to press the right bumper button to activate it), which transported us to an enclosed room for a miniboss fight with Bowser Jr. This boss was pretty easy to dispatch (especially as we still had our Tanooki suit on), and we simply had to wait until his spin attack ended before running in and delivering an attack of our own.
From our brief time with Super Mario 3DS, it looks set to deliver the charm and challenge that have become hallmarks of the series. 3D seems to be a cosmetic rather than an essential addition, but we'll hold off final judgement until we see more of the game. Stay tuned for more.
UPDATE: At the Nintendo Executive Roundtable held at the end of day one of E3 2011, Super Mario 3DS producer Yoshiaki Koizumi went into more detail about how 3D will be incorporated into the game, as well as playing through several more levels.
The levels played during Koizumi’s demo were better showcases of 3D utilization, with one side-scrolling level featuring large, spiked columns thrusting towards the screen that Mario had to avoid. Yet another side-scrolling stage had Mario trying to avoid waves of cheep cheeps fly straight towards screen. Another stage—a homage to the 25th anniversary of the Zelda series, Koizumi said—featured a top-down view a la classic Zelda adventures, with Mario having to avoid obstacles such as rotating platforms and rolling logs by crouching in holes in the floor. Koizumi said 3D capability made levels like this possible, as it would have been difficult for players to discern true depth from the top-down perspective.