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For decades now, gamers have dreamt of crafting their very own original Super Mario Bros. stages, and, for just as long, Nintendo has jealously kept the tools needed to do that safely locked away in another castle. Of course, some particularly dedicated and/or technically adept creative types have torn apart ROMs or built their own faux Mario games from the ground up in order to realize their vision of the Mushroom Kingdom, but, for most Mario fans, making their own levels has always been just out of reach. Until now.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., Nintendo is finally giving up the keys to the kingdom with Super Mario Maker. A Mario level editor is a can’t-fail, “How have they not done this yet?” kind of project, but does Super Mario Maker live up to its super-sized promise? Is Nintendo really sharing all their toys, or are they still keeping the coolest stuff for themselves? Is this maker a faker? Let’s find out.
Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
Super Mario Maker is basically just a level editor with an online sharing component attached, so there’s even less storyline per Mario than usual. Nintendo does include 60-some pre-made sample stages, but they don’t really frame them in any particular way. Mario Maker is about creativity, not context, dammit.
Visually, Mario Maker does nothing to push the Wii U technically, but it’s certainly not a bad-looking game. In fact, one of the appeals of the game is how crisp, clean and razor-sharp Nintendo has managed to make classic NES and SNES Mario graphics look on modern HD TVs. There’s also a slick charm to the game’s menus and interface. Mario Maker has a certain low-level visual cool going for it.
The slightly insane beauty of Super Mario Maker.
Ultimately, though, it’s the game’s audio that really stands out. Of course, Mario Maker contains all the Mario themes you’d expect, but Nintendo has created interesting, strange and sometimes slightly creepy remixes of these classic tunes for when you’re editing your level. A strange robotic voice will “sing” the name of whatever object you’re putting down, and putting down a bunch of blocks/coins/whatever at once will create a little song. The game is packed with these kind of audio cues, and they really help liven up what could have been a slightly dry experience.
Super Mario Maker is a straightforward level editor. You place objects, elements and enemies, test your level out and then share it online. Not particularly cutting edge. That said, Nintendo does include a few unique touches. Shaking most objects on-screen with your stylus will cause them to change forms, and a lot of objects can be combined in ways you might not expect. Want to put a cannon that shoots fire-chucking hammer brothers on top of a bouncy spring? Go for it. Want to unleash a squad of giant, flying Bowsers? Why are you asking me? Go do it! So, there is plenty of fresh ideas to be found in the fine details, even if the overall picture isn’t exactly groundbreaking.