I loved playing through this remaster of a timeless classic once again on SMBX! Thank you so much for taking so much time & effort to create such a masterpiece of an episode! The amount of faithfulness put into it was spectacular all the way through, with technical innovations that deviated in just the right ways to keep things fresh & re-energized, such as spin-jumping replacing ground-pounding, the SMB3 exit, & the combination of propeller blocks & springs to name a few.
What I Liked/Loved:
The levels and the inter-connected world are brilliantly designed both in layout & scenery, & the use of mainly SMB1 graphics throughout was by far the best choice, as NSMB matches best with it. Due to the differentiating move-set & increased number of powerups in SMBX, it was a breath of fresh air to use multiple different power-ups throughout the episode. Likely because of this, I found the difficulty spectrum to increase substantially on both sides. Some levels were easier for sure, but certain levels proved to be quite the challenge, such as 7-Castle, 7-3 & 8-Fortress 1 to name a few.
I found a good portion of the boss fights to be increased in difficulty as well. The arenas in which you fight the koopalings & Bowser Jr. are more complex for sure, & I honestly believe you increased the jump height of all of the Koopalings to increase the difficulty further, which I applaud! It was also very nice to see a variety of final castle boss fights too! Some were similar to the original, & others did a whole lot more! By far my favourite boss fight has to be in 7-Castle where you fight a supercharged Ludwig by using the lightning bolts from Lakithunder! I've never seen anything like that before, & it proved to be quite the challenge. An epic one at that!
As of typing this, I have almost 100% completed the game as I have 79/80 stars. It's always fun seeking out all of the star coins which add an extra challenge to those who want it, like myself. I used the same system of having a star appear at the end of each stage after all the Star Coins are collected! A genius system!
Feedback on Things You Can Improve Upon:
There are two feedback items that I would like to share with you that I believe would help you improve your episode.
1. Have stars be only obtainable after bosses are defeated.
In each of the boss levels, I always found it a little odd that the star would always appear right before the boss door. In my episode, I always place the star behind a wall with its layer titled "Star Blocker", which is only hidden after the boss is defeated, so that the player must complete the stage for the star to count. I would try avoiding creating situations in which the player can lose a life after collecting a star, which I found I could take advantage of a lot. Here's a sample image of how I would set up a boss fight with all Star Coins in tow.
2. Create a Star Coin room to check the Star Coin progress.
As I have mentioned before, I have obtained 79/80 stars. Unfortunately, the only efficient way of keeping track of your collection is to either continuously play a level until all Star Coins are obtained, or manually keep track of which levels still have a star to obtain using documentation. I was sure that I collected them all on my first playthrough, but it seems as though I'm missing one. It would be ineffective & time-consuming to play each level again just to determine where I missed Star Coins. Therefore, I propose creating a level that the player can access at any time, allowing them to you can conveniently check each level via a locked door warp. You can organize each section by world & have a sign next to each locked door. If the door reads 0/1, that means there is still a start level to collect at that level. If it reads 1/1, that means the star was already obtained. This would save a LOT of time & hassle. Check the screenshot below for a visual aid!
FINAL RATING: 9.5/10
Otherwise, this episode is a hands-down fantastic one all-around! With these changes implemented, I would give this episode a perfect score! Amazing job & thank you for creating it! I know how much time goes into making these episodes & I want you to always remember that I appreciate it! All the best to you in the future!