Review by tgoldberg
"It's amazing how well this game has held up."
I'll skip the exposition this time and just tell you that this is one of the most revered games ever. You can't go to any game website (well, except maybe Playstation fansites) and not see praise heaped endlessly upon Super Mario 64 like Atari 2600 cartridges on a landfill. It is one of the most loved games of all time, and fortunately, the praise isn't undue. Super Mario 64 is a superbly fun 3D platformer that set the standard for years to come, and that few could quite duplicate (even Nintendo themselves had a hard time getting it quite so right again). And believe me, it's be even harder to stomach Crash Bandicoot's flaws after playing this.
The story bringing events together is that Princess Peach has invited Mario to a party, and is making a lovely cake for him. Mario, not wanting to pass up a opportunity like that, arrives promptly at the castle. However, upon entry (and after a little chat with lakitu), Mario learns from Toad that things have gone wrong. Bowser has shown up (gosh, no, really?), stolen the power stars, and imprisoned Peach is a painting above the castle doors. Mario must enter Peach's magic paintings scattered throughout the castle (which are usually behind locked doors), get the stars back, lay Bowser's butt on the ground, and get Peach back. It's far from epic, but I have yet to see a Mario game that actually put much emphasis on story (besides the Mario RPG games).
So, now that things have gone dreadfully, drastically wrong once again, we can explore the castle (or at least, what we've unlocked so far) and go about getting some of those stars back. For the moment, the only portrait available is Bob-Omb Battlefield, which seems appropriately named considering the copious amounts of Bob-Ombs there are here. Now that we've entered, we can see just what this level is like. Several things are immediately apparent: 1. It's big, and 2. it's a good looking level. And if we take the time to notice, we may realise that though regular Bob-Ombs will light up and chase you, the red Bob-Omb we started out next to doesn't. So naturally, we punch him to see what happens. But instead of punching, Mario talks to him. He says that he'll "prepare the cannon for you", which causes a big cannon to pop up nearby. This cannon behaves much like the manual-launch barrels in Donkey Kong 64: you aim the cannon from a first-person view, and fire off with the A button. Remember now, this cannon is your friend.
After a bit more exploring, we may find that coins are a bit less common in this game than they are in previous Mario games. This is because coins refill your health bar, rather than act as the obligatory collectable item. Oh yes, that's right, you have a health bar. Kiss those mushrooms goodbye, because you won't be using them anymore. Back on topic, We may also find many familiar faces in this level. Goombas are back and bad as ever, as are Shy-Guys and Bow-Wows. And just like old times, Goombas and Shy-Guys must be jumped on, which Bow-Wows must be avoided altogether. And after meeting (and killing) all the old enemies, we may take the time to get a closer look at the large mountain on the far side of the level. There is a not-so-subtle path established leading all the way up, so we might as well go along with it. After a long but enjoyable climb, we'll have been "greeted" by a large, mustachioed Bob-Omb, who challenges us do a duel. The trick is, we must get behind him and grab him with the B button, which lets us pick him up and throw him down. If we did this three times, he'll have finally relented, giving us a victory paragraph and exploding, which would reveal the power star contained within him. All we have to do now is run over to the star, and Mario will grab it, do a little dance, and we'll be taken back out. Mario will take off his cap and smooth it out while the game shows us how many coins we got, and the star challenge we've beaten. And that's how it all begins.
By this point, you will have noticed more than anything else that this game is fun. The controls are logical and easy to use, the difficulty is challenging, yet fair, and the design is wonderfully well thought out and intricate. And just to sweeten things, the whole game is wrapped in a layer a great graphics and catchy music to make it all the more pleasant. This all adds up to one of the best games on Nintendo 64, and a game not to be missed by anyone. If you own a Nintendo 64 and don't have this game, you really should take the plunge and buy it. It's well worth the price.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/26/10
Game Release: Super Mario 64 (US, 09/26/96)
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