Great review, even now this stands up as an amazing game.
Planning for Super Mario 64 began in 1991 and it was originally intended for the SNES. But, due to technical limitations, it was decided to instead develop for Project Reality, or as it was known in retail, the Nintendo 64. And so, after two years of actual development and even holding up the release of the 64-bit system, the game launched hand in hand with the Nintendo 64 for the scrutiny of game critics everywhere. Mario games were the best selling for the previous two Nintendo systems, so the idea to launch a console with a Mario game was a bit of a no-brainer. But, now that the brief history lesson's over, let's find out if the game was any good.
The story is the gripping tale of deceit, deception and lost love that you'd expect from a Mario title. By that we mean that Princess Peach gets kidnapped again and isn't around for tea and crumpets with Mario when he arrives. Devastating, really. The game starts with a quick description of the story and then a tour of the castle grounds. This is truly the moment where the gaming community rubbed their proverbial eyes and finally admitted they were in the next generation. The camera swoops and pans, obviously knowing the effect it's having on the audience, and then it shows Mario leaping out of a mushroom pipe. Cue jaws hitting the ground.
As it was, the graphics of the game blew all others out of the water because of the effective use of what is now comparatively limited power. A fully 3D world viewable from practically any angle requires a lot of processing, so the game used detailed, bold coloured textures and simple shapes. Super Mario 64 was not officially being the first 3D platformer, but because of the complete freedom it offered, it was the first one that actually felt like it was an actual 3D world. Although it was graphically, the best game at it's release, the beauty of this game is the way it uses the power intelligently and without compromising the 3D world immersion or framerate. So whether flying above it or sprinting away from an enemy, the game looks incredible. But if you're going to go out and buy the game now, be warned. Nintendo has since refined Mario's look for his massive line of GameCube games; it might be quite startling to go back to the 64-era Bowser and Mario. The character animations aren't particularly incredible, because most of the enemies are simple models with a vague feet shuffle to indicate their movement. Mario, however, is animated down to the last moustache hair and performs all his jumps with grace and fluidity.
Still true to his 'Jumpman' roots, Mario is the jumping king. Spin jumps, backflips, triple jumps, wall jumps, this guy's got it all. All these jumps are explained to the player by signs near where they're first used, and once you know how to use them all, you'll find yourself leaping and bounding your plumber to his destiny with ease. Mario's attack moveset has been increased from jumping on heads and the occasional fireball, but is still only one button. This is because the attack button is contextual, i.e. the action being performed changes depending on Mario's position. This takes some perfecting, but once you know exactly what he'll do in every situation, it becomes second nature.
By now most gamers will know the structure of a 3D platformer as a game where the character begins in a hub world and finds ways into other, special worlds by exploring the hub. Mario 64 was the first games to really standardize this format by making all the castle's stars hidden in paintings that had come to life. Each painting opens up to a world with 10 stars for the player to find, with just a small clue to help you out. Normally these paths are pretty straightforward, but sometimes you might get stuck with a confusing clue or a hard challenge. Luckily, the newer paintings are opened up by the player having a defined amount of stars, so if you are stuck, just move onto another painting to progress though the game.
Koji Kondo had composed almost all of Mario's previous games and defined all of the main adventures. The improved sound capable with the N64 let Koji update and reinterpret some of his themes, and composing new tracks that fit right with the old ones, i.e. the catchiness of approximately 'TV Ad Jingle' level. This game was also the first to feature Mario speaking through Charles Martinet. Even if it's completely incomprehensible at times, it's still pretty funny.
The length of the game is admirable, even without finding every single star. There is so much to do in each painting and even just around the grounds of Peach's castle, that getting to the 120 star mark is an adventure worth undertaking, but only if you're patient. Some of the harder stars will cause you to snap that weird, three-pronged controller in frustration, but if you get all 120 stars you'll be treated to seeing Yoshi on the top of the castle AND have some sense of accomplishment. Each level shares some common features, such as a collection of 8 red coins, but most stars are unique in their challenges and keep the game fresh over the entirety of the game.
Hop, skip, jump without the skip and you've got Mario right there. He's a jumpin', jivin' and leapin' machine and he knows it. To put it simply, his established moveset makes the 3D world feel almost without limits. A first with no second.
Simplicity equals complexity. Quite simple, no? By simple, we mean really simple, not complex. Because before we said that simple was complex, but in that case it wasn't. Good graphics. Reeeal good.
Koji finally got a less crappy sound chip to work with and his work appreciated with the facilities. 'It's-a-me! Mario!' is a part of the English vernacular, a testament to both the popularity of the game and the ridiculousness of that line.
Too many stars to collect in one night, and extremely varied gameplay challenges make it a fascinating and inviting quest for that 120th star.
Overall, this game was one of, if not the most important game of it's generation. Updated for the DS launch, it is still playable in both forms and a great game by all standards. A sure thing for the Virtual Console, and if we didn't already have it twice, it'd be our first purchase. If you're a bit cautious, picking the game up for DS will satisfy your higher graphical and character model needs.
Great review, even now this stands up as an amazing game.
My first game!!!!!!!!!! Great review!
It was my first DS game, and i absolutely LOVED it, fantastic. I played it before at a friend, but not much so i couldnt pass judgment on it , but after ive played it on the NDS, WOW :
Wait a minute, those screens are suspiciously high-res... THEIF!!! GAMING THEIF!! Someone call Nintendo so C3 can be shut down immediately. As Arkyris will tell you, emulaiton is completely illegal. For shame, C3. FOR SHAME.
Still the bench mark of 3D gaming, the good thing with Mario titles, is the way he's made to feel like a remote control toy, not just an unresponsive cut scene favoured by most "cool" main characters, even stealth gameplay originated here, where as, for example, Solid Snake can only walk, then run, Mario was tip-toeing past piranha plants, before walking, then jogging then running and then "WAHOOOOO!"
This game was the first revolution of gaming, now bring on the next. NINTENDO FOREVER
Sometimes getting the 8 red coins was easy but, most of the time it was tough. I lost a few controllers over that game.
Deserves a 10...