The June 2023 reveal of Super Mario Bros. Wonder was met with many enthusiastic reactions; The art direction, music, and new enemies look like fun evolutions that fans have become accustomed to in the New Super Mario Bros. series. However, it was the final shot of the trailer that garnered the biggest reaction, as Mario grabs an odd-looking fruit and transforms into a massive elephant version of himself. Elephant Mario, who appears larger than life in our current cover art, is one of the most recognizable elements of Super Mario Bros. Wonder.
Players won’t have to wait long to play as the elephant Mario, who appears in the first level, Welcome to the Flower Kingdom. An elephant pops out of the fruit block and true to the trailer, Mario transforms into this new form. While not unexpected since I’ve seen the reveal trailer more times than I can count, it was a bit jarring to watch one of the most iconic characters in pop culture undergo such a different transformation. In this form, Mario can swing his trunk to attack enemies and break bricks from the side, while spraying water to trigger reactions found in special flowers called Wow Buds that bloom and reward previously unseen items and collectibles.
As director Shiro Mori explained, Elephant Mario was born out of a desire to achieve a certain move but offers a new version of something Mario has been doing since the very first Super Mario Bros. game: getting bigger. “When we talk about creating power-up items or power-up variants, the first thing we start with is the gameplay experience: what kind of gameplay experience do we want to provide the player?” He says. “The first thing we wanted to do was make Mario’s body bigger. We wanted to make his body bigger so it’s easier when you hit blocks, it’s easier to shoot down enemies, and it’s easier to grab coins. We thought changing Mario’s basic mechanics would be a refreshing gameplay experience. Another example, but that’s it. Not elegant. When you have a big body and you have a narrow platform, it’s easier to land. Smaller, it’s easier to miss.”
Many theoretical models could provide a goal to make Mario bigger — after all, Super Mushrooms have been doing that for decades — but once one looked at the other gameplay goals the team had for the power-up item in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, the choice became clear. “The second thing we wanted to do was be able to hit blocks from the side. If you can hit blocks from the side, it gives you areas that you can only access through that transformation. And the third thing we wanted to do was spray water. Because we wanted to do that, let’s say, for example, there’s a wilted flower, Watering it and making it bloom, something mysterious can happen. (…) really fits with these three ideas of enlarging the body to come with the transition, hitting the blocks on the side and then spraying water, after much consideration, really, the elephant is the only answer.
When the characters transform into their elephant forms, they undergo a drastic visual transformation, but they retain enough parts of their character designs that they are still easily recognizable. According to art director Masanobu Sato, this was one of the initiatives he and his team took when creating these elephant forms. “We start by understanding the characters and their iconic features,” he says. “For example, Mario’s dominant color is red, and he has a large nose and distinctive moustache. The design process begins with applying a transformation motif to the character while maintaining a balance to ensure that the character’s iconic features are not lost.”
The creation of Elephant Mario may seem straightforward as it fulfills various game goals, but another key power in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, the Bubble Flower, is inspired by an entirely different source: improving the past. “In New Super Mario Bros. U, there was (Bubble Baby Yoshi),” says Mowry. “Part of that character mechanic is that you have to hold down the Y button to be able to use it, and we thought that could use a little improvement. As an extension of trying to improve that feature, we came up with the idea of Bubble Flower, and then eventually, Bubble Mario, the Bubble Flower allows you to A, defeat enemies, and B. , you can also create platforms that you can jump on, which is a very interesting and attractive power-up.”
In addition to the Elephant Fruit and Bubble Flower, players can also use other new power-ups ranging from the Drill Mushroom (learn more about it here) and all new items like the Super Mushroom, Super Star, and Classics. Fire flower. And of course, there’s a strong possibility that Nintendo hasn’t shown us all the power-ups we’ll enjoy when Super Mario Bros. Wonder hits Switch on October 20th.
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