Just this week we got another look at Super Mario Maker at a UK press event, and were struck by its significant potential. Yet we've already done a first impressions article from E3, which goes into detail on how well it's shaping up. If you want a strong outline of its core features and why we think it's marvellous, then click that link and have a read.
As a game (or app?) it's come a long way since its equivalent demo build of 2014. The level creation tool is fully fleshed out and nicely intuitive; while an overly-swanky PR venue in a hot and sticky London isn't the ideal creative environment, it became clear to your writer that basic levels don't take too long to make. With help from a rep who was clearly a genuine full-on Nintendo fan - she had her Woolly World Yoshi amiibo swinging happily on her key-chain - we managed to see just what it can do. It took no time to set up a sub-world for our level, and the image of Mario crouching down in fear when we tried to 'erase' him - you can't - was both slightly sad and impossibly adorable. This is a game with little touches everywhere, and big Nintendo fans will certainly get plenty of smiles and maybe the occasional chill down the spine as they're found.
In any case, as the headline suggests another look at Super Mario Maker brought home one key point in our minds - the Nintendo community could make this a one of the truly great games ever produced by the company. Even with around 100 pre-loaded levels to be included, it's going beyond those pre-sets and into the online stages where this could be a wondrous experience.
Now, these comments are largely driven by the levels available in the demo build, which were likely all constructed by the Treehouse team and the core developers in Japan - the variety is wonderful, and most of these stages were shown at some point during E3. From the easiest stage where you quite literally do nothing - just watch madness unfold - to the 'Leap of Faith' which takes a few seconds, right through to lengthy and brutal undertakings; any platforming itch can potentially be scratched.
It struck us, when mulling over this potential diversity, that the Nintendo fanbase could be the best thing to happen to a level-creation tool like this. There remains a uniqueness to being a committed Nintendo fan, which matches the peculiarities of the company itself. So much of the love and passion is accentuated by nostalgia and recognising Nintendo's rich history, and in the most recent console generations has also been typified by the fact that the company's output is unique. As we've said many times before Nintendo systems provide their own flavour and vital input to the broader gaming industry - the video game market wouldn't survive with Nintendo alone, but the reverse is also (to an extent) true; Nintendo's weirdness and devotion to colour and personality in its IPs (old and new) is as vital today as it ever has been.
The biggest fans of the company surely, to varying and individual degrees, feel this, or at least share perspectives in the same ballpark. Those with a love for Nintendo also share that dedication in so many ways, which brings us the extraordinary culture we see around the company - browsing the web brings up clothes, artwork, animations, soundtracks and so much more that are devoted to celebrating Nintendo.
It's that dedication that could bring us truly stunning levels in Super Mario Maker. The creation tool itself has evolved to the stage that, with minimal difficulty, players can create incredibly complex and imaginative stages; the only limitation is how much spare time we have to commit ourselves to the task. Importantly, these levels can go beyond what we see in retail 2D Mario adventures, as we don't need to worry about creating an organic 8 World campaign that is accessible to a range of players. You can create Easy stages that are designed for all to enjoy, of course, and they'll be an important part of the game, but Super Mario Maker will allow players to create the stages they always wanted. When you take all the available items, environments and four classic art styles, and realise they're all paints to go on a blank canvas, eyes widen.
It's the potential silliness and mash-ups of items and approaches that promise the most. As was made clear during E3, new sprites and models have been created to broaden the horizons of the four styles - Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. U - and open up quirky possibilities. Though a created stage is eventually locked to one final template, the easy swapping while making levels is sure to lead to some wacky stages.
While Nintendo's not always stayed true to the approach recently, Super Mario Maker also plays into a sense of generosity. If a stage has an amiibo power-up for a cute 8-bit pixel, you don't need to own that amiibo to experience it in the level; that's a nice bonus. We saw the Bowser amiibo playable character this week, too, and its degree of awesomeness makes us want to experiment with as many amiibo as possible.
The user interface for finding levels will be key, too. On a simple level the search tools are intuitive and easy to use, sorting by difficulty settings and checking out key details before diving in. Seeing a percentage of how many people have actually beaten a stage is a nice warm-up, as is the fact you can take a stage you like and edit it yourself, creating a new alternative to share. When running through stages a death shows red crosses where others have met their doom, while Miiverse messages pop up with tips and exclamations of joy / frustration / confusion. All of this helps bring users together.
On top of that, the gameplay itself feels as polished as any Mario game before now. With clean, handsome visuals, an impeccable framerate and extremely tight controls, this is as good as 2D Mario has ever felt.
Super Mario Maker, then, has all of the tools to be a worthy and brilliant celebration of Super Mario's 30th Anniversary. It's once fans get hold of it and put it to work that it could become the ultimate Mario experience.