Review by Evil Omochao Is Back
"Here we go!"
Nothing was new in the Mushroom Kingdom. The friendly Princess Toadstool had invited Mario the Italian plumber to the castle for some cake, and Mario couldn't resist. Eagerly jumping out of the large green pipe, he noticed that the landscape was slightly different--and that he could move in three dimensions. Mario, eager to stretch his legs, decided to jump around a little bit and kill some time. And he certainly did jump, easily leaping higher than the average human could dream of. However, this was normal for Mario. After all, he had been doing this for years! As soon as the acrobatic plumber landed, he jumped again, this time higher than before. But even that could be considered pathetic for a jumper of Mario's caliber, so he leaped into the air doing a midair somersault and safely landing on the ground with a "ha ha!" as if to mock us mere mortals. Meanwhile, millions of gamers' mouths were open wide enough to easily fit a Goomba.
Always the show-off, Mario decided to run this time, but at the last moment he instantly turned and flipped to the other side. Again, the people were awed. Next, he crouched down and crawled like a baby. But gamers weren't impressed by this, so he stopped and quickly did a double backflip without a slight injury. After that, he started to run again. This time, however, he stopped for a moment, and then leaped with incredible distance, as if he were merely a flea jumping from one smelly host to the next. Mario's no parasite, though, and so he rushed towards the enormous castle, only to be stopped by a flying turtle. Die, you scum! Maybe I should try out Mario's ground pound attack or his punching combo. However, Mario needn't worry, as this Lakitu is friendly and wants to videotape the plumber's stay at the castle. (Don't ask me why.) The turtle wandered off to continue toying with his camera, and Mario walked into the castle.
But alas, there was no one there except an ominous voice that obviously belonged to the main villain of the game. Yes, the vile turtle Bowser has recaptured the princess, and no one but Mario can save her. "Mamma mia!" groaned the plumber. But he had to do it. He pulled up his pants and tried to climb up to the top...only to find out that nearly every door was locked. Damn. Luckily, one door was unlocked, and Mario quickly opened that door, eager to see if the princess (and a bed) was inside. Alas, there was nothing there but a gigantic painting of three marching bombs. Curiously, Mario walked up to the painting and noticed some thing peculiar about it. Without a moment's notice, he jumped into the painting and emerged at the Bomb-Omb Battlefield.
Now it was Mario's turn to be impressed.
A humongous world filled with colorful inhabitants appeared right before Mario's eyes! Angry Goombas patrolled the grassy fields, while the black Bomb-ombs mindlessly walked along the road. Up ahead, Mario could see moving platforms that led to a higher level of the land. A ferocious Chain Chomp tethered to a pole carefully surveyed its territory, making sure no cocky adventures dared step in. Meanwhile, boulders rolled down a tall mountain, seemingly waiting to collide with our hero. Not only that, but a catchy tune played and each little Goomba walked A pink bomb-omb informed everyone's favorite plumber that the King Bomb-omb had made the land oppressed and weak, and he was holding a "Power Star" given to him by the King Koopa himself. Dutifully, Mario scaled the mountain, defeating enemies and avoiding boulders on the way, until he met the King Bomb-omb. By running to the tyrant's back and chucking him on the ground, Mario easily defeated his foe, and was rewarded with a star.
This is one of 120 stars Mario can find in the paintings of the castle. Enter Super Mario 64.
As most gamers would know, Super Mario 64 was a launch title for the powerful (at the time) Nintendo 64, and also the first truly 3-D title for a Nintendo mascot. In addition to Mario moving in three dimensions, Mario 64 changed the Mario formula by adding much more freedom. While the sidescrolling Mario platformers simply focused on our hero getting to the end of the level, Mario 64 focused on collecting stars hidden in each level. In order to find a star, you'll have to get to a certain point in a level, collect items (usually red coins), defeat a boss or do another similar act. Some fans of the sidescrolling Mario titles were skeptical about Mario 64. "Since when was Mario all about collecting stuff?" they scoffed. Rest assured: Mario has entered a new format and passed the test with flying colors.
But back to the task at hand: Mario has collected ten stars. In order to collect them, he had to slide down a huge mountain, climb up a tower, swim underwater and finding a pirate ship and simply collect red coins in the stage during his first encounter with the villainous Bowser. Although Bowser was badly injured in the fight, he managed to slip away from Mario's finishing blow, so Mario must find him in the castle basement. However, he notices something peculiar: light is emerging from the ceiling from the castle. As soon as Mario looks up, he is transported into a secret painting.
I don't know how I can put this experience into words.
Mario is flying! That's right, the plumber is no longer restricted by the harsh law of gravity. He gracefully soars through the air, only to suddenly dive down, seeming to meet his death at the bottom. But at the very last moment, he quickly flies up again, with a "Yahoo!" that will make you laugh in spite of yourself. Mario can fly in circles, or suddenly do a ground-pound in midair. Yes, the plumber has taken to the skies before, but not like this. In no previous Mario game (and no Mario game to date) has the player ever been given so much freedom to simply take a break from collecting stars and fly around just for the fun of it.
It's this that makes Mario 64 a treasure and a joy to play. Even though you have 120 stars to collect and you must have at least 70 to beat the game, you're never really pressured to collect anything at all. You can have just as much fun merely jumping, flying, or sliding around for no reason as you can looking for that one more star you need to progress. However, the game also rewards the player who loves to explore. There are tons of secrets waiting to be found, from the miniscule "extra life behind the wall" to the hidden stars inside the main castle.
And, like all Mario games, each stage is one that you'll remember for a long time. Want to heat things up? Visit Lethal Lava Land, complete with a volcano, deadly fireballs and a koopa shell for surfing at any time! Perhaps you'll want to try a new and unique experience. In that case, go to the Tiny, Huge Island, where Mario can actually become a midget or a goliath at will! If you're really good at controlling Mario, check out the Rainbow Ride where one wrong move can mean death.
Unfortunately, not all of Mario 64 is perfect. Some of the levels, such as the three underwater worlds, are very tedious, and collecting coins for a star isn't always fun. Luckily, these things are in the minority, although they still pose problems. While some enemy fights are fun, they are often rare. Also, the boss fights suck. Most of them consist of moving to their rear and throwing them, but they are usually too fast to do this by running. So, you'll have to leap and hope Mario grabs a boss' tail, but the chances of this happening are rare. But this seems nitpicking when compared to the games biggest problem...
Like many 3-D action games of previous generations, Mario 64's camera can sometimes make collecting stars to aggravating. It swings around in the most inappropriate areas, and it stubbornly refuses any attempts to move it. I don't want to think of how many times I've died not because of my lack of skill and precision, but just because of the camera. Take this example: You're surfing along the lava and you spy a 1-up mushroom hidden behind a stone pillar. So, you direct Mario to the mushroom, but the camera interferes and pits you in the wrong direction. Instead of turning left to grab the item, Mario collides with the wall, resulting in him getting his ass burned off. If there's one reason to truly dislike Mario 64, it's because of that damn turtle that constantly moves everywhere videotaping you.
But although it does mar what is otherwise a nearly perfect game, it can't truly knock this beast down. The sheer size, exploration, and atmosphere of this game can't be denied, even today. Although there are games with better graphics, more atmosphere, and more cool tricks, Mario 64 did it first and still does it best. This game, like the Mario titles before it, is certainly a classic.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/29/04
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