Review by Phange
Mario 64... on a handheld?
Mario 64 was easily the system seller for the Nintendo 64 when it launched in 1996. No 3D game had ever attempted such open-ended exploration, with so much nonlinearity. The Nintendo 64 was a system defined by the quality games that spearheaded its library, and Mario 64 was easily among the top 5 games on the Nintendo 64 even to its death. How could a game that launched with the console still be one of the very best games for that console? Great graphics, nonlinear gameplay, good controls, fantastic 3D camera (for its time, at least), and a sense of total freedom. All of these qualities have translated to the much improved Mario 64 DS for Nintendo's new handheld. There's simply so much to do in this game that even the most die-hard gamers will take weeks to fully explore every nook and cranny of the newly revamped castle. Mario 64 DS is everything that the original game was plus so much more, and it's easily the best game in the Nintendo DS's launch lineup. To go without this game in your Nintendo DS collection would be essentially the same as going without Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64 or Halo for Xbox.
To say that this game is simply Mario 64 on a handheld really doesn't do it justice. The game looks leaps and bounds better than its Nintendo 64 counterpart even though it lacks bilinear filtering and anti aliasing. The textures are cleaner, the characters have many more polygons, and the game looks much sharper than it did on the often-blurry Nintendo 64. Mario looks like his Gamecube model more than his Nintendo 64 model, and the terrain is much more defined and realistic. The graphics definitely look like they've been rebuilt from the ground up, and this is just one of the many reasons why this game must belong in any Nintendo DS owner's collection.
Thanks to the stereo speakers of the Nintendo DS, Mario 64 DS utilizes fantastic surround sound audio. You can hear an incoming Goomba from behind you, and you can tell whether he's on the right side or the left. The music is identical to the Nintendo 64 version, but the voices have improved thanks to Nintendo's insistence on re-recording all the voicework. Luigi, Yoshi, and Wario all sound like they do in popular Gamecube games like Mario Kart: Double Dash. Very impressive.
Believe it or not, the standard D-pad control has been refined so much that it feels absolutely natural on the DS. Nintendo worked its magic and somehow allowed the characters to turn 360 degrees despite using a standard D-pad. While the controls will take some time to get used to, once you're fully acclimated to the controls you won't give a second thought to them.
It's fairly evident that Mario 64's core gameplay has aged, and many of the stars that once took you twenty minutes to get will now only take one or two. That said, there's 150 stars in the game and it will take a vicious amount of time to collect all of them. Amazingly, that's only the beginning of what you can do in this game. There's a collection of over 30 minigames that are unlocked by finding hidden rabbits in Peach's Castle. While all of these are great additions, the strangest addition is the ability to change your character from Mario to Yoshi, Wario, or Luigi. While you start as Yoshi, it's fairly evident that it doesn't really matter what character you enter a level as, because they can all morph into the other characters by finding their respective hats. Since Luigi and Wario exist mainly for their power flower skills (invisibility and metal, respectively), it seems that Nintendo simply robbed Mario of his original ability to become metal and invisible and created new characters specifically for those skills. True, Wario can break certain blocks that no other character can, but the integration of this is few and far between. Even when the situation arises that requires using an alternate character than Mario, Mario can simply don the cap of that character and complete that objective.
Other than the somewhat gimmicky multi-character gameplay, the game is absolutely humongous and is easily worth the price of admission. Mario 64 DS is the flagship game for the Nintendo DS and it's likely to be so for a very long time. There's so much to do, and even when the main game is long past finished there's a huge amount of minigames and a multiplayer mode to boot. It's a complete package that should not be missed.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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