Sep 18th, 2015

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Super Mario Maker is a game that should have been released with the Wii U when it debuted in 2012, instead of 2015. The game perfectly showcases everything the Wii U GamePad is capable of doing and more, and yet certain aspects of the game still leave room for improvement on Nintendo’s side of things. What is essentially a Shigeru Miyamoto simulator is one of the best Wii U titles released since the console debuted.

Overview

I’m not entirely sure how Nintendo plans to create 2D Mario games from here on out, now that this powerful creation tool has been placed in the hands of players. Some of the levels I encountered have been devious, while others are little more than a visual ride for the player to entertain how creative the level designer could be.

Super Mario Maker doesn’t feel like a fully encompassing Mario game simply because there are missing elements from some of the earlier games that will likely appear as DLC, considering Nintendo’s track record. Despite that, it’s still one of the best experiences available for Wii U right now, especially if you want to scratch your creative itch.

Gameplay

Upon first glance when you boot up Super Mario Maker, the creation tools are rather limited. Originally Nintendo planned for players to unlock a series of new tools over the course of nine days, but after much feedback from early previews, a patch was issued to the game that makes it so you can begin unlocking things based on the number of blocks you place.

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The system isn’t that intuitive, so if you’re building levels that don’t require a large amount of blocks being placed, it’ll take you a while to unlock everything. Conversely, if you go crazy with dropping blocks in a level, even if you don’t save it you’ll get your shipments much quicker. This system is much preferred to the 24 hour unlock period, but Nintendo could do a better job explaining how to unlock things quicker for those who want to get right into building.

Graphics & Audio

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the audio remixes of classic Super Mario Bros. tunes that play while you’re building your courses. These remixed tunes sound modern with a hint of retro and every single stage and skin has a new tune for your ears. Perhaps the best of these is the Super Mario World Ghost House theme, but they’re all pretty great.

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The four default visual styles included in the base game encompass four generation-straddling games, including Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES, Super Mario World on the SNES, and New Super Mario Bros. U from the Wii/Wii U. These are all iconic styles, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nintendo adding new palette themes from Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. All-Stars, or even a dot-matrix style from the original GameBoy as DLC.

Online Aspects

The biggest draw to Super Mario Maker is the community surrounding the game. Through the 100 Maro Challenge with settings for Easy, Normal, and Expert, you’ll encounter a huge variety of user-created levels, with the ability to follow any creators whose levels you really enjoyed.

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The ability to star and comment on levels via Miiverse can provide valuable feedback to creators and it does an amazing job of highlighting the social aspect of the game. Once again I can’t help but feel had this game been released in 2012, the usefulness of Miiverse as a community would have been brilliantly illustrated. The stars you get for creating good levels that the community enjoys also provides incentive to create meaningful levels that are enjoyable to play.

The biggest downside to the online functionality is how hard Nintendo makes it to find levels created by your friends. Instead of having a section in the Course World dedicated to showcasing levels people on your friends list have made, you must instead ask them for a Course ID and then follow them as creators in order to see their levels.

Course IDs are a novel way for sharing specific levels online, but you shouldn’t have to ask your friends for a long string of numbers and letters just to play one of their levels. This is reminiscent of the frustrating friend codes that plagued Nintendo handhelds and consoles before Nintendo Network.

Amiibo integration

Since Nintendo has debuted its toys-to-life concept, the integration of its various games has been unrivaled. Super Mario Maker is no different, as nearly all the amiibo released so far will unlock costumes for use with the Mystery Mushroom available in the classic Super Mario Bros. palette.

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The only amiibo that unlocks something unique in the game is the 30th anniversary Mario amiibo, either classic or modern colors. When you touch this amiibo to the Wii U GamePad, you’ll unlock a Big Mushroom power-up that you can place anywhere inside of your course.

Unlike other companies who gate content behind their physical toys, you can unlock all 100 of the costumes in Super Mario Maker by doing the 100 Mario Challenge mode on any difficulty, so even if you don’t own any amiibo you can still take advantage of this fun feature. Kudos to Nintendo for not gating their content.

Conclusion

For Mario fans and those who love creating things in general, Super Mario Maker offers a great package. The robust creation tools will keep you busy with ideas and if you ever find yourself short on inspiration, you can play over 1 million community-created levels that have been uploaded so far. With Coursebot providing several bases for you to get started, even if you don’t want to create something from scratch there’s something for you in Super Mario Maker.

(Author’s Note: Want to play around with one of the courses I created during the course of this review? Check it out here: CB95-0000-0048-DCE6)

Pros

+ Provides unlimited replayability thanks to community creations
+ Creation tools are robust and easy to use
+ Amiibo integration isn’t required to unlock mystery mushroom costumes
+ The game rewards creativity by unlocking more upload slots based on stars you receive

Cons

– Finding levels from friends is tedious
– Some iconic Mario elements are missing

Final Score: 9/10

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