Nintendo started to change. That much is certain by now. Or what’s certain is the desire to change on their part. The fans certainly don’t care if those few years with the company finances in the red were the reason for that. What does matter is that the company with the most close-guarded franchises in the industry had finally started opening up and Super Mario Maker is one of the best examples of that. Nintendo has offered their most sacred possession, the 2D Mario, to everyone to do as they please.
There’s one thing I have to preface this with – I never liked building levels. And generally other stuff in video games. I always preferred to leave that bit to the professionals, while I enjoyed the imagination and creativity of those people that are much more creative than I am. Which brings us back on point – Super Mario Maker hit the bull’s eye, even for me! It’s a game in which I found infinitely fun things to do after only a couple of minutes. And when that became a couple of hours, I had that same smile on my face that I had only when Nintendo games were involved. The sort of gaming delight and joy that only the genius designers from Nintendo could ever elicit from me. Except that this time around I experienced it thanks to “average gamers” from the internet, or, to make the matter even more impressive, even from something I made by myself in game. So, if there’s only one thing to take away from this, that would be the one. Super Mario Maker is an extremely fun game, even if building levels was never your cup of tea.
And how did Nintendo manage to accomplish this? The real answer is probably – because they’re Nintendo! If the answer was any clearer, everybody would be making great games that follow a familiar formula. Not to argue what makes a game good or bad, let’s move on and get introduced to some details about Super Mario Maker.
The game could be roughly split into two segments – the one where you play, and the one where you build. If you’re still adamant about not building any levels, the 10 Mario Challenge mode challenges you to successfully finish six randomly selected levels created by Nintendo developers with 10 lives. These levels are a fair bit shorter than standard Mario levels and include all four “eras” that the game covers (Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. U) and are pretty fun to play. Crossing from one era to the next in such short intervals is entertaining in itself, as each brings it’s own visual style and it’s own specific gameplay mechanic. By playing through these levels you’ll also get a better idea of what you could possibly create when you decide to build your own.
And then, on the gameplay side of things, we get to the user-created content – that even now, since the game’s release, is an endless source of entertainment. It’s simply astounding how many excellent levels were created in such a short time. Not to mention that it’s all very well sorted, so finding the most interesting levels is extremely simple. Nintendo has created a sort of a social network inside Mario Maker, so everything that you would come to expect these days is present – commenting, a content rating system, and following favorite creators. There is also a fully functional ‘Search’ system, as well as a ‘Featured’ section which has a ton of interesting content on offer. You can preview each level before playing, and one of the neat features that were implemented is that if you wish to upload a level, you’ll need to play through and finish it yourself first, to prove that it’s doable. And just like you would imagine, this is something that will inevitably tug on the people’s competitive side – “this level is so hard, that I’m the only person in the world that finished it”. It seems that these sadistic levels were at the forefront of those created by the players, but that doesn’t spoil the fun, unless you allow it to. There’s a lot more to Mario Maker than that, so they can never overshadow the many excellent levels of normal difficulty. For example, the 100 Mario Challenge is an interesting mode that’s linked to user-created levels. You get 100 lives and have to face a huge amount of randomly selected levels. You can even set the wanted difficulty, and if you really don’t like a level, there’s the option to skip it at the cost of one life. This way, Mario Maker has created a full 2D Mario game that’s different each time and often super fun to boot!
We’ll devote the least space to the level editor itself. Yes, it’s genius. Yes, building the levels using the Wii U gamepad is finally a good use for the controller. Yes, the possibilities are nearly endless. And yes, there’s a ton of secrets and easter eggs. Even the tutorials, which are mostly in written form, are very well worded. But all of these functions of the level editor are firstly dependant on your own creativity and that will be the point of contention if you’re good at it or not. There are a few tidbits to highlight, however. It’s amazing how well the music is incorporated into the level editor. It’s simply fantastic. The game plays “your tune” the whole time, and almost every move you make is accompanied with a melody and when it all comes together it actually sounds good. Genius! Another thing that we liked is that every level you play you can also download and tinker with for yourself. This opens up even more amazing possibilities. This part is too hard for me – maybe I could move these spikes to be a bit lower… Did Nintendo just about manage to make the game testing process fun?
If we really have to nitpick, we could say that even though the possibilities are almost endless, there is still that “almost” part, meaning that some things that we’ve seen in 2D Mario platform games still can’t be recreated. But trust us, the things that you can create presents you with a plethora of possibilities. Also, we have to remark that we were a bit disappointed that the Amiibo figurines allow you to bring only their 8-bit versions into the game. Although they are some of the most entertaining “skins” that we’ve seen in a video game, we would have liked to see them implemented for the other 3 eras too, especially the New Super Mario Bros U era. On the other hand, additional skins can at least be unlocked even without the Amiibo figurines, by playing the 100 Mario Challenge mode, which is praiseworthy.
With Super Mario Maker, Nintendo has given something precious to the players, something that has been exclusively theirs up until now. Does this mean an end to 2D Mario games that they will publish? What would be the next logical step for 2D Mario series, when we just got everything we would want? We are very interested to find out how will Nintendo tackle these questions in the future. But what matters now and bears repeating once again – Super Mario Maker is the best level editor that we have ever had the opportunity to try out. It’s so much more than a level editor, and even if you’re not at all interested in building any levels and you’re a Mario fan, this is a game that you absolutely need in your collection. And the best of all is that as the time goes by, Mario Maker can be only better and better. How many games can boast the same?
Author: Filip Nikolić