Super Mario Maker came out this weekend. Overall it is a fabulous game that finally makes the Wii U controller make sense. This should have been a launch title for the console. If it had been perhaps more people would have jumped on board. But the game is not without flaws. In many ways it is the best and worst of Nintendo.
The concept of easily designing and playing your own Mario level is so obvious that it’s amazing it took until now to have it. There are so many ways this could have gone wrong, but the designing and gameplay are top notch. The editing tools are powerful enough so as not to feel limited, but simple enough that you won’t spend most of your time fighting the tools to get what you want.
The ability to play levels others have created brings a high level of replay value to the game. Essentially there will always be new levels to play. And since the creator had to legitimately beat their own level to upload it, you know it is at least winnable, if sometimes brutally difficult.
The levels look great. The graphics are totally on par with a regular Nintendo Mario release, and the ability to switch between four different styles, including the HD New Super Mario series, should make everyone happy and nostalgic at the same time.
Having this many level designers means the quality of the gameplay can vary wildly. This is especially true in the 100 Mario Challenge. I had three levels in a row at one point that had no enemies. They were novelty levels that were interesting, but had little gameplay value in that particular circumstance.
Novelty levels, such as those that win themselves or mimic other games, seem to be dominating the top rated levels right now. It is a little frustrating to break through this noise and get your own levels noticed. The in level comment are highly annoying and really need moderation.
Right now finding levels through the online portal is difficult and a total crapshoot. There is a lot of room for improvement here.
Oh Nintendo, all these years later the internet still confounds you doesn’t it? Want to play one of your friend’s levels? Be ready to enter codes. Yes the 16 character codes are back again. Why Nintendo continues to think this is how people want to interact online is beyond me. It would be so easy to just use a Facebook login to share levels with friends. Or even the Nintendo Network ID, remember that? But no, we are basically back to the infamous friend codes. A decade after the other console makers solved the online problem, Nintendo continues to struggle.
If you have a Wii U you owe it to yourself to get this game. It’s fun, fresh, and makes that giant controller good for something. If you don’t have the console it’s a tougher sell. It’s hard to recommend the Wii U given the anemic library and the likelyhood that it will be replaced ahead of the normal console refresh cycle. And that is my last fear. What happens when the Wii U goes away? This is a major problem for games in the online era. In a few years when the server is shut down, a large chunk of the game goes away. Compare with the original Super Mario Bros which you can still pick up and play in full thirty years later.
I would love to see at least the levels carry forward to a subsequent game. Mario Maker has the potential to become a huge, lasting online community. Sadly though, I think Nintendo’s fear of the Internet will prevent this from happening. And that is a shame.