Super Mario Maker 2 Review

by Kyle Vaughn
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One of my favorite gaming memories is sitting on a couch in a friend’s house, opening YouTube on a computer, and laughing hysterically at an old series dedicated to watching talented Mario players die relentlessly in modified levels designed to torture them with hidden traps, near impossible jumps, and frame perfect inputs. The montages perfectly encapsulated the irritation the player experienced through these stages, but as they eventually progressed, a member of my party would inevitably declare, “You know what? I bet I could do this.” Those were brave words in those days; none of us knew how to access these levels for our own entertainment, and so this confident announcement could never be tested.

Title: Super Mario Maker 2

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo

Available On: Nintendo Switch

Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

Release Date: June 28, 2019

Game Purchased for the Purpose of This Review

Fast forward to 2015 – Nintendo, deep in their vaults of gold, develop the most diabolical money-making scheme in video game history. “What if,” they conspired, twirling their Wario inspired moustaches, “we didn’t make a Mario game, but made the players make their own Mario game, and pay for it!”

The twiddling of thumbs in the boardroom stopped, and a pay for interest-piqued eyes gazed upwards. “That’s not possible, Oshino-san. The players want a game, not a glorified level editor!”

Oshino-san smirked, pushing a brief burst of breath through his nose. Hands clasped, he slowly meandered around the table to the dissident seated on the far side of the table. “You must be new here,” he jested. A nervous chuckle echoed in the cavern. “It is a game. It is an infinite game. A game created by the world. By everyone.” Oshino-san paused behind the nervous looking employee, who dared not look his master in the face. A bead of sweat fell from his nose as Oshino-san clapped both hands on his shoulders. “They will share these levels with each other. They can play to their heart’s content. And what will we do?” Oshino-san lowered to his comrades ear and whispered. “We watch.”

Oshino strolled lazily back to his seat at the head of the conference room. “Yes, brilliant, sir!” The previously heretical peon screamed his newly arisen enthusiasm to the timid room. “Where may I be of assistance?”

Director Oshino sat in his throne, raised pointedly above his subjected. “You, my friend, will be an example.” Before any reaction could be processed, Oshino flicked an unassuming switch on the arm of his throne. The unbeliever’s chair flung backwards as a platform opened beneath him. His body fell towards a seemingly endless chasm of lava as his screams echoed through the chambers. The platform closed, snipping the trail of sulfurous smoke that seeped into the board room. In the distance, the growling laughs of an oversized orange and green turtle could be heard as he toyed with his new prey.

“LET THIS NEW AGE BEGIN HERE! NO LONGER IS THERE SUPER MARIO BROTHERS! THERE IS ONLY SUPER MARIO MAKER!” The remaining members of the board immediately rose from their chairs and applauded their overlord, his arms raised above them as if the great blessing of the galaxy had descended from his very hands.

Well here we are. 2019. And we have Super Mario Maker 2. And the joke is on you, Oshino Yosuke… BECAUSE WE LOVE IT!

The original entry to the Super Mario Maker series received high acclaim from critics and players alike for the ability to literally create the Mario levels of your dreams and share them with the world. Unfortunately, the series originally released on the under marketed Nintendo Wii U, and sales never reached the potential that Nintendo had hoped for and envisioned, and the market was unfortunately limited. That didn’t stop the good press, though; the game was nominated for numerous awards, including Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2015. It won an equal number of awards, including multiple Best Family Game trophies. At this point, a sequel seemed not only possible but probable, and with the success and sales of the Nintendo Switch became a near certainty. But if you were like me when it was announced, you may have asked yourself, “We could already make Mario levels in the original. What more could they include?”

Well, it turns out, a lot. Super Mario Maker 2 had its true debut to the world in a seventeen and a half minute Direct that contained so much content and so many new elements that the 17+ minutes actually felt rushed. In fact, the demonstration of the sequel’s assets made me wonder how levels had been created in the original game at all. Immediately, my head began swimming with ideas of the levels that I would be able to create and torture my friends with. More importantly, I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to throw my Joy-Cons at the TV with every hidden coin block that forced me to fall in a pit to my death.

I must admit that the wholly imaginative narrative I’ve relayed to you at the beginning of this review vilifies the creators of Super Mario Maker 2 in a way that is wholly unfair. The effort and love put into it is apparent throughout every step, jump, and coin of the game. There is, in fact, a fully realized Mario game included with your purchase, and over 100 beautifully detailed and impressively creative stages from Nintendo’s own master crafters await you. Hours of gameplay are available right from the start without ever entering the course creator or playing a community-made course.

These levels are here to introduce you to the different mechanics available in the course creator, some of which are even new to the Mario series and take some practice to master. Aside from a fun journey in earning coins to rebuild Princess Peach’s castle, these courses are designed to get your own creative juices flowing. Learning how Nintendo themselves created each of the levels (presumably even within the game’s own course creator) is half of the fun of playing through the campaign. Unfortunately, some of the elements you’ll encounter in story mode strangely aren’t available in the course creator. A few of my favorite levels through story mode including carrying a heavy stone to goal, or escorting one or more Toads to the finish line. Neither of these elements are available in course creator, and though they may be added in future updates (which are almost guaranteed), it would have been nice to have access to both at launch considering their inclusion to the offline campaign. These are minor complaints, however. The tools made available are so extensive that the possibilities are quite literally endless.

The campaign and course creator feature five themes in which to experience side scrolling Mario fun, including Super Mario Bros (NES), Super Mario Bros 3 (NES), Super Mario World (SNES), New Super Mario Bros U (Wii U), and Super Mario 3D World (Wii U). The game truly feels like a love letter to each of these games and nearly any element you encounter in the original game is available in this recreation. Elements from other Mario games are placeable in each of the other game themes, and the first four themes are almost entirely interchangeable from one to the other. Seeing new elements in the style of the NES games is always a joy and surprisingly doesn’t feel out of place at all. I was most shocked to learn that my brain could switch between the different game styles seamlessly, and impressed that Nintendo was able to keep such a uniform gameplay experience throughout so many years.

I would be remiss to not mention the obvious attention paid to the game’s score. Atsuko Asahi, Toru Minegishi, Sayako Doi, and Koji Kondo have created a catchy and beautiful collection of tunes that are absolute ear worms. The team of composers had many years of iconic music from which to draw inspiration and reprisal, and each one is so masterfully crafted that they stand amongst the very best tunes the Mario series has to offer. The soundtrack is an instant classic for fans of video game music. For a probe in the offerings of the score, make sure to listen to the July 10th, 2019 episode of BGMania: A Video Game Music Podcast!

As fun as the campaign of Super Mario Maker 2 is, this game, like its predecessor, truly shines when you hop online to Course World and experience the creativity of your fellow Mario fans. In order to access the online content, users have to subscribe to the Nintendo Switch online service, which runs an affordable $19.99 for a whole year. (Twitch Prime members also have the opportunity to get a free year to Switch Online.) The online course hub allows you to see new and rising courses, as well as the current most popular courses as voted by the community.

Each of the most popular courses is invariably well made and fun to play through, but in case there are certain elements you want to search for, you are able to perform an advanced search of custom tags as selected by each creator. If you are playing in docked mode, Course World can be a little bit of a hassle to navigate and manage. In handheld, the touchscreen allows much quicker access to the various tabs and menus at your disposal. Personally, I found Course World to be slightly convoluted, and even after hours of online play, I have difficulty finding exactly the collection of courses I’m searching for, whether its saved courses, recently played, or advanced search by tags or course ID. I have relied on third party community websites to find levels I’ve most enjoyed, or have followed creators who have shared their Creator ID and whose courses I know will challenge and fascinate me.

Once you’re able to locate the proper tab for your desired list of courses and select your desired stage, the online functionality runs amazingly well. Courses download quickly and keep track of attempts, clear percentage, and personal and world record clear times. If you know you’ll be playing without access to wifi, each course is also available to be downloaded and played offline. Disappointingly, each player can only upload 32 courses per account. This number disappears surprisingly fast for experienced course makers, and an increased limit does not seem like an unreasonable request to Nintendo considering the relatively small file size of each course. Knowing that Nintendo is relying on content creators for the success of this game also makes me scratch my head as to why they would choose an arbitrarily low number, but luckily, course creators are not few in number. As stated previously, a nearly endless supply of stages are being uploaded daily and truly display the wide array of creative talents of your fellow gamers. Keep in mind that your time in the Course World hub will be short, so these complaints are truthfully nothing more than minor annoyances, easily overshadowed by the incredible gameplay.

I’ve been a Mario fan as long as I can remember. A family favorite tale relates the story of a 2 year old me completing the early levels of Super Mario Bros on the NES. Nintendo has truly perfected the sidescrolling platformer game with perhaps the most recognizable face in video game history. It feels almost an honor that they have trust us, their fans, to take the reins of creating the newest adventures for the Italian plumber and his fearless (or incredibly fearful, if you play as Luigi) party. I can’t think of any other single player game that has offered such a wide breadth and endless stream of content without having to pay for every new level. Whether you are a creative and inspiring designer, a swift fingered speedrunner, or a casual weekend Mario newbie, there will forever be another flagpole to grab, castle to conquer, and princess to save in the incomparable Super Mario Maker 2. The team at Level Down Games can not put it down, and if you decide to make the purchase, we’re certain you won’t be able to either.

9.0 / 10

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