So, a thought came to me the other day. I'm not sure what brought it on, but here it is. Let me me know what you think.
I was reminiscing to myself about the various power-ups and suits in the Super Mario series. For me, I don't think anything has topped Super Mario Bros. 3. The amount of power-ups in that game have yet to be matched, and some of the elusive ones (like that super-slick Hammer Bros. suit!) are just so much fun to use. I was a little disappointed by the lack of decent power-ups in the DS version of NEW Super Mario Bros., but was pleasantly surprised at the variety in NEW Super Mario Bros. Wii. It at first appeared to be a return to form from the 8-bit glory days.
But then I noticed something. There was no real equivalent to the Racoon Suit. Or Tanooki Suit. Or the Magic Cape. Heck, Yoshi can't even sprout wings in this game like he was able to in Super Mario World - his debut game. Mario and the gang were permanently stuck on the ground, for the most part. There was no power-up or suit that let you bound into the air, leaving solid earth below you to explore the skies for cloud platforms with coins, hidden pipes with bonus areas, or secret exits. In both Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, I felt this great feeling of exhilaration as Mario leapt into the air and took off into the sky. The sensation was thrilling. The mystery of what might be "up there" and the urge to go exploring piqued my curiosity as a child. I loved it.
You might be able to imagine my disappointment when NEW Super Mario Bros. debuted on the DS and I found there was no flight power-up. Just the standard-issue Fire Flower, and the (as it turned out) mostly useless Blue Shell Suit. (I don't really count the Mega Mushroom or Mini-Mushroom as real power-ups) Yeah, it was kind of a let-down... but I let it slide because for one, this was the first new 2D Super Mario in like, FOREVER, and two; this seemed more like an homage/throwback to the ORIGINAL game, not the sequels. Not being able to fly kinda "made sense" in this case. So I let it go.
But then the Wii sequel came out, and I was thrilled to see the return of stuff like Airships, the Koopalings, a map screen with shortcuts and various paths, and a fairly wide variety of suits and power-ups. Including... what was this?!? The Propellor Suit?!? OMG YES! Mario can fly again! Oh happy day!
...... and then the day comes when I realize that Propellor Suit only makes Mario and the gang spring meagerly up into the air to the top of the screen (at best) and then slowly float back down. Yeah, this was more of a powered-up jump ability. Not true flight. I was bummed. I was wondering the other day why, why was there no flight power-up when Nintendo was clearly aiming to cater to the fans of Super Mario Bros. 3?
Then it hit me. It was because of multiplayer. Of COURSE there couldn't be a flight suit. How could there be? How could Nintendo (or any developer) deliver a satisfying local multiplayer experience when one player could bound up into the sky, leaving the others down below to wallow in the dust he/she inevitably just kicked up? The game's camera would have to either follow the player into the sky (leaving the grounded players in the dark) or keep still on the ground and have the skyward bound player lost over the top of the screen. Being able to fly in that situation wouldn't work.
I thought that maybe in the NEXT "NEW" Super Mario game, Nintendo might give Mario the ability to fly again... but could they? Not on a console, and definitely not in local multiplayer. It wouldn't work again, for the same reasons mentioned above. And could Nintendo deliver another Super Mario game on a console *without* simultaneous multiplayer? I mean, yeah. I guess they could. But wouldn't that feel like a step back?
Now I wonder if Mario will ever fly again in 2D. It's certainly possible he will in a 3D game, since those are still predominately single-player-only, thus negating any camera issues with other players. But will it ever happen again for him in traditional 2D? It saddens me to think Super Mario World would be the last 2D Mario game that let our red-capped-hero fly. What a shame, y'know?
Perhaps a 3DS game in the same vein would work. At least then in multiplayer (local or online) everyone would have their own screen. But how likely is that to happen? Will Nintendo even bother with a new flying power-up? I'm keeping my fingers crossed!
I kind of liked the propeller suit more than the leaf and cape because you don't need a running start. It let you explore adequately and the game was designed for this. I never felt restricted when using it. That said, I wouldn't mind the return of a flying powerup in the next game, and it doesn't seem out of the question to me.
While the wife loved the propeller suit, I actually found myself loving the classic fire flower power up (as Luigi, OF COURSE). Nothing beats torching a bunch of baddies.
Why couldn't you fly and have a little inset in the screen, like a de-magnified view? Super Smash Bros. comes to mind? Of course, it would have to be a lot bigger (maybe like the top quarter of the screen?) for it to be successful. I'm sure this is far within their capabilities, and they've already thought of this.
Well, multiplayer didn't stop the DS NSMB from having flight, right? And there should be nothing stopping another potential handheld 2D Mario from taking to the sky (unless the game is weird and multiplanar and they want to limit the confusion).
I think Nintendo is just a bit too cautious when it comes to balancing games and controlling experiences these days. They seem much less willing to let players 'break' the level design. You are going to play that level their way. Even in Super Mario World, the Cape was very idiosyncratic and limited. And in SMB3, Nintendo curtailed the player a bit by requiring a wide 'take-off' zone. So maybe it isn't that they suddenly started limiting players. Maybe their design priority has shifted from free-form exploration to 'get to goal'.
The sensation of flight in games is pretty cool, though, and few games really deliver it in a satisfying manner. The Wingsuit in Crackdown was kind of a Letdown. But I loved Prototype's odd 'sky-leaping' mechanic. That made the game for me, pretty much.
I like your idea, but I have a feeling it might get pretty crowded and distracting if the magnified view was keeping track of one or two players in mid-flight. And what would happen if a player found a secret pipe or something up there? Keep the view magnified? "Pull" all the other players to that location? Suddenly shift to split screen? I dunno. Sounds confusing, and not very "Nintendo-like."
Still, the idea is good. You saved half the day, anyway.
New Super Mario Bros. on the DS didn't have flight. Mario's only power-ups were the Fire Flower and the Blue Shell. I mean... I guess if you wanted, we could count Mario Grand Theft Cloud-ing Lakitu's ride for flight. I guess. But that's not a power-up really, and it only lasts a handful of seconds. And to be honest, slowly floating around in that cloud isn't the same as blasting off into the sky like Superman. Not *quite* as exciting.
Yeah, I was bummed that there was no flight in the game.... but like I said before, the game was more of an homage to the original Super Mario Bros., and thus flight wasn't really an issue. Whereas NEW Super Mario Bros. Wii is a pretty blatant homage/follow-up to Super Mario Bros. 3 (and one could argue Super Mario World as well) where flight power-ups were a focus. I mean, heck - look at the box art for SMB3 and SMW. The Raccon Suit? The Magic Cape?
I guess I was kinda let down that there was no real flight in the Wii game. Despite how fun the game is even without it. (that reminds me... I still need to beat that game....!)
You make an interesting suggestion above, though. The level design lately does seem to focus more on "get to the goal" rather than the "free-form-exploration" aspect. I wonder if that's really a product of intended level design, or a by-product of the older games maybe not being as well-developed? I hesitate to even suggest that since the games are classics in every sense of the word, but... maybe with more experience under their belt, the teams at Nintendo got better at eliminating any unintentional bugs/shortcuts or the like. (hope that makes sense)
Maybe in terms of avoiding glitches, but Nintendo is definitely designing more linear platformers these days. Compare Galaxy to something like Mario 64 or Sunshine. Or NSMB to Super Mario World. I respect the trimming of the fat and the tight, deliberate design, but I actually kind of wish they'd add some of that exploration back in. It would be nice to have multiple paths to a goal.
Agreed. Linear is good, don't get me wrong. But having a bit of freedom on how to get to that end goal is welcome, too.
Speaking of putting exploration back into a game... Nintendo, can you let us explore again (at our leisure) in Skyward Sword? It feels like forever since I've really just been able to go anywhere I wanted at anytime in a Zelda game.
I hope the leaf or cape make it into NSMB Wii 2 (you know it's coming).
I'd look for it more in NSMB 3DS, since if there's a sequel to NSMBWii, it'll likely have the same 4 player element that would make flight so difficult.
I too miss the flight from SMB3 and SMW. Also, and this may just be my gripe, but I'm really not a fan of the 2.5D style of the NSMB games. I would VASTLY prefer new, hand drawn animations. However, with the capabilities of the 3DS, I see them doing some foreground/background stuff similar to Donkey Kong Country Returns or (if I understand it correctly, never played it) Little Big Planet. If this is the case, I doubt we'd see a return to beautiful 2D animation with Mario, which saddens this panda.
^ I agree. I much prefer hand-drawn sprites to 2D polygonal characters in 3D. (does that make sense?) It's one of the reasons I feel that Wario Land: Shake It! is a better looking game than NEW Super Mario Bros. Wii. Widescreen or not.
Of course, that may just have to do with the art style. I dunno. NSMBW's visuals seem more "manufactured" than Wario's, to me. Even though they are, without a doubt, unmistakably "Mario."
Hopefully if there is a NEW Super Mario Bros. 3DS, a flight power-up is included. Having the game on a portable would alleviate the problems with the action getting confusing with multiple players at once.
Speaking of flying power-ups, when are we going to have one in a 3D Mario game again? The last true one we had was the Wing Cap in Super Mario 64. And no, hovering in the Bee Suit doesn't count, nor does floating around as Boo Mario. Again, I'm talking about wanting to go soaring through the skies!