It's been a while since a new Super Mario Bros. game looked amazing. Agree? We all respect the New Super Mario Bros. games, right? They're classic... like Nintendo just baked a great new loaf of bread. Refined... like Nintendo just wrote a new sonnet. But exciting? Not really. That's where November's new Mario comes in.
People who care about Super Mario games, let me show you Super Mario 3D World.
It's the one with the catsuit power-up...
See how being a cat can let you claw right up to the top of the flagpole?
That's one good idea of, I don't know, dozens? Hundreds in this game? See, Super Mario 3D World comes from EAD Tokyo, who other people will tell you are awesome because they made the two terrific Super Mario Galaxy games for the Wii and the splendid Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS, all of which were games bursting with new Mario ideas and innovative level designs. I'll tell you that, before that, they made Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, and I'll tell you that the drum-controlled game was the freshest, best DK side-scroller ever.
Bowser's back, kidnapping this green-haird lady of unknown name. Seriously, the Nintendo rep showing me the game yesterday at Nintendo's NYC offices couldn't or wouldn't tell me her name.
What we do know is that she's been kidnapped. Our heroes—Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad—hop in a transparent warp pipe and chase after her.
The game does not take place in the Mushroom Kingdom, the Nintendo rep told me. Which kingdom? A neighboring kingdom. That's all I got.
Here's the over-world which looks a little New Super Mario Bros or 3D Land-ish except that you can walk through it in all directions. See?
Why are some flags red and some yellow? I don't know! Indication of multiple exits? Dunno.
I'm told that the overworld has some secrets. I did spot an enemy on it. Hitting him will take you into some sort of confrontation, I think. We weren't able to try it.
EAD Tokyo's no joke. Play their games and it's all new, new, new stuff. For example: soccer balls...
I played exactly that scene. It's in a level called Bowser's Highway Showdown, the castle at the end of world one, if you don't believe me. (NOTE: I originally had written that that was 1-3; I misread my notes. Sorry about that!) You run into the soccer balls and you'll automatically kick them. You can tweak their direction with a control stick.
I played this next bit, too, which was in a level in world 2, I think. The level's called Double Cherry Pass and you're seeing a Mario that already has a fireball and has already duplicated himself by picking up one double cherry power-up picking up another.
I played that sequence as Toad. I kept picking up double cherries and was eventually controlling five Toads at once.
Here's a level called Shadow Play Alley...
I played that one as well. The idea is that you are still physically in the world but obscured, so you can only see shadows.
See that square? There's an item in there, a blue stamp. The Nintendo rep told me that there is one of these per level. When we finished the level I got a glimpse of a screen that shows each of the stamps you've collected and outlines for the ones not collected. There were many, many outlines. Maybe 100? Maybe more? There were a lot! Thus: this game will have a lot of levels.
Here's Bowser again. This is from the start of a boss battle.
You chase behind him while he drops exploding soccer balls at you. You kick them back toward his car, unless you're slow and then they just blow up in your face.
I'm going to rock your world now by informing you that he takes more than three hits to defeat. That ain't normal for a Nintendo boss, though I guess Bowser tends to be a bit tougher.
There are a lot of other cool power-ups and new moves in the game that I didn't see. A whole bunch of them are in this trailer:
I did see this one, which is the result of picking up a piranha plant and running toward enemies. The plant automatically eats the enemies.
I was playing that bit co-op and discovered that the plant also took a bite at the other player's character any time I faced him. Sorry! (A little.)
Yeah, if you didn't know, you can play the game co-op. And if you're co-opping while using the cat power-up and the double-cherry power-up, Super Mario 3D World looks like this:
I saw even more than what you see here, mind you, and I only saw the game for about 15 minutes.
I saw a cute section in the shadow level where I was able to rescue a red toad called Captain Toad by running behind part of the level. He was cowering from a Bowser-shaped shadow that, it turns out, was being created by a harmless cardboard Bowser that I had to knock down.
I saw new hidden platforms that are revealed only if you scratch wall via the Wii U's GamePad or do a butt-stomp.
I saw some fluffy pink enemies who only disappeared if I blew into the GamePad's mic.
I saw lots and lots of good stuff, all in sharp HD graphics with what felt like a smoother-than-average framerate.
Lately, if people ask if they need to get a Wii U, I tell them that it's a good system but not a must-have. I may well be singing a different tune after this game's out. It's really impressive.
This preview is based on about 15 minutes of hands-on time with a development build of the game. To contact the author of this post, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @stephentotilo.