The following comments come from Super Mario 3D Land director Koichi Hayashida:

On why Mario can not fly.

“If we had tried to simply mimic the exact same use of the tanooki suit as in the previous games, you might have been able to do some things that didn’t make it into the final product. But we were approaching it from a functional sense, not simply including the exact same elements that have been used in previous games.

That isn’t to say we didn’t try it out! Of course we tried letting players fly around a little bit, but we realized very quickly that it wasn’t going to work out too well. We would fly around in debug mode and see all sorts of things that we would have had to change if we were going to let you fly in the game. It’s sort of like a movie set — as soon as the camera gets too high and goes over the set, you see the other side of the backdrop and things can get a little strange… which requires us to spend too much time managing what the player can see from any angle.

There was always a discussion of whether or not flight was necessary from a game design perspective. So, that led us to — for example — a slight modification, which was the white tanooki Mario which powers him up and makes him invincible; you get it from an assist block, and it’s meant to ease the game once people have had a certain number of game overs. But it’s lowering the difficulty in an interesting way — rather than just flying over the game field and not having to worry about enemies or platforming, you don’t have to worry about enemies because you’re not taking damage from them. That allows you to practice your platforming. We felt like that was the right decision, because it eased the game in the correct way while still giving the player a chance to have some interaction with the course.”

On the lack of Kuribo’s Shoe.

“Kuribo’s Shoe is something that we talked about, actually, and it’s really a big favorite within the team — so much so that they even wanted to incorporate the use of that power-up in Galaxy! But, we didn’t use it then for the same reason: We have ask ourselves, how does it link to new gameplay? We didn’t really see an idea that would allow us to use Kuribo’s Shoe effectively. We always have to flip that conversation backwards a bit — we have to find some kind of new gameplay experience or expression first and then, if it matches what the shoe does, we can use it.

I confess, we didn’t have any specific proposals from either myself or other team members for something along those lines. But I have to say, if someone were to bring it up now. .It’s something we could probably work on and create some interesting gameplay around. For example, when you’re crouching and walking into a tunnel along one of those large white blocks, what if as you’re going through the tunnel you suddenly fell below to a new hidden area and did unexpected things there? I feel like there are all sorts of moments of inspiration where we could do something cool like that.”

On not being able to drop behind white boxes.

“You know, if we had seen people doing that as we monitored play-testing, we probably would have thought to ourselves, ‘Oh, wow, people are trying to do that! We have to create some kind of effect or experience there!’ That’s the sort of game of catch you play with early development and play-testing.”