Review by Thievius Jubei

Reviewed: 11/27/04

Five Stars! (CNN)

As far as video game mascots go, there's none bigger than Mario Mario of the acclaimed Super Mario Brothers franchise. Rising up through the ranks of the world's most famous plumbers to become the numero uno go-to guy, Mr. Mario has since become one of the world's most prominent and likable icons. CNN (Cartoon National News) calls him "Unable to do wrong, this Italian stallion more resembles Deniro than Jumpman." VH-1 (VideoGame Hits-1) proclaims: "That Mario Mario is more than the second coming... He's the first, second, and last of the Mohicans."

Without a shadow of a doubt, Nintendo resurrected a failing video game economy with the release of Super Mario Brothers on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Duck, of Duck Hunt fame, recently passed away at the ripe old age of 79, once said of Mario, "I loved the ol' varmint. Man... I don't know what I'll do if he ever goes away. I mean, then what? There's no way my game can stand on it's own."

After millions in sells, countless accolades, numerous sequels, tons of spin-offs, Got Milk commercials, a fierce competition with Sonic Jenkins, of Sonic the Hedgehog fame, and run-ins with the law (see Mario Sunshine), the guy with the big M on the red hat is back with this improved-upon re-issue of the N64 classic, Super Mario 64 DS, the must-have title for Nintendo's new PDA-style handheld.

Front End

With a new system comes new technology, a brand new way to control your game, and a marvelous new way of seeing things. Super Mario 64 DS, if you don't already know, is an enhanced version of the first game to do 3-D really well on consoles, Super Mario 64. The DS version sports more polygons per character, but the environments (especially up close), are nothing to get excited about. But honestly, even if this game were a brand-new entry, it would still be fabulous to look at. You have to take into consideration that this iteration is being played on a portable, not a 17-50 inch television. So everything really looks smooth and altogether good, especially if you aren't the type to hold the system really close to your eyes in order to spot the inconsistencies in textures. Really, everything looks really bright and colorful. Since the game is in 3-D, the world of Mario is wide-open and available for exploration. Just get the first key, enter the castle, jump into a wall with a picture on it and have a lot of fun. it's really that simple.

Something new to this version is being able to access menu options by way of the excellent touch screen, a never-before seen way of controlling your handheld gaming system. By using the stylus, you can access the options menu, mess around with character faces before you begin the adventure portion of the game, or play any of many mini-games devised just for the new DS and it's touching sensibilities. We'll get to those babies later on....

How's It Play?

Like a dream. Even for those new to the game, it plays however you want it to. Mario is fleet of foot, with numerous moves, such as the double and triple jump, climbing skills, dashing, flying, etc... Yoshi, whom you begin the game as, has a myriad of moves at his disposal including: eating enemies and turning them into eggs for use at projectiles, floating in the air, using his breath for flame attacks. There are two other hidden characters which I am sure you've already read or heard about, so I'll just leave those two up to your imaginations. (Luigi and Wario, duh!) Lemme tell you this, it is fun simply just running around in circles with Mario. Honest to God. It makes me wonder how I passed up playing this one a long time ago. And when you factor in all the other moves the guy can pull off, you begin to see why this one was so amazing when it debuted many years back. Also, the touch screen allows you to manipulate Mario by way of the stylus or a thumb strap that attempts to mimic the analog stick from the N64 joypad which is absent on Nintendo's newest portable. I've found that the digital pad is my preferred tool. But this is from someone who only played the original game for about two minutes. Well, there's something for everyone, at least.

So, How's It Sound

Great. the DS comes equipped with two speakers, which allows for Stereo, Surround, or Headphone Sound. The music is your typically classic Mario goodness, with one treat in particular for those that have played Nintendo's occasionally-brilliant Super Mario Sunshine. Each character sounds completely different, and there are even new voiceovers for Mario and the gang. If the music weren't so good, the game's score would drop a point or two, because it ties into the game so wonderfully and even after the fiftieth time you've fallen into the quicksand, or fell off a cliff, the music is so cheerful you feed into it and keep going back for more. Remarkable stuff after so many years. And it sounds even more remarkable, because this is the first time we're afforded this on a portable.

EXTRAS

In order to usher in a new generation of Nintendo handhelds, the touch screen works marvels in the case of Mario DS. Beyond the tech demo that is stretching Mario's face, Nintendo has included some all-new mini-games that use the stylus ingeniously. From plucking petals off a flower to matching cards, to pulling back a slingshot in order to thwart bomb-ombs from overrunning the Toad's fort; the mini-games, with a few preferential exceptions, never fail to be fun. There are eight of these open at the start, with a few dozen more able to be unlocked by finding rabbits hiding in and out of the castle. To open each mini game, each character must find rabbits. Nice.

OVERALL

Super Mario 64 DS is THE reason to buy a DS. It's technically amazing to look at, performs admirably even without an analog stick, sounds beautiful, and it's longevity is unquestionable.

BUY without a second thought.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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