Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Super Mario Maker 2 (NSW) Review

After spending more than 115 hours with Super Mario Maker 2, creating levels and playing through the game, it is finally time for my review. Speaking of creating levels, I'd be remiss if I didn't link to the current stable of traditional 2D Mario levels I've created so far. Shameless plug, I know. Here's SuperPhillip Central's review of Super Mario Maker 2.

Maker no mistake--Super Mario Maker 2 is a dream game 
for Mario fans, but not without faults.

One of the games that made the Wii U worthwhile to me was Super Mario Maker, and one of the aspects about the game that made it worthwhile to me was how it smartly used the Wii U GamePad for creating levels. When Super Mario Maker 2 was announced for the Switch, I saw myself having some trepidation and uncertainty towards how well making levels with a controller would play out. Still, even with that in mind, I found those thoughts were easily outnumbered and overwhelmed by my thoughts of all the level possibilities I could create with all of the new tools and mechanics in tow. From slopes (yes, finally, slopes!) to new enemies, Super Mario Maker 2 is packed with new features, and besides one element of the game that drags the package down, this level maker makes some serious waves on the Switch.

Super Mario Maker 2 once again puts the player into the role of the creator of levels. Thankfully, this time around players aren't just thrown into the maker without appropriate instruction. Not only is there a series of tutorials that divulge information in how to use the creator and best practices for making levels in general (though sadly not interactive like they were in the Nintendo 3DS port of Super Mario Maker), but there is a full-fledged story mode in Super Mario Maker 2 as well.

The story mode consists of rebuilding Peach's castle after everyone's favorite dog that undoes things, Undodog, inadvertently erases the castle from existence. In the story mode, Mario is tasked with earning enough coins to construct various parts of the castle. Coins are earned primarily from completing missions handed out by various characters, and these missions aren't just for the sole goal of acquiring coins, but they also serve as a means to inspire potential creators of levels. It gives them a taste of what is possible with Super Mario Maker 2's tools.

Story mode sees Mario assisting in rebuilding Peach's castle.
As you build new structures and additions to Peach's castle with coins, new missions open up, and the total stretches past 100 easily. Many of these levels aren't fully featured or structured like a traditional Mario game, but they do house some crafty and clever scenarios. Each level has a proper purpose of teaching a mechanic and going wild with it--whether it's a level containing the use of Super Mario Maker 2's all-new twisters, riding a teeter-totter while avoiding the charges of the Angry Sun, or running through a gauntlet of On and Off switches, another new addition to Super Mario Maker 2's creation tools, once you're done with the story mode, you'll be more than ready to concoct some killer level creations.

Super Mario Maker 2's story levels are a lot of fun, but they're hardly worth buying the game for exclusively.
So, while it's recommended to play through the story mode before jumping into the level maker, we all know that's for squares! You can bet I didn't follow that recommendation, either, but just know that some level creator content is locked behind completing story mode. That said, nearly every tool, object, enemy, and item is available right from the start in Super Mario Maker 2's creator, which is a great thing to see and contrary to how the original Super Mario Maker slowly drip fed players tools to make levels.

As if a gift from the heavens, Super Mario Maker 2 introduces slopes for more natural course creations.
Making levels in Super Mario Maker 2's creator is a mixed bag. There is a pretty high learning curve to using an analog controller with its button inputs to select from the various menus in the creator.  I found myself battling with the controls trying to reach menus, forgetting what button did what, and so forth. I still find myself occasionally confused with the controls when playing in docked mode, and that's with over 100 hours of creator time logged into the game as is.

The interface has been updated for Super Mario Maker 2. I miss the easier,
more accessible approach of the original game, but this setup isn't bad either.
Fortunately, one can also make levels via handheld play, and while I thought being forced to use touchscreen controls (save for using the sticks to scroll around the levels) would be a mistake, it actually is the best way to create levels. It's fast to place parts and pieces and filling in giant empty spaces with tiles, and it's also just less of a headache to learn.

If you're a more hands-on type of creator, you can use the touchscreen in handheld mode to make levels.
The creator sports a bunch of new parts in this sequel, as well as new styles and themes. Well, actually just one new "style" without the plural form of the word. Alongside the returning Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U styles, Super Mario 3D World has been added to the fro, as marketed heavily by Nintendo leading up to Super Mario Maker 2's release. While it's a fine enough addition, there's so much gated behind it with exclusive enemies, objects, and hazards, as well as rather bare bones. For instance, it's quite hard to establish a unique visual identity to a 3D World level because you have but one choice to utilize for semisolid platforms, which can be used not just as platforms but by craftier creators as level backgrounds. In 3D World, you're much more limited.

However, what isn't so limiting when compared to the original Super Mario Maker is all of the different level themes you can have. There's the base ground, underground, underwater, airship, ghost house, and castle types from the past game, but now there's snow, forest (complete with water you can adjust the level of), sky, and desert. All of these have nighttime versions, which alter how each level plays. For instance, making a desert course a nighttime one will have the level experience strong winds while a snow level will make icy floors especially slippery. The underground theme is particularly cool at night, as it makes the screen flipped upside down--really messing with the player's mind in the process. Regardless, while as a creator, I'd prefer the option to have these themes at night be turned off if I wanted them that way (as well as eliminate the toy box sounding versions of the music for nighttime), these are fantastic additions to Super Mario Maker 2 and more than double the possible level types creators can come up with.

This is no forest of illusion. The forest level theme is actually one of the new
level types you can use in Super Mario Maker 2!
With over two million levels already uploaded and published to Nintendo's servers, it can be quite challenging to discover excellent creations... you might think. However, currently, the popular course section is filled to the brim with creative level concoctions from some truly fantastic creators. I'm floored by the--no pun intended--level of creativity brought forth by the current crop of Super Mario Maker 2 creators.

That's not to say there isn't a lot of junk to wade through. You bet there is, and this is made obvious by playing through the Endless Mode of Super Mario Maker 2 for any length of time. As the mode's name would suggest, you play through an endless amount of Mario Maker 2 levels until you run out of lives, or if you're like me, until you've had enough auto, music, Kaizo, troll, and/or bad levels. Still, whether one's level is quality or not, it can be ridiculously difficult to have one's creation that they poured their heart and soul into to get attention. Basically, it comes down to luck at this stage, alongside lots of self-promotion in this process. The latter is helped, however, by level codes only being nine characters long this time around for easier sharing.

One of the biggest wishes from fans regarding 2D Mario is the addition of online multiplayer in both cooperative and competitive versus modes. Nintendo is certainly reliable here. ...No, not with providing actually good netcode or online play in general--I mean that Nintendo is reliable in once again dropping the ball when it comes to online play completely. Now, however, you get the joy and pleasure of paying for your poor online experience this time around. Between the immense amount of lag that can occur when any one player in a four-player match has a modicum of connection issues to levels unfit for multiplayer play being put into the selection of courses in multiplayer, the mode is broken beyond belief. Add that to the fact that you can't even play with your own friends (though, this is of course being included in a future update--but should have been at launch to begin with), and you have a part of Super Mario Maker 2 that doesn't work as intended and brings down the overall quality of the game.

Like a certain chocolate-flavored ice cream, online play in multiplayer can be rocky.
While the more eclectic touches of the maker's mechanics from the original Wii U game are gone, such as a cat's paw knocking away deleted objects and enemies, Super Mario Maker 2 is an all-in-all improvement over its predecessor in almost every way. Online play is definitely a major disappointment, but the rich features of the editor, the inclusion of the story mode (though this isn't worth buying the game solely for), and amount of creativity able to be and already expressed by individual creators and the community make this sequel shine. Nintendo might not have built a perfect construction with Super Mario Maker 2, but it's hardly something I'd "boo" either.

[SPC Says: A-]

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