Review by GreenFlag
Reviewed: 03/07/00 | Updated: 01/06/03
The game that thrust the N64 into the spotlight.
In September 1996, the Nintendo 64 finally came to North America with just one release, Super Mario 64. But, even after the demise of the Nintendo 64, SM64 still perseveres as one of the best computer games out there even in the face of next-generation systems such as the Gamecube and PlayStation 2. It just had so many elements to the game that made it a classic for years to come.
The storyline never seems to change: Peach has been captured by Bowser (this time in a 3-D Mushroom Kingdom), and Mario has to get her back and retrieve the ''Power Stars'' which protect the castle. However, the Power Stars have been hidden in plenty of locations around the castle, and he has to travel through worlds in the paintings if he wants to earn any of them. In total, there are 120 Stars that you'll have to pick up before you can beat them game using some special caps and other miscellaneous items. Unfortunately we've been deprived of such cool NES-era items such as the star (yeah, just the regular one), the super mushroom, and so on. Sigh. Oh well.
In Super Mario 64 there are a total of fifteen courses, plus the overworld and plenty of mini courses scattered throughout the game, none of which are so big that you can hide goodies in them extremely effectively. They're just not big enough to make the challenge of getting 120 stars worthwhile. In my opinion there could have been a few less courses, and the memory freed up from those should have been used to expand on some of the better levels in the game. But each level has its own unique challenge and it's always fun trying to get the stars in the game. Some of the explanations that the game gives at the beginning of each level are self-explanatory, while others may be more puzzling - so much that you need to ask for help! =D
Mario 64 was my first game, and trust me, when you get the controls in the game right, you really get them right. Ultimately, the only controls that are used in the game are the A, B, and Z buttons, which makes things really simple. As the game increases in difficulty, you just naturally get used to the controls that you have to utilize as you go (not a very steep learning curve in this game). Mario never moves around questionably, and there's almost never an instance where your handling is extremely messed up. So don't worry about that problem.
I can appreciate that Nintendo was just grasping the power of this system, so in comparison to games like Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, and so on, the graphics, lighting effects, and so on are slightly inferior to games that we saw later in the Nintendo 64's lifetime. But overall the graphics in this game are pretty decent. There's absolutely no fogging or pop-up in any of the levels, except for dynamic items such as coins or enemies which appear when you're a short distance away from them. Yes, the scenery and terrain is always visible, but moving objects don't pop up until you get close to them. It's rather annoying, but it's not so horrible that you don't realize you're getting close to an enemy until it's right there. That's the only complaint that I have about graphics. Otherwise, the visuals are extremely decent.
Additionally, sometimes the camera angles in the game become very frustrating. Unfortunately the N64 just has the C-buttons instead of an additional control stick to manoeuver the camera, which means that you have a lot less control over the camera's movement. Sometimes the camera will go behind the wall (which ends up hiding Mario and frustrating the player), or in the wall, resulting in a strange ''clipping'' effect. With enough experience with the controls of the game, however, it's very easy to move around and manipulate the camera angle to help you get through each of the levels. The manually controlled camera is the biggest problem.
Mario 64 was the first game in which we heard Mario talking in full stereo sound. The voice samples might be slightly lacking as compared to other games and get slightly repetitive (quote a six-year-old who played this game: ''Mario talks too much.'') It can be kind of funny listening to the cartoonish beeps and boops as well as some occasional visual humor. (Try leaving your controller alone in the castle for a few minutes and watch what Mario does!) Some extremely effective voicing by Charles Martinet and Leslie Swan (who voiced Mario and Peach respectively).
As for the music in this game, it's decent to say the least. There are some very good sequences (I especially love the water themes in the game, since it's the only sequence that has three variations depending on where you are). Even though the story situation might be slightly tense, the music is almost always bright and colourful unless you're fighting a boss, in which case the music changes appropriately. Don't forget a few remixes on traditional Mario themes, but there are a few that I wanted back... (cries)
Unfortunately, a potential multiplayer option was cut. *sigh* Which is why Luigi isn't in the game, contrary to popular belief.
Pay as much money as it takes to get this game if you don't already have it, since it is the Nintendo 64 at its best. This game has been (very rightfully, IMO) been dubbed a Million Seller by Nintendo, and has been nominated as one of the best video games ever. Even if you're not a big fan of these cartoony games and would prefer to blow someone up in GoldenEye or some other similar game, your collection will not be the same without this game. Period. This game MADE the N64 what it is today.
Final score: 9.4
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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