I've spent quite a bit of time with Super Mario Maker lately—not enough to unlock everything, unfortunately—and in my various attempts to make Something Good, I can't help but be impressed by its uncanny ability to rework newer ideas into older frameworks.
If you play a vanilla Super Mario Bros. stage created in Super Mario Maker, you'll probably notice it's almost, but not quite like the actual game. The controls might feel dead-on, but many of Mario 3 and World's innovations have found their way into Super Mario Bros.' 1985 game design. Bouncing off enemies, for instance, now gives you a more controlled jump, kicked shells collect coins, and taking a hit while blessed with Fire Flower power now demotes you to Big Mario instead of Little Mario—and those are just a few of the many, tiny changes. Each "style" in Super Mario Maker has its limitations, of course—sadly, you can't sneak Yoshi into an SMB1 level—but, for the most part, the older interpretations of Mario now benefit from the power of hindsight.
These minor tweaks are definitely appreciated, but Super Mario Maker's most impressive additions exist in the form of new content meant to peacefully co-exist with resources created decades ago. If Nintendo was more restrictive, Super Mario Maker would still be a great tool, but how far they've gone to give designers a wealth of options is nothing short of remarkable. The "ghost house" aesthetic was essentially created for Super Mario World, yet the SMB1 and SMB3 themes in Mario Maker offer their own unique spins on this type of level, right down to the accompanying songs. (And Boos are inexplicably even cuter in their redesigned SMB1 form.) I don't know about you, but the new Super Mario Bros. ghost house song feels right at home next to the 1985 compositions—even if it sounds a touch like something from Wario Land.
And though SMB3 saw the introduction of Boos, they only existed within the confines of fortresses. So now there's a brand-new song for spooky Super Mario 3 levels that could have escaped from Koji Kondo's keyboard in 1988.
It's these little touches—ones destined to only be appreciated by a tiny demographic—that have given me a real appreciation for Super Mario Maker over the past few weeks. I remember tinkering with it at last year's E3, and thinking, "This is neat, but how are they going to turn it into a complete package?" Shortly after release, we're only seeing brief glimpses of how versatile its seemingly limited toolset can be, to the point where I won't be surprised if people figure out how to make something entirely different than a basic platformer with the parts of Super Mario Maker. I know I can't wait to be surprised—even if I'm not talented enough to be the one doing the surprising.