Nintendo’s E3 conference is still more than 12 hours away, and that’s simply too long a wait for Mario news. Luckily, Sunday’s Nintendo Direct did show a few tantalizing moments of what will presumably Wii U’s all new New Super Mario Bros. game.

Graphics and Gameplay

Jackson Murphy of Zelda Informer points out that in addition to the standard life counter, clock, and coin tally, the game’s HUD includes room for three Star Coins. These have been a stand-by of New Super Mario Bros. games, and thanks to the level of replay value they add, are welcomed to continue.

Points also appear to be making a comeback in the new title. We’ll get to the social aspects of this game later on, and I suspect points may play a role.

Menashe over at Nintendo Enthusiast counts a mighty five layers of parallax scrolling, with background foliage and rocks reaching new levels of detail. The game’s grass and clouds also appear to cast their own shadows. All of this indicates a fresh interest in the graphical detail for the NSMB series.

Getting Social

Mario’s in-video death cues up the new social aspect of the game. A series of speech bubbles, attached to Miis, display the frustrated sentiments of other players who met the same fate. Precisely how and when players will generate these comments remains unclear.

Heading out to the world map inspires more questions.

Thoughts and notes from other players also appear above the levels of the game. Nintendo is supposedly working on a means of avoiding spoilers, but as you can see in the screenshots, even fake players give up details like “flying squirrels” and ballooning baby yoshis.

One player can be seen celebrating the completion of a level in under 100 seconds, along with an additional yellow marker. This may hint at a defined achievement system, either in-game or system wide.

The points shown in-level suggest those may play a role in these achievements as well.

The World Map

The two power-ups go unexplained, but the flying squirrel ability sounds similar to the Tanooki and Raccoon suits of Mario games past. The ballooning baby yoshi may be reminiscent of the varied yoshi types of Super Mario World or the fruit eating Yoshi did in Galaxy 2.

Again suggesting a serious attention to graphical detail, the same jagged rock formation that was visible in-level can also be seen on the world map. I’m reminded of the way Super Mario World took cues from its detailed world map and applied those aspects in-level.

Piranha Plants and Mushroom Houses are shown on the map, indicating a return of both special item levels and enemy based mini-games.

Perhaps most exciting of all, the map looks like it branches with a complexity not seen since Super Mario World, giving players a sense of world exploration missing from Mario’s games since.

Everything we know about New Super Mario Bros. Wii U