Review by ZFS
"Mario once again revolutionizes gaming as we know it."
The year is 1996, the SNES is on its way out the door and Nintendo pushes out their next-generation console called the "Nintendo 64". What game did they show with the system? Super Mario 64. This game alone single handedly took the industry and made everyone drop their jaw in awe of how amazing it looked and played. Mario's franchise had just made the biggest impact from 2D to 3D in gaming. SM64 is fully in 3D absolutely nothing about this game is done in a 2D way of viewing. You have full control of what you want to do and how you want to play. A completely non-linear Mario game that allows you to just jump around in this expansive world of the Mushroom Kingdom and have fun while doing it.
When you actually pick up the controller and play this game you are just in amazement at what you can do. Since you play as Mario you'll obviously be able to jump to your hearts content whether it is through the trees or just running back and forth hopping blissfully. Mario also is given a wide array of jumping abilities in this game, for example, if you run forward and pull back on the control stick Mario will perform a side-jump. This is taller than your usual jump allowing you to access other areas that you might have not been able to before. When playing you'll notice the genre this game falls under really sticks out like a sore thumb, platformer. Like all Mario games most of the time you'll be jumping your way through lots of platforms and objects. One of the new abilities however is the ability to do a punch, punch, kick combination. Other than jumping this is one of your only ways to attack the enemies that scatter the levels.
The main point of Super Mario 64 is actually kind of different from prior games. Princess Peach has given Mario a letter and asked him to come to the castle because she has baked a cake for him. When he arrives he hears an eerie voice saying that Peach has been captured and the stars have been stolen! It pretty much setups for the theme of the game, which is to collect the stars and restore the power back to the Mushroom Kingdom along with rescuing Peach. Collecting stars is actually a very innovative idea when you look at previous Mario games. In order for you to reach a new level you have to obtain a certain amount of stars, these stars will unlock the door and painting that you need to enter. The amount you need isn't anything extravagant either since there are eight stars per level.
Within each level there is a "mission" so to speak that you have to complete. For example, the first level requires you to make your way to a summit of the mountain to take on King Bob-omb. You don't have to follow the guidelines or mission you are in but you will not be given any hint as to where other stars are until you've completed the objective before. This doesn't hinder the gameplay by any stretch of the imagination and since the worlds are so massive this is actually very helpful. This could be compared to their being a world and a sub-level in each world.
One thing that Super Mario 64 didn't have was bosses; strangely the only boss in the game was your old fiend Bowser. There were some "mini-boss" type people in some of the worlds but nothing that really gave you a blow away kind of experience. Although there was a lack of bosses that didn't interfere with the quality of SM64 at all. The "mini-bosses" complimented the loss quite nicely in each of the "sub-levels" of each world.
Musically this game was an absolute masterpiece; featuring the work of Koji Kondo this had a very, very atmospheric type of score. There was the bouncy like, happy music of the snow level, the more Arabic sound of the desert world, and the eerie sound of the Haunted Ghost House. Most of the tracks in the game rarely repeated themselves and changed every time you enter a new portion of a level. To compliment the music is the sound of Mario finally speaking words; Mario has plenty to say in this adventure. He has grunts and "Yippees!", "Yahoo!", "Wha ha ha!" when he jumps into the air. It is a perfect representation of Mario's personality as an optimistic, fun loving kind of guy.
Something that was truly unique to the Mario series was the addition of a life bar. Instead of you getting a mushroom and being able to be hit twice, Mario had a small pie of life. Blue indicated Mario was fully healthy, green meant he had been damaged, yellow meant he was approaching danger, and red meant he was about to die. The only way to recover your health was to get coins, one coin would recover one little slot of your life. This inclusion was most likely due to the lack of power-ups in the game. Nintendo had strayed away from such items as the mushroom and fire flower instead giving Mario three different kinds of caps: Wing, Invisible, and Metal. Aside from those Mario couldn't obtain any sort of upgrade from his normal self. With the Wing Cap he would be able to grow wings out of his hat and fly, with the Invisible Cap he could walk through walls and enemies, and with the Metal Cap he became encase in metal plating.
Quite possibly the best thing about Super Mario 64 was the massive and extremely varied level design. You had a grass level, buildings, haunted houses, deserts, snowy areas, oceans, lava, etc. Nintendo captured every possible type of level format and put them into SM64. What really just sent this over the edge was the amount of depth that every single one of them had. There was just so much you could do in every level and they were so big that you could really go into one and spend hours upon hours trying to find stuff. They could be vibrant and full of color or dark and dreary to give you a tense way to approach things. All of them were scattered with platforming obstacles, enemies, large pillars, even tornadoes. Nintendo had managed to take the old 2D worlds of Mario and transform them into 3D.
With all the things to do in Super Mario 64 you may wonder just how long a game like this is. There is just so much you can do between collecting a total of 120 stars, exploring the vast levels, finding many secrets scattered across the levels, and even just jumping around. The games length runs you through a whomping 20+ hours of total gameplay. Unlike Mario games of the past, this one pumps up the length, for a comparison Super Mario World was around 10 hours for completion. This game more than doubles that in the time you spend playing, making this truly one of the best Mario experiences out there. To further add to the length is the upped difficulty and replay value. Attempting to comeback to the game and give it a whirl at collecting all 120 stars or trying to find well-hidden secrets by Nintendo. It makes you comeback time and time again.
So in closing what Nintendo had managed to do was create more than just another Mario game, but a totally unique gaming experience as a whole. The game that revolutionized the industry, set a standard for 3D gaming, and pushed us in the right direction was Super Mario 64. It truly is one of the best games ever created and because of such it scores no worse than a 10. It doesn't matter what you are a fan of whether it be RPGs, FPS, platformers, etc. you absolutely cannot miss out on playing Super Mario 64.
Final Score: 10.0
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/11/04, Updated 06/01/06
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