Why Mario’s Tanooki Suit Used To Fly, And Why It Doesn’t Anymore

As many of you know, the upcoming Super Mario game for the 3DS will be bringing back Mario’s iconic Tanooki suit, the raccoon-like outfit that allowed Mario fly in Super Mario Bros 3. Though the suit has returned, its functions have changed. As it turns out, Mario will not be able to fly this time around.

During a Nintendo developer roundtable at E3 last week, one puzzled journalist asked Yoshiaki Koizumi, a producer of Mario’s upcoming 3DS adventure, a couple of questions on the matter: First, why won’t Mario be able to fly using the Tanooki suit in the 3DS game? (He can merely flutter-jump). Second, where did the connection between raccoons and flying come from to begin with?

Koizumi handled the first, more technical technical question himself:

So it’s true that Mario was able to fly with the Tanooki suit in past games, but there was also, I believe, a form that had a tail and ears but couldn’t fly? And one of the reasons that we decided to go with the “Raccoon” Mario style in this game is that flying does present some interesting issues in three dimensions. You do have the slow fall, which makes certain types of gameplay more accessible, but having the character fly in 3D on the smaller 3DS screen would have been a little bit difficult. So we decided to bend the rules of the Mario world [on the 3DS]and solve that problem.

As it turns out, Mario was able to fly with both the raccoon leaf power-up and Tanooki suit. The raccoon tail allows Mario to spin and hit enemies, while the Tanooki suit allowed Mario to turn into a statue. Both suits allowed Mario to get airborne, though.

For the second question, Koizumi deferred to Takashi Tezuka, a designer who helped create the Tanooki suit for Super Mario Bros. 3, who explained that the road to Mario’s first flight was a gradual process:

“So actually the idea for the Tanooki suit came originally from wanting to put a tail on Mario, and so we started off by putting a tail on Mario in Super Mario Brothers 3 and we wanted to use that tail so he could do the little spin move and hit enemies with his tail, as sort of an attack. But then, once we had the tail on Mario, we thought: We’ve got this great tail. Isn’t there something else that we can do with it? So, then the next thing we started to do was to have the tail kind of flutter back and forth, and we thought that that’s kind of like a propeller, so that flutter motion would make Mario a little bit lighter, so he could jump further. But once we started doing that, it felt so good that we said; ‘let’s just make him fly’.”

As crazy a process as that was, it kind of makes sense to me. Is that weird?

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