Jump back into where it all started for the famed red-capped plumber in Super Mario Maker. Create fun-filled levels in the 3DS port and play through up to 100 ingeniously designed new courses in the Super Mario Challenge mode. Yet despite feeling more comfortable as a portable title, it waits in the wings as an inferior version.
With development from Nintendo’s EAD team, Super Mario Maker for 3DS is a good addition to the portable family of games. Coming with most of the features from the original Wii U version, it’s likely to be a blank canvas full of dreams for those who didn’t experience it the first time around. While Super Mario Maker on the home console felt like an introduction to level building, Super Mario Maker for the 3DS feels like the next logical step. It unlocks 60 standard in-game items from the beginning, so there’s no need to play it consecutively for nine days, and lesson tutorials are completely optional. It’s an interesting set up that pleases both those who have missed out on the Wii U version and one that can be enjoyed by renowned level-builders. Hats off to the development team here, as that’s not an easy task to accomplish.
Should you need a refresher course in the basic arts of building – I know I certainly did – then you can follow up to ten lessons in Super Mario Maker for 3DS. Delivered by a weirdly intriguing pigeon named Yamamura, these lessons serve as a mini tutorial in both the basics and more advanced ways of building unique courses. You’ll even get to play through the courses before you build them too, learning what works and what doesn’t. And rather than becoming shoehorned into hours of tutorial, each lesson can be taken at the player’s own pace, so you can easily quit, create a course with what you’ve learnt and come back later.
While lessons are fairly easy to get to grips with, they also form part of a bigger flaw in Super Mario Maker for 3DS. If you’re accustomed to a larger building zone with the Wii U GamePad, you’ll encounter some difficulty in adjusting to a smaller secondary screen. Items become much more tricky to place, be it through rotation or length. In fact during lesson seven, placing a coin on a track was devilishly frustrating as the game believed I was wanting the coin behind the track rather than on it. As Super Mario Maker often requires the finer details of level building mechanics, the language between game and player could become blurred as courses get more intricate and complex. And though it feels much more comfortable creating courses from a handheld device rather than hunching over the clunky GamePad, it’s somehow just too small for the bigger ideas.
The customisation of level building, however, is just as fantastic with the in-game items allocated to players. Shaking an enemy or an item to unlock another is still routine, and the build menu feels more appropriately laid out for the 3DS. Some elements such as the key, weird mushrooms and checkpoint flags are now unlockable items, meaning you won’t have to shake your stylus on the screen to get them. But there are, of course, differences too. Players no longer have access to mystery mushrooms, big mushrooms or even the creation of custom sound effects. Taking away the element of surprise with mystery mushrooms and, subsequently, amiibo support just screams odd. On the surface at least, there’s no reason why it can’t be there.
Let’s also get to the elephant in the room. Super Mario Maker for 3DS doesn’t feature stereoscopic 3D at all. Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario Bros. World are automatically forgiven, but there’s simply no option for New Super Mario Bros. U. It’s a minor nitpick at best, but one that has validity to be questioned.
Within the main menu, the usual suspects are still there with Create a Course, Course World for online gaming, and Coursebot. But there’s also an exclusive mode just for the 3DS in Super Mario Challenge. It’s this particular mode that really gets your fingers flexing and the heart rate pumping. And it’s much better than the 10 x Mario challenge in Super Mario Maker for Wii U. In fact, it’s the best part of the 3DS port.
Super Mario Challenge takes places over 18 worlds with between four and eight levels to each world. Princess Peach, as usual, has been carted off in a stretcher-like position to Bowser in World 18. Your task is to traverse through every challenge and save her with just ten lives at your disposal, though should you lose each life, you’ll only start at the world you met your demise within. Posing up to 100 incredible new challenges designed by the EAD team, Super Mario Challenge has just the right amount of charm and gleeful frustration we’ve come to expect from a standard Mario title.
Each Super Mario Challenge level varies in length, though can be completed within minutes, and has two different objectives to achieve for platforming experts. The Goomba medal can be received once you complete a moderately hard task such as going into a secret room, collecting 200 coins, or reaching 80,000 points. While the Bowser medal is awarded to players who complete extremely hard tasks by way of using a different method, including riding a skull track or reaching the end as weird Mario. Achieving both medals for each course – and that’s no easy feat – will enable players to edit the courses in Coursebot, a neat reward for creators.
Super Mario Maker for 3DS also lets you play co-operatively in local play with a friend as well, meaning you’ll both be able to tackle certain levels with Super Mario Challenge, alongside playing each others’ created courses. And while you can no longer search for course IDs through the online servers, Course World is just as fun as the Wii U version – provided those random courses are actually any good. Sitting through fiendishly “trollish” levels is not my kind of fun, and makes me wonder how they even manage to make it onto the servers. There’s conveniently no report button either, which makes some levels doubly frustrating, though you can still skip courses by holding down the “select” button, thankfully.
The one major drawback in online mode, however, is that any course you create cannot be uploaded to the main servers in the 3DS port, instead you can upload it to StreetPass. So if you want other people to play your levels, you’ll have to team up in local co-operative play and via StreetPass in order to do so. Course World does give you the option to play any Wii U course that is compatible with the 3DS version in 100 x Mario Challenge though. But it’s a decidedly half-baked move for the port and the one element that is sorely missed.
Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is a good portable treat for level creators and Mario fans. It doesn’t achieve the magic of the home console version though, with many elements simply missing. It’s for this reason that the 3DS port may never shake off its inferiority; every time it takes one step forward it takes one giant leap back. Just remember the old adage; keep calm and eat mushrooms.