I couldn't have been more wrong.
[image1]Super Mario 3DS is more like Super Mario Bros. 3 than any game to date. It certainly helps that the Tanooki suit has made its way back to the game, albeit retooled for the new challenges ahead. It'd take a lot more than a classic power-up to take players back to the time of the NES and SM 3DS so far delivers in
The E3 2011 demo had four levels available, each with branching pathways and hidden secrets. One level had Mario jumping on tiles that flipped up and lasted for a set time. The player had to reach the objective or item before getting dropped into the abyss. Another level had Mario traipsing through a green garden dotted with goombas and musical note blocks.
Easily the best level that conveys how Super Mario 3DS can transport players back to Mario's halcyon days is the airship level. As you progress across the ship, Bullet Bills fire in succession. Even moments that aren't spent quickly bypassing environmental hazards are filled with koopas and goombas. Super Mario 3DS is laid so that many challenges are 2D but with a sense of depth. Maybe walking deeper into a world will allow you to bypass a difficult jumping obstacle, but you'll miss an opportunity to transport to a bonus area or obtain one of three larger coins spread throughout the level.
[image2]This level pushed Mario ahead as the screen scrolled to the right. Once the player got to the end, there was even a Hammer-Bro-looking boss to fight, but the most nostalgic instance of my Super Mario 3DS demo came before I transported to the boss and after I'd successfully navigated the airship. Hidden just past the end of the level was a path underneath the airship's final platform, a path hiding one of the aforementioned large coins and a handful of normal golden coins.
But not even the classic soundtrack, vulnerable mini-Mario, Tanooki suit, and nostalgic enemies could achieve what this next part did, as if I could have been sitting in front of my parents CRT TV. I jumped back up to the platform I'd left at the end of the airship. I had one leap to go before heading to the boss when I accidentally hit an invisible coin box that contained a Green mushroom. I felt like I was holding a NES control pad.
I'm a huge fan of Star Fox 64, but Super Mario 3DS seems like the game everyone should be picking up a new Nintendo handheld for. It seems like it'll do more to recreate classic Mario fun than New Super Mario Bros. ever did. From my hands-on time at E3 I feel confident saying that Super Mario 3DS truly combines NES and SNES Mario platforming with the 3D environments pioneered in Super Mario 64. Look out for it in the coming year.