Earlier in the year when the 3DS launch titles included the likes of the abysmal Super Monkey Ball 3D, Super Mario 3D was nowhere to be seen. Thankfully Nintendo has now confirmed an end-of-year release for the title, which should whet the appetite of 3DS owners desperate for some quality gaming from the platform holder.
Despite functioning as an original title in the series, the gameplay on offer is a cross-section of Mario titles, combining the likes of Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 64. The striped tail teased in the game's title graphic is the dead give-away. If you weren't sure whether or not the classic Tanooki raccoon suit would be making an appearance: of course it is. The game may have been designed with the new gadget in mind but it's fuelled entirely by nostalgia.
Like we've come to expect, the suit gives Mario the ability to extend his jumps, descend from his leaps at a slower rate, and do spin attacks. While it doesn't give him any flying ability as it has in the past, basic traversal of the world becomes much easier when clad in his raccoon onesie, particularly in areas where the ground is teaming with Goombas - some of whom are armed with raccoon suits of their own.
In the brief hands-on demo I was also able to experience a side-scrolling level in the vein of New Super Mario Bros. for DS. The level sends Mario on to a flying airship where he dodges the fire of Bullet Bills. The end level brings him into a room for a relatively easy mini-boss fight with Bowser Jr., an enemy that can be defeated by waiting for him to end his spin attack and delivering well-timed jump and spin attacks of your own.
At the Nintendo Executive Roundtable, the game's producer Yoshiaki Koizumi detailed new levels that would include further side-scrolling and fights against waves of Cheep-Cheeps that fly directly towards the screen, utilising the 3D tech. A later stage referenced the Zelda series for the franchise's 25th anniversary by using its traditional top-down view, with Mario having to avoid obstacles by crouching into indented holes in the floor- something Koizumi said would be more difficult to design without 3D capability.
The 3DS does provide a decent sense of depth to the world and often makes it easier to gauge which platform to aim for next. Additionally it makes use of the handheld's design - while the top screen showcases the action, the bottom packs in an inventory, along with the game's basic menu. However from what we experienced in the hands-on event, the 3D is still a largely cosmetic detail. And regardless of 3D, the nostalgic factors of the game speak for themselves.
Super Mario for the 3DS is due for release by the end of 2011.