Review by Yoh_of_Izumo

"Classically Awesome and Awe-inspiring"

While I have stuck with portability for the majority of my gaming career, I have occasionally wandered off the path to discover games on the TV consoles. Though I am not a fanatic of television console games, I do try to make it my business to try out all the supposedly heralded classics of the television gaming world. And when I play these classics, most of them appeal to me as classics as they did with other gamers. Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64 is not exception. Not only is it classic, but also it probably exists in my top ten favorite games, which not many games are capable of doing. There are probably two or three Mario games that exist in my top ten favorite games of all time.

Though I have not played many Mario games on the television console systems, I have played some of them. My first Mario game that I ever played was Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. I tried the game at first, while visiting some relatives, and I loved it. Ever since skimming the games of Super Mario World, Super Mario Brothers, and Super Mario Land for the Gameboy Original, I just had to try out the Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64. Not only did I see that it was not a side-scrolling action game, but it was the first TV console game that I saw that was in three-dimensional aspects and that it looked awesome. Not only did the gameplay look quite appealing, but also the candy-eye graphics were stunning.

While the side-scrolling era of Mario was classic, the game creators finally saw technology had improved when the gaming system advanced from the 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System to the 64-bit Nintendo 64 and thus took the initiative. This was probably in the top five for the greatest games to launch with the entertainment system. Not only was the game unbelievable, but it also sealed the Nintendo legacy with action games that no longer took on a mundane two-dimensional world or a psuedo-three-dimensional world, but an actually living and breathing three-dimensional world. No longer would gamers except quality that was less than that of this game, and that is why games continue to advance and advance on the television console systems. Super Mario 64 was such a success that even a port of it was launched on the portable Nintendo DS so that those who missed out on the craze during the middle 1990's could enjoy a classical game that few games have been able to parallel even today.

Enough with the flower talk and let us jump into the review…

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Gameplay: 9/10
For a game that launched at the start of the Nintendo 64's releases, there is not much to say about the flaws even though much of the three-dimensional interface in television console gaming was rather a new step into the frontier during those days. Let me begin my addressing the only true fallacy in this game, and that is the camera setup and angling. While most people can easily work around the problems that the camera can cause, people should not have to waste time doing this, and the camera should allow easy access and viewing. The main problem with the camera is sometimes it is unable to do its job. While a player wants to see the perspective of Mario a certain way, the camera can sometimes prove faulty. An example of this is during a corner wall scene when a player wishes to see the expanse of a certain area. Sometimes if the Lakitu that is holding the camera is too close to a wall, then when you try to aim, the camera viewing will be looking through a wall, and since walls are dense and solid, you will only see the graphical output of the wall, and then you will not even see the playing mat of the game. Though while such can be a nuisance, it can easily and quickly be worked around. The fact is that the camera is really only a malady if a player cannot learn how to adapt to it. For other players, they do not even notice the consequences of the newly installed camera innovations, and this can be observed in many time trial games when a player can easily navigate through an entire map without having to worry about losing the view of third person perspective of Mario.

Now with the only major flaw taken care of, let us address the wonderful gameplay world that is available in a Mario world in the three-dimensional perspective, which was not available in the two-dimensional side-scrollers of the former era. It is so hard to describe it in worlds, because Mario interacting with an ever-shaping environment become so new and abstract, it lost many players in its beauty. In this game, Mario no longer only moves in the standard four-directions of up, down, left, and right of a controllable two-dimensional world, but now is at the mercy of an infinite field of movement. With the three-dimensional world at a players disposal, the player can actual enjoy interacting with the environment, and to a person who was always used to player the side-scrolling two-dimensional world of Mario, it can prove daunting and disorientating at first. Though eventually after walking around the map, a player can soon adapt and became accustomed to a more realistic worldly interaction.

In Super Mario 64, Mario moves in a third-person perspective, which can be channeled from third-person perspective to first-person perspective thanks to the camera held by a Lakitu. When the camera and viewing of Mario is not at interest, a player can navigate Mario easily with the center joystick and enjoy the freedom of movement. Though the button configuration of the Nintendo 64 may prove a bit numerous, it is a necessity in this game.

Now that Mario has this three-dimensional world to explore, he is open to many new moves that were previously unavailable to him. These new moves include jumps, crouches, and even crawl walking. Many of the maps objectives cannot be achieved unless Mario does one of the following moves. To many, the most favorite type of move could be the triple jump. Not only does it launch Mario several tens of feet into the air, but it also always Mario to take off from the ground when he wishes to fly around the map and collect coins in the clouds. Besides the triple jump, there is the double jump. Not only are there jumps off the ground, but also jumps off the walls, and when adequately used, can make an objective that seems impossible to get quite a possibility to obtain in only a matter of seconds. Sometimes Mario does not wish to wake the carnivorous plants he walks by, well no worries, because he has the ability to baby-step walk past them and listen to wonderful lullaby song as he passes them. If this is not enough, Mario can enjoy free reign from falling from massively high objects, because of the innovative butt stomp. If Mario topples out of a floating island, he can easily prevent injury by crouch butt stomping feet from impact and all his fatal fall energy is successfully released. This game cannot be enjoyed without mastering each of the numerous moves in Mario's arsenal, and once they are mastered, the game becomes quite magical and wonderful.

Now then, how does a player get through the world of Super Mario 64 and get to the final objective to save Princess Peach? Well, it is quite simple. All Mario has to do is go into the special painting rooms of each designated room and jump into the picture. As soon as he is in the picture, he is greeted with a screen that indicates that he has seven options to choose from according to the following objectives on the map. Most people will follow them in chronological order, but some are easier to do then others. When a player accepts which objective to do, then it is up to Mario to carry out that objective. Though just because it states the objective, does not mean that Mario has to do that specific objective. If he happens to be going after defeating the boss and he somehow collects all the eight red coins on the map, then he can complete that objective first, collect the star, and come back to do the other objective later on. After Mario has exhausted all the stars on one map, then he can to another painting room and collect those stars. If one painting is causing him boredom, then he can easily bounce between several paintings all at once. Some painting rooms though will have a minimum star count and Mario will have to collect a certain amount of stars before he is allowed to explore those worlds. And sometimes Mario has to defeat one of the stages of Bowser before he can be given access to other rooms as well.

What makes this game so epic and enjoyable is that there are over 15 maps to explore with 120 stars to collect. Though of course to beat the game it does not require that you collect all 120 stars, but it does give a different ending. Not only is collecting each star a different task to fulfill, but it allows the player and Mario to explore the breadth and depth of this unbelievable three-dimensional map. The maps differ in gameplay content with some being underwater, some being on terra firma, and others being situated in the heated depths of a volcano. Not only does this allow for different environments, but also it allows a player to explore the worlds through different strategies. A player will have to learn to conserve air while underwater, but at the same time make sure that he or she does the objective fast enough and collects the star before Mario drowns. In the lava lands, it is a must that a player learns how to use the hot lands to balance correctly on the platforms and enjoy hurling enemies into the fiery depths below.

The gameplay is very simplified to allow most new comers to the Mario games and even people who are not accustomed to the Nintendo 64 configuration to become quickly accustomed to its setup. People will soon be able to see the logic through its easy yet extremely powerful setup. The c-buttons allow a player to navigate the camera of the Lakitu quickly and effectively to setup up the perspectives of Mario much more logically. Sometimes even today, I wish that automatic centering through the third-person perspective would not exist, because it is still not perfect, and the ability to control it through personal preferences and not through a computer that can sometimes goof up can help. Other than the camera setting, a player can use the d-pad to look around and the joystick to move around. The A, B, and Z buttons all have their special uses and combos for the slides, glides, crouches, and jumps.

As with most Mario games, and especially ones that are released at the opening of a Nintendo console, there are many Easter eggs and glitches placed into the system. Though sometimes glitches can be seen detrimental to gameplay, it is possible to collect all 120 stars and defeat this game without ever encountering a glitch or an Easter egg. This makes a player's searching for glitches and Easter eggs very worthwhile, because while they are not too hard to encounter, and very easy to avoid if gone unnoticed, they do not cripple gameplay through malfunction and allow a player to enjoy even more of the value of Super Mario 64. Some of the glitches allow a player to explore the castle through different perspective, and when a player is bored of exploring maps, he can always turn the atypical glitches to add some life into his or her gameplay. Let us face, most classic games always have their share of Easter eggs and glitches just to make the game that more special.

Finally, let us not forget that all Mario games must have power-ups. Just like the predecessors of the Super Mario 64 game, Mario has seen his fair share of intriguing power-ups ranging from the wonderful mushroom to the flower that gives Mario the flower power that everyone has been wanting to see. Though in Super Mario 64, there are three specific power-ups, and these are in the form of caps. There are three caps: flying cap, metal cap, and invisible cap. Though they rare throughout the game, they allow a player to enjoy even more gameplay. The flying cap allows a player to take off the ground after being launched from a cannon or after doing a triple bounce and this allow Mario to fly for a brief time in the air. Unfortunately though, the flying cap does fade away and Mario better be close to the ground when this happens, because he will incur some nice fall damage. Now the metal cap is totally different from the flying cap and allows Mario to skirt across the depths of an underwater cavern without having the hassle of swimming around. Finally the invisible cap lives up to its name by allowing Mario to become invisible and drastically helping his chances against the boos that like to appear only if they believe that Mario is not looking directly at them. Certain objectives in the game cannot be completed without using these caps, and come on, they are so fun to use, that nobody would mind not using them. Besides obtaining these caps there is much more in the sense of gameplay.

Let me end the gameplay with the notion that there is so much multifarious content it is so hard to describe in just a review. Not only does Mario enjoy the three-dimensional world through his jumps and slides and alongside some allies in the paintings, but also gets some time to rest from these action moves through fun and comical races with penguins and time trials to give almost the sense of a Mario Kart like setting. Of the Mario's to this date, this is my most favorite Mario game in terms of gameplay.

Story: 10/10
Ah, yes, the wonderful world of Mario's stories. Well, let us see…evil Bowser captures Princess Peach and it is up to Mario to defeat Bowser, rescue Princess Peach, and save the day? You better believe it! Now the story starts out with Princess Peach writing to Mario and telling him to please come to the castle, because she has baked a cake for Mario, how nice of her. When Mario arrives at the castle though, something is not right. After jumping out of his plumber's pipe, he is informed that the Lakitu news cameraman will track him. No big deal, until he enters the castle and hears the evil taunts of the vile Bowser and realizes that he must defeat Bowser to save Princess Peach from Bowser's imprisonment. Now what must Mario do? Well, unlike the previous Mario games where Mario had to progress through eight worlds of side-scrolling fun to get to the final castle and save Princess Peach and destroy Bowser, Mario must now take a swing in a world of colorful three-dimensional picturesque objects. Mario learns from his friends such as the many Toads around the castle that he must jump through pictures in the castle that have been bewitched by Bowser which possess stars to unlike locked rooms and continue his mission to save the Princess. He will have collect many stars if he wishes to defeat Bowser, 70 at the minimum. As he progresses, Mario will be challenged constantly by having to complete objectives with very little information and will have to learn how to decipher that information as he explores the maps. Though it is not hard for him to rack up the 70 stars to get to the final stage of Bowser, it will be hard if he wishes to collect all 120 stars. For every amount of star bunches he collects, Mario will be able to face stages of Bowser. After defeating each stage, Mario will get a key to give him more access to the lairs of the castle and he will be able to collect more stars. Once he has defeated all three stages of Bowser, he will be able to save the Princess. This is a truly fun story as you the player guides Mario on his path and not some timer or automatically scrolling map, but you have unlimited time to explore each painting and soak up a story that has much more content and value to it than those of the former Mario games of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and the portable Gameboy Original.

Graphics: 10/10
The graphics of this game are breathtaking, and despite Super Mario 64 being a starter release for the Nintendo 64, very few other Nintendo 64 games could live up to the raw graphical power of the Super Mario 64 game. No longer is Mario exploring the world in a two-dimensional side-scrolling game, but has a world in which his movements are only limited to the infinite planes of three-dimensional space (minus the fourth-dimensional plane of time of course). There is nothing much I can say about this game except that it sucks all the energy out of the Nintendo 64 as it can. The basic design of the three-dimensional world and Mario shoved together nullifies the Mario games of the past. Though the Mario games of the past are classics of their generation, even to this day, Super Mario 64 has been acclaimed better the Mario games for the Gamecube such as Super Mario Sunshine. The graphics are truly pristine and there is nothing more I can say about them except to talk about their awesomeness. I guess that what is necessary is just to dwell on the concept of the three-dimensional world. What makes the Super Mario 64 game different from most three-dimensional games of even today is that Mario basically has free reign over the entire world boxed in the game cartridge. Unlike most games that are three-dimensional and are bounded by invisible barriers, Mario can enjoy flying high, flying low, going into, and going out of a map. Basically wherever Mario goes, he is surrounded by playable and interactive three-dimensional graphics. When I first played this game, I just could not leave it down, because the graphical power of the game just jaded me. After upgrading from the portable worlds of Mario and the SNES version and before of Mario, a player can witness an evolutionary leap occurring before him or her.

Sound: 9/10
The sound of this game is very classy as well. The soundtrack of this Mario installation has been totally redone and has allowed new connections to happen between a player and the game itself. Though it does not appear that the themed song of the past Mario games exist in this Super Mario 64 game, it is quite noticeable to a finely tuned Mario ear that this game does have many variations of the former Mario games except that since these variations lacks the harsh synthesizers of the former Mario games, so they actually sound different and quite appealing to the ear. Though the music is quite well formatted for the game, there is nothing that really shouts out and claims this game to be one of the best soundtracks for the Nintendo 64 system. Though its soundtrack is one of the best, it is not deserving of the best of the best noteworthiness. Probably my favorite soundtracks in this game are while I am playing a Bowser level and while I am walking around the castle. Actually, my favorite song in this game is probably in my top 10 favorite videogame songs, because it reminds me of a classic trumpet tune from Miles Davis or Herb Albert or maybe someone else…it's when Mario is getting the ability to use the flying cap power-up, quite nice.

Replayability: 10/10
The graphical power and the gameplay worth of this game make it one of the best games to ever grace the Nintendo 64 and still make this game even a classic to this day. Such classic behavior can be seen when people are still playing the game on the release for the Nintendo DS. With the ability to play to get 120 stars, so many maps, so many challenges, and so much fun, the game lifespan of this game can last well past that of many former Mario games and may take a person well over twenty hours to complete every nook and cranny of this action game. People have to remember that action games are not supposed to last too long, because then it starts to lose that action-sense in itself and starts to take on more of a role-playing experience, and many action gamers wish not to see the two mix in this style of Mario game. Even after defeating the game, many players will wish to play this game a few more times to explore all the graphically powered maps and see the wonderful Easter eggs and glitches. This game offers so much opportunity as well, because it is an action game, many people are now posting their time trials of the game to see how long it takes them to collect so many stars or how long it takes them to defeat Bowser. It is always amazing to look at a game that you solemnly believe would take several hours to beat, but then see someone defeat it in only an hours time. This reappearance of time trials has caused many people to take up the game again and play for brag rights as they post them on many video websites such as Youtube, and hey, maybe I'll even try it, but with Super Mario Galaxy on the horizon for the Nintendo Wii, I may hold back a little bit until I see whether this future Mario game has some classical promise in it. Very few games can live up to such a classic as Super Mario 64 did. Even though technology has improved and games continue to look better, there hardly any out there that can hold a candle to this very worthwhile game.

CONCLUSION
Using my rating system for action games:
35% Gameplay, 12.5% Story, 25% Graphics, 10% Sound, 17.5% Replayability

Overall Game Rating: 9.55

OVERALL RATING: 10/10 – Genuine Classic Extraordinaire
Suggested Action: A must try for any gamer.


Final Comments: Like I have said several times throughout this review, few games have been able to live up to a legacy of gaming as great as the Super Mario 64 game. With its outstanding overall performance, there is hardly anything negative to harp on it. The fact that is game was released at the release of the Nintendo 64, that it was heralded as a classic, and that it continues to live on in ported portability are testaments to its shear classical performance. Let us remember that classics are far and few between. On every system, there are usually less than 5 games that ever grace the field as a classic, and even to this game, there has yet to be a classic Mario action game released for the Gamecube or the Nintendo Wii, but for the Nintendo Wii, there may be a promising one on the horizon. Of course, since this game is so old, it would quite hard to obtain through legal ways except through Ebay, a flea market, or from a friend. If you can find a copy of this, and its cheap or if you can get a lend of a copy from a friend, it is a must try for all gamers. This game took the revolutionary jump into three-dimensional action games. Though if you cannot find this game for the Nintendo 64, then there is still the option of obtaining it on the Nintendo DS, and not only is just as fun, but now it is portable. With Super Mario Galaxy coming around the bend for a release on the Nintendo Wii, the classic era of Mario may continue to live on. Super Mario 64, though, will always be a classic among the classics.

Fin


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/25/07


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