I have been really excited for Super Mario Maker since the Nintendo World Championships took place a few months ago. That event single-handedly raised my expectations for the game, as it showed the possibilities that it could open up. Did it live up to those expectations?
Let’s cut right to the chase; this is a fantastic level editor for those of us that have always dreamed of being the next Mario level making prodigies since 1985 and beyond. Many people have played a Mario game before, which makes it easier to immediately hop into designing courses, as a game with a more foreign engine takes more time to get accustomed to (for example, Little Big Planet).
It feels right, but that’s expected from Nintendo – even though the physics seem like they are lifted from New Super Mario Bros. U, the feel is tighter and lends more to how you’d expect Mario to feel. This extends to the entirety of the ‘gameplay’ segments – it’s what you expect of the pudgy plumber, with power-ups, gimmicks that rapidly come and go from stage to stage, and the adversaries that would be faced.
This game would end up feeling stale and a cash grab if that was the whole game, but that’s only half of the experience. The other half is the section where you are placed in the driving seat, given the keys, and told to go wild. The creation tools are quite intuitive, so to simply call them ‘good’ would be a disservice, plain as that. That’s due to the sheer amount of possible combinations. What happens if I give a Hammer Bro. a Mushroom? What about a Bowser with wings? Your thirst for answers can be quenched with all of the tools at your disposal.
However, you cannot do everything from the get-go, as there is a system in place that slowly trickles out elements every twenty minutes or so to throw into your creations. Many levelled criticism on this limitation, but I am a big fan of it, as it allows you to slowly get to know every feature before the next batch arrives.
The style of Super Mario Maker is unmatched by any other Mario game thus far. The user interface is sleek and possesses a modern sensibility, which is shown off the most by the level creation screen, which is littered with deliberately placed options to keep you rolling, but once you booted yourself into the game, the graphics carefully extracted from Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U look vibrant, clean, and get the job done.
The music is probably my favourite part of the package. While you are in the level creation tool, your level theme has a beautiful remix that has been composed by the main composers Koji Kondo, Naoto Kubo, and Asuka Hayazaki. It’s such a shame that these tracks can’t be imported into your actual levels, as they are more atmospheric and feel like a breath of fresh air.
On the contrary, however, the sharing component is where this deliberate balancing act slightly breaks apart. For one, you have to search by using codes, which is complete nonsense. These codes were also a problem for Mario Kart 8‘s tournaments, so why was a proper search function (using the alien concept of words) not coded in?
My second issue is my biggest issue with the online component – the algorithm for your stages to get noticed is stacked against the smaller makers from the start. You see, the online section is split into three sub-sections: 100 Mario Challenge, Courses, and Makers. For the latter two, they are both automatically set to the popular courses, so they don’t give common users any chance at all.
100 Mario Challenge is even worse. You see, it is an adaptation of 10 Mario Challenge (an offline mode with about seventy bite-sized stages to tackle), but the difficulty is ridiculously out of whack. There are three difficulties, but they may as well not even matter, as your choice is either automatic stages where you press nothing, or sub-Kaizo Mario World. It is beyond ridiculous that the balancing practically does not exist.
Apart from these gripes, though, Super Mario Maker is a must-own for every Wii U owner. Nintendo has given us a level-creation tool that we never would have thought existed thirty five years ago. It’s fantastic, and it’s one of the best first-party games out there in the eighth generation of consoles. It may lack Little Big Planet‘s depth, but it makes up for it in focus. Now, here’s to thirty more years spent not plumbing!