The inability to share your creations online locks down the social fun.
Just like in the amazing Wii U version, the easy-to-use tools of Super Mario Maker for 3DS empower you to create vibrant, challenging or creative levels using the look and feel of several generations of 2D Super Mario games with relative ease, except now you can do it on the go! And the way it quickly switches between create and play is easily the best part of the experience. But as feature-rich as the 3DS port is, it has some crippling shortcomings when it comes to sharing the stages you make with it and playing other people’s creations.
With the exception of the Mystery Mushroom, a cute but needless costume that let you dress up 8-bit Mario as other sprite-based video game characters, nearly every piece of Super Mario Maker’s elegant creation toolset is crammed into the 3DS version. Due to the limitations of the 3DS, it can’t handle as many items as the more powerful Wii U version, but you’re looking at over 60 unique tools you can use to build whatever you want in Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, or New Super Mario Bros. The levels I made were never hindered by the new asset cap, and I always had enough room to build the stages I wanted to make.
If you’re new to Super Mario Maker, a new tutorial mode quickly brings you up to speed on how items work and the best ways to use them thanks to the wacky-yet-charming design advice from a talking pigeon named Yamamura and his cheerful assistant, Mary O.
The improved offline campaign, called the Super Mario Challenge, is another big plus, and it takes you on a whirlwind tour through 88 wild and wacky stages. The best ones demonstrate the numerous possibilities Super Mario Maker offers, from platform walkways filled with deadly dangling Chain Chomps to the Voltron of Mario villains (a tower of enemies that includes a giant Wiggler, giant Bowser, giant Bowser Jr., and a Bull’s Eye Bill) that takes pot shots at you as you a try to reach the end of the stage. It serves as a great means of inspiration for when you decide to start building your own.
Super Mario Challenge is a jungle gym of creative ideas
Super Mario Challenge is a jungle gym of creative ideas that rewards you by unlocking more tools with which to make levels. It’s a bummer to have to start the unlocks over if you already own the Wii U version, but the offline campaign is worth going through. And it also dangles an extra incentive in front of you in the form of difficult stage-specific medal challenges, like one where you have to kill every piranha plant or make it through an entire stage without jumping. These specific tasks kept me coming back again and were a prerequisite to unlocking the final 12 stages.
Why Do You Build Me Up
Once inspiration sets in from the campaign, you can quickly switch over to creation mode and take a deeper look at these stages and see how they work. You can even save your own version or modify them with your own ideas. It’s a great way to get the creation process started or get you thinking about building stages.
The 3DS version drops the ball in the sharing department
But while Nintendo did a great job porting Super Mario Maker’s elegant level creator from Wii U to 3DS, it comes with a few odd concessions. Booting it up for the first time comes with a mandatory SD card installation that can last a few minutes, and strangely, it’ll check this extra data every time you load it. That means that if you’re in a household with multiple 3DS systems and only one copy of Super Mario Maker, using it on another system will prompt you to completely reset everything back to zero, reinstall the extra data, and erase all saved progress.
And that’s just the first on a surprisingly long list of backward decision making when it comes to sharing in Super Mario Maker for 3DS. You can, for instance, share stages with someone locally or through StreetPass, which is a neat way to pass stages to friends or complete strangers you meet. But, if you’re in an area without a lot of fellow 3DS players, you’re out of luck, since Nintendo chose not to include the ability to share stages online, even using Wii U level codes. There is no way to play a specific level that was designed by you or your friend on a Wii U, or to send your 3DS-made level to them.
That sapped my desire to create stages, since I know I can’t share them with a bigger pool of players. That’s a shame, since the process of building them is much more convenient on the go. And it stings even worse because we know Super Mario Maker for 3DS can talk to the internet. It goes online to pick random stages created using the Wii U version to form a playlist for the 100 Mario Challenge, and to download and play select stages from a playlist based around difficulty (but even then you can’t rate the completed stages or leave feedback). By assuming you only want to consume levels, Super Mario Maker for 3DS discards the spirit of online community cultivated by its Wii U big brother, and half of the appeal.