Review by Tails 64
An amazing trip down memory lane
Almost any gamer can remember back in 1996 when he or she first played Super Mario 64. It was 3-D! It used a Control Stick! Hey, look, you can swing Bowser by his tail! Hey, look, Mario starts breathing hard when he is almost dead! I can surf on a Koopa shell! Mario can be shot out of a cannon! Almost anyone can remember where he or she was, what course he or she played, how bad he or she was at controlling at first; it's quite amazing. Not only did the game receive hype just because it had no competition in the third dimension, but because of how imaginative the entire premise was. The wing cap, turning into metal, wall jumping, paintings as portals, and courses with all sorts of unique twist. Even today, even after the goodness of Super Mario Sunshine, the game of Super Mario 64 still provides a great helping of fun. Now, eight years later, Nintendo releases the imaginative idea of the Nintendo DS with Super Mario 64 DS as its flag title.
Though the idea of a "port" for a brand-new concept sounds silly, this is not the same game the masses witnessed on that fair day. The graphics have been improved, over thirty touch screen mini-games can be unlocked, there are thirty new stars, and Yoshi, Luigi, and Wario join the mix. There is also a new multiplayer mode to satisfy the social group. Despite these add-ons, it is still glaring that a D-Pad must be used for control. Does this entire idea manage to work out for the new portable?
The story unfolds as Princess Peach asks Mario to come to her castle to eat the cake she baked. Luigi and Wario decide to tag along, as well. However, Yoshi decides to check up on them after much time passes. He discovers that Bowser has stolen the Power Stars and locked away his friends into paintings. Now, it's up to Yoshi to save his friends and defeat Bowser! The story is almost non-existent, which is perfectly fine in a Mario game.
From the very moment Yoshi is plopped in front of the castle, it is obvious how difficult the game is to control. The Nintendo DS glaringly lacks a Control Stick, so this three-dimensional game must be controlled with the two-dimensional tool of a D-Pad. While this does not sound terrible, even the simplest of jumps became terrible burdens. From reaching the top of the Bob-omb hill to defeating a giant Whomp, the easiest of courses were very challenging. Some of my favorite moves, such as the Side Somersault, became a far off dream. This entire experience seemed to be completely ruined by the little arrows. While there are options to control with the stylus, these never could catch on. However, about twenty Power Stars into what seemed like a train wreck, the controls seemed to work quite decently. While they are not at all terrible with experience, one will never quite feel as home with this upgrade as the original Super Mario 64.
As the experience unfolded, it was amazing how well the blueprints of the Nintendo 64 edition withstood the test of time. The castle is still great means of exploration. While not particularly large, it does provide quite a hand-full of secrets. Every course provided an amazing experience to call its own. While Super Mario Sunshine provided dull and similar courses, this game has some places in battlefields, some on mighty mountains, and others in a mystical ocean setting. The strategies required to explore each different course can completely differ. As someone who praised Mario's island outing, this young reviewer was quite shocked to see how much more the original offered.
Mario may have had Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device in his Game Cube outing, but there were many more items to be found eight years ago. Various caps would give Mario the power to fly, turn into metal, or walk through certain walls. These talents have been distributed among his buddies for this remake. Yoshi is mostly limited to making eggs, slurping, and spitting fire. Mario is the only character that can wall jump (which now takes the easier Super Mario Sunshine form) and use the Wing Cap to obtain flight. He can also inflate like a balloon if a flower is snatched from a "? Block". Luigi, perhaps the most famous of all video game brothers, can jump high and turn invisible to go through some walls. Finally, Wario is strong and able to turn into metal. While the idea of multiple characters is appealing, anyone can notice that these special abilities are just Mario's original talents split up. There are two ways to switch characters. The first way is to enter a room with four doors. Entering a character's door will change the player into the depicted character. However, this process can be quite tedious when trying to explore every inch of the courses. To solve this, there are also character caps that can be obtained in the courses. Donning these stylish hats will transform the current character into that of the hat. Like the original, these hats can be knocked off or blown away by certain forces. Whenever Yoshi enters a course, any cap of an unlocked character can be given to him right away to help reduce the amount of switching done. Despite being forced to give away some of his abilities, most players will find Mario to be the best character to use unless otherwise forced.
This Nintendo DS launch title also features a few more additions worthy of mention. Bunnies are found on a regular basis around the castle (remember Mips of the original game? These rabbits behave much like he did). Each one will unlock a very entertaining stylus mini-game. These include gambling, controlling sling shots, drawing trampolines, and many other creative outings. With over thirty-five in the game, some would consider these mini-games a worthy package of their own! Courses see some tweaks, such as an owl in Tall, Tall Mountain and platforms at the bottom of Tick Tock Clock. Every course has one more additional star than before, along with twice as many Castle Secret Stars. Remember pulling Mario's face at the title screen? Now, using the stylus, any picture drawn can be given the same effect. Plus, a few new wacky obstacle courses have been added for some flavor.
Super Mario 64 DS takes advantage of the touch screen by providing a bird's-eye view of the course. Exposed stars and the player's position are shown here, as will red coins after speaking with a pink and cuddly Bob-omb Buddy. Unfortunately, most of the camera controls are limited to this screen, too. While the camera can be centered behind the character's back with a touch of a button, rotations are limited to touching arrows on the map. This is difficult to do in a tight situation, making Mario's new camera quite pathetic, even by the standards our plumber set in 1996.
The graphics have greatly improved from the Nintendo 64 version. The entire look is sharper and more detailed, which really shows the power of this new portable Nintendo has unleashed. Many of the character models have been done from scratch, which helps update the entire game into this new millennium. Whether it is Mario, a Bob-omb, or Bowser, every character takes a look to which we have become so accustomed. The environments and improved texturing also push the graphical engine forward.
Even more improved are the audio helpings provided in Super Mario 64 DS. Though still confined to a cartridge, the already lovely tunes of the original sound even better than before. The cartoon-like sound effects are able to maintain the test of time. The real star of the show, however, is the new voice work. The Super Mario Advance series introduced new voice clips for our familiar characters, as does this remake. Every character has crystal-clear clips, which helps bring this imaginary world to life.
Despite the fact most portable games can be beaten in a blink of the eye, Mario's latest is a very, very meaty game. Even after playing the original more times than one could remember, the sheer amount of courses and missions will keep players busy for quite some time. The many new secrets cleverly placed about the adventure will add plenty of playing time, as well. The addictive mini-games increase the value significantly, as does the decent single-card multiplayer, which forces players to race for easily placed stars. However, years from now, when an older gamer goes back for nostalgic reasons, the additions will not cause this game to bring back as many memories as the very first Super Mario 64 did. Though it will not hold as many memories, this game is certainly a filled package.
Super Mario 64 DS is a very fun game that can be recommended wholeheartedly to any gamer. Its new additions certainly rise it above sloppy ports found on many portables, especially the well-crafted mini-games. The new control scheme is difficult to adjust to, but will eventually become very bearable. From its clever course designs to a delightful helping of acrobatic moves, every aspect of the game shows almost no age at all. While it will not be remembered as fondly as its revolutionary original, Super Mario 64 DS manages to bring the ideas of old and new together into one brilliant experience.
The control scheme and camera add a steep learning curve due to a lack of a control stick, but the spectacular course design and balance of Super Mario 64 still return in full glory.
This game's sharp look is an overall improvement from the original. Moreover, Super Mario 64 DS is one of the best-looking games on the Nintendo DS, even when compared to games that came out years later.
All of the lovely tunes, kooky sound effects, and great voice clips bring the experience together into a package that is simply nothing short of enchanting.
Though the Nintendo 64 edition will be played again years from now rather than the remake for nostalgic reasons, its core and additions will keep any gamer busy for a while.
Just like wine, the entire Mario formula gets better with age. It will not put one in awe like the original due to technical issues, but gamers both old and new would be foolish to pass up this entertaining adventure.
The Verdict: 9.1
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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