Mario Maker: played at E3 2014

By Steve Watts, Jun 12, 2014 8:00am PDT

Nintendo kept its joking promise not to rely on Mario games at this year's E3 digital presentation, but only just. Instead, it showed off Mario Maker, a creation suite that lets you make and edit Mario stages in the classic NES style. While my time with it was entertaining and showed promise, I'm curious how it goes from its current state to a retail product.

That current state is mostly a tech demo. It shows off the concept well, and I'm sure more creative Mario fans could make great stages out of it. The creation tools are incredibly easy, with simple taps that snap the correct pieces into place or drag to make pipes long. Enemy behaviors are already set as we all know and recognizes from our childhoods, and you can attach wings as enemy modifiers to give them flight or jumping abilities.

The ability to flip back and forth between the classic and "New SMB" art styles is also a nice touch, as it shows how much of those mechanics has made a direct transition between the two.

It all works beautifully and with an intuition that can only come from our shared experiences. But then what? You can sample your own stage, so if you've created an especially devious version you might challenge yourself to run through it. Right now it's unclear how stages will be shared with other players. The representative I spoke to mentioned saving them on SD cards, but was more uncertain on the ability to share online. Nintendo certainly still has time to add such a feature, and we can hope it does because otherwise the appeal will be severely hampered.

And the fact that so much relies on one (so far unannounced) feature shows just how much of Mario Maker is wrapped up in its potential. Without online sharing, this concept would be a simple time-waster for all but the most ardent of Mario devotees. With some form of online sharing, it could be an endless font of content for one of the most flexibly robust games of all time. Nintendo's recent moves with video sharing in Mario Kart 8 makes me think Nintendo has turned a corner on understanding community interaction. Mario Maker could be great. A lot of that greatness relies on whether Nintendo continues to embrace modernity.

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