On May 17, Mario is scheduled to jump into the world of Minecraft: Wii U Edition with a hearty "It's-a me!"
Last week, I was taken on a virtual tour of Mario's chunky new domain by Damon Baker, Nintendo's senior manager of licensing, and 4J, the team handling the skinning process. As a long-time advocate of cross-breeding Nintendo and Minecraft, I'm happy this is finally happening.
Needless to say, unofficial fan-made skins for Mario characters have been available since day one in Minecraft. Mojang and 4J knew they'd have to one-up (heh heh) the content already out there, and even the preview contains plenty of evidence that the teams gave it their all.
The Super Mario Mash-Up isn't merely a collection of skins for Steve, though there are plenty of those up for grabs, too (over 40 skins across a variety of heroes, villains, and whatever Waluigi counts as). Pretty much everything in the game -- weapons, accessories, armor, and, of course, blocks -- has a Super Mario flavor.
Potatoes are now the grinning turnips from Super Mario Bros 2. Swords are hammers. Creepers are green Pokeys, and zombies are Hammer Bros. Carrots are still carrots, though they've been altered to resemble the iconic power-ups from Super Mario Land 2. Even wolves have been turned into marauding packs of Poochies from Yoshi's Island, which makes it unsettlingly hilarious when they go feral and attack nearby sheep (Koopa Troopas in this case).
Armor sets are now power-up suits. Crafting leather armor gives you a Cat Suit, and Diamond Armor is the adorable Penguin Suit. If you ever wanted to see Birdo outfitted as a cat, the Super Mario Mash-Up has you covered.
But what really makes the Super Mario Mash-Up a head-turner are its re-creations of legendary Mario locales. The game's pre-built world references dozens of Mario games across the series' lifespan. You can visit Peach's castle from Super Mario 64 (and knock down paintings to find secret passages), play around on maps themed after Super Mario Bros 3, and frolic under a gigantic re-creation of the Angry Sun (CAUTION: Do not taunt the Angry Sun).
The most impressive landscape I got to see was a build of Super Mario World's map, including the gaping dragon maw that serves as the entrance for the Valley of Bowser in the original game. In the Super Mario Mash-Up, however, slipping past Bowser's pearly whites will take you to the Nether. Turns out Minecraft's hellish underworld is a perfect domain for Bowser and his boys. Who would've guessed?
There are several platforming challenges strewn around these worlds, and your reward for conquering them are CDs containing classic Mario music. It's good motivation for braving Boos and Dry Bones. Ah, but which denizen of the Mushroom Kingdom has taken up residence in The End and usurped the Ender Dragon? That's a surprise.
The Super Mario Mash-Up is a significant step in Nintendo's aim to expand the reach of its characters, and it seems Mojang and 4J have built up a world that respects Mario's legacy of creativity and fun. Is The Legend of Zelda next? Baker told me the team's been pouring all its efforts into perfecting the Super Mario Mash-Up, but Nintendo and Mojang are certainly listening to fan feedback. Psst -- that's your cue to ask nicely.
Download the free Super Mario Mash-Up update for Minecraft: Wii U Edition on May 17.
By the way: The crafting tables are now question blocks. But you saw that coming, right?