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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (379)

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Strange Brigade 4/5
Metro Exodus 3.5/5
Evoland Legendary Editi... 4.5/5
Evoland 2 4.5/5
Burokku Girls 2/5
Finding Paradise 4.5/5
To the Moon 4/5
Marvel: Ultimate Allian... 2.5/5
Valley 4/5
Satellite Reign 3/5
The Fall of Gods 3.5/5
Even the Ocean 3.5/5
Asterix & Obelix XXL 2:... 3/5
Valkyria Chronicles 4 5/5
Ninja Gaiden ( Shadow W... 1/5
Super Mario Land 2.5/5
The Messenger 3.5/5
Super Mario Land 2: 6 G... 2/5
Super Mario Maker 2 3/5
Pillars of Eternity II:... 4/5
Sundered 3/5
Iconoclasts 3/5
Divinity: Original Sin 2 4.5/5
Heroes of the Monkey Ta... 4/5
Lands of Lore III 2.5/5

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Super Mario Maker 2   Nintendo Switch 

Make It ‘Til You Fake It.    3/5 stars

Four short years after the release of “Super Mario Maker” on the ill-fated WiiU (and three years after said game was ported to the cannibalistic 3DS), Nintendo had completely moved onto a new generation of hardware with the Switch, as that company has been wont to do since their very beginnings. Numerous WiiU (and fewer 3DS) games suddenly found themselves being re-released once Nintendo had a device that people actually wanted to buy again, leading to a plague of ports and remakes on a nearly unprecedented (*coughPlayStation4cough*) scale. Several of these games, including “Splatoon 2” and “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” were so glaringly similar to their immediate predecessors that gamers and reviewers alike were often left wondering until the last minute whether they were actually new games at all, or if they were some sort of pseudo-sequel – essentially an enhanced port being sold as a sequel. “Super Mario Maker 2” is another such pseudo-sequel, so uncanny in its resemblance to the original “Super Mario Maker” that it took a direct Word of God announcement from Nintendo that this game would have a single-player Story Mode to put the community’s minds at ease. I, personally, had no interest in replaying “Super Mario Maker” on a new platform, but the promise of a Story Mode filled with hand-crafted stages inspired by some of my favorite 2D platformers of all time was just too much to resist.

Presentation
“Super Mario Maker 2” is functionally identical to the original “Super Mario Maker.” It still features a suite of several distinct ‘styles’ that allow stages to resemble either the original “Super Mario Bros.” from the NES, “Super Mario Bros. 3” also from the NES, “Super Mario World” from the SNES, and “New Super Mario Bros.” from the Wii/U. In addition to the returning styles, Nintendo has included an ‘extra’ style that attempts to copy “Super Mario 3D World,” only, you know, without the ‘3D’ part. Of course, there’s still no “Super Mario Bros. 2/USA” style. The engine the game runs on feels largely iterative of the original engine, and still lacks the ability to mash-up different generations of ‘Mario’ assets into a single stage. All of this is couched in a user interface that liberally borrows icons and chrome from the SNES’s “Mario Paint,” as did its predecessor. In sum, there’s really nothing new enough here to warrant a full-fledged ‘sequel.’

Audio is almost entirely recycled from both the original “Super Mario Maker” and the other ‘Mario’ games that are represented as ‘styles.’ However, there are some noteworthy remixes of the main themes from some of the classic styles that are quite well-done and add an aural layer of authenticity for certain stage themes like ‘Night Sky’ and ‘Desert’ which weren’t originally present in all of the older ‘Mario’ titles.

Technically, “Super Mario Maker 2” feels fairly solid and competently made. However, the Switch hardware and ecosystem both try their damnedest to undermine Nintendo’s tradition of high-quality software. First, and most egregious, is the Switch’s lack of a d-pad on its default controllers, the Joy-Cons. Playing a 2D platformer like… ANY 2D ‘Mario’ game using either a finicky joystick or a disconnected set of four buttons feels pretty awful. Even worse, the Joy-Cons suffer from the typical problem possessed by all wireless controllers in that they are flakey and prone to interference. I personally noticed several instances where Mario simply refused to move, even while I was pressing a direction on the joystick, and several more instances where he wouldn’t stop moving for a second or so after I released the joystick. Then there’s the elephant in the room that is the Nintendo Network subscription, which is required to play any user-generated content in this 50% user-generated-content-based game. I’m extremely critical of any company that sells a full-priced, $60 game, and then tries to squeeze more money out of it with subscriptions… but it has sadly become clear that Nintendo is no longer one of the few companies that is above such behavior, but is quite happy down in the muck with the rest of the “AAA” swill peddlers.

Story
To address the issue that many reviewers and players (including myself) had with the original “Super Mario Maker,” Nintendo added a Story Mode, featuring just over 100 Nintendo-crafted stages. The framing device used for this mode is that Princess Peach’s castle has been destroyed (probably by Bowser during some overly-enthusiastic love-making), and Mario, plus a whole team of Toad construction workers (lead by Toadette in the role of ‘Chief,’ in a blatant display of virtue signaling) have just finished rebuilding it.

Alas, tragedy strikes as the overly-energetic UndoDog pounces on a leftover Reset Rocket, destroying the castle again and reducing the whole edifice to its foundations. With the whole of the Mushroom Kingdom’s reconstruction budget already blown, Chief Toadette whores-out Mario in the Kingdom’s gig economy to earn money for the rebuilding effort by… completing typical and/or subpar ‘Mario’ stages.

Along the way, Mario will meet a variety of unsavory characters, including a suicidal eraser and a normally-proportioned human man who loves wearing a frog-themed gimp suit, all of whom will pester him with gigs of their own. And occasionally the useless Toad construction crew gets kidnapped… because of course they do.

As Mario earns coins by completing jobs, he can commission the Toads to rebuild the castle piece-by-piece. However, the coin payments are so generous for these jobs that it’s entirely possible (actually, I don’t see how it’s impossible) to completely rebuild the castle without experiencing the entire game. Regardless, ‘the entire game’ is still fairly short, clocking in at around 12 hours, and the gig-like nature of the jobs Mario must perform causes everything to feel very disjointed and nonsensical. About the best thing going for the story in “Super Mario Maker 2” is the fact that it is so weird and Nintendo doesn’t even seem to realize how inappropriate some of the things in their games are, combined with the fact that the stage descriptions for the jobs contain a reasonable amount of humor and, at times, seem to lampshade the half-assed, phoned-in nature of the Story Mode.

Gameplay
Like its predecessor, “Super Mario Maker 2” is a Make & Play title, seemingly inspired by Sony’s long-forgotten Play/Create/Share initiative that brought us ‘LittleBigPlanet’ and “ModNation” racers, but then petered out. That is to say, roughly half of the enjoyment a player should expect to get out of “Super Mario Maker 2” comes from creating custom stages. By that measure, “Super Mario Maker 2” is a deplorable step-down from its predecessor as, not only does it now require a subscription to do ANYTHING with user-generated content (aside, that is, from sadly creating your own stages by yourself and sharing them with people you know by waving your Switch in their faces and begging them to play your stages), but without the WiiU’s cumbersome Gamepad or the 3DS’s irritating touchscreen nonsense… making stages actually feels a lot worse. The revamped UI feels cumbersome and cluttered, and causes everything to take longer than the touch-based UI in the original “Super Mario Maker.” Maybe it’s better in handheld mode…

With that out of the way, I’d like to point out that I only messed with the stage maker long enough to craft a single stage, as the reason I was interested in “Super Mario Maker 2” at all was Nintendo’s highfalutin promises of a fully fleshed-out Story Mode. As you can see, dear reader, from the Story section above, that didn’t really pan-out. There are over 100 stages in “Super Mario Maker 2,” which feels generous compared to the older 8-bit and 16-bit ‘Mario’ games whose assets have been re-used. However, quantity can’t make up for quality, and nearly every single stage created by Nintendo’s allegedly-skilled artisans feels incredibly amateurish. There are tons of super-short gimmick stages, and very little in the way of actual quality platforming. Even worse, while Story Mode is couched in a narrative framework that should provide some continuity between stages, there isn’t, as each stage starts the player off as Small Mario with 5 extra lives, without variation and without regard for how many 1-ups the player may have earned playing previous stages. Of course, there’s no real punishment for failure, and AI Luigi will start haranguing the player to let him take over for them upon dying 3 times in a single stage, so there’s no real reason to connect everything together as a cohesive whole, right?

Overall
With most of the enjoyment of the ‘Make’ mode locked behind a subscription paywall, and a serving of wholly-uninspired content in the ‘Play’ mode, it’s really hard to get excited about this mostly-unnecessary pseudo-sequel. Still, it’s really hard to mess-up 2D ‘Mario,’ as the formula is so strong on its own, and “Super Mario Maker 2” still features all the enigmatic charm the series is known for… some assembly required. For a full-priced retail release, “Super Mario Maker 2” feels awfully light on content, especially when there are Indie fangames and ROM-hacks of ‘Mario’ games out there FOR FREE that promise more compelling experiences.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 2.5/5
Gameplay:
Play: 3.5/5
Make: 3.5/5
Overall (not an average): 3/5

 

 


Recent Comments
Comment On Review

Nelson Schneider

Nelson Schneider- wrote on 01/24/20 at 12:06 AM CT

 

Okay, I changed it to a 3/5 just for you.

dbarry_22

dbarry_22- wrote on 01/06/20 at 02:49 PM CT

 

So let me get this straight. You played a game that's based on BUILDING and SHARING levels with others and you built a single level and didn't even access the sharing portion of the game to play other users levels.

Since you state this was your intent all along I have to say you should have never bought this game. The story mode to Mario Maker 2 is clearly secondary and if you're not going to build a ton of levels or get the Nintendo Online Subscription for sharing you have no business playing this game in the first place. I'd say this to anyone who owns a Switch.

I'm actually shocked you gave this thing a 3.5/5 considering how much of it you didn't do.

 
 
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