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Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64) artwork

Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64) review

"Wow... Around nine years ago, I remember going on certain video game websites that have well than went under since then, downloading movies of Super Mario 64 on my highly slow 28k modem, waiting a good hour for a thirty second clip to download completely. The movie was of the stage Tiny-Huge Island, and Mario was riding around on a Koopa shell over the lush ocean that surrounded the stage into the distance. “By God...” I mumbled, in amazement. The day that I played it, inside of an import game s..."

Wow... Around nine years ago, I remember going on certain video game websites that have well than went under since then, downloading movies of Super Mario 64 on my highly slow 28k modem, waiting a good hour for a thirty second clip to download completely. The movie was of the stage Tiny-Huge Island, and Mario was riding around on a Koopa shell over the lush ocean that surrounded the stage into the distance. “By God...” I mumbled, in amazement. The day that I played it, inside of an import game store, three months before the United States release date, my thoughts were exactly the same as when I watched that awe-inspiring movie. And when I bought my copy, and hooked it up to my television, my thoughts were the same throughout... This is, arguably, the most revolutionary game ever created.

The camera angles are one of the most debated subjects on the game itself throughout the years. And do you want to know the really sad part about it? The camera angles, while they are highly annoying and get in the way of the gameplay around 15% of the time (which is a high majority when you consider the overall amount of gaming time in the game itself), are still not as terrible as the camera angles in Nintendo’s latest Super Mario title, Super Mario Sunshine, where the camera angles get in the way roughly 25% of the time. Very sad that Nintendo could not correct their mistakes from over the past seven to eight years, and in fact, made it worse.

Not to say the camera angles are not a problem; they are, indeed. In fact, practically everybody that does not enjoy this game usually brings the camera angle issue up first almost all of the time. However, considering this was one of the first major ventures into 3-D platforming action/adventure, it, at least, has its excuses for the use of bad camera angles. It is still annoying when you must make an awkward jump to a small platform, and the camera angle is positioned in a situation where you cannot change it, period.

The gameplay, when stripped down, is not that extra ordinary. It is a basic concept that worked throughout only because it was Nintendo’s first outing; it was sluggish at times, but people put up with it because, in a lot of ways, Super Mario 64 was somewhat of a “beta” to what could have been perfected. Sort of like, “Put up with this, and we will perfect it later on.” And while Nintendo did manage to improve the controls to a tighter response, it still is not ground breaking in their latest Super Mario game, Super Mario Sunshine.

One of the things that Nintendo really should have thought of before throwing ideas up on the bulletin board was the fact that, while the game has no limits in boundaries to the full 3-D effect on the gameplay, you cannot help be feel as if you are constricted inside of the stages when you manage to snag a bad side-flip jump in the game, and fall to your doom because of it. The unresponsive controls are the cause of this, and while this was their first time out, there is no excuse for it. If you are going to create six to seven different jumps in a game, at least make them different AND usable instead of just the former.

Visually, Super Mario 64 still stands as one of the bright points in the Nintendo 64’s lifespan, along with titles that brought out the most vibrant colors (F-Zero X), and titles that utilized the darker surroundings (Conker’s Bad Fur Day). Super Mario 64 is somewhat in the middle of that, bringing out the beauty in dark situations with stages like Jolly Roger Bay, and the ever-so-lovely Bowser sub-stages that you must complete throughout the game.

The music... Ahhhhhh, the music... I must say that this may possibly be the best music ever presented in a Nintendo game, which includes the lovely soundtracks of F-Zero, EarthBound, and Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past (not to mention latter titles by Nintendo, including Super Mario Sunshine, Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Metroid Prime). Well, okay, it’s not as perfect as A Link To The Past, however, it is a highly memorable soundtrack as an entire feature that comes alive in itself rather than simple background music, like most games nowadays (especially including all Nintendo GameCube titles, which sound as if they are coming out of an emulated arcade machine).

One of the more memorable music tracks lies in Jolly Roger Bay. The stage itself is a beautiful mixture of a neon lantern that is dulled out in a cavern of pure shades of colors, and the music itself complements the stage to enhance the overall experience of it all. It sounds as if a lush xylophone is running smoothly over the sounds of a seashell. Absolutely awe-inspiring, and I truly wish that games were made like this with the sort of memorable music that does not fade into the background, but rather stands out as a character in itself.

As always with your basic concept and outline of a 3-D platformer, including the first “wave” that started it all, the common atmospheres are here, all packed in and bunched to go, as well as some flat-out themed ones that blend in with the Super Mario Brothers series, to boot. You have your fire stage, you have your ice stage, you have your water stage, you have your desert stage, you have your mountains stage, you have your cave stage, and you have your lone obscure stage (or in this games case, two obscure stages). And while you have the traditional Super Mario Brothers “Boo stage” and “Tiny-Big stage,” this game does not feel like a Super Mario Brothers game. In fact, Nintendo ditched the traditional Super Mario Brothers feel in light of creating something that was wider in concept and grasp, which rubbed quite a few gamers the wrong way. But do not worry, this is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it was the smartest move that Nintendo has made in years. There, I came out and said it.

Sadly, as it currently stands in comparison to today’s 3-D platformers, the goals of the game clash in logic, and have lost their magic over the years. Let’s face it, there is only so many times that you can launch yourself from a cannon to a tree to collect a Power Star until the magic has worn off. But the odd thing about all of it? Super Mario 64 is still miles above the rest of the competition in today’s market in creativity, and this includes the simple “eight red coin” missions that the game presents to you against even the most complex of missions in today’s 3-d platforming genre. Astounding, I must admit.

Traditionally in all of the Super Mario Brothers titles in the past, and the present (as it stands currently), the one part of the game that is completely lacking on all ends resides in the boss battles, and more specifically, the final boss battle. While most games will prepare you with tough bosses throughout the game for a grand finale with one tough cookie, Super Mario 64 will throw the same exact boss battle out to you three times straight with the same character, only making it a little bit harder each time. The lifespan of the boss battles in under five minutes each, and the feeling of finally defeating the last boss in the game is highly disappointing, as you prepare for the final showdown by fighting the last boss over and over again. Let’s face it, would the movie Friday be as good if Ice Cube kicked Tiny Lister Jr.’s ass twice before beating him down again at the end? No.

Do you want to know the worst thing about Super Mario 64 that is even worse than the camera angles and the at-times sluggish gameplay elements that can occur? The fact that, after Super Mario 64, nothing was that surprising or enhancing in gameplay. Playing Super Mario 64 for the first time, after those years of the long waiting, it was pure joy that I had never experienced before... It was worth every second of the long wait, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart, and all of my faith and dignity as both a gamer and writer.

All of the amazing additions that broke the barrier between something that was never imaginable in 3-D action/adventure titles were introduced, and the standard was set. Miyamoto knew what set a game apart from the rest of the pack. Everything from riding on the Koopa shells in Bob-omb Battlefield to the pesky Vulture that takes your cap away in Shifting Sand Land, these are the gameplay elements that were both cute, and revolutionary. It is truly unimaginable to think that something so simple in concept could not have been thought of before hand, and if they were, created to such perfection that no game has touched the overall charm and value to this date. Not Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Not Final Fantasy VII. Not Metroid Prime.

And this is, easily said, the worst feature in Super Mario 64; it revolutionized everything to the point that nothing new has been thought of. I know what you are thinking, “That is not even a problem, so why can it be the worst part of the entire game?” All in all, the sequel to this mega hit, Super Mario Sunshine, was a wonderful title, yet was completely destroyed in comparison to the original masterpiece released six years before it. How sad is that? This title created a new standard that practically no platformer has even reached since, much less surpassed. And because of that, we will continue to disregard the finer examples of what might have been in light of this game. And that, my friends, is truly a shame.

Graphics: 10
The graphics still stand the test of time seven years after the release of the Nintendo 64, which can either be accepted as a great move on the part of Nintendo for accomplishing such a delicate task, or a bad move on the part of Nintendo for merely beefing up the graphics and character models a tad bit for Super Mario Sunshine. Take it whichever way you like it, but for its time, nothing even began to compare to the brilliance that was Super Mario 64, and in my opinion, this should be a flagship title in the graphical revolution. Awesome work that was well hyped, and pulled off smoothly.

Sound: 10
Yes, two 10s in a row, which is highly rare for me to just throw them out like this, but deservingly so, might I add. The sound effects in this game are top of the hill, even under today’s standards. If Mario is in a dank cavern, his voice will echo as he jump kicks and screams “Yah-hoo!” throughout the corridor. The music is as recognizable as Elvis is in Lilo & Stitch, and is one of the best sounding games that Nintendo has ever released, period. I wish that more game companies would take note on how to blend the music in as a character itself instead of mere background music that can be easily muted and forgotten about. Bravo on this job, here.

Gameplay: 8.0
Under the circumstances that it was presented by, the gameplay is quite average for a standard 3-D platforming adventure, however, due to the fact that the wide variety of moves, and the different ways to handle those moves and still pull them off in awkward positions without a glitch proves that there was quite some time developing the way that this one plays. Still, the sluggish, unresponsive controls hamper the ability to enjoy this one to its fullest, and do I even need to mention the camera angles? Didn’t think so. If you wanted to hear someone whine about that, just ask Psycho Penguin.

Enjoyment: 10
Everything has such tremendous amounts of charm that it is as if you are watching the Power Puff Girls, only having fun. The pure charm that escalades here is not due to a cheap, bubblegum fashion that our pop culture is so accustomed to, but rather a fulfilling promise that sometimes, all of that waiting for the game that you want so badly will hit you in the face of how truly inspiring it can be. Unlike those lackluster Star Wars prequels, this one delivers, and it delivers good (which is something that is lacking, nowadays).

Overall (not an average): 10
Before you go sticking the “Fanboy!!” label on me, let me state one thing: The Super Mario Brothers series was above average to good before Super Mario 64 came along. Yes, I have said it. Super Mario Bros. 3 was a good game, but not a great one. The same can be said about Super Mario World. The main reason that this game receives so many negatives reviews from such highly acclaimed writers is NOT due to the fact that it is a bad game, but rather they are simply holding onto the end of the traditional series that was built up to this game. I can simply state, that while playing this as a ten-year old kid, and playing it now, that it is the best Super Mario game ever created, through and through, while the others before it were simply perfection under nostalgic purposes only. This took a good character, and made that character’s reputation set in stone, delivering a high performance to the Nintendo 64 launch that the Nintendo GameCube was lacking, sadly. This game is gold, and the reason that you should own a Nintendo 64. Well, this and F-Zero X.

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Community review by zoop (February 05, 2004)

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