All right, complaineteers, the 3DS’s childhood has been a little rough. Like, it’s a little unsettling that people are listing “System Settings” as their favorite thing to do on the new system. Pilotwings Resort was neat, but short. The recent release of the Virtual Console has been a welcome relief for the two weeks between now and when Ocarina of Time 3D comes out, but all in all, it’s like finding a few more drops of water in your canteen when you probably should not have been put in the desert to begin with.
So, Nintendo’s information-dump yesterday about their upcoming first-party 3DS titles is just what I want to hear. We’re getting Star Fox 64 3D in September, followed by Kid Icarus: Uprising, Mario Kart, Super Mario 3DS, and eventually Luigi’s Mansion. Each of these titles was on display outside of the Nokia Center, and I headed towards two of the titles I was most interested in, Super Mario 3DS, and Mario Kart. Each title was featured in a tent, where dudes and ladies attached to 3DSes stood on platforms (that put their crotches uncomfortably close to your face) and allowed play of the new games. People stood in line outside of the tent, but I quickly realized that the only reason they were in line is that people are dumb, so I skipped the line, ran around to the back side of the tent, and got on a 3DS lickety-split. Sorry, suckers!
Hit that jump for some impressions!
I am going to start off with my Mario Kart playthrough. I want to first remind readers at home that you can download great 3D video trailers for each of these games (and MORE) in the newly launched e-shop, and while it takes a bit to download them, they are totally worth the time.
I really love Mario Kart, and if pressed, I’d say my favorite entry into the series is either Mario Kart DS or Double Dash, depending on the time of day and wind direction. My group of friends was quite intense about our Double Dash time in college, especially the time trial mode. Especially (goddamn) (f*cking) Baby Park, whose peppy theme still maddeningly dances through my brain when I close my eyes at night (BUM BUM BUM BUUM). I would come home from class and find that someone else had topped my best time on a track, so I’d have to try to regain the top position and suddenly it is very early in the morning. Mario Kart DS is as pure of an iteration in the series as you’ll see, wound tight with expansive, intricate tracks. This is a game whose popularity can’t be marred by the scourge of snaking.
My blood is as blue as the sparks my tires kick up, is all I’m saying.
I played through three tracks for the upcoming Mario Kart for the 3DS, yesterday morning. The game, initially, reminded me of Mario Kart Wii, with much more open, simple track design and some goofy mid-level obstacles (those bouncy flowers make an appearance). I tend to like my tracks a little more complicated, where you can string together long sets of boosts, but on display yesterday were some of the courses I would assume fall into the easier cups. The courses were your typical Mario Kart fare, and I noticed that the Donkey Kong jungle course featured the Tiki enemies from Donkey Kong Country Returns. Retro Studios has been said to be involved in course design, so let’s hope that it extends beyond just this touch. The game felt like Mario Kart, with the same power-ups (I thought that the Blooper oil spill doesn’t cover as much of the screen as it did in MKDS) and nuances as the previous game. You collect coins, which (I assume) alter your top speed. After the character select screen, you could give some customization to the kart you drove, including changing the tires, which affected grip on the road.
The main additions to the game are in two areas. First, the 3D is effective without being annoying. The game runs at a crisp 60 frames a second, and it looks fantastic, sinking into the bright 3DS screen. Secondly, when you go off of a large ramp, a parasail extends from your kart (automatically) and you are able to glide down towards the course below. The closest example to this is how a F-Zero car takes jumps, where you can quickly return to the track or kind of extend your glide, if you wish. It’s a neat mechanic that I always liked from F-Zero, and I am squarely on the side of giving you more control over your kart in any situation. In the second track I drove, there was an underwater portion, where the kart sprouted a little propellor. This portion felt like the normal driving portions of the game except you had a little more float to your car over jumps, as if the gravity had been lowered. I didn’t sense any great stretegic advantage to the ocean sequences, but they weren’t super prominent in the tracks.
My take home thoughts on the game was that it’s a tempting morself of a new Mario Kart that, if tuned well (and maybe if the track selection is decent, which is how all racing games thrive), this could be a worthy successor to the franchise. I was slightly disappointed in what I saw, but I think I’d be that way if I were playing a few 50cc Mushroom Cup courses in any game in the series. Listen, Nintendo, if the game has even a semi-decent Bowser Castle course, I will love it. I guess that I am pretty easy to please.
Super Mario 3DS, on the flip side, pleased me right from the outset. While initially I had read that this was a wonderful lovechild of Super Mario 64 and Mario Galaxy, there is much more of a Super Mario Bros. 3 influence on the game. The levels that I saw were short, with a slideable flagpole at the end. There is no life meter, but rather, mushrooms make the stubby Mario into Super Mario. Fire flowers are not timed (like in the Galaxy games), but are a constant power-up, for the first time in one of the 3D games. You have to hold down B to run. See, this is kind of a throwback, in line with the New Super Mario Bros. series.
You’ve seen, from the trailer, that Mario can don the Tanooki suit via a notched leaf pick-up. The Tanooki suit works slightly how you would expect, where you can use your tail to defeat enemies, and if you jump, holding down the jump button allows for a gradual descent (not like in SMB:3, where you had to keep tapping). Mario cannot use it to fly, and, at least in this demo, he cannot turn into a statue.
The levels featured goombas, fire flowers, coins, and powerblocks, along with Galaxy-like flipping tiles to jump on, doors that act like portals to other portions of the level, and fireballs that launch out towards the screen. I’ve read that other journalists had trouble, not really finding the 3D to be beneficial, but I think that years of games journalism has made them weak. I was able to dance around collecting the challenge coins with ease.
Overall, it’s a great fit for the portable system. This is definitely a demo video that you should watch, ideally in 3D. Look at those rotating boxes! The music note boxes are back! Giant piano keys, swarming with ghosts! Airships! Boom-Boom! I want this game sooner than the rest of the fall/winter 3DS games. Oh, how I want it.
I’ve heard some people say that they’re not going to spend $300 to play a Mario game. Well, I have no problem with that because I am made out of money and I live on an island filled with money trees. This island is an island that is the most fun.