It’s fun to design on the go, but screen size presents a challenge.
The original Super Mario Maker was one of the Wii U’s defining experiences. Despite some initial complaints about unlocking tools and later level quality, there was still something undeniably fun about sharing created Mario levels. I was really skeptical about the 3DS version when it was announced, because of the size of the canvas and the lack of online level sharing. Having played Super Mario Maker for 3DS, I’m not on board with all of the sacrifices made to get the game to work, but it’s still fun.
Most of the building tools are intact from the Wii U version, though the order has changed for some of them. Shaking icons to change their properties also returns, while the Weird Mushroom is now a separate icon. The icons can be reordered for easier access, just like in the Wii U version, so after a minute or two the icons can be set up in a more comfortable fashion. Perhaps the most notable missing item is the Mystery Mushroom, which coincides with the game’s lack of Amiibo support. Not even the special 30th anniversary Mario amiibo work here. More options would have been nice, but the Mystery Mushroom was limited as it was on the Wii U so I didn’t miss it all that much.
All of the course design happens on the 3DS’s bottom screen, with the top screen used purely as a display for checking the work. With less space to work with, shrinking the icons that take up the left and right of the screen (by pressing tabs) are almost a necessity. The auto scrolling only starts when an icon is placed on the very edge of the screen which caused me to sometimes place something in the wrong spot. The Circle Pad or D-Pad can be used for scrolling, but I eventually got the hang of using the auto scroll. It just takes some time to adjust to the quirkiness of the auto-scroll. When you nail that side of the editor, it becomes neat to build a course.
Something the 3DS version has added which should have been in the Wii U version are the lessons. Yamamura and Mashiko/Mary-O lead a level creation process and give some really clever tips about how elements function. There’s also a lot of playful banter between them, which makes it feel less like a tutorial. The lessons have two parts: A teaching section which explains things like course structure or enemy behavior, and then it gives you a level to play that emphasizes what the teaching section was dealing with. The information gave me a lot of inspiration for levels.
Unfortunately, sharing the levels I made doesn’t work well at all. There’s no online sharing or even a way to send the level to the Wii U version, leaving the only options as StreetPass and local wireless. Maybe the online can be added later, but for now it hurts the game to not be able to share the levels to a wider audience. The 3DS-specific sharing features do work well, though. The StreetPass memory is quite large – 100 levels in all – and local play can be used to team up on levels in progress. The option to play Wii U courses is not live as of press time.
The other big new feature is the Super Mario Challenge. This mode gives you 100 stages made by Nintendo to play around with. The stages offer more complexity than the ones in the 10 Mario Challenge on Wii U as they are far larger in scope. A New Super Mario Bros. U stage involves maintaining momentum with jumps and spins, while a Super Mario World course involves keeping Mario in the air with the cape and grabbing a load of coins. Although there is a structure to the map involving rescuing Princess Peach, the levels can be replayed with various Medal Challenges added on that give harder requirements. The additional requirements really ramp up the challenge – try beating a level without hitting Left, for instance. Completing a world earns praise from the teachers and new course parts. The medals haven’t unlocked anything particular yet, but it’s still rewarding to win them.
The game looks almost as clean as it did on Wii U, with one exception: The New Super Mario Bros U character models were downgraded. The backgrounds are still intact for all four games, though. The music is mostly intact, but a small thing that wasn’t carried over from the Wii U version is the sound effects when placing an item. It’s a shame, since that helped the creator come alive for me before.
Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is a weird one to assess. The lessons and Super Mario Challenge are fantastic additions to this game that make it feel like a bigger package. They are charming, thought through well and add some solid value to the game. There’s some changes in the editor that require some adjustment for veterans, but not being able to share your creations is a huge bummer. Why would you create something that barely anybody gets to see? You can try to find people via Local Play or StreetPass, but that only gets you so far. At the end of the day, Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is a pleasant game that hopefully can be expanded like its Wii U predecessor.