By Kyle Holmer. This is LOAD FILE, where we can tell the difference between a thwomp and a flomp. This week, Kyle builds a series of the most complicated and frustrating levels known to man in ‘Super Mario Maker’, developed and published by Nintendo for the Wii U.
Despite the cynicism and vitriol that seems to permeate every inch of the video game industry, there are still a few companies that manage to remain impervious to the unending wave of anger we’ve come to expect from game enthusiasts. That’s not to say that these organizations are universally loved; they are most definitely the subject of criticism at times, but generally when they become the topic of discussion, there is a level of respect and leniency that most are never afforded by the community at large. There are only a handful of these businesses, and generally they’ve achieved that level of respect because of the impact their games have had on the medium: Blizzard set new genre standards with Warcraft and Diablo, Rockstar consistently defines how open world games will look and function with each new edition of GTA, and for several years, Nintendo made a habit of pushing the entire medium forward.
Although the glory days of Nintendo have long since passed, and since the fall of the original Wii, they’ve been largely excluded from any gaming conversations, save for the occasional “What is Nintendo Doing?” news blurb. The poorly timed release of the underwhelming Wii U was alarmingly out of touch, and their most recent releases (Splatoon aside) have been business as usual. Despite the facts, a new entry in a flagship Nintendo franchise will still garner plenty of attention, and other than perhaps The Legend of Zelda, there is no other series as beloved and respected as Super Mario Bros.
That attention, in most cases, quickly turns to cynicism, as there haven’t been any significant changes to the series since Super Mario Galaxy (there are only so many new Super Mario Bros. games people can tolerate) and while every release since then has most definitely been well made, people have certain expectations for a Mario game that haven’t yet been met. That is until now: with the release of Super Mario Maker, Nintendo has made something that perfectly builds on our Mario nostalgia and also, for the first time, justifies the existence of the Wii U.
NO CHARGIN’ CHUCKS OR SUMO BROS? 2/10
Super Mario Maker is exactly that; a streamlined toolbox for building Mario levels. At the outset, you’ll be given a small toolset and the ability to create within either New Super Mario Bros. or the original Super Mario Bros. (each of which informs the look of the toolset). Nintendo had initially intended a system that would gradually add new toolset tiers for every non-consecutive day of play, and while that architecture is still in place, it can be bypassed directly by building levels for a prolonged period of time (you’ll have to play with each tier of the toolset for five minutes before the next tier enters the queue, and from there you’ll have to place around 200 blocks to force the “delivery” of the next set). It’s definitely not an ideal system, but given how much potential each individual tool provides, there’s nearly limitless possibilities from moment one. As you progress even further, you’ll unlock new level styles and entire Mario games to work with; specifically you’ll unlock Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3, each of which inform the physics and rules of play.
The logic that governs how the tools and enemies are placed is instantly identifiable. There’s an in-game manual, a physical “idea book”, and a comprehensive tutorial that will all explain how the builder systems work, but as this is Nintendo, the game’s design is damn near perfect and you can start building instantly. As new items are unlocked (or codes entered from the booklet), brief tutorial levels are available to play to encourage new ideas, and coupled with an ability to instantly jump back and forth between building and playing your level, you’ll very quickly understand the entirety of the robust toolset. Ultimately, outside of a few small enemy exclusions and the inability to chain your levels together, it’s a nearly flawless level building tool. Granted, the Mario games don’t demand any complicated systems so that players can control enemy AI, but just about every other level building tool ever made could take some cues from Super Mario Maker.
NO MATTER HOW COOL YOUR LEVEL IS, IF IT HAS A BABY BOWSER, IT’S GONNA SUCK
When you aren’t building a level, you can play user created ones and admittedly, I don’t care about creating my own level (especially not in a Super Mario Bros. game) but luckily the community engagement for this game has been so large, just playing user levels will more than justify a purchase. The game offers a few modes that will string together levels made by others into short campaigns, and you can then choose the difficulty of said campaign.
The game’s logic seems to build the series based on how well-recieved a level is, so playing either of these modes is a perfect way to get a feel for all of the different levels people have made worldwide. You can also play single levels directly, with a handful of filtering options based on community reviews, but trying to find one of your friend’s levels can be a bit of a pain in the ass. That being said, just moving down the currently “featured” or “starred” levels from the filter’s page and playing what’s currently available is incredible; the ideas people have already invented and executed on are consistently astounding.
SUPER MARIO MAKER: MAKING PEOPLE HATE EACH OTHER SINCE 2015
There is something distinctly “un-Nintendo” about Super Mario Maker. In the past, Nintendo has not only been incredibly protective of its characters, but also unwilling to adapt to a modern audience; their incredulity has, in many ways, stagnated many of their beloved franchises. With Super Mario Maker, Nintendo has, for the very first time, loosened their death grip on Mario and the results clearly speak for themselves; the level building community is growing strong, and more importantly, people who had previously written Nintendo off are actually, for the first time in years, paying attention.
It’s disappointing to think how much of a difference this game could have made at the launch of the Wii U; this game not only justifies the Wii U controller but allows an opportunity for complete creative control over one of the medium’s most popular and identifiable characters. It’s impossible to quantify the potential impact, but I think even today, this game shows Nintendo won’t be written off. They continue to prove just how fun gaming can be.