Nintendo is celebrating 30 years of Super Mario with Super Mario Maker for the Wii U. A surprise announcement at Nintendo’s stellar 2014 E3 Direct is now their biggest title launching in 2015. Is this creation tool worthy of 30 years of our mustachioed plumber? Let’s-a find out!
Super Mario Maker, at it’s core, is a level creator for Mario’s greatest 2D adventures. Player’s are able to pick and place objects, coins, enemies, platforms and more to create the Mario level of their dreams. It’s a simple concept but the possibilities are nearly endless. On the main menu you can choose to Play or Make. As the game is called Mario Maker, I decided to jump into the Make mode first.
Make Mode, being the most advertised and promoted feature of Super Mario Maker, is one of the sole reasons I was eager to pick it up. Being very much fascinated in Level Design, it seemed like a perfect game for me to sink my teeth into. Upon starting the game mode up, Super Mario Maker trickles content to the player every day. I had to skip in time on my Wii U 9 days to unlock everything which was a bit of an annoyance. Each day I would unlock a new “Set” of items to play with. While it sounds like a good idea in theory, it prohibited my enjoyment of the game right off the bat.
Once I was able to get everything unlocked was when Super Mario Maker really took off. The interface is clean and well designed, allowing for ease of access and has a fast and fluid design. Pick your Game Theme, pick your object from a massive list of over 50 and create. It’s simple yet complicated all at the same time and it just works so well, as you would assume a Nintendo game would.
Once you get accustomed to the layout and how to work the editor it’s a breeze to make and play your own levels. The fluidity of dropping in platforms, enemies, coins and other objects, hitting play, testing the level and then fixing anything that broke is remarkable. In a game like Super Mario Maker, it’s a necessity and Nintendo nailed it.
Super Mario Maker also has the best application of the Wii U GamePad from Nintendo since the system launched back in 2012. Not only is it necessary for the core mechanics of the game but it’s also the preferred mode of control and in my opinion couldn’t be done on any other console. Grabbing objects from the drop down menu and placing them on the Wii U GamePad feels great and works incredibly well.
The small ways Super Mario Maker twists the way you can create and play makes it a very potent tool for all types of players. By shaking many of the objects available to players, they can change is various ways. For example, placing down Bowser will have the Koopa King try and take you out but shaking him in the editor turns him into Bowser Jr. equipped with different attacks. Adding Wings or putting them in a Clown Copter changes it up even further, elevating levels from generic to fantastical. The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating levels from your standard Super Mario platforming level to Shoot ‘Em Up levels and everything in between.
The visuals in Super Mario Maker are par for the course. While almost all of the assets are reused from previous Mario titles, it’s all very nostalgic and the shadow effect on all of the sprites are a nice touch as well. One of the coolest graphical things Super Mario Maker does (aside from all the sweet Mario Paint references) is creating new sprites for newer objects or enemies. For example, Bowser Jr. didn’t make his 2D debut until the New Super Mario Bros. franchise and wasn’t around for the classics of the 80’s and 90’s. Nintendo lovingly recreated him for each of the visual styles which was interesting to see what could have been. Same thing goes for many other enemies and objects and it’s a nice touch and at least a little bit of new content.
The change in game styles is not only for a different visual aesthetic but also allows for different gameplay mechanics. Super Mario Maker gives you 4 options to choose from: Super Mario Bros. Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. U. In Super Mario World, Mario can do the spin jump, allowing him to cross dangerous terrain or break certain blocks. This move didn’t exist in the two previous installments. Same thing goes for New Super Mario Bros. U, which gave Mario the ability to wall jump. Having different gameplay mechanics that separate each game is a great touch that allows gamers to put that much more originality in their designs.
Unfortunately, Super Mario Maker’s greatest strength is also a bit of a weakness. Offering players to use their imaginations and create can lead to artificial limitations. For example, I wanted to create a level with complete darkness that you use your Fire Flower power to light the way but I couldn’t. That lead me to seeing what else wasn’t included in Super Mario Maker. Where’s the different level themes like a Jungle or Desert? Where are the Koopa Kids, who would offer more varied boss battles? Where’s the ability to change the music in my level? Do these things take away from Super Mario Maker? Not really. While just nitpicks, I would like to see some of these things addressed in the future DLC that’s planned.
Super Mario Maker isn’t just about making levels but also playing them as well. The game comes with a variety of levels created by Treehouse members and Nintendo staff. There’s also the endless amount of created content online from other Makers. This is where Super Mario Maker’s longevity shines. With creating your own levels and being able to play other user created levels, the replayability is through the roof. The online component is an impressive feat for Nintendo. While not perfect, the online features Super Mario Maker boast are good for anyone looking for something new to try out or just to upload your level for the world to see.
Creating a level, while time consuming if you want it to be just right, is pretty simple. It’s also simple to upload, just beat your level. This is an easy way to try and prevent “troll” levels from being uploaded willy nilly and I think it works well. Once uploaded, Super Mario Maker keeps you updated in real time of who plays your levels, who “Stars” them and if someone new follows you. You can also track comments on your level and how many people have died and where. It’s really quite in depth and something I didn’t expect. The Miiverse integration is well done and more of a positive addition than an annoyance here.
One area where Super Mario Maker shines in content is the amiibo support is has. Scan any of your amiibo, Super Mario or otherwise, and you get a costume you can use for the original Super Mario Bros. Level Theme. It’s great because it not only gives people who have amiibo something to use them for but it can also be unlocked by playing the single player content for Super Mario Maker for those who don’t own a specific amiibo or any. Let me tell you, there was something surreal but amazing about seeing Sonic The Hedgehog rolling around in the classic Super Mario 8-bit level motif.
Super Mario Maker is an odd product. While more of a level editor than a game, I clocked in hours of creating, tweaking and uploading levels so much so I lost track of time into the wee hours of the morning. While it doesn’t have the power to rope you into a massive world with a great story like Skyrim or having you saying “just one more match” like Splatoon, Super Mario Maker has a way of absorbing the player in creating wacky or challenging levels. While there are some missed opportunities, Super Mario Maker is great at what it does in allowing fans to create their own Super Mario adventures. Thirty years ago, Nintendo created something magical with Super Mario Bros. and now they’re letting you create some of that same magic for years to come.
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