Review by SwissOnRye

Reviewed: 01/10/05

Mario Explodes Onto The 3-D Scene

Mario's first 3-D adventure had everyone anxious both because we were all so excited to play it and because we had no idea if it would really be any good. Most gamers enjoyed it very much upon its initial release, but has it stood the test of time? This review will be written looking at the game with a more modern approach - that is: is this game still as much fun to play now as it was then?

My ratings are on a base-ten scale.

Graphics: 9/10

Yes - it's no secret that the graphics in Super Mario 64 were absolutely gorgeous, Every object in the environment was beautifully rendered into a 3-D world. Mario, goombas, koopa troopas, bob-ombs, and boos. They're all here and they look better than ever. Of course, compared with the modern 3-D of the next-gen systems, this game is rather ugly and the graphics are a bit square-ish (that's "square" as in the shape, not "Square" as in Square-Enix - heh heh.). But back then, we were most excited to look at graphics such as these. However, the graphics are not perfect. This game, like most in its day, has a major clipping problem. Often Mario's arm look as if it's stuck in a wall and sometimes you'll be able to see through walls because the room on the other side of the wall is clipping right through. This will definitely annoy some gamers and of course will detract a bit from the enjoyment of the modern gamer.

Overall the graphics are incredible. For SNES and even Sega Saturn gamers, this was a huge leap in graphical achievement and must still be respected as such even though by today's standards they are outdated.

Sound: 8/10

The soundtrack is actually not so bad to listen to. I had to lower the score a bit simply because I was really just wishing for more Mario standards. The music does seem fitting to the Mario series - but no longer will you hear the great, classic songs from the older NES and SNES Mario games. I understand the need for new music - and most of the new music in this game is quite well written. I love Bowser's theme as well as the crazy music that plays in the Bowser stages as you hunt for Mario's classic nemesis. The music is far from bad and for the most part is rather fun to hear as you bound about the levels. However, be warned, upon first playing this game - the music will seem a bit foreign to fans of this long-loved series.

Story: 10/10

Ok - anyone who docks points for story is just silly. This is a Mario game...when have we ever played Mario games for their deep and moving storylines? No, this game has no plot twists and it will not make you cry (unless the sight of a koopa troopa losing its shell upon being jumped on makes you weepy, of course.). The story, however, works with the material given and it gives you a sense of purpose for the game. That purpose, of course, is to save the princess. Bowser is up to his usual tricks in this adventure. He has taken the "Star Power" that Princess Peach's castle apparently possesses. To make matters worse, he has used this "Star Power" to trap Princess Peach and her many Toad servants in the castle walls. Mario receives a polite invitation to frolic around the fair princess' castle one day when a frantic Toad tells him of the horrible news. With that, Mario sets out to win back the stars, stop Bowser, and save Princess Peach....again.

Gameplay: 8/10

Anyone who has played one of the more modern Mario adventures such as Super Mario Sunshine will feel right at home here. Of course, when we played this the first time around - it was totally new to us. This is not the usual Mario gameplay of cruising through semi-short straight levels and moving left to right until the goal is reached. Mario's adventure now takes on a superb non-linear quest that requires more exploration than ever before. Bowser's trick of capturing the "Star Power" within the castle has caused all of the stars that provide this power to be spread out throughout Princess Peach's royal home. Throughout the castle - Mario will find a series of paintings that can be jumped into. Each of these paintings is a separate level and can be played in any order the player chooses (for the most part, more on this later). Within each level, the player can find 7 stars, 6 are awarded for mission based accomplishments (such as: find/kill a certain boss, collect 8 hidden red coins, race someone to a flag pole, etc...) and 1 is awarded for finding 100 coins in the level (not as easy as it sounds). There are also 15 stars hidden throughout the castle adding up to a total of 120 stars that can be found. Of course, only 70 stars are actually needed to complete the game, but you'll be doing yourself a great disservice if you don't try to find every star in the game.

There are four major areas of Princess Peach's castle: the entrance area, the basement, the gallery, and the tower. Each of these sections contains between 2-5 levels. When the game begins - Mario will only be allowed access to the entrance area which contains the first four levels of the game. However, after gaining a certain number of stars, Mario will be able to challenge Bowser and win a key which unlocks the next section of the castle. All in all, it's a system that works nicely allowing you to gain experience as you progress through. By the time you've mastered the first levels enough to gain access to the more challenging second levels, you'll be prepared for whatever they offer.

Finding the stars themselves varies between being incredibly easy and very, very difficult. This allows players who want an easier game to just stick to getting the easiest 70 stars and finishing off Bowser's final form, while other players can attempt to gain all 120 including the game's most difficult.

The gameplay, however, while incredibly fun and addictive is not without its flaws. This game has MAJOR control issues, which is understandable considering that it was the N64's first title. It is often very hard to move Mario from one area to the other, especially if you are operating in a place where there is not a lot of ground to move on. For some reason, when you try to move Mario left or right, he tends to walk in little half-circles instead of just moving in the desired direction. Sometimes this isn't a big deal, but if you're standing on a small platform surrounded by lava, this can often lead to Mario falling off the area at no fault of the player's. This quickly becomes frustrating and often results in many deaths and makes some of the stars in the game's trickier areas that much more tedious to try to get. Another control issue comes with the most foul creation of all Mario games: the wing cap. There is an item known as the "wing cap" which must be attained to complete the game. This hat allows Mario to fly around the levels to get stars and coins which otherwise can't be reached. Perhaps I am just an unskilled player, but I found myself completely unable to control Mario with the wing cap on. He moves all over the place, it's hard to get him to go to the very high places, and sometimes he decides to dip down low on his own which usually gets him killed. It's craziness and it is a major reason that I could only give the gameplay an '8'.

Replay Value: 9/10

Before writing this review - I replayed this entire game and re-discovered all 120 stars (something which I have not done since 6th grade) so that I could decide whether or not this was still a game to be played. I discovered that this game certainly has a lot of replay value mainly because there are so many stars to find. As mentioned earlier, it is possible to complete this game with only 70 stars but it is a lot of fun to go back and try to find the other 50. This is where most of the replay value comes in, especially with some of those harder to get stars which will take many players, especially newer gamers, a very long time to get.

Overall: 8/10

It's not a perfect game, but it was perfect for many of us during its initial release. It provides many hours of fun as long as you don't let the control issues get you down. So - to answer my own question: is this game still as much fun to play as it was when it first came out? Yep, it sure is.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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