Review by Zylo the wolf
"The reason to own a Nintendo 64."
Really what can I say about Super Mario 64 that hasn't been said over 9000 times already? Yes I know that there was many impressive 3D games out on other systems before it, but the game really showed what was possible to do with this new extra dimension, and it also included the guy who had already both saved the Nintendo with the arcade classic Donkey Kong and saved the entire industry with the Nes game Super Mario Bros. Instead of having a goal at the end of a stage you were now free to explore every stage a lot more carefully and had to search in every corner of the stage if you wanted to finish it 100%. To call Super Mario 64 one (if not the) of most important games during the 32/64 bit era is not an understatement, but is it just as fun today as it was 13 years ago? I think it's important to note that I haven't played any of the Super Mario Galaxy games when I wrote this review.
First lets take a quick look at the very deep plot in this game. Mario gets a letter from Princess Toadstool which says that she wants him to come to the castle because she has just baked a cake for him. But when Mario finally gets to the castle it turns out that the evil Bowser has once again kidnapped the Princess, but this time he have done something different instead of taking her to his own castle, he have now hid her somewhere in the Mushroom Castle. He have sealed some door in the castle with star power, and Mario needs to find a number of stars in order to get through these doors in order to be able to confront Bowser and once again rescue the Princess.
The castle is a bit like the over world in Super Mario World, but as I said before this is a 3D game so you can walk freely in the castle and don't have to follow a certain line. Most of the door will at the beginning of the game be locked because you'll need to have a certain number of stars to open these doors, so the only door that can enter leads to a room with a big painting of a few bobombs. The painting is actually one of the 15 warps to a stage so Mario has to jump right into the painting in order to reach this stage.
Each stage is divided in 6 different episodes, and every episode's name is a hint of where you find one of the stars on the stage. The first one that most get is "Big Bomb-omb on the Summit" on the first stage called "Bombomb field". In order to get this star you must reach the top of the mountain in the stage and then defeat the Big Bomb-Omb boss. When he's dead he gives Mario a star and the game takes you back to the Castle.
Now that you got one star you can choose to either collect more stars on the same stage or open one of the doors that requires that you got at least one star or you can keep collecting more stars on the same stage. Each stage got 6 different stars that you can find plus one that you get when you've collected 100 coins on the stage, a sometimes really difficult task. What I think is really good is that just because you've picked a certain episode of the stage, it usually doesn't mean that you can't find any of the other stars on the stage. But sometimes the stage gets a bit different either after you have finished one episode or during a special one.
For example in some stages you have to race a character called Koopa the Quick, and he will only appear on his episode. The same thing goes to the boss on the second stage, a huge house will be on the place where you fought him in the other episodes. The stars are usually hidden somewhere on the stage and all you have to do is to figure out how to reach that place, but sometimes there are a special task that needs to be done before you see the star. One task that you'll find on every stage is to collect 8 red coins that are hidden all over the stage, and you will only be able to get these stars after you have picked up all 8 red coins on the stage.
As I said before there are a total of 15 stages in this game, and most of them represent a theme that you would expect to be on one stage in a Mario game. There's a fire world, two snow worlds, one air world, one "plain" world, one desert world e.t.c. In other words there are a good mix and no stage feels like the other. Besides from these 15 levels, there are also a few secret levels and a few Bowser levels.
None of the classic power up items like the mushroom and the fire flower is in this game. Instead Mario can defeat the enemies either by stomping them or hit them with his hands and feet. He also got a health bar in this game, and can take up to eight hits from the enemies (granted some enemies cause more damage) before he losses his life. Mario also lose points on this health bar when he's underwater for to long. To refill this health bar you can either pick up coins, find a heart refiller or dive into the water when it's possible and then come up for a breath. It's not that big of a deal when you die, because you only have to start from the beginning of the stage.
Since Mario can't pick up power ups, his jumping skills have really improved since the Super Nintendo days. After he have landed from his regular jump, he can jump again a little higher, and his third jump makes him jump really high. He can also do a really useful 180 degree jump if he's running, and if you hold the z button while running and then jump button he will do a jump that goes really far. With the ability to move this smoothly, who needs lame fire flowers?
One of the most important thing in 3D games is that the camera angles gives you a good view of everything, and Nintendo where so clever that they actually let the player to control the angle. With the C-Button you can either move the camera in every direction you want, or you can press R which makes the camera zoom in on Mario. This is useful when you have to walk slowly over a tight edge or bridge and don't see much with the zoomed out angle. For an early 3D game with a moveble camera I can only think of a few times where I couldn't get a perfect view.
I can't think of any real flaw in this game, but of course there are a few things could be better. The Bowser fights didn't have to be the same fight three times, and all the other boss fights are actually really easy. There's also one stage that I find more frustrating than funny. But all in all Super Mario 64 is one of the few games that I enjoy every time I play through it, since you can get the stars in any order you want. I was just going to beat this game quick for this review, but I felt like I had to collect all 120 stars one more time, so this game easily gets 10 from me and is one my favourite games of all time. Oh and I've never owned a N64, but I actually borrow the system from friends only to play this game, it's that awesome!
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 11/05/10
Game Release: Super Mario 64 (EU, 03/01/97)
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