When Super Mario 64 hit the scene eight years ago it was widely considered one of the biggest technical leaps in video game history, prompting at least one magazine to call it the “Best Game of All Time.” Like the original Super Mario Bros., this 3D version spawned a flurry of copy cat games that all tried to one-up the Italian plumber at his own game. Yet even with all those other games from all those other companies, it’s Mario 64 people remember with fond memories.
Eight years later Super Mario 64 is still an impressive game, though clearly dated. The fact that it essentially introduced the world to a well-made 3D platformer will never be forgotten, even if games have improved on the theme in substantial ways. Perhaps the ultimate compliment, however, is that Nintendo has decided that it is strong enough be the flagship game for not only one system launch, but two.
Super Mario 64 DS is basically a faithful port of the game that launched the Nintendo 64. The first time around it was not only a giant leap forward in the way the game looked, but also how it played, thanks to Nintendo’s analog N64 control. The more time people put into Mario 64, the more they got used to the analog stick; slowly weaning gamers off of the archaic D-Pad. Nintendo could breathe a sign or relief, gamers loved the analog control, and it became one of the games biggest selling points.
This time around we’re presented with another such advancement in the evolution of gaming, a touch screen. Unfortunately for Nintendo the whole touch screen idea is not as instantly useful as the analog stick was. In fact, I’d dare say that Super Mario 64 DS is a questionable launch title for a system with such specific qualities.
The game itself remains largely unchanged, with all 15 worlds returning with the same obstacles and challenges. You go through the castle looking for various picture frames to jump into; each setting up a series of challenges you will need to accomplish to earn a star. In total there are eight different stars in each stage, so expect to be doing all kinds of missions in the various worlds, all based on famous Mario locales. You have a fire stage, an ice stage, the desert stage, not to mention a whole oversized world and one where you’re mostly underwater.
To spice things up Nintendo has added the ability to play as different characters. You start out as Yoshi, who plays much like Mario, except that he can use his tongue to eat enemies (and ultimately turn them into eggs). Eventually you will unlock Mario and the game will be pretty much as you remembered it eight years ago. Later in the game you earn Luigi (whose jump seems to float, much like it did in Super Mario Bros. 2) and Wario, a character that is able to break large obstacles simply by punching them. Not only do these characters have their own moves and abilities, but they also power up in completely different ways, with Yoshi turning into a fire breather to Wario being able to walk underwater.
Also new this time around are 30 new stars that can be picked up around the castle. This may sound impressive, but a lot of the challenges are pretty basic and are nothing like what you get in any of the 15 main worlds. These additions ultimately do not add up to a whole new experience, but do manage to make it a little fresher for those of us who have played through Mario 64 before.
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