Developer: Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development
Available On: 3DS
Released: December 3, 2016
“The 3DS’ Swan Song?”
As someone who never owned a Wii U, Super Mario Maker was a game I’d written off as something I’d never play, though I knew I would be all over it if it ever came to the 3DS. Now that it has, I’ve discovered that Super Mario Maker is a fun game and the 3DS version is a competent port, though reduced sharing functionality from the Wii U version really hurts it in the long run.
What I was most excited for going in was the 100 Mario Challenge, though I have mixed feelings about its implementation. The 100 Mario Challenge tasks you with clearing a set number of randomly selected user-made levels with 100 lives. 100 lives might sound like a lot, but in practice, especially on harder difficulties, you’ll find yourself sacrificing a good number of them just trying to figure out what the creator was thinking.
It’s a great idea on paper, creating a structured but ever-changing challenge with theoretically limitless content. As it turns out though, most people are not professional game designers and most levels you’ll encounter are either insultingly easy or completely unfair. Designing a fun level in a game is a lot harder than it seems. It’s not just about finding a fun gimmick and it certainly isn’t about being as difficult as possible while still being technically beatable.
Additionally, most people aren’t very self-critical and will just upload a level as soon as its done. As a result, many levels are full of little flaws that were never ironed out and don’t have any signposting because the creator never tried to put themselves in the shoes of someone who doesn’t know exactly what to do.
Not to be too negative, there are some fantastic user-made levels to be found, but you’ll sometimes find yourself wading through slews of boring or flat-out bad ones to find them.
I would be remiss not to mention that the option does exist to skip levels and that you aren’t punished in any way for doing so, but it comes across as a half-measure. If players were able to rate user-made levels and the 100 Mario Challenge only selected levels from the top 50% or so, then Nintendo would have a system that naturally separates the wheat from the chaff and provide an overall better experience.
Anyone who jumps into the level editor or “Coursebot” right from the start will find only the most basic level assets available. To unlock more, you’ll have to play through the Super Mario Challenge, 18 worlds worth of levels that serve as a sort of campaign. Their inclusion is welcome, both for players who don’t plan on making many levels and also to show aspiring creators exactly how much can be done with the games level editor. The levels in Super Mario Challenge are great fun, with the benefit of being made by actual game designers, but from where I sit, withholding assets for the level editor until we beat all of them is a pretty big misstep.
The problem is that there are only two kinds of people who are going to buy this game, people who mostly just want to play a whole bunch of user-made Mario levels and people who mostly just want to make their own Mario levels. As someone who leans more toward the latter group, let me just say that some of us, Nintendo, have spent just about our whole lives playing Mario games and have a pretty good idea of what a decent Mario level looks like.
Such people might want to jump into the level editor right away with all of the tools unlocked from the start. Restricting level editing tools to the single player means that up to half of Super Mario Makers potential audience has to play through the part of the game they don’t care about to get at the part that they do. It would be like if progression in Call of Duty’s multiplayer was tied to its single player campaign. It might be the greatest campaign of all time, but if all I want to do is play online with my friends, then it’s going to feel like a slog no matter what.
Levels in Super Mario Maker come in 4 different themes, the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros U. Interestingly, enemies and objects from across the entire series now appear in every game. Lakitu, for example, was never in Super Mario Bros, but he is now. What doesn’t carry over though, is Mario himself, which is to say that you don’t have the same abilities in every theme.
Ultimately, it’s nice that the editor essentially includes four different sets of rules you can work with, though frequently switching between them during play can be jarring.
What’s more, while making a few levels of my own, I noticed that several assets from the two more recent games, Super Mario World and U, didn’t make it into Super Mario Maker.
Every asset that did make it into the game can be used across every theme, but each theme with the possible exception of Super Mario Bros. is missing at least a few features that differentiated it from the series’ other entries.
Speaking specifically as someone who played the hell out of Super Mario World as a kid, there are no football guys, no watermelon wedges, no pipe cannons, no Yoshi abilities……I could go on. I’m also reasonably sure that it would be impossible to create even the most basic Super Mario World level exactly as it was. This really disappointed me, because I was hoping to be able to play classic Mario levels lovingly recreated by fans of the series; even if, on the 3DS, sharing them would be a massive pain.
You see, on the 3DS you can only share levels locally with friends or by Streetpass, one level at a time. You can still download and play nearly every level created and uploaded on the Wii U, but if your plan was to contribute to the Super Mario Maker community in any significant way with your 3DS version of the game, you’re out of luck.
What’s worse, it’s clear that with a little more time, the game could have had full sharing functionality, but Super Mario Maker is a victim of circumstance. Not only did Nintendo have to get the game out in time for Christmas, but with the Nintendo Switch right around the corner, Nintendo had to get the high-profile 3DS games out of the way of its new console which, if successful, will likely supplant the 3DS as Nintendo’s primary handheld device.
At the end of the day, Super Mario Maker is a fun game and a welcome addition to the 3DS’ library. The classic platforming gameplay of the Super Mario series is intact and as enjoyable as it’s ever been. However, The decision to release the game without comparable sharing functionality to the Wii U version all but ensures that Super Mario Maker 3DS doesn’t have nearly the lasting impact that it’s counterpart does.
+ Classic Mario Gameplay
+ Many Fun User-Made Levels…
– …In A Sea Of Terrible Ones
– Crippled Sharing Functionality
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