Nintendo came to town with a handful of upcoming game releases, including Super Mario 3D World, and with it, the chance to test-drive some of the new features that were highlighted in the most recent trailer. Of the four available characters, I picked Toad, mostly because he was my go to guy when playing Super Mario Bros 2.
In case you haven’t heard, everyone in Nintendo’s latest shares the same basic characteristics as in the aforementioned NES classic. Also, I knew in advance that he’d fare the best in the new, semi-competitive environment. I was presented with four different levels to explore. The first was your standard grassy area, similar to the introductory level that more or less kicks off every single Mario title. This was mostly a chance to become familiar with the new Cat Mario suit.
The second stage should also be familiar to most Mario vets, even novices—Bowser’s castle. One that’s normally fortified, but instead of the usual plethora of Bullet Bills, a new kind of arsenal was found: a combination bomb and soccer ball. This obstacle rolls along the ground until it explodes a few seconds later. Unlike most projectiles, though, it doesn’t immediately cause harm if contact is made. Instead, it simply bounces off, like any ball would. If contact is made when stationary, it goes back the direction it came from. But if one move towards the soccer bomb at a certain angle, one can dictate the direction off its trajectory.
This was essential for dealing with enemies, as well as uncovering secrets. (Along with dealing with Bowser as well, who was waiting at the end of this particular level.)
Speaking of Bowser… remember his new pimp ride? The boss encounter in this instance involved myself and the Nintendo rep who was playing alongside me (as Luigi, for anyone interested) chasing after Bowser in his new ride, in a semi-endless runner fashion, with the King of the Koopas tossing the soccer bombs at us, in hopes of breaking the chase. These had a much shorter fuse than the ones I had previously encountered; not only will they cause harm if they blow up in your face, they would leave a hole in the road, causing a small pool of lava in its wake that one must also avoid.
Eventually, I discovered that making contact, while either in the beginning stages of a jump, or while landing, results in the soccer bomb being kicked high in the air, as well as possibly right into Bowser’s face. I was also told that if you’re wearing the cat suit, just striking at the soccer bomb would net similar results.
The third stage was something completely different; again it was an indoor environment, nothing but stone walls. But you also had a large light source emanating from behind the camera, which causes stark shadows to be cast. Some of this was seen in the most recent trailer, but those thinking that Super Mario 3D World is taking cues from Limbo or Donkey Kong Country Returns are mistaken. For the most part, each player’s characters are still plainly visible, and the shadows are used to telegraphic enemy positions and alternate passageways that are normally obscured. The latter, specifically the use of shadows to indicate secrets or to set up optical illusions, was in my mind, a rather novel and even ingenious solution to compensate the lack of stereoscopic 3D visuals that this game’s predecessor, Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS, was all about.
But there’s more. Another new element in this particular region was a potted piranha plant that can be used as a weapon. Simply run up to one and your character scoops up the pot, which is thus carried around like a shell. Get close to an enemy, and the plant immediately eats it up. If one gets close to another player’s character, the plant will try to gobble him or her up, though nothing of the sort actually happens. Instead, the other character gets bounced back, which can be troublesome when navigating a part of the level that has a bottomless pit nearby.
It was at this point of the demo in which I was reminded that 3D World is the latest to come from Nintendo’s EAD Tokyo, and how one can expect just as much variety in Super Mario 3D World as they did in both Super Mario Galaxies.
The fourth and final stage featured the new Double Cherries power up, which clones one’s character. When I nabbed my first one, I all of a sudden had two Toads onscreen. The more cherries I got, the more Toads there were as well. Each doppleganger follows the original’s action on a 1:1 basis, and initially, they’re right by your side or immediately behind. Given all the nooks and crannies that the typical Mario environment is all about, however, it’s only a matter of time in which I was separated from my clones. This fourth environment was clearly designed to demonstrate this fact, which again is mostly about traversing a series of small hills, which immediately causes everyone to be on separate levels.
The key to regrouping is to find a corner and literally run against it. That way your lead character doesn’t go anywhere, but you’re also directing the others to catch up. Naturally, there are platforms that require a certain number of clones to be on them to activate. Or, placement of clones in different parts of the environment, much like in the Mario & Luigi series.
This particular stage was also chock full of enemies, so having backup was definitely handy. When you shoot a fireball, everyone shoots a fireball. On that note, and I could be wrong, but Double Cherries are the only power up I can think of, from all the other Super Mario games, that augment a special ability instead of replacing it. So, if you get Fire Flower, all your clones reap the same benefit; they don’t immediately disappear, as one might have guessed. I asked what the maximum amount of clones on screen was, and was told by the demo person that he didn’t know. No limit had been reached, and noted that when there are four players on screen, and if each person has a clone, it’s total calamity.
Unfortunately, clones are only specific to whatever level Double Cherries appear. When one completes that stage and moves onto another, the clones do not carry over.
Also, as noted, it is possible for clones to become separated, especially during multiplayer, but I was not able to see firsthand what happens if one straggles too far behind. Nor was I able to see what happens when a clone becomes in contact with an enemy, to see if they all take a hit or if just the one dies. This much is certain, however: the game is fully loaded with nods to past Super Mario games. There’s always been a certain degree of fan service, but I was quite pleased to see the types of Goombas from the original Super Mario World roaming around, alongside the sleeker, less plump version that we’re all used to.
There’s also hidden path in the aforementioned shadow level that has a Toadstool brethren scared to death by Koopa. Or at least it looks like him—or his shadow. But in fact, it’s just a paper cut out, the same kind seen in Paper Mario.
We’ll all have to wait and see if every single past Mario game gets some sort of nod when Super Mario 3D World launches on November 22.