Title: Super Mario 64 DS
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: DS
NA Availability: Retail
EU Availability: Retail
It would be an understatement to simply say that the Mario franchise has variety to it. There are dozens of Mario games out there and not just the main series. It has 2D platformers, 3D platformers, turn-based RPGs, sports games, board games, racing games, and the list just keeps on going. It’s gotten to the point where it’s a question of what genre the Mario franchise hasn’t done yet. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some games that people favor more than others.
Mario fans can think back on the countless games they’ve played and still know which one is their favorite game of the series. The game they can go back to over and over again and not get bored with it. For some, it’s Yoshi’s Island. For others, it’s Super Mario Bros. 3. For me? Super Mario 64, hands down. My favorite is what I’m talking about. Here is my retro review of Super Mario 64 DS!
The plot of Super Mario 64 is simple. However, the DS remake slightly changed it. Princess Peach bakes a cake for Mario and he comes over to her castle to enjoy it with her. Along for the ride, though, are Luigi and Wario. After they all go into the castle, there is silence. Lakitu begins to worry and sends Yoshi in after them, discovering that Bowser has kidnapped Peach along with trapping Mario, Luigi, and Wario in secret rooms of the castle.
The main story of collecting Power Stars to progress through the castle is the same, though there is a bit added with Yoshi going in first to rescue Mario and the others, and then having the rest of them go clear the way for Mario. That’s one thing I was peeved by. Even though you have four characters, only Mario can fight Bowser. It fits with the story, but the Yoshi fan in me really wanted to beat him up with Yoshi.
All being said, the story is still nice. There are plenty of side-stories in each world to take part in. The story is funny and there’s plenty for you to read and enjoy as you play through the game.
Just like the original release, Super Mario 64 DS is a 3D platformer with some puzzle and combat elements thrown into the mix. You are going through various 3D worlds, puzzle-solving and other things to collect Power Stars to advance to the next areas of the castle. I can’t say there’s a specific term for this type of 3D platformer, so we’ll just call it a 3D platformer.
As with all remakes, there have been a lot of changes made to the game. The biggest change is that there are four playable characters instead of just one. Each character has their own strengths and they get each power from the original game. Only Mario can use the Wing Cap. Only Luigi can use the Invisible Cap. Only Wario can use the Metal Cap. Only Yoshi can breathe fire. However, there are also colored caps around levels, letting characters transform into others for those instances.
There are also a lot of additional bits of content in the game. Three are a ton of mini-games you can play with the touch screen and Rabbit side-quests for each character in order to unlock these mini-games. There are 30 new Power Stars to obtain that the original did not have. There are new worlds to explore and boss fights which are used in unlocking the playable characters. There are also other smaller additions, like changing the appearance of certain characters and each character having abilities that make the game easier, overall, to play. In short, there’s a lot that’s different.
Progression goes the same as the original and several other games of the time period. Super Mario 64 began a trend in gaming where 3D platformers followed a world-based progression style. You have a hub world, Princess Peach’s Castle, and doors with numbers on them. You have to go into Painting Worlds to collect Power Stars to unlock these doors. This is similar to Puzzle Pieces in Banjo Kazooie or Dragon Eggs in the Spyro games. Each world has a set number of stars that require specific tasks to obtain.
Once you obtain enough stars, you can open new doors to new worlds. Eventually, you’ll be able to access boss fights that open new areas of the castle. You repeat this process across the entire game until you reach the final boss. While this does sound repetitive, each world is drastically different from others, offering enough variety to not get boring.
Going through each world is a collection of platforming and combat. Like all Mario games, there are enemies to fight. Whether you’re duking it out with Goompas, Bob-ombs, or boss fights like Big Boo, you have combat you can utilize. Most of the combat is punching (or turning enemies into throw-able eggs with Yoshi), stomping, or ground-pounding. You can also find Power-Up Mushrooms that temporarily make you a giant version of a character to plow through everything, and the only way to allow Yoshi to punch.
Using each characters’ strengths is key to making this process easier. Yoshi and Luigi can flutter and air-jog to cover more difference with jumps, while Wario can break huge blocks that no one else can. In levels that have mostly lava or drops, it may be better to use Yoshi or Luigi and just find Red or Yellow caps if you need the skills from Mario or Wario. While you didn’t have this convenience in the original game, this does help things not seem so difficult in the more expansive levels.
Over the course of the game, you should expect to spend a good 12-15 hours. Those like me that have practically the entire game memorized may not take that long, but it’s definitely one of the longest non-RPG Mario games out there. There’s plenty to keep you busy.
The controls were one thing that made the DS version pretty awkward to play. If you recall, the Nintendo 64 had an Analog Stick, and the Nintendo DS did not. Moving with a D-Pad was pretty awkward in a 3D game, and trying to handle controls with a touch screen wasn’t much better. While the new buttons on the New 3DS don’t work in DS games, the normal 3DS controls help to remedy some of these awkward elements.
Movement is done with the D-Pad and/or the Circle Pad, which I highly recommend the Circle Pad. The L and R triggers allow you to move the camera. Now, to the face buttons. A functions as the tongue/punch button and jumping is done with the B button. X is used to alter your camera angle, and Y is held down to run instead of walk.
Even though the control scheme is better, it isn’t short of awkwardness. The camera’s manual controls are on the touch screen and not even better controls keeps the camera from being annoying. It gets stuck on walls almost constantly when you’re making careful jumps, making it a rather large hindrance. The movement controls also are not precise. Try move up and your character may move straight forward or make a rather large circular walk around towards the general direction and fall off the platform.
The visual presentation showed off what the DS could do from the get-go. This is a pretty big step up from the original game. Many of the 2D animations are now 3D models, and there is so much more detail in each character. Bowser is actually properly proportioned in this version of the game. Many of the environments are still faded out and that brings things down a bit. Compared to the N64 version of the game, though, this looks pretty good.
The performance is done well. As you’d expect, you won’t be looking at any long loading sequences or frame drops. The music is also there just as it should be. Much like Ocarina of Time 3D, Nintendo used the original music tracks from Super Mario 64 while adding a couple new ones for the new areas.
Super Mario 64 DS is even better to play on the 3DS than it was on the DS. There are a few bits of awkwardness with the controls, camera, and some faded backgrounds. Look past the awkwardness and you’ll get a successful remake of one of the most expansive Mario games and one of my favorite games of all time.