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25 Years Later, The Spirit of Super Mario 2 Looms at E3

Between Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario 3D World, Mario's most oddball adventure is seeing a modest revival.

Article by Jeremy Parish, .

Do you remember Super Mario Bros. 2? If you were a gamer in America 25 years ago, you very likely discovered the game in the form of a clay model photograph and massive photo blowout in the first issue of Nintendo Power (which has become a cultural touchstone for millions of kids thanks to Nintendo carpet-bombing the mailboxes of its entire mailing list with a free copy of the issue). And even if you weren't alive back then, it's shown up in a variety of forms since then: In Super Mario All-Stars, as a Game Boy Advance remake, and of course on Virtual Console.

Nintendo doesn't go back to the well on Mario 2 (aka Super Mario USA in Japan) very often; the most prevalent modern-day references to its world have come in the form of character cameos in some of the more offbeat Mario spin-offs, like the crazy variety of masked Shy Guys that appear in the Yoshi's Island series. Yesterday's game reveals by Nintendo therefore came as a pleasant surprise, as two games on display -- Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze and Super Mario 3D World -- include features obviously inspired by Mario 2.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the lead designers on Mario 2 yesterday -- Kensuke Tanabe, the producer on Tropical Freeze -- so I asked him about the influence of his classic creation on Nintendo's next wave of software. First, we spoke about his current project, Tropical Freeze.

Donkey Kong is as plucky as ever.

"The basic core mechanics are pretty much the same [as in the Donkey Kong Country Returns]," Tanabe told me, "but one thing we've done -- and you can't play it on the floor today, but I think you'll find it interesting -- we've added Dixie Kong as a buddy character. Thanks to her ponytail, she can actually travel up in the middle of a jump arc." Despite her more versatile, more maneuverable style, he said, the downside to Dixie is that she's weaker, meaning she's slower to uproot buried items, a new skill Tanabe refers to as "plucking." Just as Mario and his crew could pull vegetables and other objects from the ground to use as weapons (and did so at varying speeds according to their individual strength), DK and his companions can latch onto hooks and other objects in the soil and pull them up to reveal platforms and other secrets.

"I like plucking," says Tanabe. "It's an old-school feature that I brought over from Super Mario Bros. 2. I thought, 'You know, it would be kind of cool to put that into DKC.' It's a great legacy feature."

Meanwhile, Super Mario 3D World marks the return of SMB2's four playable characters -- Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach -- in the same adventure for the first time since 1988. The New Super Mario Bros. games have replaced Peach with a second Toad, but she's back as a proper heroine in 3D World. Each character has slightly different attributes (unlike New Super Mario, where the Toads and Luigi play just like Mario), and unlike in the past all four can tag along simultaneously through multiplayer.

This is what Wart sees in his nightmares.

However, despite drawing clear and direct influence from SMB2, Tanabe says he's had zero involvement with 3D World. ("No, just Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong!" is how he describes his worldload.) On the contrary, Super Mario 3D World's features came as a surprise to him -- but one that he seems a little proud of.

"A lot of the guys who are working on Super Mario 3D World are guys who played Super Mario Bros. 2 back then," he mused. "So in a way, I feel like a father -- like my kids are working on these other games."

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Comments 10

  • Avatar for dogfish #1 dogfish 4 years ago
    Super mario 2 has got to be my favorite of the series. Man, that cart never came out of my NES as a kid. Glad to see it's getting some love from the modern devs.
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  • Avatar for Baleoce #2 Baleoce 4 years ago
    I think a lot of people are disappointed not to have something on the scale of a galaxy title for the next 3D Mario. But tbh, I'm sure it'll be great once it's out. Also we can't really determine any sense of scale yet. Not having Mario Kart out by Christmas is a killer blow though.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #3 jeremy.parish 4 years ago
    I was hoping for something Galaxy-esque, too, but after playing 3D World I REALLY like it.
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  • Avatar for fwest316 #4 fwest316 4 years ago
    I do love the resurgence of Mario 2 elements in 3D World. I've always wanted to see a return of Wart as a boss in a mainline Mario game though...
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #5 Kuni-Nino 4 years ago
    I smiled when I saw that the 3D World cast played exactly like their Super Mario 2 incarnations: Peach's floating ability and Toad's freakishly fast speed have been gone too long.

    It's too bad the media is so mum when it comes to platformers. They take the quality of these games like Mario and DKC for granted.
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  • Avatar for Alpha-Unit #6 Alpha-Unit 4 years ago
    I was a tad disappointed when I first saw this expecting a Galaxy title or something along the lines of time travel gimmick or even another Sunshine, but as soon as I saw it was a 4-player 3D Mario with Peach tied around the package as playable character in a core Mario title after so many years, it was quite a delight.

    Nintendo has played it so safe it hurts, but this game is a priority this holiday. Something simple to play with the family is how I'd like to spend my Winter break.
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  • Avatar for Hippie_genocide #7 Hippie_genocide 4 years ago
    I always felt Doki Doki Panic got a bum rap. When people figured out it wasn't a true Mario game it got some backlash, but I thought it was a really fun game and totally different from the first SMB. Glad to see people haven't forgotten it and its soul will be resurfacing in new games.
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  • Avatar for sdhero #8 sdhero 4 years ago
    I'd be sad not to have a more Galaxy-esque game if it weren't for Super Mario 3D Land being one of the best Mario games ever (or at least one of my favorite). And anyone who thought we got a bum deal not getting the "real" Super Mario Bros. 2 (I will include myself in that group) found out how lucky we were once the so-called 'Lost Levels' were finally released. Worst. Mario. Ever. I'll take Shy Guys over poison mushrooms any day!
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  • Avatar for Dreamcaster-X #9 Dreamcaster-X 4 years ago
    SMB 2 is one of my favorites in the series so I was really excites to see the spirit of it sprinkled throughout the new Mario 3D World! Peach is back baby!!
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