Who can forget when we were left stunned at just how devious user-created courses could be in Super Mario Maker. The Nintendo World Championships 2015 had sold everyone on the concept in minutes, boggling the mind at the mischievous possibilities that Nintendo’s toolkit had presented.
With more than eight million user-created courses now playable on Wii U, the game is clearly letting imaginations run wild which has resulted in creations that have seen the Mushroom Kingdom collide with unexpected genres. And now, encouraged after seeing such creativity emerge, you now have chance to unleash your ideas on the go with Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS.
It’s a smart and understandable move to bring the course creation tool to a wider audience, but, given the hardware constraints that surround the ageing Nintendo 3DS, it hasn’t been without sacrifice.
It is the Super Mario Challenge mode that is the star attraction, especially for those that have already sunk hours into the Wii U version. In this mode, players are challenged to take on 18 worlds in order where a course must be cleared to move on to the next.
This will see you work through 100 original courses created by Nintendo’s incomparable designers, who, after struggling to produce my own platforming masterpieces, has seen Super Mario Maker only make me appreciate their talents even more.
Earlier worlds serve as introductory hurdles, familiarising players with movement, enemies, obstacles, and items. It isn’t long before you are posed with increasingly difficult courses that will make you rethink everything you know about Mario’s platforming escapades, while medal challenges make the experience all the more interesting.
There are two types of medal for each course, although only the first is immediately revealed to you. From reaching the goal as Fire Mario, defeating all Chain Chomps using the tail, carrying a P Switch to the goal, or gaining at least five lives using a Super Star, these objectify your approach in an incredibly engaging way. Once you’ve cleared a course you can play it again at any time in Coursebot, letting you hunt out missed medals.
You will laugh at the hilarity of more outrageous courses that you are faced with, cry as you fail a challenge just before reaching the goal, and wince as you get caught out by a marauding enemy. It’s a clear win for the Nintendo 3DS version, and a rewarding way to spend your time.
It’s great, then, that this is also how you will unlock course elements to use in Create mode. After you complete each world these will be your reward, with mentors Mashiko (or Mary. O in the North American version) and opinionated pigeon Yamamura explaining how they can be used in course creation. I would, therefore, recommend completing Super Mario Challenge before you get stuck into creating courses – not only to have every element available to you but to also let Nintendo inspire your imagination.
Creating a course is as intuitive as it was in the Wii U version, the touch screen becoming a playground for your ideas as you let your imagination run wild. With the reduced screen size in comparison to the Wii U GamePad, it expectedly feels a little more cramped. That gives you less canvas space to carve out your courses, even if laying the foundations is just as easy. For those new to course creation, carefully constructed Lessons will teach newcomers the basics and hopefully help ignite their creative spark.
Where Super Mario Maker had looked to foster an online community on Wii U, Nintendo has been clear in positioning Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS as an accompanying experience that promotes Local Play. The positive point is that you can send courses that you have created to others nearby to collaborate on them, even if the cynic would reason that you could just pass around the same Nintendo 3DS rather than requiring multiple copies to do so. StreetPass comes into its own as a far better mechanism for sharing complete courses, letting you exchange your creations with passers-by with more immediacy.
And then the downside creeps in. With Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS so readily ticking every box, it had to disappoint somewhere. It is the approach to online that, for whatever the reason behind their decision, falls short.
Within Course World, players can take on the 100 Mario Challenge or choose to play Recommended Courses. These involve online courses created in the Wii U version, that have been cherry-picked by Nintendo. That makes sense, given that there are plenty of duds that have been uploaded over the past year. But it removes any sense of discovery, given that not every course created in the Wii U version has been carried over and players cannot search by Course ID.
Gone too are the Mystery Mushroom costumes which is a shame, the excuse being that they will remain exclusive to the Wii U version. The Event Courses were a clear highlight on Wii U, and Nintendo shouldn’t be shying away from giving players more chances to use their assorted amiibo.
Positioning Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS as a Local Play experience detracts from everything that made it such a sensation in the first place. It is understandable that Nintendo would want to tap into the existing courses that have been created, but it leaves the Nintendo 3DS version feeling largely unsupported in comparison. This is an experience that celebrates everything that has been created so far, rather than a cross-platform accompaniment that will let you create on the go. Perhaps that moment will come with Nintendo Switch.
Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS continues to delight with wacky and unexpected creations. It falters in not looking to foster an online community of its own but remains the perfect construction kit to live out your Mushroom Kingdom dreams.