Online: Downloadable content
"Here we GOOOOO!" It's hard to believe that Mario has been around 30+ years already. It's even harder to believe that in 2015 we are getting a new Mario title and it's something that has never been done with the character before. We have seen Mario; play tennis, drive karts, battle it out with other Nintendo characters, travel to far off galaxies, save Toad (… because the Princess is in another castle), even run his own hotel and much, much more. But this is the very first time Nintendo has allowed you to create your very own levels for Mario to play through. Super Mario Maker was announced at E3 2014 and it seemed destined to be a downloadable eShop game that we wouldn't have to wait very long for. Well it's almost a year and a half later and we finally get to play Super Mario Maker and let me tell you, it was worth the wait.
Back at E3 2014, the trailer for Mario Maker debuted (yes, it didn't have "Super" in the title at the time). The video showcased creation tools to help you make levels in the style of the original Super Mario Bros. for the NES and New Super Mario Bros. from the Wii. Based off of what I assume was fan response, the developers decided to add two additional creation styles: Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. With those additions, Nintendo is giving everyone the tools to make any kind of Mario level we would like from nearly every 2D Mario game ever made (technically Super Mario 2 shouldn't count anyway, since it was a re-skinned version of Doki Doki Panic).
There is a lot to get to with this game, so let's start with the creation suite. Once you start Super Mario Maker you're given a brief tutorial of how the creation suite works. There's not much of a learning curve involved in making a stage and Nintendo did a pretty incredible job making it super intuitive to create and immediately try out your stages. The first time you create a stage your options are somewhat limited and you don't yet have the option of creating stages from all 4 included game styles. The game starts you with New Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. and a limited amount of items to use inside the level. By playing with the beginning tools and putting some time in, the other tools and game styles will gradually unlock.
Prior to a day 1 patch, Nintendo had the additional creation tools unlock across a period of 9 days. So before the patch you would have to play with the current items for at least 5 minutes and use all of the current tools. Once you did that, you would receive a message stating that more tools will be delivered the following day. I assume this annoyed some people so Nintendo decided to update the game via patch. Now the same requirement is still in place but they also made it possible for you to receive the additional tools quicker. The longer you create and the more items you use in each stage will accelerate how quickly the tools are now unlocked as well. I actually like this tiered roll out of items because it helps you become comfortable with a bunch of items before giving you more to play around with. I would have preferred all of the game styles to be unlocked from the start, with the items still being rolled out over time. But I didn't think it was much of an annoyance waiting to unlock everything.
This is truly the first time in any creation game I have ever played that the term; "Let your imagination run wild" felt completely possible. Not only can you create standard Mario levels, like the ones you would expect from Nintendo themselves, but also some of the craziest, most challenging and unique levels I could possibly imagine. I don't even think I can explain some of the crazy creations that are possible in Super Mario Maker. I've played levels that have included; flying Koopa troopers holding Bullet Bill cannons that fire as they fly, a question block that had a Hammer Brother inside of it, flying fireball shooting Bowsers, Bullet Bills shooting Bloopers and even John Leguizamo as Luigi from the Super Mario Movie!… Ok so that last one isn't real, but I think you get my point. Your imagination is your only limitation when it comes to creating your dream Mario level. Once you're happy with your dream level you can also upload it to share with the world. The level must be beatable in order to be uploaded, but you would be surprised how frustrating you can make a level that is beatable.
Now for everyone's favorite Nintendo fad integration: amiibo! I have to say, this is my favorite amiibo utilization thus far. While in the creation tool, you can place an amiibo onto the gamepad and it will unlock a sprite of that character. These sprites are utilized with a new item called a mystery mushroom. If you are creating a level in the Super Mario Bros. style, you can now place these mystery mushrooms which will change Mario into one of these amiibo sprites or a bunch of other sprites also created for the game. I found myself trying to create a level for Link, of Zelda fame, because I own the Link amiibo and I thought it would be interesting to play as Link in the Mario universe (don't worry, no chickens were harmed in the creation of any levels). Each sprite also includes appropriate sound bites and some even have songs, which is an awesome touch. I think in the months to come will we see some great community created levels using these amiibo sprites. In case you are also wondering, you don't need to own all of the amiibos to unlock all of the sprites.
Sprites are also unlocked through the 100 Mario Challenge. In this mode you play through randomly selected community levels one after another. There are options for difficulty and if a level becomes too tough you can dismiss it, via a swipe of the GamePad screen, and start another. Each 100 Mario Challenge difficulty varies in the amount of levels you need to clear to beat it, and in the percentage of people that have beaten a given level. You have 100 lives to complete the circuit of levels, hence the name of the mode. While you can just search top downloaded levels or users, I found playing random levels of the 100 Mario Challenge to be a total blast and a different experience every play through. Now there definitely are some dud levels in there, but that is bound to happen when the playlist of levels is not curated by anyone. When you find a level that's awful you have a couple options: a) swipe it away and move onto another stage, or b) complete it and share a Miiverse comment about how bad it is. I generally choose option b.
If you would like to try out some Nintendo created levels there's one other mode available: 10 Mario Challenge. In this mode you must clear 8 levels created by the team at Nintendo and in case you haven't figured it out, you have 10 lives in order to do it. Some of these levels are remixes of previous games and some are new creations all together. These levels can also be used as templates for your own creations and can be edited freely. Nintendo did a remarkable job packing out this game with tools to create your own levels and over 60 pre-designed levels to mess around with. Then you start to look at the online created content and realize this is a game that won't be leaving your Wii U for quite some time. (Also due to the fact that games seem to come out every 2-3 months for the Wii U, but I don't want to diminish just how good Super Mario Maker is.)
Now I do have an extremely minor complaint. There currently isn't an option to place a checkpoint inside of any levels. Checkpoints have always been a staple in Mario games dating all the way back to the original Super Mario Bros. I hope this is something that Nintendo could still patch into the game at a later point, because playing a long stage can become even more challenging without the option of any form of checkpoint. Besides that one minor gripe, Super Mario Maker is one of the best titles the House of N has created in years. Fans of the world's most popular plumber will play and create for months to come. We have to wait a while for Mario titles, but they are definitely worth the wait… most of the time.