Super Mario Maker — 1Q2016 issue

 

A mas­ter­piece in the making

Super Mario Maker is the Mario game that isn’t quite the stan­dard Mario fare but is the game you didn’t know you needed. It is, along­side few oth­ers, the killer app for the Wii U.
Let’s start with what Mario Maker isn’t. This isn’t your reg­u­lar Mario hop and bop, save the princess adven­ture. In fact, lit­tle story if any exists and Peach is barely men­tioned or ref­er­enced. This is Mario stripped down to his bare ele­ments, show­ing how his adven­tures come together. It’s also really an excuse to revisit Mario’s past and get some of the newer enthu­si­asts up to speed, just in time for Mario’s 30th birth­day.
The stage is set by uti­liz­ing some of Mario’s great­est games. Mak­ing an appear­ance are ele­ments from the orig­i­nal plat­form­ing mas­ter­pieces Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3. Join­ing those are sec­ondary great­est hit Super Mario World and the more recent hit New Super Mario Bros. U. All four games rep­re­sent some crown­ing achieve­ment for the every­day plumber and thus have some merit for mak­ing you revisit these set pieces to cre­ate your own mas­ter­piece.
Cre­at­ing that mas­ter­piece is sim­ple and intu­itive. The level edi­tor focuses on lev­els, not worlds, and wisely makes the process quick and pain­less. Want to make a level with 10 Bowsers under­wa­ter only to face off against a lone Ham­mer Bros. before the end gate in Super Mario world style and graph­ics? That’s easy. But this is also where the only gripe that I have with the game rears its head. While you may want to make that stun­ning gaunt­let of pain imme­di­ately, you’re lim­ited because of the game’s unlock­ing sys­tem. Game styles beyond the initial two and ulti­mately the major­ity of your cre­ation library are unlocked via a time sys­tem that goes by days. You can speed it up, but it’s intended to make you the cre­ator spend sev­eral days try­ing out the sys­tem and get­ting a feel for new ele­ments in a paced envi­ron­ment. I can appre­ci­ate the sense of not want­ing too many ele­ments all at once, but the sys­tem is a lit­tle slow and frus­trat­ing when I have a mil­lion ideas that I can’t fully imple­ment for sev­eral days ini­tially.
Mario Maker looks fan­tas­tic for the most part. The non-level edi­tor graph­ics look great and are crisp. The game runs off the Wii U graph­i­cal power so while your newer game styles and non-editor graph­ics look good on the Wii U gamepad and on the TV, your older graph­ics for most of the styles are going to look a lit­tle bad at 1080p res­o­lu­tion on a newer TV. Nin­tendo took a risk in not jazz­ing up the older game styles and it paid off, quite hon­estly. I’d rather play a SMB3 level in the way that it would have looked on the orig­i­nal NES than a fixed ver­sion that’s been changed.
In addi­tion to the graph­ics, the sound­track is a mix of new and old. The main themes asso­ci­ated with each game style and level type (Ground, Under­wa­ter, Under­ground, Cas­tle, Air­ship and Ghost House) are remixed for use dur­ing the edit­ing process. They are found, though, in their orig­i­nal form when an actual level is played. The remixes are great and bring some­thing new to the table, while using the orig­i­nal ver­sion does a lot for immer­sion. The game’s illu­sions to spir­i­tual pre­de­ces­sor Mario Paint don’t hurt, either. It, too, had a unique sound­track and hear­ken­ing back to that era of cre­ativ­ity in sev­eral places such as the sound­track is a  wel­come inclu­sion.
What I love most about Mario Maker is its sense of Mario love. It’s not afraid to let the gamer take con­trol and it’s also about Nin­tendo let­ting folks in to see the wheels turn behind one of its most iconic fran­chises. Nin­tendo clearly loves Mario, whether it’s from a mon­e­ti­za­tion point of tak­ing its inter­nal level edi­tor and turn­ing it loose on the pop­u­la­tion, or from the stand­point that Mario is Nin­tendo and he’s been given the royal treat­ment for a job well done for the past 30 years. Super Mario Maker is the company’s love let­ter to Mario fans and well done let­ter at that.

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