Last year, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of their beloved mascot, Nintendo celebrated with a game that went on to become a modern classic: Super Mario Maker. For the first time, the big "N" has fulfilled the secret desire of millions of fans, namely turning them into skilled and creative level designers, and allowing them to share their most imaginative creations with a growing community. In a few months, Super Mario Maker became an unprecedented success, allowing Nintendo's troubled home console, the Wii U, the chance to regain a little bit of confidence from those fans who had lost their faith in Nintendo's creativity.
Backed by the strength of a very successful game and a dedicated community, Nintendo decided to go for seconds with Super Mario Maker, offering a new version of this fascinating and creative masterpiece, this time for their popular handheld, called Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS. Although the core experience is exactly the same as it is in its console counterpart, this new version brings many interesting new features, making it perfectly suited to the the 3DS.
We foolishly thought that Nintendo wouldn't be able to create something new based on the old concept, but Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS surprised us, offering another really innovative experience. Although the basic premise is exactly the same, there are many differences compared to the Wii U version - it has been designed specifically for the handheld. The first major change is found when you access the "Create" mode, where we were immediately welcomed by a feature that was missing in the previous iteration of the game: an interactive tutorial. The Wii U version had a manual that explained how to build and create levels, but this wasn't available in-game, instead it was separate and you had to navigate the menus to find it.
By contrast, in Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS the player can engage with an accessible interactive guide (it's completely optional) held by a pigeon version of Mr. Yamamura (yes, really) and an assistant called Mashiko, who introduces the fundamentals of level design. It's an easy and intuitive way to explain how to create levels (although even veteran designers will benefit from watching these interactive videos).
The inclusion of these tutorials is well suited to the platform, as the player can access it regardless of internet connection. At the same time it also suits more casual users. The "Create" mode works exactly as the Wii U version does; players have four themes from some of the most famous Mario games (Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 for NES, Super Mario World for SNES, and New Super Mario Bros. U for Wii U) and six different environments (Open Air, Underground, Underwater, Haunted House, Flying Tall Ship and Bowser's Castle), where you can build your creations.
Another new feature is that players can access half of the items with which you can create your own levels straight away, while the remaining half will be unlocked in-game throughout the challenges the player will find in the "Play" mode. Here you're free to start creating right away, without the need to unlock assets. Once again, "Create" mode is accessible and intuitive for players of all ages, and the only requirement is to be creative. Nothing more. Also with regards to the controls, just like Wii U, the 3DS version uses the stylus to move the item within the level, and it works great even on the smaller screen of the New Nintendo 3DS.
As for sharing your levels with the rest of the community, Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is once again different, and it's likely that some players won't appreciate the change. Given the portability of the console, players can't share their creations online on Nintendo's servers, and they can only do so via Street Pass or locally with another player. The decision was justified because Nintendo says that players mainly use the 3DS when they travel (and therefore away from an internet connection). This reason feels a bit weak because, as we'll see shortly, the player still needs to connect to the Internet in order to access the huge pool of content that it shares with Wii U version.
But let's talk about the content that the game comes with. Nintendo added a new Super Mario Challenge mode. In this mode, which fits perfectly on the handheld, the player faces 18 worlds in order to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser. To proceed, you have to successfully complete every single one, and once you unlock a level, it unlocks in the Memobot mode, which we will discuss shortly.
Each level tasks you with a specific goal that, when cleared, allows you not only to unlock a medal, but also a secondary goal; each level, in fact, offers two medals. Once unlocked they open up in the aforementioned Memobot mode, where you can then play Super Mario Challenge mode levels out of sequence. In Memobot, players can also find the levels they've created, "Levels from the world", or those they shared with their friends (via Street Pass or locally).
As it was in Super Mario Maker Wii U, you'll find a mode called "Levels from the world" split into 100 Mario Challenge, which works exactly like its Wii U counterpart (but with a new challenge level called "Super Hard"), and "Recommended levels" (a "Super Hard" mode is available here as well). In case you're unfamiliar with these two modes, in the first the player has 100 lives available to complete 18 levels selected randomly and based on your choice of difficulty. As with the Super Mario Challenge, the player has to successfully clear each level to progress to the next.
Recommended Levels includes the most popular levels, though this version eliminated the rating system by which users could use to vote. Instead they're ranked on how much they're played, and Nintendo also curate the selection. The levels are selected based the difficulty chosen by the player, and the choice is very wide, since both modes draw from the huge pool of content created with the Wii U version. However, not all the levels from the Wii U version will be playable on Nintendo 3DS, and some of the more complicated offerings aren't compatible with the handheld version. That said, players can still access an almost limitless selection, and you can also save them on Memobot, playing them offline without being connected to the server.
Although as a whole the Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS experience is almost perfect, there are some small issues. Nintendo has explained the reason why players can't share their creations online, but we feel it's a shame that the community can't freely share their creations. What frustrates us further is the fact that you have to be online to play "100 Mario Challenge" and "Levels from the World" because the game picks the levels from Nintendo's server (although you can at least download them and save them on Memobot to play later). Another thing, but one that's less important, is the fact that the game, despite being on Nintendo 3DS, doesn't make use of the 3D feature. It's unfortunate that one of the features that characterised this handheld has gradually been abandoned by Nintendo.
Despite these minor flaws, Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS proves to be the latest must-have game for the handheld. In our opinion it's even better suited to the portable platform than it was to the Wii U, especially given how it's played. With a huge amount of content available at launch and a very active and dedicated community, Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS isn't a carbon copy, and it further improves the excellent experience offered by its predecessor, offering a unique game that'd be a perfect fit for your Christmas stocking.