This game looks objectively incredible…so why do I feel so disappointed?
I’ve been playing Splatoon 2 almost exclusively since I finished Octopath Traveler almost a year ago, but if there’s one game that could tear me away from Inkopolis, it’s Super Mario Maker, which I spent hundreds of hours messing around with on the Wii U. We got a brief taste of Super Mario Maker 2 in Nintendo’s last direct back in February, but the company had been strangely quiet about the game since then until the surprise announcement of yesterday’s dedicated Mario Maker Direct.
In hindsight, I think the data gap was a blunder on Nintendo’s part: With so little information on the game (and so many new features packed into the reveal trailer), fans like myself were allowed to let their imaginations run wild and form unrealistic expectations about what the game would actually include. When reality finally hit yesterday, while the game actually did a decent job of fulfilling these expectations, there were some glaring gaps that really jumped out at me, and those ended up being my biggest takeaways when the Direct ended.
Does this game look good? Absolutely. Will I enjoy it? Most likely, yes. But am I as hyped as I was before the Direct? Not by a longshot.
My specific thoughts on the game are as follows:
- I had no issue with the structure of the presentation and how it started with the basics of level creation. The Wii U, and by extension Super Mario Maker, didn’t have a huge install base, so all the foundational stuff that fans of the original game take for granted still needed to be explained. It slowed the presentation down for me personally, but it helped explain the basic concepts to those who didn’t get to try out the first game.
- One of the main issues with the Direct was that a lot of the new additions they showed off were already revealed in the introductory trailer, which stole a lot of their thunder here. I kind of wish Nintendo hadn’t packed so many things into its February Direct, and instead had been a bit more slow and deliberate about how they revealed information over time.
- The new stuff that was here, however, was pretty neat: Night-themed courses and their crazy effects, a whole bunch of unexpected mechanics from Super Mario 3D World (warp boxes, blinking boxes, spike blocks, etc.)…there’s definitely a lot to play around with here, and I’m excited to try everything out.
- Speaking of 3D World: While I’m super psyched it’s included here, I’m less than impressed that it’s basically siloed off as a course theme. Part of the beauty of Super Mario Maker was being able to mix and match elements from different themes, and not letting us use, say, blinking blocks in Super Mario 3 feels like it violates the spirit of the game. I’m glad this theme is here, but there’s a lot of wasted potential here as well.
- I think the mode options are a slight improvement over the original game. Instead of random courses played through the 10-Mario challenge, there’s a full-blown Story Mode with a whole bunch of new courses and a reason to collect coins for a change (honestly, it sounds like there’s a whole new 2D Mario game buried in here). The 100-Mario challenge has also been revamped in favor of the Endless Challenge, pushing players to go far as far as their skills will take them. I’m not a huge fan of the 100-Mario change (there’s something to be said about knowing the scope of what you’re embarking on and the satisfaction of completing it), but given the massive streaming and competitive communities that sprung up around the original game, the change makes sense.
- One thing I’m not excited about is the new ranking system for players competing against each other. It feels bolted-on and unnecessary, and while speedrunners might enjoy it, it feel like it incentivizes blasting through levels instead of taking your time and enjoying them. I don’t oppose its inclusion and I’m sure some people will have fun with it, but I just earned my first X rank in Splatoon 2 and am not really looking to climb yet another ladder in a different game.
- The online co-op mode, on the other hand, looks more like my speed. I love the chaos that multiplayer brought to the table in New Super Mario Bros., and working together to complete a course (or even watching the last person standing trying to save the day) is more in the spirit of horde modes in other games, and I’m all for it.
- I’m sure that collaborative course-building will be fun for others, but I’m too much of a control freak to deal with other people messing with my levels. This one’s kind of a no-op for me.
- Despite all the information provided here, I’ve still got a few major questions, the biggest being “What the heck’s going to happen with all the existing SMM levels?” I haven’t seen a whole lot about the course-sharing mechanism either, and while I imagine it will work similar to the analogous feature in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate‘s Course Builder, I’d like to see more specifics about how how the game might tie into social media. And hey, what about amiibo support? Will I be able to create an Octoling level based on my Splatoon figures? Will costumes still be a thing, and if so, can we unlock them through the Endless Challenge or Story Mode?
Overall, I still think Super Mario Maker 2 will be a great game, but I think my expectations were a bit too high and the game missed the mark with a few of its design decisions. Still, it’s nothing that a few hours trying to re-create Kickin’ It With Galoombas won’t fix.