Super Mario Maker Review Roundup: Simple, Powerful Fun

20 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Here’s the key to building awesomely difficult Super Mario Maker levels that drive me to tears.

If you go to the YouTube video in which someone finally beat “Item Abuse 3,” a hacked “Super Mario World” regarded as insanely difficult, you’re met not with an exciting sequence of video game action, but rather with a sad face and a note: “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Nintendo.” As Kotaku reported recently, Nintendo has been pulling these sorts of videos down from YouTube left and right. Modern Mario games are not supposed to make you tear your hair out, but I’ve played plenty of Super Mario Maker stages that have infuriated me with their difficulty. At issue is the fact that they are recordings of so-called “tool-assisted speedruns” — that is, performances in which Mario’s actions are guided not by the player’s real-time input, but rather by movements programmed beforehand. (I reached out to Nintendo for comment by means of the company’s website form, but didn’t hear back.) Tool-assisted speedruns require the use of ROMs, digital backup files of the original game that can be freely passed from computer to computer, or downloaded from well-known websites. These videos have been dropping like flies from YouTube, as Nintendo has ratcheted up the vigilance in cracking down on what it calls “tool-assisted speedruns.” These are not human play-throughs, but rather those where preprogrammed actions take the place of human involvement in certain levels. Therefore, Nintendo reasons — and YouTube is clearly sympathetic to this reasoning — there are copyright issues at play, since players aren’t using the (ancient) original game cartridges, or newer copies sold directly online by Nintendo.

Nintendo states flatly on its website that “it is illegal to download and play a Nintendo ROM from the Internet,” that Internet rumors about the legality of “backup copies” for people who do own the originals are misunderstood by the public. Nintendo gave us a hint in March that would be releasing games based up on its family of popular characters but hasn’t come up with any details yet.

Two pieces of context are necessary to make sense of this: The first is that these games were released decades ago and have made the company countless millions since then. Now, we’re pleased to say that there is going to be a awesome Super Smash Bros Mario Maker DLC stage for Wii U and 3DS, which will be arriving soon on September 30. The second is that Nintendo recently released “Super Mario Maker,” which allows players to design their own levels in the styles of a bunch of classic (and more recent) “Mario” games. “I think it is stupid of them to go after TAS videos, but then again they have every right to do so,” said Alex Losego, a leading speedrunner, in an e-mail. “And yes, I think this has everything to do with ‘Super Mario Maker’ being released recently. Seeing how the game is a great hit, my guess is that they don’t want people to stumble upon videos that cross the fuzzy legal line (TASes, hacks, etc.) when they search for the new game. As speedrunners have been instrumental in pushing the relevance of classic games and introducing them to younger gamers, they have done some good for the gaming community in a broader sense.

Some of the illustrations show Mario riding a cloud and shooting coins in the air, but Miyamoto explained that he had to say no because the technology then made it too hard to pull off. The games have often been accompanied by technological advances, such as the fully three-dimensional format introduced by “Super Mario 64” in 1996. These speedrunners and hackers have helped keep classic games alive and bring them to entirely new generations that might not have discovered them otherwise. He concluded by calling the initiatives as “petty” on Nintendo’s part, adding that the company is “not getting it” with regards to the benefits of speedrunning. When that results page comes up, keep an eye out for the flashing mystery box on the right-hand-side of the screen and click away to your heart’s content.

Some of these questions have relatively obvious answers: anyone observant should see that Mario doesn’t break bricks with his head, but with his fist in a Shoryuken-sort of pose. As I’ve written previously, there is huge interest in certain online communities in exploring these games’ every nook and cranny, in breaking and rewiring them in interesting ways. A level like Spin Chomp works because it’s obvious what you’re supposed to do and the creator doesn’t try to overwhelm you with a million difficult things all happening at once. Designed by legendary video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, the first level of “Super Mario Bros.” is widely heralded as a game design triumph that’s as instructive as it is fun to play. If you ignore me scaring the piss out of my cat at the end of the level, you’ll see that this difficult stage smartly compartmentalizes itself into several back-to-back challenges.

So unlike with some other stages, I kept going until I finally beat it, and I can’t wait to take what I learned and apply it to making my own tough stages.

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