Game Reviewby Heidi Kemps,
Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS
Could Super Mario Maker for 3DS offer the same creative fun of its Wii U predecessor? It might, if it wasn't so stripped down...
Every once in a while, there's a game that comes along that makes me say “who wanted this?” Well, sure, I bet there were plenty of folks out there who said “Yeah, I love Super Mario Maker, but it'd be really cool to have a portable version for 3DS I can play and build courses on.” But if you would have told them that you'd be losing almost everything that makes Super Mario Maker such a fun experience on Wii U, I feel like the general response would be “Um, no thanks.” But somehow, the higher-ups at Nintendo decided that a severely stripped of Super Mario Maker for 3DS priced at $40 was still better than nothing at all.
I don't think I really need to explain much about the concept behind Super Mario Maker at this point. If you haven't played it yourself, you have more than likely seen somebody else play the Wii U version online, possibly while screaming at some absurdly cruel level a particularly devious creator uploaded specifically for people who like screaming at Mario stages. It's a game where you can have a lot of fun devising your own creations (and making others potentially suffer through them), but is hampered by a lack of a real search system for finding stages people have made and uploaded (you have to use a separate site for searching!) and a tremendous glut of low-quality content. When you do find those really great levels, though, you're in for a fantastic time.
With the 3DS version… not so much.
It doesn't look too bad at first. When you boot up the game, you're greeted by Yamamura and Mary O, a pigeon/woman duo who are quite eager to teach you about making your own Mario courses. They want to take you through a lot of tutorials. A lot. While it's nice to have a bit more of a “proper” tutorial than the one in the Wii U version (and one that tells you some basics of good game design), if you choose to go through all the game's lessons, you're going to be spending most of it mashing through their far-too-wordy explanations. I feel like the average visual novel protagonist would look at those two and say “You know, you might want to be a bit more succinct with your points.”
Making courses isn't expressly terrible, either, but it does feel… well, pretty darn cramped, for starters. There's a lot less pixel real estate on the 3DS's bottom screen than there is on the Wii U Gamepad, so when you've got all the tabs for object placement, tools and erasers, and environment/SFX settings open, it's a bit claustrophobic. At least the upper screen gives you a wider view of what you're doing. Most everything that's here makes the transition fairly well, but you'll definitely notice a few things missing, – most notably the “mystery mushroom” items that allowed Mario to turn into other characters for fun themed course ideas through the use of amiibos. This lack of functionality is a bit baffling, as amiibos have been supported by 3DS for quite some time now.
Somehow, though, someone at Nintendo still didn't get the memo that people don't want to have a bunch of the cool objects used to make levels stuck under an unlock system. At least the system to get them is a bit better this time around: You need to play through Super Mario Challenge, a set of pre-made single-player levels exclusive to the 3DS game, in order to openall the course elements. Honestly, this selection of stages is probably the highlight of the game – the stages are universally well-made and come with extra challenge medals you can amass by completing specific objectives like “collect all the coins” or “clear with X seconds left on the timer.”
So, after you clear all the Mario Challenge levels and make your masterpiece with all of the available objects, it's time to share it with the world. Or so you'd think. This is something you actually can't do on the 3DS version.
Well, you can share stages through Streetpass, if you're fortunate enough to live in a heavily populated urban area where people carry 3DSes around frequently (or attending an anime con). But that whole “uploading your creations to the internet for people to play and give feedback on?” Nope, no can do here, pal. That course is forever confined to your SD card unless you manage to get within proximity of some other person who was also suckered into buying Super Mario Maker 3DS. Why would they gut a crucial component of a prestige product like this? I honestly have no idea. As much as “Nintendo doesn't get the Internet” is bandied around, this feature – one of the key components of Super Mario Maker on Wii U – being stripped out is downright baffling.
At least you can still download courses from the internet… sort of. You can only get stuff that's been made on the Wii U version of the game, and only stages that will actually work on the 3DS version, as defined by criteria unknown to anybody except engineers from Nintendo. That means that anything using items like the Mystery Mushrooms and some of the more object-laden stages are right out. And boy, if you liked the anemic stage search tools of the Wii U Mario Maker, then you're going to absolutely adore Super Mario Maker for 3DS's nonexistent search functionality! That's right, you can't even look up things by course number or creator – if you want to play other players' courses from the internet, you either have to play 100 Mario Challenge or have a bunch of “Recommended Courses” chosen for you from a pool of seemingly random picks from the pool of levels on Nintendo's servers. That's all you've got for options: if you don't like what you drew, you either restart or refresh and hope something playable pops up. Forget trying to master that Kaizo-style challenge you saw in a YouTube vid while on the go: you'll be lucky if you get a stage that doesn't play itself. You can't even rate or comment on stages you played.
So, if you can't share your creations online or play specific stages you download… what's really the purpose of Super Mario Maker for 3DS? Honestly, I can't figure it out, either. Mario Challenge is nice, I suppose, but it's not $40 nice. If you're really devoted to honing your Mario-making craft, stick with the Wii U version – Super Mario Maker for 3DS has lost too much in its downsizing effort.
Overall : C
Graphics : B
Sound/Music : A-
Gameplay : A-
Presentation : B
+ Mario Challenge offers a lot of good pre-made courses, presentation is remarkably similar to the original Wii U version
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