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Chris Sell
10 Mar, 2005

Super Mario 64 DS Review

DS Review | Mario's N64 classic hits the Nintendo DS!
Believe it or not it has been eight years since Super Mario 64 was released on the Nintendo 64's launch day. A lot has changed in the gaming world since then, with new standards set in both gameplay and graphical terms every year. So is it still as good today as it was back in 1996?

Well, for the most part, yes. Admittedly, if Nintendo had just ported the game straight from the N64 version and added nothing new then it would be nothing more than a repeat play through for those who played the original years ago, but Nintendo has done an excellent job in reworking the game.

The story itself is different and in a rather surprising move, Mario isn't even the main character anymore. From the very start you take control of Yoshi, who's job it is to rescue Mario, Luigi, and Wario - all of which have been captured by Bowser's forces after having been invited to Peach's castle for cake. When you've managed to rescue them throughout the game, each character is then available to use at any time. Each character is suitably different with their own attributes and abilities that are needed for certain tasks inside many of the 15+ levels in the game. Mario of course is typically well rounded and exactly like he was in the original. Luigi can jump much higher and further and is also a faster swimmer. Wario of course relies on his strength to navigate his way through the levels, while Yoshi himself has his flutter jump and the ability to turn enemies into eggs.

Another added gameplay element to the game are the 'power flowers' scattered throughout the levels. The power flower allows each character to use their own exclusive power up for a limited time. Mario can inflate like a balloon as he did in Super Mario World, Yoshi can breathe fire, while Wario and Luigi retain Mario's old abilities from the N64 version of turning into metal and walking through walls. Yoshi also has the unique ability to put on any character's cap before a stage begins and assume that character's form and abilities as long as it's on (it'll come off if you take damage, but you have time to pick it back up again). Caps can also be found in certain places on every level so the idea of switching to different characters for different things is handled much more pleasantly than if they made you go and swap your character each and every time you wanted to.



Like the original, and the Shines of Super Mario Sunshine, collecting Stars is again the aim of the game. There are now 150 Stars, compared to the 120 of the original. Each level contains the same 6 stars it did 8 years ago (though some are now slightly modified in one way or another), plus one for collecting 100 coins and a whole new star newly added for this DS version. Stars are earnt in many different ways. Some are fairly simple such as racing a Koopa to the top of a mountain, while others see you exploring the levels for 8 red coins or navigating your way through the inside of a complex pyramid. Some of my favourite Stars include the one where you have to carry a baby Penguin to its Mother, fight a giant Boo on top of a haunted mansion and climb up the insides of a steaming hot volcano. And then there's the excellent Bowser levels, which are long and linear obstacle courses of doom ending with an epic fight with Bowser himself.

The biggest concern facing Mario 64 on the DS is how it will control without the analog stick. Well, while I don't believe it controls as well as it did on the N64 pad, Nintendo did a good job in creating some controller settings that each player should find comfortable for themselves. The 'Standard Mode' is the default mode and allows the player to move your character with the dpad or touch screen. The touch screen is primarily used to adjust the camera while the dpad walks and you can run by holding the Y button. 'Touch Mode' has you using the touch screen to move the characters around while the buttons X and Y rotate the camera and the L trigger centers it. 'Dual Mode' is best suited to left hand players wanting to use the stylus, but works well for anyone.
Again, the touch screen is used to move but this time the dpad works the same way face buttons do. Overall Super Mario 64 DS controls adequately, despite the lack of an analog stick. The touch pad does a good job of mimicking analog control quite well, but I personally found that the dpad was sufficient for 90% of the situations I encountered, but you could quite easily argue that the other 2 control schemes work better with practice.

The most significant addition to Super Mario 64 DS is the all new 'Rec Room', home to huge bundle of mini-games. Each of the four characters starts off with two mini-games unlocked, then by finding all the rabbits that are hidden throughout Peach's Castle you'll eventually unlock 36 mini-games. These are all touch screen controlled and really show off the abilities of the DS. Each character has their own category of mini game. Yoshi's are based on memory, Mario's require quick thinking, Luigi provides a selection of card/gambling events while Wario's games are based on pure action. While there's a few dead donkeys in here, there are some real gems on offer. A lot of Mario's games are highly addictive, whilst Wario's Bomb slingshot game is an absolute classic. Using the touchscreen to fire the slingshot you have to knock bombs out of the sky before they reach the ground. The touchscreen control works perfectly and really shows the kind of control ideas we have to look forward to in future games.

Had some of the poorer mini-games been replaced with better, more thoughtful examples, the Rec Room could've have easily been a full price game by itself. Another new addition is Super Mario 64 DS’s Vs Mode, which sees you and three of your friends can battle in a race to see who can get the most stars. Stars appear on the bottom screen map, from there on it's up to you to locate them and get them before anyone else does. It's not exactly the most fleshed out multiplayer game out there, but it's worth a blast if you have any DS owning friends around. This is especially the case as this game uses Single-Card Download Play meaning that only one of the players needs to actually have game in their system, as the other player simply link up to the host DS through the built-in wireless network.

Graphically, Super Mario 64 DS looks great on the DS’s small screens. Due to the DS hardware, the blurriness of the N64 version is now gone in favour of a much harsher, crisper look and due to it being at a much lower resolution, with jaggies at minimum. The colours themselves have been slightly altered in places with the dark greens of Bob-omb Battlefield replaced with more brown/yellow tones. Some will like these changes, some won't; it's a matter of preference but as something that doesn't really effect the game it's not something that matters in all honesty. One change that everyone will like is the character models, which are now smoother and have a far higher polygon count than before.

The whole Rec Room portion of the game is wonderfully presented. The mini-games are clear and colourful with excellent artwork along with the use of both 2D and 3D for many games. With the DS being Nintendo’s first handheld to feature stereo speakers, it's encouraging to see how well they are used in Super Mario 64 DS. All of the music from the N64 version is here just how it was (so thankfully no musical instrument changes like in the GBA Mario Advance games). Each character has their own familiar set of sound effects for jumping, attacking, and general noise-making. Surround sound is an audio option and does a decent job of creating a wider sound with the DS's speakers.



The main adventure of Super Mario 64 DS will probably be a good 15-20+ hours for first time players. Those who have already experienced the N64 game will beat it quicker, but that's not to say it'll be short lived. There's still 30 new stars to find and a few new areas along with the hours of potential enjoyment the Rec Room brings, especially if you've got a friend to battle high scores with.

There's a few issues I have with the game. Despite Nintendo's best attempts at modifying the controls to fit the DS, the control does lose that little something that made it extra special without the analog stick control. The controls don't hold the game back in any notable way, but they do prevent Mario from being a fun character to control. With these control setups you merely just get on with things, rarely taking time out to mess around with Mario like I did in the original game and then later in Super Mario Sunshine.

It's obvious that Mario 64 was just shoe-horned into a DS game so there was something big at launch. Given their superb use of the touchscreen, I'm half convinced that the mini games were probably made first and they then bundled on Mario 64 to fill the other half of the game. Then there's the multiplayer. While a good demonstration of the DS's wireless abilities, it really isn't much more than that - a demonstration.

My final complaint is really on how Mario 64 has aged with time. While the likes of Yoshi's Island and Super Mario World will always be timeless in my eyes both in a gameplay and visual sense, Mario 64 hasn't aged as well. Levels that I once deemed beautiful just don't look the same in this day and age, something that was a big part of what made the game special 8 years ago. Don't get me wrong, it is still a great game, still better than alot of games we see released today. But it just lacks a certain freshness, despite all the new additions.

Super Mario 64 DS is something all DS owners should look into. This game is great for those gamers who were huge fans of the original Mario 64, while those people that missed it the first time around will finally get a chance to see what all the fuss was about. With a lengthy single player adventure and 3 dozen mini-games to enjoy, Super Mario 64 DS is well worth the cash, despite its minor control issues.
The Score
One of the best 3D platformers ever created bundled with a shed load of superb mini games. Minor issues with the controls doesn't stop this from being an essential DS purchase. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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15 Comments
9 years ago
The comments in the 'Overall' section of the review are inconsistent with the score given. How can a game lauded by the reviewer as "One of the best 3D platformers ever created" be awarded an 8, especially considering the "shed load of superb mini games"?

I seriously doubt that the control issues would downgrade the score that much. I managed to play through the game with the thumbstrap with just as much precision as an analogue stick, and I got all 150 Stars.

Also, the graphics were scored an 8.0... But the game is a graphical benchmark for the system. Care to point out a graphically superior game on the system at the moment?

But eh, that's just my two cents.
9 years ago
Bronzetiger wrote
Also, the graphics were scored an 8.0... But the game is a graphical benchmark for the system. Care to point out a graphically superior game on the system at the moment?
Nothing much that you can really compare with it at the moment. But from what ive seen so far Mario 64 does seem to look the best - its so sharp and clear, probally I would say next best thing is Metroid Hunters which looks pretty nice.

I enjoyed the review, although I do think that 8.5 for the lifespan is a little harsh considering all the extras ect.

Dont know about everyone else, but I would have bought the game just for the rec room! and I still havent unlocked all of them.

But over all I spose that your final score is pretty fair.
9 years ago
Pretty Good review, and I also agree with the comments above.

If you use the thumbstrap and 'touch' mode, once used to it (say 10 stars?) the control is 95% as good as the N64 analogue stick, and better then PS2 sticks IMO. I think the complaints about the controls have come from people who were rushiing to finish it (for review).

The D-pad control is vastly inferior.

Also, I find myself liable to compare it to sunshine's controls, since that was the last mario game. Sunshine actually tightened the controls a great deal (eg the reverse jump is much easier, and overall everything is faster and more fluid), and while 64DS takes some of those enhancements (eg the improved camera control), it couldn't take them all or it wouldn't be Mario 64.

Basically I'm syaing that Mario Sunshine had the best controls of any 3D platformer ever, and when 64DS doesn't stack up to that, many people blame the touchscreen control. But it's really just a slightly slower, slightly different game. Still plays fantastically, but in it's own way with it's own physics etc.

I'd give the game 9.1, since it's an improved portable version of one of the top 3D platformers ever (along with Sunshine, Banjo Kazooie and Tooie and Rayman 2), combined with a collection of minigames that seriously warrant the purchase by themselves.
9 years ago
I think I need to borrow this game again from my brother, seeing as I don't actually own it myself...
I don't think the stylus is as good as the N64 stick for that sort of motion... I found that running at full speed in a frantic multiplayer game, my stylus would reach the edge of the screen and I'd have to take time to correct myself unlike my D-Pad-using opponents... also, I found the sideways-flip move (run, then quickly turn around and jump) was quite hard to pull off.
But as I said I don't own the game and I haven't played it myself for ages... I think I need some more practise with it and to properly familiarise myself with the controls. icon_smile.gif
I much prefer using it to the D-Pad though. icon_kero.gif

I also disagree with the score (or the final comments). I know it's not supposed to be an average, but 8.0 seems a little harsh for category scores of 8.0 / 8.5 / 9.0 / 8.5. Perhaps you should lower the Gameplay score if you truly believe the controls are a problem, or raise the overall score by .5 otherwise.
9 years ago
Stylus? use the thumbstrap!!!!

Basically stylus is more like a mouse, and thumbstrap is more like a stick. I'd hate playing mario with a mouse, too!

The d-pad is too limiting. I think the single biggest problem with the game is that the default control option is the most limiting. So people get their new mario game, play it for a while with the default option and then are too used to it to change.

It should have been touch screen only IMO. Or maybe have the d-pad as the alternate option.
9 years ago
I refuse to use the thumbstrap; I've tried it several times, and it sucks. icon_razz.gif
Really, the stylus is much better. If I use the thumbstrap I have exactly the same problems, but compounded by the fact that I'm now imprecisely moving on the circle.
...I agree with your thoughts on the default. Flagship title set to D-Pad control by default? Why?
9 years ago
review.....too.......long.....for......mangabrain........to read.....icon_eek.gif
I can't read that much text at a time without pictures! icon_confused.gif
nice screenshots though. icon_smile.gif
9 years ago
Hyperworm wrote
I refuse to use the thumbstrap; I've tried it several times, and it sucks. icon_razz.gif
Really, the stylus is much better. If I use the thumbstrap I have exactly the same problems, but compounded by the fact that I'm now imprecisely moving on the circle.
...I agree with your thoughts on the default. Flagship title set to D-Pad control by default? Why?
I think you'll find that 99% of people use the thumbstrap for mario. there's debate about what to use for Metroid (I prefer stylus for that) but it's pretty much a given for Mario.

Give it another go (on mario). It really does work like a stick!
9 years ago
>>>The comments in the 'Overall' section of the review are inconsistent with the score given. How can a game lauded by the reviewer as "One of the best 3D platformers ever created" be awarded an 8, especially considering the "shed load of superb mini games"?

Mario 64 is one of the best 3D platformers ever created, but that doesn't mean it's still at the pinnical of gaming standards today. Take for example something like Goldeneye. Few would disagree if I said that it was 'one of the best FPS's ever created', but that doesn't mean it'd still get high scores today.

>>>I seriously doubt that the control issues would downgrade the score that much. I managed to play through the game with the thumbstrap with just as much precision as an analogue stick, and I got all 150 Stars.

When deciding on a final score with DS games, a certain amount of thought has to be given to how it uses the abilities of the system. As I said in the review, the fact that Mario 64 has basically been shoe-horned onto the DS means the game doesn't use the DS to its strengths. It was originally built around the N64 pad, and while the touch screen is a good subtitute, its simply not as good or as fun to control Mario with. Besides, 8/10 is a fantastic score.

>>>Also, the graphics were scored an 8.0... But the game is a graphical benchmark for the system. Care to point out a graphically superior game on the system at the moment?

The DS is capable of more. What would the point be of me giving it a 9 in graphics only for something that looks like Banjo Kazooie, Majora's Mask or Conker to be released?

Overall, I think an 8 is fair. Maybe I would have scored it a little higher had I never played the game before, but it's hard to imagine a game as if it was the first time of playing it. Besides, there are better DS games on the way icon_smile.gif
9 years ago
>>>But the game is a graphical benchmark for the system. Care to point out a graphically superior game on the system at the moment?

This is an intrinsic problem people have with critiquing launch titles. You should not compare one game with another, because if you consider the best at the time to be a '10' based solely on how it looks, then what do you do when second, third, forth etc generations of software come out? Do you give it 11? 12? 13? 14? 15?

Mario 64 DS is a port. It does nothing new graphically. Just because nothing looks better on the system now, doesn't mean it COULD have looked better now.


giant_frying_pan
9 years ago
giant_frying_pan wrote
This is an intrinsic problem people have with critiquing launch titles. You should not compare one game with another, because if you consider the best at the time to be a '10' based solely on how it looks, then what do you do when second, third, forth etc generations of software come out? Do you give it 11? 12? 13? 14? 15?
Well of cause you give it the review based on the other launch titles and if there is other better titles that come out, which im sure there will be - thats when you have updated review scores.

Most magazines and websites eg. IGN and Gamespot always have rewrites.
9 years ago
Too much work for PALGN, methinks. Best to rate it fairly in the first place, with a calculated expectation of future titles for the system in mind, than to continually rewrite articles. icon_kero.gif

giant_frying_pan!
You were Staff once icon_smile.gif
9 years ago
Eve6 wrote
Well of cause you give it the review based on the other launch titles and if there is other better titles that come out, which im sure there will be - thats when you have updated review scores.

Most magazines and websites eg. IGN and Gamespot always have rewrites.
When? If IGN did rewrites do you really think Starfox Adventures would have a 9.0 score? icon_razz.gif
9 years ago
mr_sockochris wrote
When? If IGN did rewrites do you really think Starfox Adventures would have a 9.0 score? icon_razz.gif
Ive seen them before, you can check out the Playstation 1 section and they have re writes for all the top games they advise.
Maybe Not starfox yet, next year maybe? icon_razz.gif
8 years ago
I love mario 64 it was asome on the 64 before it was on the DS
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Publisher:
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Developer:
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