Super Mario 3D - Preview
Nintendo has proved itself a practised turntablist when it comes to remixing Mario. Against a steady backbeat of platforming, Mario games have blended in samples from the series' past, twisting and warping them to create a new and often quite intoxicating mix. The Galaxy games remain some of the headiest concoctions of this generation, yet deep within, it's those same staple ingredients that have been present since the series' dawn.
Super Mario 3D (a working title), the game that left a gaping hole in the 3DS's launch line-up earlier this year and that was given its reveal proper at E3, is the latest blend. It is, once again, a reworking of old favourites presented in a new light, from different angles and with fresh vigour.
Its approach can best be summed up in its perspective, a fixed camera that sits somewhere between the dynamism of Galaxy and the strictly side-on view of New Super Mario Bros. and its Wii sequel. Given that it's the Galaxy team at the controls, it never quite manages to stay still; dropping into a Warp Pipe will segue into a single-screen isometric puzzle, and while some levels will be played side-on, others see Mario running into the screen, Crash Bandicoot style.
And given that it's the Galaxy team, Super Mario 3D seems to revel in showering the player with novelty. Although it's absent in the playable version on E3's show floor, a behind closed doors demo sees the game adopt a top-down view for a brief yet perfectly pitched tribute to Zelda, with a Flower Mario tossing fireballs into a room's four corners in a simple puzzle. It's the kind of throwaway inventiveness that has marked out the Galaxy games, and it's delightful to see that while the camera's been tamed, the creativity hasn't.
Zelda's not the only game from Nintendo's annals to have left its mark on Super Mario 3D, and the game's biggest influence is perhaps its most welcome. Super Mario Bros. 3 leaves an aggressive mark, told not only through the wagging Tanooki tail of Super Mario 3D's logo but also tiny details throughout the four levels that make up the E3 demo. There are end-of-level flagpoles, Jump Blocks marked with musical notes and floating airships riddled with Bullet Bills to navigate. Meanwhile, Boom Boom, the one boss on display, is another refugee from the NES classic.
Then there's that Tanooki Suit itself. Obtained by grabbing a Super Leaf, its powers have been tempered by time and the leap into three dimensions. Keeping the jump button pressed after a leap sees the tail shake wildly, leaving Mario to glide through the air as his downward descent is slowed. There's no longer the ability to turn into a statue, and more crushingly, there's no longer the ability to fly.