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The first player can finally play as someone other than Mario.
The announcement of the possibility of more characters, a power up selection that rivals Super Mario Bros. 3 (which means the game may have at least 8 different power-ups), and the option of making co-op players intangible to one another. However, the extra characters and intangible feature did not make it into the game.
Time Attack mode finally makes its official game debut in the Mario series!
The world map, akin to Super Mario World (sort of), is now shared between all worlds. In other words, every world map is stuck to the next one and shares the same screen. Sure, it feels a bit "forced", as the whole thing now looks similar to a patchwork, but still, it's a very nice touch indeed.
The "Boost Rush" mode. Every level is now a Fixed Scrolling Level, and it speeds up as you collect coins. Levels will get very crazy this time.
The confirmation of this game coming out at launch, making it the first major Mario launch title since Super Mario 64.
All of the Koopalings now have wildly different fighting styles, which pleases people considering that their battles in the last two games were both easy and similar. For example, Iggy's battle has him running on the ceiling and summoning lava monsters.