Review by Muk1000

Reviewed: 02/16/05

Although a remake can often fall flat, this game manages to overcome that obstacle.

The DS has finally hit store shelves, and almost everyone who picked up the system grabbed Super Mario 64 DS. And why not? When Super Mario 64 was released in 1996, it totally blew us away with its (then) beautiful 3D environments. It’s a bit ironic that the game that led the 3D console revolution is now leading the 3D handheld revolution, but the more important question here is “How has this game aged?” The answer is “Quite well.”

In fact, if you go by looks, Mario 64 has actually become younger. The graphics have been significantly improved, most noticeably in the character models. Anyone who played Super Mario 64 can tell you that Mario looked like he was made up of a bunch of blocks, and although that was impressive at the time, we’ve come to expect a bit more. I’m happy to tell you everything looks much more polished in this game, from the textures to the character models to the plethora of enemies you’ll battle on your quest to save Princess Peach.

For those not up to speed, Super Mario 64 DS follows the classic Mario plot: Bowser has captured Princess Peach Toadstool and you’ve got to rescue her. In the original Super Mario 64, Mario was alone in this task. That part of the story has been changed. The game starts as it did before, with Peach inviting Mario to her castle to have some cake. Mario, clearly missing the concept of a “date”, brings along Luigi and Wario (I assume the latter only came because of the cake). As they run inside, we are shown that Yoshi is sleeping on top of the castle. When it doesn’t look like Team Mario is coming back out, Lakitu wakes up Yoshi and tells him to investigate. After a quick detour to get the key to the castle, Yoshi is inside and things start looking a lot more like the original Super Mario 64 did.

Of course, you’re still Yoshi, so things aren’t quite the same yet. As you progress through the game, you’ll rescue your three captured comrades, who are absolutely necessary if you intend to complete the game fully. Each character is different, but unfortunately they are a bit unbalanced. Mario is exactly the same as he was in the original, which basically means he is very well balanced. Yoshi is a lot like Mario, but instead of punching like the other three do, he can slurp stuff up with his tongue and make eggs out of enemies. Luigi is by far the best, with great swimming speed and a ridiculously high back flip that also allows him to float quite a long ways. There are a lot of places where this move allows you to bypass difficult jumps or annoying obstacles. Wario is slow, can’t jump high, but very strong. Unless you need that strength for something specific, however, Wario is best left alone.

Other gameplay changes include 30 new stars, a new power-up system where each character gets a different effect from the same power-up, and minor tweaks to the courses that make particularly difficult spots easier (except for Course 14, which has undergone major changes to make it easier with the new controls). If you have the locations of the original 120 stars firmly imprinted in your mind, you probably won’t have too much trouble getting all 150 in this game. One thing that should have been changed but wasn’t is the camera. It can still cause problems, and it’s more difficult to adjust it now, although you can easily center it behind you whenever you need to.

The controls are a mixed bag. Standard Mode used the d-pad and buttons, while Touch Mode uses the touch screen to move. I prefer Standard Mode, but because the d-pad doesn’t work in the same way as an analog stick, some people may have trouble using it with this game. The touch screen allows for more precise movements, but it is much trickier to use than the d-pad, even with the wrist strap. You should definitely try both and see what works for you, although you may want to try going through the game once with each style to double the game’s life. Ultimately, the control is inferior to the original game, but it’s more than adequate. On the plus side, the difference in the controls makes it feel even more like an entirely new game, or at least a new experience. Just get ready to fall off ledges a bit more than you might like.

The greatest addition to this remake is easily the mini-games. Each character starts with two games, and all four have seven more they can unlock by catching rabbits running around the castle. That’s a grand total of 36 mini-games, which may provide just as much enjoyment as the main adventure does. All of these games use the touch screen to control, and they include games of skill, intelligence, and luck. Very few games manage to make me as interested in beating high scores as these mini-games have.

The sound is classic Mario. For the most part it is all taken directly from the original, but a couple things have been changed. For example, goombas now make a more Mario-esque noise than they did in the original. If you’ve played Super Mario 64, you know how catchy the music is. Some of the best tunes in gaming are in this game, and you’ll probably be humming them after a few hours of playing. If you’ve doubted the DS’s sound capabilities, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised with the excellent sound quality.

As far as adventure mode goes, you’re not likely to play again right after you collect all 150 stars. Luckily, that should take a while. On top of that, if you enjoy challenging yourself or just exploring, the added characters provide you with many new ways to play. The real replay is in the mini-games, however, and you’re likely to find at least a couple games that you love to play again and again. Many of the mini-games are quite innovative as well, so if you’re wondering what cool stuff can be done with the touch screen, this is a great showcase.

The game’s low point is definitely the multiplayer. Up to four people can run around one of four maps and collect stars and coins within a time limit. Thanks to the DS’s download play, you only need one copy of the game to play, but that’s no excuse for a dull, repetitive multiplayer game. You’d probably have more fun with Pictochat than this, but it’s worth a try, at least. This game was made for singleplayer, though, so don’t let this discourage you. You can have plenty of fun comparing high scores in the mini-games with other people.

As far as presentation goes, I have no complaints. They even have a mini-game right in the main menu that lets you draw a picture with the touch screen and drag it around for some quick fun. The touch screen makes the menus a breeze to use, and they’re simple enough that you’ll never have a hard time finding what you want to get to. The water on the file select screen even ripples if you touch it, which is a nice addition as well.

All things considered, Super Mario 64 DS is an excellent game. All DS owners should pick it up, especially those who have never played the original Super Mario 64. The extras are numerous and the mini-games make the replay exceptional. Everyone should be able to find something they enjoy about this game, and it shows just how much potential the DS has to become a fantastic system.

Gameplay: 9
The gameplay is smooth and varied with very few dull spots. Unfortunately, you’ll have quite a few control-related mishaps along the way, but nothing that will make you pull your hair out in frustration.

Graphics: 9
Compared to the N64 game, this is incredible. You’ll occasionally run into something strange, usually camera related, but nothing bad enough to drag the score below a nine.

Sound: 10
The music and sound effects are all excellent, and they sound just as good coming out of the DS’s speakers as they did coming out of your TV eight years ago. The mini-games all have excellent sound as well, and you’ll even hear some tunes from Super Mario Sunshine in this game.

Storyline: 8
There is a bit more story here than there was in the original, but it’s still merely a “Save Peach from Bowser” plot, and although that’s definitely enough for this game, it isn’t worthy of more than an 8.

Replay Value: 9
The mini-games hold most of the replay value, but the main game can provide multiple play-throughs as well. Just don’t expect to play through the adventure multiple times in quick succession.

Innovation: 8
As a remake, this gets docked a point automatically, but all the new features and the many things you get to do with the touch screen in the varied mini-games make this a solid 8 anyway.

Overall: 9/10

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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