You’re one of the most creative video game companies in existence. You just saw a huge mega hit in 2015 with Super Mario Maker. Unfortunately, your console is about as popular as vegan cookies in a bake sale. What do you do?
Of course! You shrink it down and shove it on the 3DS!
Seriously, Super Mario Maker was the most important video game of 2015. Sure, we saw all kinds of big releases; everything from Metal Gear to Fallout saw a fancy new title, but nothing captured what it means to be a video game quite like Super Mario Maker. Super Mario Brothers is the lifeblood and ancestry of modern video games. Since the birth of the mustached plumber, people have drawn influence and ideas from those basic mechanics and attached them to their own creations. It’s safe to say, that not only did Super Mario Bros. (and by extension, the NES) save home gaming during a time when it was crashing and burning, but it’s inspired nearly every game designer and coder in the business today.
Super Mario Brothers is incredibly important to gaming, period. I’m not the only person who recognizes this. Nintendo’s golden IP has seen many releases since it’s single-planed, 2D platforming days. Today, polygons and full scale environments have become the norm; and yet, despite that, there is something alluring in the simplicity of Marios younger days. People have been pining for a follow up to the 2D era Super Mario games since New Super Mario Bros. on the DS. WiiU finally gave Nintendo the opportunity to not only put that type of game back in the hands of their beloved fans, but they gave us a full creative suite to design Mario creations and share them with the world!
For years now, the modding community have been creating Mario levels and distributing them online to make unique, often challenging, experiences. A while back, you probably remember seeing nifty videos of Super Mario World levels that are completed without pressing anything at all. You can thank modders for that nifty eye candy. Nintendo got the sense to snag that idea and make it accessible to quite literally anyone.
Super Mario Maker takes an easy to use “drag and drop” palette method to give you quick access to pretty much all of Super Mario’s iconic platforming contents. Goombas, Pipes, Yoshi, Mushrooms, Boo. Everything is here! In a time where gaming is more popular than ever, we get more games than we can wrap our brains around, it’s easy to overlook and make judgement on all the hard work and creativity that goes into these projects.
If you’ve played the WiiU version, this entry is pretty straight forward. For the most part, you’ll spend your time going between the two separate game modes: Make and Play. In ‘Make’, you’ll do just that, create your dream levels and share them with others (sort of…). In Play, you can run through your own creations or play through nearly 100 Nintendo curated courses (which are all fantastic) or play through the popular “100 Mario Challenge” which will grab levels from the WiiU version for you to tackle.
Pretty self explanatory, right? For a creative tool, Super Mario Maker 3DS couldn’t be any easier to pick up and start building.
After being dropped into a default level template, you get a series of familiar objects, enemies, and items from Super Mario Brothers’ history will be at your disposal. At any time, you have interchangeable between graphics pallets of the original NES Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario 3, Super Mario World, and the New Super Mario Brothers Series. This gives the illusion of four different games, but the physics of all four versions are identical. (By the way, that’s really frustrating when returning to each respective game’s original entry.)
While the ease of creation is present, level design sure isn’t easy to tackle, and it takes a true creative to make a masterpiece. Fortunately, this game has never felt more at home on portable consoles. There is something very zen-like in sitting on the train, creating a new challenge; or even being able to flip your 3DS open and make changes the moment an idea comes to mind. It’s so much more convenient to live on the handheld for creation.
Mario Maker 3DS isn’t without issue, though. Once you get beyond the novelty of being a portable Miyamoto, things start to go south when compared to the WiiU version. The most glaring obstacle being the lack of sharing options. While I noted before that the game is smart enough to pull from the WiiU version for the 100 Mario challenge, that’s about as smart as it gets.
The 3DS version of Super Mario Maker lacks nearly all of the level sharing functionality of the WiiU version. No Web access, no level codes, nothing. Instead, it relies on the assumption that other people will be playing in your proximity, and your levels will be shared via the console’s ‘StreetPass’ function. While a neat idea in theory, I’ve had the game for well over a month at this point and haven’t received a level yet. I never leave the house without my 3DS, I go to the Nintendo Store fairly often, where 3DS owners from the world over make pilgrimage, and still I’ve yet to see someone else give me a new stage to play. You can see how this is a frustrating problem. With the loss of the WiiU’s sharing options, you not only are forced to trudge through the piles and piles of crappy levels that are submitted every day. You’re unable to follow those rare genuine craftsmen who make gems on the regular. With that, the entire point of Super Mario Maker loses much of it’s appeal.
Another downside is that by design, Super Mario Maker 3DS doesn’t give you access to all of the game’s creative assets from the beginning. Instead, you need to play through Nintendo’s pre-made levels before the assets are given to you piecemeal. Don’t get me wrong, the Nintendo original levels are ALL fantastic, and justify the price tag all on their own. At the same time though, the WiiU version made you do almost the same exact thing. I get it, and I appreciate how Nintendo encourages players to experience what they’ve made. Problem is, they’re assuming that I haven’t already played the console version. I’m playing this game for creative output, just let me create, dammit!
Fianlly, the game just plain doesn’t look or perform as well as its WiiU counterpart. Looks I can understand; the WiiU has a higher resolution screen and a vastly higher performance ability than the 3DS. Still, the chugging frame performance really stands out and makes the overall experience far less enjoyable.
If you can get beyond those roadblocks, and believe me, the lack of sharing options is a BIG roadblock, this game is exactly what you would expect. A nearly full functioned level creator for one of the best series ever created. For 39.99, you could do a lot worse. If however, you’re a WiiU owner and missed out on that version. Take the high road and play it there instead.