Super Mario 64 DS ReviewBy: Magma
A remake of the original Nintendo 64 game, this DS counterpart adds to the magic of the original in more ways than one. Read on:
Looking back, almost anybody who was a fan of video games will tell you that Super Mario 64 is one of the greatest games ever released. It was a pioneer in concepts and level design, and was extremely innovative. It set the stage for what 3-D was, should be, and still is, to some degree. Nintendo had done what no one else was capable of doing, and that was redefining games. Controlling Mario, their mascot, you were to go around a princess' castle, traveling to different worlds, and collecting 'Power Stars' in hopes of freeing the princess.
In most people's minds, however, they hadn't thought about the princess since the game began. Super Mario 64 didn't rely on a good plotline; it relied on gameplay. You couldn't wait to figure out where that next star was going to be, what you would have to do...it was that good. Even now, many years later, it remains in the minds and hearts of hardcore gamers. And if it is ever forgotten, it will be a sad day indeed. It created such a stir that people spent hours, even days trying to unlock secrets that weren't even there (Luigi).
People craved a sequel. While Nintendo worked on this, they created many 'filler' games, mostly by slapping the Mario brand in sports titles. Here and there, they had gems like Mario Party, Paper Mario, and Luigi's Mansion. And then the 'sequel' to Super Mario 64 came in the form of Super Mario Sunshine. This Gamecube title held true to the original formula, but fans still weren't satisfied. How often do sequels capture the grandiose of that first game? Take a look at other examples (Crash Bandicoot, Zelda: Ocarina of Time).
Nintendo didn't satisfy their fans with Super Mario Sunshine. And then they designed the Nintendo DS, a unique little device with two screens. With this, they hoped to stay ahead of their competition in the handheld division. And what better game to show off this new piece of hardware than Super Mario 64?
Surprisingly, a lot has changed in the world of Super Mario 64. The most obvious difference is that instead of playing as Mario, you now have the additional option of controlling Luigi, Yoshi, and Wario. All four possess different physical attributes and skills, and add a layer of personality to the game that's never been seen before.
The storyline is simple, and only differs from the original game's plot a little. Peach invites Mario to the castle for a cake, and when he shows up, Luigi and Wario have come along (for some reason). The three of them go inside. Later, the sleeping Yoshi is waken up and told that the others still haven't come outside. And that's where the game starts. You later figure out that Bowser has trapped everyone in the castle's alternate worlds, and that the only way to free them is to gather Power Stars and defeat Bowser.
Anyway, you obviously start out as Yoshi. You gradually unlock the other characters in new, small worlds that have been added to the game. The game works like this: you go into a room and jump into a painting, where different worlds are concealed. There, you gather Power Stars by accomplishing various tasks until you have enough to go into a new room, and thus, a new world. The goal of the game is to collect enough Power Stars to defeat Bowser three times.
The gang's repertoire of moves is something to behold. You can walk, run, crawl, swim, fly, slide, surf, jump, handstand, punch, stomp, kick, and flip. (And I'm just touching on the basics here.) You won't need all the skills available to you to complete the game, but it's really part of that magic that made the first game a success.
The difference between characters is very notable as well. For example, Yoshi can't punch; but instead he swallows his enemies and turns them into throwable eggs, flutter jumps, and behaves like the character in general. These aren't just blatant copies of Mario. Luigi jumps higher and can walk on water for a few seconds. Wario is stronger than any of them, but is much slower.
There are plenty of power-ups as well. Though it differs between characters, you will be able to fly, become invisible, and turn into metal. And I'm just touching on all of these elements I've been mentioning. The enemies, while none of them hard, require different methods of killing. That's right; Mario's standard jump won't squash everything. There are over thirty enemies you'll need to stomp, attack, throw, and even run circles around.
The levels are all vast and impressive. It's even possible to get lost if you haven't played the original game to pieces. There are traps waiting for you at every turn. You can explore mountains, plains, towers, oceans, ice lands, a haunted mansion, caves, a volcano, a desert, cities, islands, the inside of a clock, and even the sky. One notable thing is that all these levels have their obvious boundaries. If you try to fly out of one or something of that sort, you'll find yourself smacked into an invisible wall, and you'll sort of fall into an infinite abyss (usually). This really isn't a big problem to worry about though. You'll find warps to get around levels quickly if you're cunning enough.
Another thing worth mentioning is that a whole slew of mini-games have been added, which are usually little games of skill and/or luck. To unlock these mini-games, you must catch speedy rabbits wandering around the castle. You can then access these mini-games from one of the rooms in the castle or from the title screen. The games range from card games to using bombs for slingshot ammo. Most of these mini-games rely on the touch-screen function. While these are fun distractions, that's all they are--distractions. Just the way they are presented is less than worthy, and the fact that you don't get anything for playing provides sub-par motivation.
Before I forget, the game also offers a multi-player mode. The best part is, all it requires is two DS' and a single game. Up to four players can participate. You run around collecting stars, and whoever has the most wins. It's nothing to write home about, especially since they could've done so much better. Online play? Co-op? Hello.
The controls are simple to get the hang of, but hard to master. There are so many button combinations that it will take you a while to learn every move. However, there is one thing I can't go without mentioning. The original Super Mario 64 made divine use of the 'control stick', a little gadget on the controller that allowed you to press it in whichever direction to make Mario move in the desired direction. Pressing it harder would make him run, while lightly pushing it made him walk, even tiptoe. The DS's flaw? It has the classic directional pad. You now have to hold down a different button to run, and in short, it's not even close to comfortable.
While I'm on the subject, the DS's top-screen displays the action, and the lower presents you maps and menus. You can use the stylus to move your character, but it's still awkward. And that is Super Mario 64 DS's main flaw: it attempts to showcase the DS's capabilities, but takes away from the game in doing so.
No complaints here. Everything in the game has been retouched. Characters, scenery, enemies; it's all new and shiny compared to the original game. In the original, everything was sharp and...polygonal. Now, everything appears as what the developers probably intended it to appear as. Goombas now look like mushrooms instead of brown octagons. Mario now has a coherent face. Of course, it's not shiny and polished like current- or next-generation graphics, but it's a huge step forward from the Nintendo 64's blocky appearance.
Ah...SM64DS does not disappoint here. You'll find the tunes stuck in your head long after you put the game down. None of the tracks are great, but certainly none are bad. They all have that lush ring to them that makes you think, "This is a Mario game." Almost all of the musical tracks have a bright and cheery feel to them, which can admittedly get annoying eventually. But that takes a long time. If there's one glaring offense about the music is that a lot of the level themes get re-used. One last thing that needs to be said is that the music adds to rather than takes away from the game.
As far as sound goes, it has everything you would expect from a Mario game. The classic sounds such as collecting coins are all present. All the voice-overs are done nicely as well. Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Wario, and Peach are all given voices (although they're mostly grunts and yelps). The princess is the only one who gets spoken dialogue. Nevertheless, everyone did a good job with what they were given, but it seems to me that a lot of the voice files from the original Super Mario 64 were used again. Otherwise, the actual sounds won't get on your nerves.
I've tried hard not to compare Super Mario 64 and its DS counterpart, but it's just something that needs to be done. Unfortunately, if you got all 120 stars in the original, you might get bored before you even hit the halfway mark in SM64DS.
All in all, Super Mario 64 DS is probably one of the more worthwhile games to pick up for the DS, especially if you were a fan of the original. And really, how could you play the original and not be a fan? In three words, it redefined gaming, and SM64DS puts a wild new spin on this old favorite.
If you own a DS, you have no reason not to own Super Mario 64 DS. However, the game isn't perfect due to its controls and the way the DS's features were implemented.
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