The focus of Super Mario Maker, Super Mario Maker 3DS, and Super Mario Maker 2 is the level-building. The entire series is all about building fun, weird, fantastic, and horrible Mario levels to share with the world. A celebration of creativity and Mario all rolled up into one.
The problem is what I call the Minecraft Effect. When faced with an excellent tool for creatively, you might have all these wild ideas for structures and objects to build, but you ultimately lack the needed effort or focus to make them a reality. With Mario Maker, I had ideas for specific parts of course, but no real way to put them together.
A lot of folks might've missed Yamamura's Lessons and the Super Mario Challenge, both of which were only in the 3DS version of Super Mario Maker. Yamamura's Lessons were an interactive tutorial, patterned off of the web-only Super Mario Maker: Crash Course series, where the pigeon Yamamura would teach players the mechanics and philosophy of Mario level design. The Super Mario Challenge-an expansion on the Mario Challenge in the Wii U, where you'd tackled 10 user-created levels-offered up 100 levels developed by Nintendo. These levels had not only some fantastic platforming, but also some fiendish puzzles, together representing some excellent level design ideas.
Super Mario Maker 2 builds upon these modes. While Yamamura's Lessons only came to a total of 10 deep dives into Mario Design, the new Yamamura's Dojo offers a total of 45 lessons. These lessons are split into three categories with 15 lessons a piece: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. While Beginner covers the basics like Terrain, Blocks, and Tracks, the later lessons get deeper, tackling level pacing, atmosphere, and player behavior. It's a wealth of information from the folks that make Mario what it is. It's not interactive like the previous Lessons, but I think the depth more than makes up for it.
There's also the new Story Mode, which is really just a slight narrative layer on top of a new Super Mario Challenge. Once again, Nintendo has included a host of levels for players to tackle, and I'd say they are just as good as the previous Challenge levels. Some will test your reflexes, some will test your brainpower, but all of them have a specific focus that's tailor-made to get you to think about how these level parts are used. One level mirrors a side-scrolling shooter using the Bowser Clown Car, while another sets a clear condition that your feet never leave the ground. The challenge and fun of Mario levels (and Mario Maker levels) is the synthesis of level design, enemy placement, and specific clear conditions, something the Story Mode teaches rather well.
If you leap and ground pound your way to victory, while taking in all of Yamamura's lessons, you'll probably end up as a Mario course-making veteran. At the very least, they'll make you better without feeling like homework.
Super Mario Maker 2 is coming to Nintendo Switch on June 28, 2019. Elsewhere we've got details on the Night mode in Super Mario Maker 2 Course Creaion.