SDCC 2015: How Super Mario Maker goes beyond custom masochism

Those that watched Super Mario Maker at the Nintendo World Championships saw what kind of insane stages the game is capable of creating. After going hands-on at San Diego Comic-Con, it's also evident that the game can deliver a lot more than that.

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It's slightly difficult to elaborate further on the creativity that's put into Super Mario Maker. Steve Watts went into it quite eloquently in his E3 2015 preview, but now Nintendo is taking this show on the road. Super Mario Maker was on full display at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, with its custom levels available to anyone that swung by. After missing out at E3, this time, it was my turn to jump into the plumber's custom adventure.

It's a given that not everyone sports the creativity to make Mario masterpieces. There's no shame in such an admission. That doesn't mean that Super Mario Maker won't have plenty to do, if the clean online interface is any indication. The intuitive menu will allow users to surf creations based on user or user-submitted rankings. The level's full map will be laid out at a brief glance, indicating the game engine and environment that will be in use. This makes stages easy to separate out, in case anyone, for example, is seeking retro Mario over the more wall jump-intensive New Super Mario Bros.

Of course, one thing that will stand out about Super Mario Maker is the massive number of options, in regards to both objects and enemies. As many noticed during the public demos, enemies are not restricted to their respective games. Boos can make the trip back to Super Mario Bros., Wigglers can go back to Super Mario Bros. 3, and so on. One stage that I tried was a Super Mario Bros. 3 stage that was littered from start to finish with Magikoopas as far as the eye could see. The idea was to clear enough of them out to make the goal at the end visible, but it was an insanely hard endeavor.

But if there's one thing I learned during this hands-on, it's that not everything is a Super Meat Boy-style trial of frustration and persistance. Many of the levels on display tried out some novelty concepts. One particular stage titled along the lines of "Don't stop running," is completely covered with Mario foes, but the trick is to simply hold the run button and right on the D-pad to sprint to the end, with no harm coming to Mario at any point. There was another novelty stage called "Thwomps are your friend," in which Mario had to position himself so that Thwomps would smash question blocks and let out power-ups to help him through the end. The end of the stage even required Mario to position a Thwomp to squash Bowser.

There was one question I had for the Nintendo Treehouse employees on hand, especially as I bathed in coins and 1-Up mushrooms. Considering that there are no lives used at all when playing custom levels, why bother with coins or extra lives at all? It seemed somewhat arbitrary by that point. The answer will come in the form of a different game mode called 100 Marios, in which players will have to run through a full stretch of courses with a limited number of lives. Of course, with so many coins in some of these courses, it may not matter, but it is the thought that counts. Eventually, the employees and I conceded that picking up coins is hard-wired into our brains. After all, it's just so... Mario.

With so many custom levels included on the disc and more coming via the online space, Super Mario Maker feels almost like an endgame for 2D Mario. After all, where does the series possibly go from here now that the floodgates have been opened in such a manner. That's a discussion for another day, but Super Mario Maker looks to deliver all the tools that custom creators could ever ask for. I had concerns as to whether this game would even work, given what PC ROM hackers are capable of producing. But with an easy-to-use GamePad interface and more options than I thought possible, including simple methods of re-sizing enemies and objects, it's clear that this game should produce some incredible stages, some that may even blow the people at Nintendo away.

Super Mario Maker is coming to Wii U on September 11.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
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    July 10, 2015 11:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, SDCC 2015: How Super Mario Maker goes beyond custom masochism

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      July 10, 2015 11:07 AM

      Excellent title Ozzie.

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      July 10, 2015 11:12 AM

      Sounds fun. Were you able to test the online stuff? or was that not available? I don't think you said in your article.

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        July 10, 2015 12:23 PM

        Aside from the Magikoopa stage, everything I played was through the online menu. I was able to search by user and by rankings. The full Miiverse functions were in place, too, so I saw random Miiverse messages across different levels, while I'd also see where people died after I fell off a cliff.

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      July 11, 2015 12:13 PM

      WHAAAAT?! If this came out when I was a kid I'd be dead. Looks so fun.

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      July 11, 2015 12:23 PM

      Ozzie Are you aware that the original Nintendo console had game editing/level design as a feature?

      "The AVS was shown publicly only once, in 1984 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The AVS was revolutionary for its day. The system included a keyboard, handheld joystick, light wand/gun, music keyboard, and a data storage unit, that were all infrared wireless. The revolutionary controllers were also wireless, and could be stored in the front of the main unit, or control deck when not in use. The AVS combined many features found in computers of the day and included innovative functions such as game editing and storage, music composition, light wand-TV game interaction (you could shoot at the TV), and never before seen 8-bit video game graphics."