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As the Wii U continues to ride off into the sunset and the NX ever looms on the horizon, owners of the current Nintendo console struggle to find uses for it through 2016. With Star Fox: Zero turning out to be a potential disappointment that crashed and burned for some, many Wii U owners will likely turn to the tried-and-true online titles that the system has graced us with the past few years, While the Wii U has been light on game releases since it launched, standout online titles like Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Splatoon, and most recently, Super Mario Maker have ensured that my system does have its power button hit from time to time in my homes.It's the most recent of these titles that has seen the most use in my household though. In my best games of 2015 blog, I pointed out that thinks to theoretically providing a limitless amount of new 2D Mario levels to play, my Super Mario Maker disc has found an almost permanent home within my Wii U. This still hasn't changed; the beauty of Mario Maker is that levels are relatively simple to create (obvious, shameless plug - here are the mediocre levels I made!) , and the community itself is simply ingenious. While there are some obnoxious trends within the (literally) millions of Mario Maker levels out in the wild (such as auto-playing levels that require no player input), there are also some very ambitious ideas among them as well.
Lately, most of the time I boot up my Wii U I'm greeted to this image - Super Mario Maker has consumed almost all my Wii U playtime.
The most recent of these trends are full "games" created within the Super Mario Maker level editor. Essentially, these are a series of dozens of levels made by one creator, uploaded at once, that are numbered and meant to be played in succession. Often they're stitched together in creative ways and extremely well designed to create the illusion you're playing a Mario game that never saw the light of day for one reason or another. I've always delighted in these fan-made games since I don't have to download any shady emulators or software on my PC to play them, and they give me a reason to turn on my Wii U day after day to play them through until the end. The most recent of these ambitious projects is "Super Mario Maker Bros." a collection of 75 wonderfully crafted levels spread across nine "worlds." Created by Mario Maker master "FinalSmashPro," these levels feel ripped right from a proper Mario game. Most individual levels revolve around a central gameplay idea or gimmick that is taught to the player in a creative way. Level 2-1, "Goomba Geyser Desert" for example, revolves around navigating a desert like environment full of towers of Goombas, while 3-7, "Wiggler Waters" is a faster paced affair where you flee from rampaging wigglers through a narrow underwater corridor.
The game makes use of all four Mario game themes that Mario Maker offers (Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U), and every level features 3 "pink coin" collectibles, which are meant to function like Star Coins from the New Super Mario Bros. series and add a collection aspect and replayability to the fan made game. I've been having an absolute blast working my way through the levels and truth be told, I'm enjoying them more than some of Nintendo's own Mario games (looking at you Lost Levels!). It is for this reason I reached out to FinalSmashPro through Nintendo's quasi-social media system Miiverse to ask if he'd like to be interviewed through Game Informer to spread awareness about Super Mario Maker Bros. I was delighted to hear he was willing, though like all great reporters, I did take a hit for this scoop - my Miiverse account was banned for "exchanging contact information." Because Miiverse is the only social network that discourages socialization...
At any rate, if you're looking for something new to pop into your Wii U, give the following interview a read! At the end, we'll provide links so that you can experience FinalSmash Pro's creation for yourself! Without further ado, here's the interview we conducted!
Don't let the fan-made game's subtle logo fool you. This is one of the most ambitious and polished products made with Super Mario Maker to date.
MightyMagikarp: Hey there FinalSmashPro! Welcome to Game Informer Online! Before we talk about your creation, tell us a little more about yourself and your taste in games. What's your history with the Super Mario franchise? Do you have any particular favorite games in the series, and have any of its titles influenced the level design in your fan game?
FinalSmashPro: Well, I live in Australia and have had the dream to become a game designer at Nintendo for most of my life. My childhood consisted of playing my Nintendo 64 (which I still own), with games such as Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64 and Banjo Kazooie. Since then, I have played through many Mario games including the entire 3D Mario Series and most of the 2D Mario games. I think New Super Mario Bros Wii influenced my level design the most as it was my first 2D Mario game. However I think my favourite Mario title has to be Super Mario 64.
Who would've guessed back in the N64 years that one day, players would get to create their own Mario levels and share them with millions of others?
MightyMagikarp: Nice! I grow up with the 'ol N64 too. It's really hard to believe it's turning 20 this year... So, what got you into the world of Super Mario Maker to begin with? Did you plan on making levels in it before it launched, or did you get involved with it more recently?
FinalSmashPro: So, because I have always wanted to be a game designer I have used many level creation tools to make custom levels for multiple games. When I saw Nintendo announce an official level creation game I was so excited, and from that moment I decided I would make a game using it. A year later during E3 2015 I watched all the footage of Super Mario Maker and decided most of my level themes from what I saw. For example when I saw that you can ride Buzzy Beetle shells I decided that I would make a level based of that idea, and so 8-3 Sizzling Shell Surfing was born.
For many, it was E3 2015 that showed us Super Mario Maker's true potential.
MightyMagikarp: Wow...so this was a project many months in the making! So now on to questions about the design of the game itself... How long did the entire project take you to plan and create? I know firsthand that planning a single polished level can take a very long time, let alone 75 that are all stitched together...
FinalSmashPro: When it came to planning levels I started by just writing all my ideas for levels and decided which of my 9 main worlds they fit into. Then when I began making a world I would decide which level went where (1-3, 1-7 etc.). At this point I would also decide which of the 4 Mario Games the levels would fit into as there are 2 from each game per world. So the planning took about an hour per world, so it probably took about 12 hours overall. However creating the game took much longer. So just after I released the first 4 worlds Nintendo gave us checkpoints in an update, so I decided I would add them to each of my levels. This took quite awhile. Then when I released the full game I changed the collectible 1-up Mushrooms to the Pink Coins that we have now and further polished up all my levels. So overall creating the game ended up taking about 400 hours.
MightyMagikarp: 400 hours?! That's a staggering amount of commitment. That's over two full weeks of time! So this leads into my next question... There are a small amount of other fan-made complete "games" with Super Mario Maker, but yours is unique in that it doesn't adhere to a single Mario game theme throughout the entire experience. As you stated, there are two levels from each Mario game theme within every world. This was one of my favorite aspects of the final product. It strangely still feels cohesive, but also allows your game to utilize the unique mechanics of all four Mario game themes, while giving the project added variety. What ultimately made you decide to use all four themes in your game? And of the four, do you have a favorite to create levels for?
Final Smash Pro: I decided to use all 4 game themes in order to create a larger variety of levels. For example, if I only made it in Super Mario World I would have never been able to make a Goomba Shoe level or a Mega Mushroom level. Plus if you have played my Desert world you'll notice that I could only convey a desert surrounding in the Super Mario Bros 3 theme. It is just way too limiting to use a quarter of what Super Mario Maker has to offer. As for my favourite to work with, I think it has to be New Super Mario Bros U just because the levels look way better due to the improved graphics.
MightyMagikarp: I like how you mentioned that using all four Mario game themes aided your sense of creating worlds based around certain elements. I think one of Mario Maker's biggest omissions is the lack of different backgrounds for different worlds, like desert and forest, which easily could've been ripped right from New Super Mario Bros. U. I appreciate that your game circumvents this in creative ways, be it using the orange blocks from Super Mario 3 to mimic a desert palette, or placing vines in the background to make a level feel like it is inside a jungle. One of the coolest aspects of your game is the online world map that accompanies it. It helps aid the sense that all the levels are connected, while hinting what future levels could have in store. What inspired you to create an online map for your game, and how did you actually go about making it?
FinalSmashPro: With the world map, I decided I needed something to push my game a little further, to help it stand out compared to the other full games that have been made using Mario Maker. That's when I thought I would try making a world map, then later when I finished making the first World I really loved how it turned out so I decided to go through and finish it. When it came to making the world map I actually used the program Paint. Also you may notice that I used some assets from Super Mario World's map but most of the sprites I either edited or I made completely myself.
I can't even draw a straight line in Microsoft Paint, let alone create something like this...
MightyMagikarp: Looking at that map, I never would've guessed it was made in something as simple as Microsoft Paint! I was under the impression it was made using some kind of online Mario World editor or something of the like. That only makes that feat more impressive. So, you've spent over 400 hours working with the Mario Maker level editor, and know much more about it than the average user. How do you think it ultimately stacks up as a creation tool? What are its strengths, and is there anything you'd add to it or fix if you had the opportunity?
FinalSmashPro: I believe Super Mario Maker's highest strength is its ease of use. Most other level editors are slow and only allow you to place one block at a time whereas Mario Maker allows you to easily place a whole screen of blocks in a little more then 20 seconds. As for what to add, the ability to upload Worlds or Playlists would be great. Also just more enemies and themes would be nice.
MightyMagikarp: The interface of SuperMario is very simplistic and easy to grapple with. It allows a larger audience who normally would have a tough time placing a block to make decent levels on their own. It'd be nice to see Nintendo to continue to update it with new enemies and whanot as the Wii U head off into the sunset. So hopefully after reading this, a few people would like to try out your game for themselves. Do you have anything you'd like to tell people playing it for the first time? And I hate to ask, as I'm sure you're burnt on level creation for a while, but do you have future plans for Mario Maker? Do you have any plans to add more to your current game as DLC of sorts or start a new project?
FinalSmashPro: First of all please read my Reddit post and play the welcome level I uploaded so you can fully understand my game. Also thank you for playing and I hope you have a lot of fun. I have already decided to create what I am calling the 'Lost Levels'. This will consist of levels made using the DLC content that Nintendo has added since launch. There will also be some extra levels that didn't make the original cut or I hadn't come up with at the time. For news about these extra levels please check back at my Reddit post in the future.
Ultimately, both FinalSmashPro and myself enjoyed getting to talk about the finer points of Mario Maker, and for me, it was nice to get to pick the brain of someone who created one of my new favorite Mario Maker projects. If you'd like to read more information about Super Mario Maker Bros., or want to stay tuned for the upcoming "Lost Levels," be sure to check out FinalSmashPro's aforementioned Reddit page. If you'd like to play FinalSmashPro's game for yourself (and you should!), head over to his Mario Maker creation page and bookmark his levels. You can then find them when you boot up the game proper under the "Bookmarked Courses" tab.
I'd like to thank FinalSmashPro once more for taking time out of his day for this interview, and I hope some of you reading this are looking forward to having something new to play on Wii U!
Do you still play Super Mario Maker? What types of levels have you created? Are you willing to try out Super Mario Maker Bros. yourself? As always, sound off in the comments below, and happy gaming!