Nintendo has had a rough few years. Faced with declining revenues it has made a concerted attempt to embrace its fans and squeeze more from their wallets.
Initiatives such as Amiibo, the release of rare games on Virtual Console, and the loan of beloved character IP to other franchises, has finally seen the company steady the ship.
With Super Mario Maker Nintendo pulls down its last bastion – its unparalleled development expertise – by giving players the keys to the castle.
For a company known for being ultra protective of its talent and design philosophy, to be so generous with its most valuable franchise is a huge step change.
But, as the E3 demo proves, it’s a wonderful thing.
Super Mario Maker breathes new life into a series that, although always of a high standard, is perhaps perceived as becoming a little too traditional and safe.
The creation tools – which were not the focus of the demo – are as natural a fit for the GamePad as you’d expect. They seem simple and effective, impressive actually, but they’re not as eye-opening as the levels they let you create. It’s quite something to see a game, which is fundamentally based on a thirty year old template still retain the ability to surprise and delight players.
Super Mario Maker’s E3 demo shows how the game encourages reckless creativity. The individual components are all familiar, but the scope for bizarre, off-the-wall creations makes it feel completely fresh.
The demo’s best moments tap into the game’s ability to throw more assets onto the screen than was ever possible on the NES or SNES. You’ll see goombas stacked the height of the screen, a maze of conveyor belts that thrust you into a pool of hungry fish, or a series of Chain-Chomps dangling from platforms, trying to nibble at your head. And no Mario game has ever had you face-off against 12 cloud riding Hammer Bros’ before. It’s crazy and exhilarating stuff.
As I stood in line my mind was already at work, assembling ideas for levels I want to create. But should I discover that I have no talent – which is more than likely – I will still be happy. Super Mario Maker’s online sharing and curation features look well laid out and easy to use. It will be fascinating to see what players come up with using the assets and tool set of the world’s most famous game.
The game offers a choice of art-styles, based on Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros U. They don’t affect the way the game plays – and you surely don’t need me to tell how a Mario game feels – but it’s cool to flip between them and see Yoshi become retro-rendered in the Super Mario Bros 3 art style. It’s a lovely touch in a title that appears chock-full of charming details.
So yeah, this game brings out the fanboy in me.
Super Mario Maker is easy to overlook when then are so many other titles at E3 shouting for your attention but it does one thing no other game has ever done.
It let’s you play at being Miyamoto. And that’s pretty special.
At some point in the future Nintendo will probably release another standard Super Mario Bros game. That title will not only be compared to Nintendo’s own formidable efforts but the best levels created in this fantastic tool set too.
Let’s get to work.