Under normal circumstances, trying to beat Shigeru Miyamoto at his own game is a fool’s errand, especially if the game in question is Super Mario Bros. At best, you could do something that captured the spirit of that all-time classic, but then the gaming community would simply accuse you of making a clone, and you’d be forced to live the rest of your life in shame, never to venture near social media again.
Of course if Nintendo simply gave people some of the legendary game designer’s toys to play with, that would be different. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen when Mario Maker hits the Wii U sometime next year.
One of the pleasant and patient folks at the Nintendo booth helped walk me through Mario Maker in a brief hands-on session this week at E3. The gist of it is that it allows you to create your own Mario levels using the screen on the Wii U GamePad as the canvas upon which you create your wanna-be masterpiece. The basics of the interface are extremely easy to grasp, with small buttons for each category of object you want to drop in: enemies, blocks, pipes, etc. Just tap the stylus on the enemy button, tap again on a Goomba, tap once more where you’d like him to appear and bam, you’ve got yourself a Goomba.
Or in the case of one of the pre-made levels on the display unit, a whole giant pyramid of Goombas, pushing things right up to the limit of 100 enemies you can have in any level. An eraser tool makes it simple to erase anything you change your mind about, and you can even delete the bricks that make up the ground to enable the classic Mario fate of falling to your death. It’s possible to swap back and forth between gameplay and the editor at any time, and Mario can start at any point in the level for testing purposes. Even that is made easier because you can see Mario’s exact path the last time you played, which in my case meant reliving exactly how I embarrassed myself in front of random E3 attendees.
Another neat trick is the ability to switch from pixels to HD at any time, as you can change your level to the look of New Super Mario Bros. U or back again in a flash. Not even Miyamoto can do that. At least I dobut it, and maybe not without using Mario Maker himself. Most of the other details about the game/tool are being kept under wraps for now, as is Nintendo’s way, but the build that was in L.A. still provided plenty of reasons to look forward to it in 2015.
Oh, and Miyamoto-san, if you actually do have the power to simply snap your fingers and turn 8-bit graphics to current-gen visuals, I apologize for doubting you.