Review by Destination
"Lighter than Ever"
Starting from the top, everyone who is anyone obviously knows about Mario. The tubby, yet extremely agile plumber has made his essence known throughout the platform world. With the coming of the DS, the first ever 3D Mario game from eight years ago has resurfaced. At first, I did not think that they would be able to port something so magnificent to a mere portable system. However, I greatly underestimated the DS. Super Mario 64 DS takes everything I loved about the original and compliments it with new features and modes. All which take root, thanks to the exciting and fresh ideas from Nintendo's new dual screen masterpiece.
You have all probably played through this game once before, so you are most likely familiar with the plot. However, this time there is a slight twist at the beginning of the adventure. Once again the sexy Princess Peach has invited Mario to her castle for cake, however, for some strange reason Wario and Luigi show up as well. Who the hell invited them? Anyway, three go in and none come out, and the responsibility for a little investigation falls upon Yoshi. The goal, however, is the same yet again. Rescue your fellow teammates, grab every star in the entire game, and rescue Peach, hoping that she is not in another castle. Just kidding
As before, your primary goal is completing every stage in each world, by way of objective missions. There are now seven stars to grab in each level, as well as new items to help compliment the new arrivals. The first of such are the character hats that you will probably find in your first venture into the Bob-omb world. Grabbing the head gear will allow you to take on the form of that character, until you eventually unlock them from their prisons. Mario, as always, is well rounded in every aspect, and can turn into a hilarious blimp with the use of the new power flowers. Luigi is extremely agile and can jump the highest of all. Certainly a trait you will take advantage of in many situations. Wario is sluggish yet strong and Yoshi's egg and tongue attacks make him the best offensive contender. Other flower power attributes include Luigi's invisibility, Wario's metallic structure, and Yoshi's ability to finally turn into a menacing fire-breathing dragon. Well, he is still cute when he does it, but at least he is trying. These two spoils are among the first of many changes and you will have no trouble playing I Spy to see what else has been altered.
What has changed the most sadly is the control setup. The lack of an analog stick really got me down; as I was sure I would not be able to do the unique moves I could before. Thankfully the impossible is still possible with the control pad, but it will take a lot of work to learn the curve. The hardest one to overcome was using the directional pad and Y button to run. Using this together to try to do the classic long jump or a wall kick is definitely a hardship to bypass, probably more-so than getting every star put together. The stylus is also an option, but in my opinion, it just makes things more difficult. The execution of the movement is precise though, and as soon as you tap B, Mario will be doing that crazy ass triple jump with ease. Getting to the point, it is not totally abysmal as some have labeled it, and with a little bit of time, it can be mastered.
From my mentioning of the stylus movement earlier, comes the factor of the second screen. Besides movement; you have an extremely accessible map, option selection, and even the ability to change the camera of both screens. I am so overwhelmed that I can finally say the camera is flawless. Flawless, flawless FLAWLESS! Sorry, but you try playing through a series of games, all let down by the same damn thing, and not be excited when something good comes along. However, it seemed that Nintendo, once again, was trying to aim more towards children with this version. From this, comes the incredibly over-helpfulness of the map. Despite its obvious ability to tell you, You are here like you see at your local mall, it will also point out item location. While some are great to have pointed out like the hats, certain doodads such as: red coins, objective items, and sometimes even stars make the game-play a bit too simple. Maybe it is just me, but being a fan of exploration, I generally do not care being told where to go. Anyway, it is not apparent in every level, and sometimes you will not even notice it all. Hey, it is the first screen you are viewing the most right?
Despite some minor changes for the worse, the tilt will always be on the positive side if you played the hell out of the 64 bit version. Some loved the idea of going on a scavenger hunt, looking for every item available. Some loathed the idea and thought the series took a turn for the worst when it first arrived. If you are one of those people, I still urge you to play, simply for the new mini-games. Now what may appear as a gimmick is actually one of the most replay-able features you will have. Aside from pulling on Mario or Yoshi's face with the stylus (which is incredibly fun by the way), are a plethora of games that are incredibly innovative. Taking use of the second screen, you will be launching sling-shots at bombs, rolling a snow-ball across obstacles, and even playing cards at the casino. There are so many variations of things to do, that you will want to continue playing the adventure to keep unlocking them. That's right, you keep getting new games as you progress, and so great things come to those who wait.
To some visuals may not be an essential mention, but in this case I need to make an exception. First it is obvious, that for a hand-held, it greatly exceeds my expectations. The character models have been straightened out, the pre-rendered environments are enjoyably quaint, and Bowser finally doesn't look like an overgrown dog anymore. Without the Nintendo 64's aliasing, some mountain structures look a little over-pixilated, and the water effects could have been improved upon. It has its faults, but for what it accomplishes it, without a doubt, makes it all the more satisfactory. Now complimenting the traditional graphics is the superb sound quality, which really brings back those memories. I, for one, vote Super Mario 64 as having one of the greatest soundtracks on any system, period. All the mellowness of Jolly Roger Bay and haunting sounds of Big Boo's Haunt have returned and sound better than ever. Gone is the outdated MIDI, replaced with the DS's excellent stereo-surround quality. Though something usually ignored, it is the wonderfully rendered atmosphere that ties the game together, even better so than eight years ago.
Call it a port, a rehash, or even terrible if you did not like the 64-bit Mario, but before you make the call, at least play it. Fans of the series will be glad to know, the transfer to the new system was a great success. And with brand new characters, challenging new stages, additional mini-games, and just the fact that it is portable, it is definitely the game and system to get this season. There are some offbeat moments, with the mixed visuals and difficult control setup, but everything gets better with time. Mario has always been a part of gaming that has not gotten old, unlike continual rehashes of Mega Man or Final Fantasy, and I can safely say nothing has changed. As follows, this game definitely gets a full recommendation -- because I am just a sucker for nostalgia.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/02/04, Updated 12/30/04
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