A new version of Super Mario Maker launched last week for 3DS, and it's pretty good! But wow, does it have some noticeable issues.
Namely, it's missing a ton of content that appeared in the Wii U rendition of the game. While I ultimately judged this new version to include enough new material to justify its existence (and a purchase), there's definitely no question that it dropped a lot of major features that many fans consider essential elements of the Super Mario Maker concept. The one silver lining to this cloudy turn of events is that Nintendo went all-in on updates for the Wii U version of the game, adding a remarkable number of new features and refinements that elevated it beyond its already excellent debut. And there's no reason to think Nintendo won't do the same for the 3DS conversion; after all, look at the massive new (and free) update they recently pushed for Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Super Mario Maker for 3DS already has the underpinnings of a truly magnificent game... all it needs is a little love and attention from its creators to help it achieve its destined excellence and turn it into the definitive Super Mario Maker.
Let's start with the most obvious oversight first: Online sharing. As I said in my review, the joy of creation largely comes from sharing, and SMM3DS only allows creators to exchange their works via Street Pass. That's better than nothing, but only just, especially in the U.S.; most Americans have never had much luck Street Passing, and even taking the recent Pokémon bump into account, fewer people than ever are carrying their 3DS systems with them these days. Unless you live in some wonderful enclave where people constantly take their systems with them (like, say, Nintendo headquarters), chances are pretty good that you'll never actually encounter another person's Mario Maker creations unless you actively seek out a Street Pass relay point.
I've heard a number of speculative justifications as to why Nintendo didn't enable proper online sharing of SMM3DS stage designs (including the suggestion that the 3DS is incapable of uploading data at decent speeds), but they all sound flimsy. The free exchange of game stages made the console version of Super Mario Maker into what it was, and kept it lively for a long time. The 3DS version desperately needs that hook to keep people playing for more than a few days after the complete the single-player campaign challenges.
Proper level search (by name/UID)
Even if Nintendo never provides a proper level-swapping system, they could at least implement a decent search feature. Currently, you can download user-created stages to SMM3DS and even save dozens of them to your cartridge (provided you don't mind giving up slots for levels of your own invention). However, doing so involves what amounts to a lottery: The Super Mario Maker server dishes up a random selection of stages for you, and in order to sample different ones you essentially spin the wheel of fortune and hope the new set of random selections are more to your liking. The only fine-tuning available on the user end is a filter for one of several difficulty settings ranging from easy to impossible.
SMM3DS won't be properly complete until players are allowed to search properly among all Mario Maker stages. By level name, by user, by stage ID number — at a minimum. Even better would be content filters, such as the ability to search only for games in, say, the Super Mario World style, or games in a Ghost House setting. (It would also be nice to be able to rate stages, but since SMM3DS repurposes rating medals for the pre-made level challenges, that's a whole different can of worms.)
Being able to scan amiibo figurines in order to unlock bitmap sprites of characters from across the Nintendo pantheon for use in classic Mario mode wasn't exactly a game-changer, but it was fun. Naturally, Nintendo removed it from the 3DS version, despite New 3DS systems having built-in amiibo support... and despite selling a largely useless peripheral to allow original 3DS consoles to interact with amiibo as well. I suppose there's something to be said for Nintendo's long-running commitment to selling peripherals which they promptly abandon... but it makes SMM3DS a little less lively. And that's lame.
I don't know if there are technical limitations preventing amiibo sprites from appearing in the 3DS remake of Mario Maker, or if it has something to do with character licensing (The Pokémon Company and Creatures, Inc. are pretty fussy about lending out the use of Pokémon characters, even to property co-owner Nintendo), but surely Nintendo could come up with some use for amiibo in SMM3DS. Even partial support, without necessarily including a role for every single amiibo ever, would be nice.
So far, all of these talking points have amounted to a call for Nintendo to simple restore lost functionality from the Wii U version of the game. There's plenty of room for SMM3DS to embrace the portable nature of its host platform, though; being based on a handheld device gives this rendition of the product potential to work in ways that would be functionally impossible for the console-based release.
To wit, what about a collaborative design tool? The Wii U limits players to a single game pad per console, and Super Mario Maker simply doesn't work without a touch screen. The 3DS, on the other hand, was specifically designed with social play in mind: Each person with their own system, communicating wirelessly for cooperative and competitive feats. So why not put that concept to work for 3DS Super Mario Maker? Approach the game like an Adobe Drive document, allowing multiple people to treat a single stage as their canvas, collaborating and drafting design ideas together? Sure, it could be a little awkward at times, but honestly the fruits of two people working in tandem on a Mario stage layout couldn't be any worse than some of the creations I've seen people make on Wii U.
Embrace the Game Boy
Remember all those fun Game Boy Mario games? Super Mario Land, Super Mario Land 2, and... uh, Wario Land? Yeah. We need the assets and mechanics for recreating games set in those worlds, thanks.
Remember Sonic 3? Remember Sonic & Knuckles? Remember Sonic 3 & Knuckles? The lock-on cartridge that allowed you to wildly reinvent the way Sonic 3 played? How great would it be to see Super Mario Maker for 3DS do something like that?
Obviously, it wouldn't be a physical lock-on cartridge — you can't really patch a new cartridge connector into a game. But Nintendo has been pushing for players to go digital, and what more compelling argument could they offer than allowing Super Mario Maker for 3DS to recognize a player's digital purchases and build new content based on other games on their system? I don't know exactly what form that would take, but maybe there could be special custom levels based on, say, A Link Between Worlds, or the ability to unlock Kirby's mech suits for people who own Planet Robobot?
Of course, this would be a terribly divisive inclusion that would definitely cause people who prefer not to buy digitally to take it personally, which sort of undermines the "make everyone happy" mission statement of this list. But when has the prospect of annoying fans ever stopped Nintendo from doing something? Man, it's like you haven't even been paying attention these past 30 years.