Review by J4913

Reviewed: 06/27/05 | Updated: 08/01/07

Super Mario 64 DS - more than just a re-make...

Super Mario 64, commonly regarded as one of the best games Nintendo has ever made, the game that could alone stand for all that Nintendo is, ever was, and perhaps is for a long time going to be, has been allocated a new console with which to sell itself again to a new audience, as a brilliant re-make – on a hand-held. Looking at the tiny Nintendo DS cartridge that holds so much information, it seems incredible that something so seemingly unimportant in size can improve upon so great an achievement. When the game for the Nintendo 64 was released, it seemed that it could never be beaten; now, the improvement has been made.

Although much of what the game has to offer is from the original classic, there was so much there that the large amount of added extras seems small compared to it. But this does in no way mean that that amount makes little difference. Much of the main adventure has been re-made, beginning with the storyline: now, rather than just Mario visiting Princess Peach for cake, he comes with Luigi and Wario (for cake, of course), while Yoshi sleeps on the Castle's roof. When the green dinosaur awakes, he realises that the three others have not yet left and, upon exploring, he finds the castle and its grounds empty. Besides the renewal of the old story, three new playable characters have been made available – which can explain why the story was rewritten – and each must be used to regain every single star.

Another new addition to the adventure is thirty more stars, to add to the original one hundred and twenty, and from the single rabbit in the castle's dungeon have spawned multiple rabbits for each character placed across the massive building and its grounds, which must be caught to unlock mini-games (or a certain special secret door). Also in the adventure are several more pictures to jump into – one for each un-lockable character, and at least one more (though there are no new entire Courses), as well as a new 'switching room', used to change the character currently being used. Other vast improvements include coloured caps strewn across the levels, each of which relates to a playable character; thirty-six character-specific mini-games (nine for each character); the multi-player mode which also has a single-player option; and a section to draw, rotate, stretch and otherwise totally disfigure a picture that has been drawn using the Touch Screen, or one of the six built-in pictures of Mario, Yoshi and Luigi.

The game is definitely the slightest bit longer now, but somewhat easier to complete. The addition of new characters doesn’t mean that all the stars and levels have been changed to suit the new capabilities, but that new stars use new techniques, such as Wario’s ability to smash black brick blocks (changing other stars would have been one extra thing that could have been done to make this re-make more interesting and appealing, I feel). This means that much of the game is made easier, especially with Luigi’s outrageously astonishing jumping abilities – such as a back flip that allows him to float for a long time, helping players arrive at places that would otherwise have been beyond reach. This makes some sections of the game that would have frustrated players for a time in the original now much simpler to pass through, and in many cases with ease - which is never good for the timespan of a game. The addition of more stars, however, means that the re-playability level has risen: there are so many things to do that starting again at the end will have been after so much play that a large part of the game will have been forgotten; it almost seems like a whole new game. The main factor that increases the game's level of re-playability is the originality and uniqueness of the additions, making it different from a lot of others.

The graphics have been vastly improved in the process of going through and adding to the game here and there. The in-game lighting seems much better than before, and the play sports a (though marginally) more colourful look. Reflections have been enhanced and new effects, such as those of the water’s ripples at the choose-game screen, are quite realistic. Nevertheless, only so much has been made better where graphics are concerned, even if it is not as central a factor as it can be in other games.

Music in this game is as good as ever. With ambient backgrounds at some points and harsher, louder, action-like pieces of music at others, and all fitting in the correct places, and being played back perfectly with the DS’s built-in speakers, it can even help in completing the game (by helping the player to relax, of course). The sound effects work well in time with the game’s pace, enhancing the experience with sounds even more realistic than before (if the
Mushroom Kingdom can ever be deemed realistic in any fashion). Amusingly, when a character changes into another by way of picking up their cap in a level, the sounds that the first one makes remain – it’s a unique experience seeing Wario jump and hearing a high-pitched, Luigi-sourced “Wha-ha!”

Mini-games are always welcome, as something to add infinitely to the playability of a game – and these are absolutely perfect. With a total of thirty-six new challenges in these, themed to suit the character who unlocks them, and with so many unique things to do in them, these are no ordinary mini-games. The simplicity of the controls used to play, being ‘easy to play, but hard to master’, using new and old Mushroom Kingdom tunes and sound effects, looking outstanding and lasting from a few seconds to a quarter of an hour or more in play length, these are the new heart of a wonderful game. They use bright, vivid colour though being as detailed as possible, show off spectacular effects and include anything from trampolines to pinball, from intense precision-based movements and memory games to hard puzzles, gambling and complete and utter mayhem, in order to create a gaming experience that it will take a lot to forget. Additionally, they are as easy to control as they could be – using just the stylus and Touch Screen to control the on-screen happenings, to run just about everything that is displayed. And, because there are high scores that are always just waiting to be broken, you’ll want to play them again and again.

The game promised a multi-player option in which two DS owners could battle, collect stars and explore in-game areas and, though that is exactly what we got, this is a severe let-down to the game’s otherwise near-spotless record. Firstly, the lack of arenas is extremely disappointing – with just four to choose from, and only one of which is more than just a place to explore (namely, Princess Peach’s slide) there cannot be much excitement obtained from this area of the game. The main objective is to collect the most stars; this means that all you try to do, at first, is collect stars, most likely ignoring the other players completely. After all have been found, a race ensues, in which the loser(s) at the time chase the winner(s), who try to escape. The chase is seemingly futile in most places, where the winning player can keep ahead with ease, unless they manage to trip, or run into a wall – very unlikely. As Yoshi, players can simply hold the opponent in their mouth for a long time, then spit and run. And when collecting a star, the character being used has the idiocy to twirl on the spot, virtually inviting another to attack him and take the star they have earned – which is a favour that can be returned leading to a pointless and completely boring exercise of swapping a single star back and forth, with no way of stopping, hoping your enemy will be too slow...but there’s no point in hoping. It can get very annoying indeed...Nintendo would have done better to leave this section alone completely – or else spend a lot more time on bringing it up to standard.

The controls used to be as simple but precise as anything could be – and they still are, for the most part. Using single buttons to perform most moves, and at most a combination of two, the controls will never be a problem. It’s effortless to learn even the most advanced character-specific techniques, remember them and, most important of all, put them to use when the time arises. One comment that could be made, though it is not a large problem with the gameplay, is that using a D-pad can never live up to the ultimate precision of the Nintendo 64 analogue stick, that can be used to control speed and direction with the utmost accuracy. However, to try to make up for the lack of what is often now such an essential item for Nintendo games, there is the ability to hold another button down to run faster. This has worked in 2D Mario games in the past, and it can be just as effective now, in three dimensions.

The possibilities with regard to the control of the camera view are limited, but by no way sub-standard. The common, infinitely useful functions of three zoom levels and the ability to centre the camera behind the character are both necessary and flawlessly used in this game. Although, it would be nice to have the ability to rotate the camera to any angle without use of the Touch Screen and without having to rotate the character himself, and possibly a bird’s eye view would enhance the experience even more. Also, it can be quite frustrating when a stone pillar or seemingly endless brick wall obscures the entire screen when on a perilously moving platform ready to make a what would otherwise have been perfectly-timed jump to complete a particularly hard star that it has taken ages to reach the end of, and all you can do is take a blind leap – usually into the abyss (or lava, depending on location).

So that’s Super Mario 64 DS. Apart from possibly at least one rush too many when making the multi-player mode, it is an exceptionally well put-together game, which has few problems in my view - and the glitches that are present are either hard to come across or make the game even better, giving more to explore. The mini-games must be played at all costs, even if it means buying the game for them alone.

Score
-94%-

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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