Nintendo and the internet have a notoriously strained relationship. From the GameCube‘s support for online gaming (only supporting Phantasy Star Online and its sequel) to weird friend code implementation, the company hasn’t always kept up with the times.
But last year’s Super Mario Maker (review) on the Wii U was a triumph, as Nintendo harnessed the power of the internet to bring a fantastic experience. A large part of the game was sharing your created levels with other players, but an even bigger aspect was playing levels made by people around the world. And the results were mesmerising, infuriating, jaw-dropping and just plain fun.
So it’s rather disappointing to see that Nintendo has essentially crippled the 3DS version of Super Mario Maker in this department. While the Wii U levels work with the game (giving you a ton of content in the process), you can’t freely browse and search for these. Instead, you have one “recommended courses” list and no search parameters beyond a difficulty level.
That means all those cool third-party developer levels we’ve seen, all the crazy rock-hard stages and all those innovative and quirky community levels aren’t easily accessible. It’s a disappointing turn of events, especially when the rest of the package is one of the standout experiences on Nintendo’s handheld. If there is any consolation, it’s that the recommended course list is updated frequently, so you won’t come across the same levels really.
It doesn’t help that Nintendo has chosen to make level uploads a chore though, only working via local wireless communication rather than by uploading them directly to Nintendo’s servers. In other words, if you want multiple friends to play your level, you can’t just give them a code as with the Wii U – you’ll need to share it with them locally.
Fortunately, Nintendo has included a dedicated mode in the 3DS version, dubbed Super Mario Challenge. Here, you’ll be playing eight worlds of levels (100 levels in total, more or less) made by Nintendo themselves.
These stages vary wildly, showing a ton of variety, a few infuriating moments and a healthy dose of cool mechanics. This mode also gives players a few goals for each level, encouraging replayability as you achieve all of them. Some goals will require you to finish a section with a certain power-up, others will ask you to kill all the enemies on a given level. There’s a healthy amount of flexibility with these goals, ensuring that they don’t get too repetitive.
Additionally, creators will want to complete the mode in order to unlock items for use in the creation suite, so there’s definitely some incentive to tackling this.
It doesn’t make up for the lack of easy downloads/uploads, but you’ll be spending several, enjoyable (and occasionally frustrating) hours with this mode, at the very least.
Aside from the Super Mario Challenge, players also have the 100 Mario Challenge, which gives you 100 lives and tasks you with running through eight worlds.
Fortunately, you can adjust the difficulty of the challenge, so players wanting a relaxed experience can choose “easy” while those looking for a frenetic playthrough can opt for “super expert”. It definitely adds some meat to the 3DS game’s bones, as it utilises user-generated content to good effect once again.
Otherwise, the creation tools are largely the same as before, but players can now share incomplete courses with other players to collaborate on them. This is a great idea on paper too, but the fact that it relies on local play and Streetpass only is another downside for the game.
We’ve covered the user-generated levels and Nintendo’s levels then, but who cares if the gameplay is naff, right?
Thankfully, the controls are sublime, whether you’re using the analogue circle pad or the d-pad. But let’s be honest, the d-pad is only appropriate, right? In any event, you can blame dying on crappy user-generated levels, but never on an unresponsive Mario.
Super Mario Maker 3DS gets so close to the Wii U experience, only falling short in one, crucial area
And if you’re a hopeless case when it comes to controlling Mario, the game does give you the option of skipping a level. Although my pride would rather have me lose 15 lives on a level than skip it…
In terms of production values, Super Mario Maker 3DS won’t win any awards for technical achievement, but it reproduces the 2D Super Mario aesthetics nigh-on perfectly. The New Super Mario Bros visuals can look a little jagged to say the least, but the small screen does a good job of hiding most of the visual downgrades.
Verdict: It seems like a no-brainer to port Super Mario Maker to the 3DS as it is, but Nintendo’s quest to seemingly streamline the online experience was a step in the wrong direction. As it is, the port offers plenty of bang for your buck, but it could’ve and should’ve been so much more. It’s still worth a buy this holiday season, even if platformers aren’t quite your cup of tea.
Score: 8 out of 10