It’s harder to get the endless levels, but the portable version has merit.
Super Mario Maker was a game I thoroughly enjoyed playing on the Wii U. While the content on the shipping game felt a bit lackluster, it was a joy to share or play levels. I would put hours into discovering levels, saving the ones I enjoyed and dissecting every single piece of it. With the Nintendo 3DS version, the built-in game is stronger, but there’s not as many reasons to try and create something classic.
The Nintendo 3DS version boots into a familiar menu: Create and Play are the two basic options. The creation tools are almost all carried over from the Wii U version, with only the Mystery Mushroom being left out of the toolkit. There’s good optimizing tools and sound effects to complement the basic Mario series icons, but the smaller bottom screen of the 3DS doesn’t compare to the Wii U GamePad’s widescreen view. It took me a bit of time to master moving the screen just enough to make sure the level looked right on the top screen.
The biggest improvement in the level creation process is the addition of lessons. Yamamura and Mashiko/Mary-O explain the process of level creation and give handy tips along the way. The witty banter between the two characters makes this feel way less a tutorial and it caused the instructions to just fly by. Every lesson has two parts: A teaching section which explains things like course structure or enemy behavior, and a practice level that emphasizes the lesson material. In the end, I found it to be very useful information. It gave me some strong ideas for new stages, which I will surely be working on (even if it is on Wii U).
Sadly, I never went out of my way to build courses in Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS. This is because of the sharing options, which I found pretty underwhelming. The biggest omissions are the inability to share the levels online, or even with the Wii U version. The only options here are StreetPass and local wireless and these do work well. The StreetPass memory is quite large – 100 levels in all – and local play can be used to team up on levels in progress.
There is an online element to the game, even if the course sharing is locked out, but it’s tied to Recommended Courses. Although the difficulty is selectable, that’s the only option for searching. Thankfully, the courses download quickly so I was able to pull in a large number of courses to play in a row. The 100 Mario Challenge is just as much fun as on the Wii U.
The community aspects of the game have been shredded in this version, though. There’s no way to see clearance rates, creator profiles or the likes, and there’s no way to comment on a stage. Since the 3DS supports Miiverse, there’s no reason why that couldn’t be used as a backend for providing feedback or compliments to the creators who took the time to make the levels. And with no way to reward creators, there’s no incentive for them to keep going. Maybe this can be patched in later, but out of the box it’s extremely frustrating.
The other big new feature in Mario Maker 3DS, which can be played fully offline, is the Super Mario Challenge. This mode gives 100 stages made by Nintendo to toy 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. Examples include a Super Mario Bros. stage where collecting coins is a requirement, or a Super Mario Bros. 3 course that involves reaching the goal before Bowser does. 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 your new teacher friends and new course parts for the editor. I had a great time going through all of the stages and never encountered a bad one.
The title looks incredibly clean on the Nintendo 3DS with one big exception: New Super Mario Bros. U. While the backgrounds look decent enough, the actual character models have had a massive downgrade. The music is mostly intact too, but a small thing that wasn’t carried over from the Wii U version is the sound effects and music 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 ultimately fun to play around with. The lessons, Super Mario Challenge and Course World translate to an incredible amount of content. The tutorials also add a lot of charm to level creation, which was mostly lacking in the Wii U game. But it’s still a somewhat compromised experience. The lack of meaningful level sharing or communication with the full Mario Maker community that has come up over the last year is sad. The local level creation is nice when it’s available, but that’s probably not going to be very often. The ''Maker'' part of the title seems less to matter. While I never made too many levels to begin with, having the possibility missing is something that can't be denied.