Review by StephenYap3
"It puzzles me why Sunshine and Galaxy weren’t like this..."
Despite Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars being the first game for the plumber to walk more than two directions, the series was known to be a 2-D Side-Scrolling phenomenon, with the first being Donkey Kong. Mainly, the plumber can jump and run in a classic platform action. His abilities expanded to hitting the floors below the enemy to stun them in Mario Bros, and then he was given the ability to last longer in super-sized, jump on enemies, climb vines, and enter warp pipes in Super Mario Bros. His abilities keep expanding and expanding without the help of any item or so. In Super Mario Bros 3, Mario can finally hold Koopa Shells and Bob-ombs (though he must hurry and rid of them before they explode on him) and even slide down the slopes to take out enemies in front of him. His abilities become more expanded in Super Mario World, being able to kick objects into the air, spin jump onto enemies, and jump off of ladders instead of falling. Aiding the plumber is a Fire Flower to give him fire balls to throw, a dangling leaf to morph him into a raccoon to fly for a fixed amount of time, and much more. Mario was really popular back then, and even though his past rival Sonic the Hedgehog was better than him from the start, his abilities never expanded much as even today, he physically knows about three more moves than to just run fast, jump, and turn into a ball and bowl into enemies.
In Super Mario 64, Mario is well expanded to become the new Tom Cruise, even though some of his abilities are sourced from power ups. In the very first N64 game released, Mario can do tons of things that even a fan will be blown away by: Punch, kick, slide kick, body slide, dive, jump really far or high, hang onto monkey bars or climb up poles, and much more. If you're still into his old games, do not fear as he can still stomp on enemies. The power ups from his old days are absent in this game, but his expanded fighting techniques make up for that.
Best of all, Mario now has a health meter, consisting of 8 pips. Some enemies or other objects do more than just 1 pip of damage, so this adds great strategy to letting you study on enemies on how to survive in the game. Mario can restore it in some ways, like swimming on the surface of the water, but cannot breathe under water this time. As he stays under water, his health meter runs out until when it goes empty, he dies. And falling from high heights will he take damage, so it's best to watch out for your platform skills if you want to survive. There are plenty of ways for Mario to die, adding humor to the game. Sometimes, Mario will lose his hat and he will take more damage. The only thing he'll have to do is get it back. Has Mario been pumping some iron? Is he a black belt fighter? What on Earth is he? Play this game and find out.
At first, Mario comes to Peach's castle after reading the princess' letter, saying that she baked a cake for him. After making a scene via warp pipe and meeting Lakitu to help you on the camera settings of this game since this game is in full 3-D, Mario enters the castle and finds that no cake or the princess is here. Instead, Mario's arch nemesis Bowser tells him that he's captured the princess and threatens him to get out. This is where the real fun begins. As for the cake, it doesn't matter from this point on. You've got a princess to save!
Super Mario 64 still has levels like each video game has, but to enter them, you must enter the certain paintings or passages to be in the fun. And instead of finding the ending point of each level, the Power Stars around the game are your goal. Each time you collect one, you are sent back to the lobby with the star you've gotten, and those stars are used for opening more levels around Peach's castle. The same thing happens when you lose in the level, with the cost of a life and not earning the star. Collecting a certain amount of stars will eventually lead you to more and more levels, also holding stars. There are a total of 120 stars to collect in the game, but getting them all is worth it.
At first when you enter a certain painting, you are taken to a menu with one mission available. And your main objective in those missions is collecting stars while sometimes you'll have to do certain tasks or defeat enemies or bosses to reveal one, and collecting stars will open more missions in that level. There are a total of six missions in each level and sometimes, you don't have to collect that mission's star since you can collect other stars as well. Each of those certain levels also have a hidden star, gotten for collecting 100 coins in that level. This concept may sound repetitive from this review, but playing the game will make a difference.
Apart from bosses like Big Bob-omb, Big Whomp, and Big Boo to defeat, there's Bowser himself. He is confronted in three different levels, after collecting a huge bunch of stars to enter the Star Doors in the castle. Each level is more epic than the last, and also has one star for you to collect. As for fighting Bowser, you run behind him and grab his tail. You swing him by rotating the control stick and throw him into the bombs at the edge of the arena. At first he knows fire breath and jump, but his abilities expand further to make him harder for each time you face him. There's strategy involved to avoiding the Koopa king's attacks. I personally found this concept to be awkward for a Mario game since Mario doesn't grab hold of enemies and swing them around. It would've been a good thing if Nintendo changed this to make Bowser battles less strategic and more action-packed. And each time you defeat him in the first two levels, you earn a key to access more of Peach's castle.
Finally, we're onto the items themselves. Mario will find a wide array of items to find in the game to aid his quest. The traditional 1-up Mushroom grants him an extra life while a Gold Coin restores his health by 1 pip and grant him one coin simultaneously. There are more items in the game as well. A red coin grants him 2 gold coins, restores 2 pips of health, and collecting 8 of these coins earns Mario a star. A blue coin earns him 5 gold coins, a massive replenish of 5 pips of health, and are rarely found. A spinning heart object won't disappear and the faster Mario runs into it, the more health is restored. There are boxes that Mario will pick up that may be just a normal box or takes him jumping ahead until it cracks open, and boxes contain coins to collect when broke open.
Later in the game, you will encounter different caps for Mario to wear that grant him temporary abilities. The Wing Cap gives his cap a pair of wings to let him soar through the skies like a drunken airplane. The Metal Cap turns Mario into metal and renders him invulnerable to nearly anything while letting him sink and walk under water. The Vanish Cap gives Mario a translucent body to render him very invulnerable to nearly anything and walk through some walls. Each cap is gotten for hitting certain ! boxes and those boxes become available once certain switches are pressed around in the game. Neither of these caps is required to beat the game, but if you want all 120 stars, then you're going to have to.
Easily the best N64 game, if not the best Mario game around. Get it on Virtual Console! Sadly, there isn't much to talk about for this game since it's outweighed by Sunshine and Galaxy and Galaxy 2, but even though they are better Mario 64 still wins by a long shot.
Rating: 9.6 out of 10
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/03/11
Game Release: Super Mario 64 (US, 09/26/96)
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