It is always very difficult to review the first game on a brand new platform, and the DS doesn't help one bit. What are we meant to base the score on? Never before have we had to cope with aspects like 'use of two screens' and 'touch-screen'. It proves to be quite a difficult problem, and this is not made any easier by the fact that this game happens to be Super Mario 64 DS. Based on the greatest game of its kind ever and packed to the rafters with things to talk about, we have been having a nightmare in thinking how to start...
When Mario 64 launched with the N64 way back when, it was acclaimed as one of the best titles ever, and it is still considered to be so by many. So, it can certainly be considered risky by Nintendo to play around with one of gaming's greatest products. After all, you can't better perfection, can you?
What Nintendo have done with Super Mario 64 DS is rather clever. They haven't drastically changed the formula that made the N64 original so great, it is more of a 'port' to the DS, but you can't just port a game to the DS. Any developer worth its salt will want to have a go at implementing some of the consoles best features; and Nintendo are most certainly worth their artery clogging condiments.
Multiplayer is not something you normally associate with a Mario platformer, but Nintendo have put it into this one, and we have to say it works very well. When this title appeared as Mario 64X4, this was perhaps a more accurate title. In all essence this is Mario 64 with four players. In the main game you can play as one of four characters: Mario, Luigi, Yoshi or Wario, and when you get bored of that there is a multiplayer mode to enjoy and even some mini-games hidden away.
The word 'port' doesn't really apply to this game, in fact it is really a little bit mean. This is a full on remake, and whilst the core of the game remains the same, Nintendo have moulded new ideas and features on to make one glorious lump of DS action, and the perfect introduction to the system. At the start of the game Mario and his mates have been kidnapped by, you guessed it, Bowser, and it is up to Yoshi to save them! As you go through the game you will rescue each playable character in turn, and as you do they become playable.
In order to make the four-character feature work properly, Nintendo have tweaked and changed about some of the original levels to make them fit in to the new plan. In order to collect all the stars (of which there are 30 new ones) you will have to continue to chop and change between characters as each one has different abilities and strengths. The sort of characteristics on show are the typical Nintendo collection: Yoshi can eat enemies, juggle eggs and jump high and long distances. Mario has all his moves from the N64 original and is the all-rounder. Luigi is the more sporty character, capable of running away very fast...but because he is a bit of a token wimp, he really can't fight. So for 'kicking ass, and taking names' you might want to call on Wario. There are also more special unique abilities, but you can find them out for yourselves!
You can use the touch-screen as an analogue stick, or simply control the action using the D-Pad. Both have their good and bad points. Using a whole screen and your thumb to control a game is a little confusing, those people who have used a Mouse all their lives on their PCs and then suddenly move to a Laptop touch-pad will know the feeling, it is utterly confusing. Whilst on a Laptop it works fine, on the DS we are still a little bit unsure. It is certainly a little disorientating. The D-Pad is fine, but it can be a little robotic. It is all about getting used to it and finding out what works best for you.
Another clever little addition is the minigame aspect. We are not about to give anything away, but they are hugely addictive and will have you coming back again and again, a fantastic addition. Perhaps the biggest part of this game in terms of DS innovations is the multiplayer. Linking up with three mates and playing Super Mario 64 DS is awesome fun, and cheap too. You only need one copy of the game between you, everyone else just 'downloads' the information needed when you link up!
The multiplayer entails you, and three mates running about trying to collect the most stars in a set time. Sounds a little mundane, not a bit of it. It's a tooth and nail race to get more stars than your mates, and if you start getting really annoyed you can hunt down another characters and beat the coins out of them; fantastically violent! Being able to sit all over an office or apartment and muck about with your DS owning friends at multiplayer Mario is a great experience, and one that we can guarantee you will spend a lot of time on.
Super Mario 64 DS looks fantastic. Whilst at times it fails a bit on comparison to the N64 version, in terms of character animation and general vibrancy it beats the N64 version into the ground. Seeing N64 graphics and such colour on something that fits in your hand is stunning. Mario jumping about in such glorious 3D in the palm of your hand is enough to bring a smile to even the most hardened of gamers. The music and sound effects are also excellent. Even out of the DS' minute speakers it kicks out a fair old noise. All the typical Mario noises are here, along with the normal music that will either drive you mad, or into orgasmic pleasures...possibly.
Mario has always played well, and he continues to do so in DS form. The touch-screen and multiplayer aspects make it all the better, and throw in the fact that you have to change between characters in the main game to use their abilities and you have a very enjoyable title.
Looks lovely. Full of colour and vibrancy with character animation to die for this is a title that is already showing off the DS doing some of its best work. Marvellous!
Pretty standard stuff. It all sounds good, but a lot of it is a little bland, and being able to insult fellow players via the microphone in multiplayer would be awesome.
The main game is very long, with 30 extra coins to get over the original. Then you have the multiplayer mode and those minigames, and no doubt you will want to play this one just that little longer, being on the DS and all...
Let down by the fact that it fails to do enough with the touch-screen and can be very awkward to control, Super Mario 64 DS has very few other faults. The multiplayer mode is a real gem, and the fact that you only need one game between four to enjoy it and it's wireless just add to the goodness. Looks great, lasts forever...but wouldn't a new Mario title have been a better move...