Review by egervari3

"Is it the Wii classic controller, or is this mario game just bad?"

First off, I realize I'm dissing a classic, but this game is next to unplayable on the Wii, if it ever was on the Nintendo 64.

For the N64, the graphics, music and sound are nice. I'm going to get this out of the way right now:

Graphics: 11* / 10
Nice higher resolution compared to N64 due to remake for the Wii

Sound: 9 / 10
- Competent sound effects and music.
- Some classic mario tunes. The underwater and bowser castle music are simply amazing pieces of music! A+++

Gameplay 8 / 10
Heck, even the gameplay is good too... barring the controls work. My only complaint with gameplay is that you often need a guide. For example, the missions sometimes don't really tell you where to go, or what to do. There are also some secrets like knowing that the broken bridge in the snow level takes you back to the beginning top part of the level. Maybe there was a sign that indicated this, but really, something as big as that should be mandatory conversation with a character or something like that. I guess the real problem with Gameplay is the usability of the missions.

Controls: 3 / 10
Here lies the real problem with the game: The controls are broken. Yes, I know some people do speed runs and have mastered the controls (probably for the N64 version), but the controls just don't stand up to the test of time. I can't believe the other reviews are 9/10 and 10/10 - WOW. The shear fact that the controls are so horrible and broken automatically gives this a game 5 out of 10. Because of the controls, this game is NOT worth your Wii points.

First off, Mario is WAY too sensitive when he moves, especially if you've been used to Super Mario Galaxy (even if you've been playing the faster Luigi too). It seems like a slight tap moves him slow like expected... but once you tilt the analog stick past 20%, Mario is on over-drive. A 20-100% tilt hardly makes a difference in speed because he's going so fast anyway. There should have been a better movement curve with this game, making Mario go fast when the analog stick is at 75%, not 20%. This makes levels a lot harder than they really needed to be - right off the bat!

Despite this problem, it's not terrible until you play the snow/ice levels - and then you'll come close to dying (or die) because you accelerated too fast and couldn't stop in time. You see, if you try to stop, you have to wait about 2 seconds for Mario to stop sliding. This is HORRIBLE. I can understand .5 to 1 seconds, but any more than that is just asking for trouble. You can be sliding *nowhere* near the edge, and still fall off.

I guess that's a gripe against the gameplay too – the ice levels in any Mario game have never been this unforgiving (new or old), especially in the area with the bridge and the 2 snowmen bouncing around - that area is broken beyond belief and I can't believe they never fixed it during play testing.

Another thing that's hard to control is measuring jumping distances. It's pretty easy when Mario is jumping from side-to-side, but if you're trying to jump towards you (z-axis), or away from you (z-axis), it's extremely difficult to measure your jumps. Even when you get it right, the game is so unforgiving on small platforms that you will end up falling off anyway.

This is only compounded on the ice level. The small bridge platform that goes up and down isn't even "icy" and you will still fall off it if you try and jump on it. Heck, you can even just tap the jump button from the Bomb-omb and STILL over-jump it! This is broken. For someone that's beaten almost every Mario game (and found the Luigi Purple coin challenge in Super Mario Galaxy to be achievable), there is no excuse that I could not make this simply jump after *5* tries - Absolutely Ridiculous!

Another big problem with the controls is how Mario turns around. If you are moving forward and suddenly wish to turn the opposite direction, Mario simply won't move there - he gets stuck. You actually have to turn Mario around in a full circle, which is absolutely horrid to control. It makes no sense. Mario has to make 2-3 circular movements around the analog stick just to get Mario to face the opposite direction! If you make a sudden turn, the result is nothing like you expected!

So what happens then is if you need to turn Mario around quickly, in a similar way that you would in Super Mario Galaxy? Well, Mario will go in the opposite direction that you're actually pressing on the analog stick! I'm not kidding, because according to the game, Mario hasn't *turned around* yet! This can make some missions extremely tough because you are under duress to be at a certain place within a certain time limit. Just moving in the wrong direction wastes time, and sometimes, you will go into the direction where you can fall down, and have to restart the whole level all over again! This is absolutely broken.

Mario also doesn't move STRAIGHT very well either. Very small analog-stick movements, like UP-RIGHT or UP-LEFT wildly move Mario into the RIGHT and LEFT directions rather than straight. This makes walking/running on thin platforms in any direction very risky, and forces you to move extremely slow. The simplest and slightest mistakes have you falling down easily – and this is supposed to be good control? This has been fixed in Sunshine and Galaxy, but the movement makes some missions A LOT harder than they have to be.

As for Mario's jumping... it works okay most of the time - just as long as you have your camera in the right spot and the Z-Axis doesn't get changed on you by the camera.

A big problem though, is the back-flip. For one, when you press the Z button, it takes about a second for Mario to "Duck". I don't like this mechanic, because you can't duck and jump quickly. Even when you do duck though, sometimes the back-flip doesn't work. You have to attempt it several times just to get Mario to perform the back-flip correctly. And if you're saying to yourself, “That's because you suck Ken” – I'm telling you... it's NOT *me*. Trust me... this should be easy to control, and I can do it perfectly in Galaxy every single time. This is a problem with Mario 64's controls.

Also... it's just a pain to "line up" your back-flip so that it's parallel to the platform you are trying to reach - largely because the analog stick control isn't fluid - it moves from LEFT to RIGHT way too sensitively. I don't think it corresponds to what I'm telling the analog stick to do to be quite honest, ultimately making timed back-flips very difficult to pull off (and easily accomplished in other Mario games).

Wall jumps are also hard to pull off. There is no "on screen" indicator that you use to let you know that you can perform a wall jump. When you do perform one, the game makes the same sound as "bumping" into the wall normally, so you really can't predict if the wall jump is going to work. Sure, it's sort of easy to pull off I guess - sometimes.

In the snow level where you are expected to use wall jumps, making the 2nd wall jump is a chore. You have to make the wall jump against the wall facing in front of you (as opposed to your side). However, the platform you are trying to reach doesn't cling against the back wall - you can fall without even realizing it depending on where Mario lands along the Z-Axis! There is no in-game indication that you will fall when trying to attempting this wall-jump. Actually, you can't even see the platform until you make the wall-jump to begin with. All of this is unforgivable - it's terrible broken and frustrating. Didn't they test this game? This is NOT the player's fault!

And how did Nintendo go about fixing this? They put a "Heart container" at the bottom where you fall so you can fill up your life to "try again", because you take damage when you fall down (another stupid mechanic considering these falls aren't that big). If the controls actually worked... AND if the platforms were actually designed correctly... you wouldn't NEED this heart container because you would have successfully made the jump in the first place!

Also in later Mario games, they indicated a wall-jump by showing Mario sliding off the wall (you can see the dirt off his boots). There is no such indication in this game.

The game is also very unforgiving with grabbing on to things, like the poles in the first river level with the ship (3 stars to enter it). Even if you hit the pole, you won't automatically cling on to it some of the time. I'm totally baffled as to what I actually did to grab onto it when it finally worked for me.

Even worse, getting off these poles in the desired direction is also unpredictable. You carefully direct Mario in the direction you want to go (hugging the pole in that direction) and press the Jump button - and sometimes he goes somewhere else completely! It's so annoying and broken. This doesn't resemble anything like Prince of Persia (when hanging on things) or other Mario games (sunshine, galaxy). Why include this mechanic if it doesn't even work and it's too hard to accomplish reliably? In a nutshell, that's what Super Mario 64 is - unreliable controls, as if I haven't proven that already.

And don't even get me started on using the cannon. You see, sometimes you can jump into a bomb-omb cannon and have it launch you to a faraway place in the level. However, the cross-hair doesn't indicate where you'll land - it actually doesn't mean anything because you have to compensate for the arc of your fall.

Let me get this straight - Are you telling me I have to figure out the physics of the launch? Are you saying that I have to plan where I'm supposed to end-up before the cannon launches... and do this in 2 dimensions? Yeah right... why can't the cannon just shoot Mario where I point the cross-hair? Wouldn't that have been easier?

That's how I *assumed* it would work... but we all know what happens when you assume. So, you have to guess how high and how far the cannon will launch Mario when you point the cross-hair, compensating for the arc and aiming higher. This basically leads to trial and error, because aiming too high is also bad. This is an overall waste of time (and in some cases, lives).

Thought picking up shells was easy? Nope. There's a shell underwater in a clam. You don't pick it up by just swimming into it – that would be too easy. In fact, I don't even know how to pick it up... I've pressed the punch, jump and Z buttons - Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. If I want to get the shell, I press all the buttons in crazy combinations, and sometimes it works. Maybe I'm ignorant, but in Galaxy, you just walk into the shell - and wow... you are carrying it. Was that so hard in 1996?

Heck, even talking to people is hard. I was right in front of a Toad in the castle for the river level... and I couldn't talk to him. I tried and tried! I also tried to talk to the snowman and I had to attempt to talk to him *4 times* just to get him to talk to me... with each attempt featuring very small movements to get the game to recognize that I was, in fact, in front of the snowman. You are under duress to talk to the snowman's head before the body comes down the hill. If you don't talk to him in time, you can lose the mission and have to start all over again, which just wastes time! Why is the game so unforgiving? Did Nintendo not test this?

Later Mario games obviously corrected the problem, by putting a "Talk" Icon or an "A" Icon to let you know you are in the vicinity to talk to someone. Why couldn't Mario 64 do that? And the "forgiveness" radius in future games was larger too. I know Mario 64's older, but RPGs and other games have been getting the whole "talking" thing right for years, in both 2D and 3D. Mario isn't "special" and deserves no special treatment in such review.

And don't even get me started on the camera, which is horrible to say the least. It's okay sometimes, but there are many times where it obstructs your view. This was obviously a problem in Sunshine, and to a much lesser extent in Galaxy (it's almost perfect here). In Mario 64, the fact that you can only move your camera in a few directions instead of a free-flowing camera is just ludicrous. The game only lets you move the camera in a few pre-defined settings. Why restrict the player for? Sometimes the game won't even let you move the camera, even when you DESPERATELY need to. As far as I could tell, it takes no extra coding or space to allow a free-flowing camera. This was a terrible design choice.

There are also times when you move the camera, and yet the camera moves back into its original position. Holy cow... just HOLD! I don't know why, but the camera tries to give you these weird angles to walk towards things, especially when the platform is very thin. It's like the game WANTS you to press the analog stick on an angle instead of straight, to encourage you to fall off! Why? Why couldn't the game just position the camera so I can move the way I want to?! You see, walking straight on angle is hard to do in this game – you have to move slowly to do it reliably.

And all of my criticisms are just in the first few levels of the game. I got 16 stars in the first 4 levels, and I said to myself, "That's it... I can't do this anymore." You see, the game isn't hard because it's hard - it's hard because the CONTROLS ARE TERRIBLE.

Sure, you might get used to the controls like those people in the speed runs, but for the average gamer? - That's probably not going to happen. The reason games like Super Mario Galaxy are easier to collect 120 stars is because the controls are fluid, responsive and tight - they do what they are supposed to do... 99.5% of the time. In this Mario 64, that's just not the case. It's annoying and frustrating, and I hate dying because of the controls rather than ME making a mistake. Even the original Mario brothers controlled better.

Maybe Mario 64 was great in its time, but the controls ultimately make this "classic" suffer. Maybe it was a different experience on the N64 - I don't know. But on the Wii with the classic controller, this game is anything but a "classic". Even older games play a lot better than Mario 64 does, which ultimately makes those games a lot better. Maybe that's to be expected since this was Nintendo's first venture into 3D, but in 2007, Super Mario 64 is just too infuriating to play. Still, I can't believe some people on the Galaxy forum say "Super Mario 64 has the best Controls!! Galaxy sucks!" Now that I've given this game a chance, I can say that the controls stink. And more importantly, I have shown MANY examples on why this is the case.

Overall, this game is 5/10, largely because the controls are horrible. I don't suggest you purchase this game, despite what the other reviews have said. SMB3 and Super Mario World are classics because they control extremely well. Not so much with Mario 64. Just avoid this game!

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 12/04/07

Game Release: Super Mario 64 (US, 11/19/06)

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