Review by Phweemaggot

Reviewed: 12/30/04

A port on steroids.

The original SM64 took the platformer genre and turned it on its head. The 3D gameplay combined with the unique environments and challenging objectives made it a hit, and rightfully so. 8 years later, Nintendo has returned to the game, more experienced, and set to work. Adding some things, removing some, tweaking little bits, and to top it off, tacking a whole mess of minigames to the end. The result is a $30 chip that will engross you until you have beaten it.

Upon playing for the first time, you are likely to think “HOLY CRAP! Yoshi!” One of the most notable changes is that there are now four playable characters. You start the game as Yoshi, and must unlock Mario, Luigi, and Wario by beating the extra worlds added to the game. The characters all play differently. Wario is strong, Luigi is limber, and Mario is the median between them. The new characters have also been integrated into the available power-ups. Now you don’t change hats when you want to turn invisible-you change characters. No more looking for boxes of a specific color. Just make a quick character change and fine a plain old red box.

The point of the game is to gain stars. You do this by completing objectives in each world. Some are fairly simple (collect these red coins) while some are a bit more complicated (kill this caterpillar).By gaining more stars, you gain access to more worlds, where you can get more stars. This repeats until all 150 stars have been collected. There are 15 worlds in which you must collect stars, each stranger then the last. There’s a haunted house with a rabid piano, and a level that takes place inside a giant clock. Still other levels revolve around gimmicks, such as changing size, or raising the water level of an area. Although the areas are varied, the objectives are not. All the levels have three objectives in common. Collect 8 red coins, collect 100 coins, and a star switch (where you must step on a switch, then run to the star it creates as fast as possible.) Although the other goals are technically different, they play pretty much the same. Fortunately, the difference in geography more then makes up for this monotony.

The extra minigames (unlockable by catching rabbits in the adventure mode) all make use of the stylus; A good idea, considering that this game is a launch title. You want to showboat your new features as early into the system’s life as you can. Many of these games require simply tapping on a selection, but others are more complex. In one, you must draw trampolines to bounce Mario onto a platform, and in another you must drag bombs to designated areas before they explode. These games are very addicting, perhaps more so then the adventure mode.

Ever since this game was announced, one question hung in the air, and was discussed frequently on internet message boards. That question was “how will the controls work?” Gamers everywhere twitched nervously and slept fitfully, some even refusing to eat until they had discovered the answer to this question for themselves. The DS has two face buttons less then the Nintendo 64, but that wasn’t the problem. Some creative key combinations can eliminate any frustration that might cause. No, it was the D-pad. People are used to playing 3-Dimensional games with control sticks, and nothing could possibly change that. Although it is unconventional, the D-pad is easy to use, albeit less then accurate. For situations in which you must be as concise as possible, you can move using the stylus. It’s uncomfortable, but when used sparingly, helps out a lot.

Specifications have been thrown around a lot, and the relevance of them has been questioned, but it eventually came down to the fact that the Nintendo 64 is more powerful then the Nintendo DS, and therefore Mario 64 DS is graphically inferior to the original version. However, be it the size of the DS’s screen, this game looks much smoother then the original.

The music in this game is hard to describe. Every piece sounds completely different from the others. The only thing they have in common is their catchiness. The overworld theme is a quaint violin piece, and the other songs are all tailored to fit their stages. The underground level has a mystical, empty kind of sound, while Rainbow Ride has a happy, goofy melody to go with its bright environment.

Mario 64 DS isn’t so much a game as it is bragging on Nintendo’s part. “Remember that great game that everyone loved? We put it on a card the size of your thumbnail!” But all the bragging is justified, because the end result is a truly great game, made even more so with newer technology. This is THE DS game. Pick it up immediately.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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