Monday, October 5, 2015
SUPER MARIO MAKER Review
It doesn't take much to notice that the Mario series has been relatively quiet lately. The previous big game, 3D WORLD, came out two years ago. If that wasn't sad enough, 2014 broke the chain of an important game coming out yearly. Yes, we got Mario Kart 8 and...Captain Toad(?) but it was the first year in quite awhile not to feature the next 2D or 3D adventure. 2015 went vacant to the point I was starting to question if Nintendo was starting to run out of ideas or even go the Capcom or SEGA route...which is cease and desist for their mascot. Enter SUPER MARIO MAKER. This announcement was a complete surprise. At first the concept was just a little intriguing. "Create your own levels? That could be fun." was the mindset for many. As the months went on the hype level went extremely high as Nintendo really marketed it as the next big thing. By the time release day hit, it was one of the most hyped games of the year. Mario Maker is an amazing game, and really something we never knew how much we wanted. As a 30th anniversary celebrator, it's perfect.
One of the early criticisms was that everyone would have to wait 9 days to fully unlock all the features, backgrounds, etc. (Some have been able to bypass that, but for the review we'll talk about how it's meant to go down.) I too thought it was at first silly to have to wait, but as I went through the days I actually started to appreciate this. Mario Maker's stage building ability is not complex like Little Big Planet's, but you'll want to experiment slowly to fully appreciate each individual feature. For example, we don't have access to pipe sub-worlds until the final day, which might sound tedious on paper. But during those eight days the player would have mastered all the other features and they could prepare for the pipes because they know it's coming.
Once you have everything, the sky is almost the limit on what one can do. There are over 1,000,000 levels uploaded online. Some are fun, some are excruciating, and some are both. It's amazing what can be done because one can literally almost create their own game with these tools. Of course, while creating levels represents 50% of the draw, the other half is of course playing other creators' levels. A person can literally sit for hours just going through other creations. Plus, for a more standard way to do it we have the 100 Mario challenge. It's a great feature to play other levels in a systematic way. Expert mode is actually extremely difficult and I would say even more challenging than The Lost Levels!
The usage of Amiibos in this game might just be the most innovative. If you for example put a Pac-Man Amiibo the Gamepad, you can summon the chomper himself. You put him as a Mystery Mushroom and when you or someone grabs it, they instantly transform into Pac. It's a really neat gimmick since there are lots of characters whom can appear. (Even those without a 2D sprite, such as Olimar!) It's also fantastic how Nintendo added the little touches and didn't just make the Amiibos palette swaps of Mario. For example, when running as Sonic he does Spin-Dash, and with Pac he goes into his classic arcade self. It's a shame these only work in the 8-bit gameplay, but it's understandable.
One of the most interesting things about Mario Maker is its ability to play with backgrounds not seen in respective games. For example, Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced the airship level. So, if you were to switch to 8-bit mode, we would get a retro version of the airship. It's the same with Super Mario World's ghost house. The possibilities will always be endless. One will be spending a lot of time in the Course World (online) part. There's a great level of satisfaction every time one uploads a new level. The problem is that everybody is limited to 10 at first. This wouldn't be a problem if say every month we're able to upload more. But that isn't the system. The system is that you're only able to upload more once a bunch of people star your levels. Here's the thing: there are over a million levels, so there's a good chance yours will get lost in the shuffle. I've had the game since about opening day and still stuck at 10 levels. It's a disappointing system because the player becomes less motivated to make new stages since it forces them to delete old ones.
While making levels is absolutely glorious, there are still some interesting loopholes one comes to notice as they make more and more. For one thing, boss fights are basically non-existent. Sure, we can have Bowser at the end with the axe as usual. But how about those Bowser Jr. battles in NSMBU where you have to beat him to proceed? In Mario Maker there's no real way to make a set boss battle where it requires the player to beat it. In the 10 Mario challenge for a primary example Nintendo obviously wants you to beat Bowser Jr., but why bother when you can just bypass him and hop in the pipe? Another thing is that while 1-Ups are always nice, there's technically no real use for them since each level is self contained. If there was a checkpoint system, then the 1-Ups could be utilized. In fact, it's strange that there's no checkpoints since Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. U both have a checkpoint system.
Still, despite those loopholes, make no mistake: the level making is a true achievement in the history of gaming.
Overall, Super Mario Maker is a special game, and fitting for the franchise's 30th anniversary. It's extremely fun creating stages, for there are almost limitless things one can do. Amiibos are put to fantastic use. It's disappointing that one can only upload 10 levels at first, since there's a good chance the player will be stuck at that for awhile. Still, don't that deter you from picking this game up. Trust me, there's nothing like it on the market.