E3 2011: Super Mario 3DS

QUICKTAKE: 3DS has been home to a number of heavy-hitters from Nintendo's pantheon of franchises. But, it's been missing the most important one of them all: Mario. The new Super Mario game for 3DS, developed by the same team responsible for Super Mario Galaxy, is a defining game for the platform and helps sell how 3D can not only enhance, but be a vital part of, gameplay. THE DEMO: There are four small levels playable in the E3 demo. Each of the levels takes advantage of 3D in different ways, thanks to some very clever camera work. One level in particular stunned: a Mario Bros. 3-inspired warship with spiked pistons that literally jump out of the screen. I had access to the Fire Suit, but I ended up playing almost exclusively with the Tanooki suit. But, can you blame me? BOOM video 9388 DETAILS: Every Mario game makes references to the classics before it. Super Mario is no different, taking many elements from Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario 64. The Tanooki suit is an obvious throwback to the classic NES game, while the overall look is reminiscent of the N64 launch title. But while Super Mario is rooted in nostalgia, there are many subtle tweaks that make it feel like an entirely new experience. The controls, for example, are much slower than in previous Mario games. Mario feels less nimble in this version: you'll have to hold down a button to run, you'll have to charge a backflip, and even your long jump just doesn't go as far. I'm not entirely sure why these changes were made, and they're not for the better or worse.

This is far more compelling in 3D.

What really sets Super Mario apart is how it takes advantage of the 3D screen. There's countless "wow" moments that really sold me on 3D. What drives the experience is an optimized placement of the camera. The default view is set very low, to make Mario appear as if he's in a 2D platformer. Because of the low angle of the camera, you can clearly make out depth and judge what's in the distance. Many items and routes will be hidden behind other objects, and turning on the 3D makes a significant difference in your ability to make jumps and find those hidden items. The 3D effect becomes even more pronounced when the game switches to a top-down perspective. Seeing Mario literally jump out of the screen is very fun. And once again, the game plays with multiple layers and depth in order to create an experience that I haven't seen before. Like Galaxy before it, Super Mario is a champion of clever level design. Of course, if you're in the small (but still sizable) group of people that simply can't see 3D images (like Johnny Depp), Super Mario's cleverness will be entirely lost on you. In fact, given how much of the game relies on 3D, you might not be able to play it all. Watch the Shacknews E3 2011 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. You can also subscribe to it with your favorite RSS reader.