I wasn’t as poignant when it came to E3 like my colleagues were. It’s not that I hate gaming, I’m just not enamored by preview trailers I can instantly catch on YouTube, and don’t have an engorged feeling of anticipation for titles that will inevitably be released in a couple months anyway – Being a cynical bastard with press credentials among crowds of fevered enthusiasm doesn’t help either. But after playing Super Mario Maker I may have gotten some of that magic back, if only during the short moment I held the Wii U Gamepad.
How can something that many would consider a glorified stage creator be so appealing? Because no matter how old of a gamer you are, everybody has always wanted to make a Mario game all their own at least once. In that respect, this is a childhood nerd fantasy turned reality where you’re given a blank canvas to construct a layout with main templates that span from the classic NES “Super Mario Bros.”, “Super Mario World”, up to the latest “New Super Mario Bros U”.
You’re granted a near-limitless range of freedom that goes beyond making challenging obstacles, you can have enemies behave in unexpected ways such as infinite Magikoopas, cannonball-spitting Piranha Plants, to even a giant Bowser Jr out of nowhere.
This is basically a tweaked version Mario Paint, heavily remixed to accommodate the task of breaking conventional means in a sandbox format. Instantaneous on-the-fly editing with touch controls is a seamless affair and some icons such as the barking Undodog and Erase Rocket return to help ease the tedium when you eventually lose track of fine tuning your current masterpiece. You’ll also be able to unlock a multitude of content and characters by either playing the “100 Mario Challenge mode” or just by random chance with unique items.
I found my experience difficult to put into words as Super Mario Maker is a title that’s begging to be played, rather than discussed. During my playthrough I found the task of actually building something from scratch pretty cool but overwhelming at first since the joy of creating your own lost levels requires time and patience – neither of which can be found on the floor at E3. The pre-production build came with over two dozen familiar Mushroom Kingdom bits and pieces to choose from, which was less than a third of the building blocks the final version will offer.
In fact, it was more appropriate to try my luck in examples already built by other showgoers, I got a great taste of how unique and/or sadistic each work can be as each template it’s based on changes the subtle dynamics; just imagine this type of creator content being shared online for a minute…
This is what Super Mario Maker is at its core, and what a hell of a core it is for anybody with a lingering ounce of imagination. It really is something that must be experienced in person to appreciate what Nintendo has concocted here, especially if you’re the type that finds wonder in brainstorming and the ability to make something out of nothing. If you’re interested in scratching that special itch that only magic mushrooms and koopa shells can satisfy then look forward to picking up the game on September 11th, 2015, along with a pixel Mario 30th Anniversary Amiibo figurine.