Review by King Broccoli
Ah, to be a plumber! To wake every morning, the sun swanning lazily through a cheery blue sky, and know that somewhere out there is a sticky brown blockage with your name on it! These lucky folks have the privilege of doing a job that the less fortunate of us would gladly do for free, and get paid exorbitant rates for that privilege! To be a plumber! To unclog! To tighten! To show alluring portions of one’s buttocks!
Seeing as how plumbers are possibly the greatest human beings to grace this humble planet, it is only fitting that possibly the greatest video game character of all time slots comfortably within their ranks. He is indeed a red-capped plumber, who over the years has battled manfully to eradicate a demonic green blockage.
The plumber: Mario.
The blockage: Not the product of a sickly, green-food-dye drinking man, but a nefarious lizard known as Bowser.
Countless times in countless bedrooms have these ferocious foes butted heads, but with Super Mario 64 comes their greatest battle yet. Bowser, harnessing the power of the stars, retreats inside the castle of the evergreen Princess Peach, trapping within the walls all who would dare oppose him. The stage is set for Mario to launch a counter-attack on the castle, freeing those within...or dying valiantly in the attempt.
It is within the paintings of the castle that this glorious battle will be waged. Tucked away within various masterpieces are hordes of Bowser’s minions, ready to defend the stars with their many lives. Mario’s task is to overcome the vicious throngs that dare defy his scarlet wrath, navigate the natural hazards that plague each perilous stage and complete 120 unique missions. The portly plumber will be called upon to jump, swim, fly and surf through 15 courses, unearthing golden treasures, ascending the velveteen staircases of the castle and dethroning Bowser who sits waiting at the summit. Luckily, Mario has a plethora of jumps, flips and tricks that will put him in good stead on his quest. Rarely has a more agile character graced the screens, Mario boasting at least one move capable of overcoming each pitfall in his path. Chasms will be leapt, heights scaled and depths explored before Mario even thinks about breaking a sweat.
Perhaps it is Mario’s eyes that will be getting the biggest workout. They might be rubbed, and blinked, and rubbed again in disbelief, but their grandeur is no trick. Each of the 15 courses is beautifully crafted, the vibrant and detailed stages demonstrating fully the power of the Nintendo 64. The first stage is as worthy as any of such praise. Should he jump through the splendid watercolour rendition of 3 marching bob-ombs, he will find himself in a graphical world that tests all of the emotions.
Feel the grin spread across your face as you stand comfortably on the luscious green grass. Nearby, a small cluster of purple butterflies flit aimlessly around the happy, yellow flowers. Off in the distance troops of surly little Goombas patrol a bridge, they are joined by the tiny black spectres of a bob-omb clan. Above you, a ferocious black ball with razor sharp teeth is tethered to a pole. It darts about, barking madly and menacing anyone who comes close. Higher still is a majestic mountain, its various stony ridges visible even from the ground. There is activity all around, it is a bustling, organic environment, and every minute spent in it should be soaked up.
Whether you’re navigating frozen tundras, exploring shipwrecks or scaling the tallest mountains there is a similar detail with the graphics. The eclectic missions to obtain the stars also add a dimension to the play. Every nook and crevice of every level will need to be explored to satisfy fully Bowser’s demands. One must be prepared to go exploring, collecting, and occasionally turn pest exterminator to recapture the 120 stars. More often than not, enormous bosses await you in high places, ready to engage in a tactical dogfight that will eventually see one combatant cast on a downwards spiral towards the unforgiving ground. It won’t just take tactical nous, nor will bravado alone suffice to vanquish these most worthy of opponents.
Bowser himself is quite the challenge. Obstacle courses preclude head-to-head skirmishes between the two titans, pitting Mario against perilous leaps, rickety bridges and searing flames. Bowser sits waiting at the end - a monolithic figure sitting on a lonely platform ringed with bombs. It is with Bowser that the challenge ends.
Naturally, this final confrontation is a long way away. It’s an enormous quest, and Lakitu is there to “film” the whole thing. Unfortunately, this is Lakitu’s first major production, and he’s not so good with a camera. This often means that Mario’s view will be impeded by something or other, making precarious situations even more so through shoddy camera angles. Luckily, this can be put up with, and it must! One can’t forgo a gaming experience of this magnitude simply because of a few camera indiscretions. Mario might suffer the odd mishap, send an errant jump just left of a ledge, but, being the resilient fellow he is, he’ll bounce right back. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that Lakitu’s effort will be picked up by a major network any time soon.
With or without the tomfoolery of the cameraman, it’s impossible to ignore the sheer size and enormity of what has been achieved with Super Mario 64. Even as one of the pioneers of the three-dimensional platform game, it should be looked at as a yardstick that all others must seek to aspire to. The environments on offer for Mario to perambulate through are large enough as it is, but with the amount of content packed into every square inch of every environment means that Super Mario 64 will still be played and appreciated many years down the track. It seems that Mario is destined to stick around a very long time, clearing the world of nasty green blockages for the bargain price of a few hours of your time.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/02/04
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