The 2D Platformer is a genre that is iconic to many. It requires you to have fast reflexes and tight control over your character but it needs quality level design to unlock the full potential for gameplay. The 2D Super Mario games have done this for decades, starting with Super Mario Brothers on the Nintendo Entertainment System and continued with games like Super Mario Brothers 3 on the NES and Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo’s launch.
While 2D Mario came back in 2005 with New Super Mario Brothers many had one question; ‘What if I can make my own Mario levels…….’ and that is a good question. With the tight and quality gameplay that Nintendo has perfected over the years, how would it react to levels that the player constructs?
Super Mario Maker answers this question and after a successful release on the Nintendo Wii U, the game leaps on to the Nintendo 3DS with it’s own version of Super Mario Maker. Does it’s new portable home help the game become an even stronger experience? Or does it suffer from being on the 3DS?
The Gameplay & Design
Super Mario Maker on 3DS is a bit different than the Wii U version in one key area; the structure of the core game. While you are introduced to the level creation aspect right at the moment you boot the game up, you also notice that you are missing many tools for level creation. The game then leads you to a mode called ‘Super Mario Challenge’, the main campaign of the game.
Here, you play over 100 levels Nintendo themselves constructed slowing introducing different game themes (Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 3, Mario World, New Super Mario Brothers) and creation tools you can utilize in the level creation mode. They are really well designed, as they are quite creative. One moment you will be running through a slight re-creation of a classic 2D Mario level while the next you will be using a special helmet to deflect hammers and bullet bills coming your way.
As you complete the 16 Worlds (with four-six levels in each one) , you unlock creation tools for the levels, which differs from the Wii U. I felt this was a nice incentive for fully playing through the game, as it presents a sense of structure for the entire game. You even get a little charming story where you have Mary O. and Yamamura teach you about level creation, talking at the start and conclusion of each world.
But the meat and potato’s of Mario Maker is making your own levels and playing ones others have made. Making your own levels might seem difficult, but the tools Nintendo gives you is simple to access. You have a drop-down menu you can tap on the top of the touch screen and can select different objects to use like Koopa’s or ? Blocks. Each object almost always has a second function if you shake it before placing it (Green Koopa’s turn red for example).
Other objects can be combined as well; you can place coins in cannons or attach wings on Goomba’s so they can fly. You can even make a giant Bowser and stack tons of objects on top of him to make a really powerful foe to fight! The level creation tools on display here are massive and while it may take sometime making your dream level, it is fun making levels. I was grinning playing through my own levels produced; making my own Mario levels was a personal dream for a long time.
However, this has a few issues. One being that you have a small screen to work with in making levels and while it is manageable, it makes level creation a longer experience to undertake compared to the Wii U version (considering the Wii U’s large GamePad Screen).
Sadly, the amiibo costumes that you can use through the Mystery Mushroom are completely scrapped in the 3DS version (despite the fact the 3DS supports the amiibos). It also removes a motivation to play through the 100 Mario Challenge; in the Wii U version, you unlocked special costumes that Mario can don through the Mystery Mushroom. Without that unlock incentive, it makes the mode feel less ‘special’ in some ways. But it still fun to test your Mario skills through that mode despite this omission.
Another issue comes in the form of sharing levels, as it is very limited in the 3DS version. You can share them on StreetPass and even save levels you found online but here is the thing; you cannot upload you own levels into the Mario Maker server and search for levels people have made. You are limited to playing levels Nintendo has listed under ‘Recommended Levels’ and filter it through different difficulties. Still, you are playing enjoyable levels, but is more limited compared to how you can search for levels on the Wii U version.
So while the core gameplay of Mario Mario 3DS is very strong and the level creation tool is a lot of fun to utilize, the features surrounding those elements while fun, feel more lacking in the 3DS version.
The Lasting Appeal
To say Mario Maker is a game with endless content isn’t an understatement, as you have a lot of content to play. The Super Mario Challenge has two metals to for each of it’s 100 levels, so while completing the levels is a challenge of it’s self, you will be playing them again and again to get the two metals for each level.
Another incentive is the player created levels, as you can access a lot of levels, including many of the ones created from the Wii U version. While the amiibo-themed courses are not compatible with the 3DS version due to the removal of the Mystery Mushroom, many work and play wonderfully on the 3DS.
Overall, you have plenty to keep you busy on your quest to play, create and share Mario levels.
Mario has a timeless look, as the 8-Bit and 16-Bit styles look really nice on lower resolution screens. So when I say the 3DS version of Mario Maker still looks quite nice, it makes a lot of sense, considering the 240P resolution of the system’s top screen. The 8 and 16 bit themes pop off the screen, with the sprites and pixels looking detailed, colorful and polished. The New Super Mario Brothers theme looks nice as well, ensuring that visually, the gameplay of Mario Maker is nice to look at.
Menus are clean and have a lot of personality with their design; when you boot up the game, every day a little animation happens which is quite charming. This animation differs every time you boot up the game and I looked forward to seeing the animations every time I booted the game everyday.
Music is classic Mario, with every sound and effect mirroring the origin games each of the four themes are based off of. The remixes of Mario themes in the creation mode sound great as well, making the original score of Mario Maker stand among the other Mario titles.
The presentation of Mario Maker 3DS is a quality effort in replicating the Wii U game on the 3DS, matching the quality presentation of past Mario titles.
Overall Score: 4 out of 5
Super Mario Maker for the Nintendo 3DS is a charming game that has a lot of heart. Supported with strong core gameplay of Mario Classics built over the years, you have a fun tools to produce fun levels. While the creation and sharing aspect of the game hindered by some removed features from the Wii U version, the overall package is one loaded with content and can offer endless replay value. It is not as feature rich as the Wii U version, but Mario Maker 3DS is still a very enjoyable addition to the 3DS library.
This game was played on a Nintendo 2DS using a review copy provided by Nintendo of America