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Mario returns to launch the Nintendo DS eight years after he kickstarted the Nintendo64...
Ahhh Super Mario 64, a game that guaranteed the Nintendo64 its place in the history books; single-handedly brought the platform genre into 3D for hundreds of others to copy and arguably created one of the finest forays into 3D to date.
So Nintendo turns towards their trusted plumber and co to launch their new system, in a title that takes the basics of the classic N64 title, chucks in a few new ideas to capitalise on the innovative strengths of the system, but sadly falls slightly short of the first time we booted up the game on the N64.
Super Mario 64 DS is a â??remixâ? of the genre defining title that launched the Nintendo64, albeit with a wide number of changes to incorporate four playable characters (namely Mario, Luigi, Yoshi and Wario); a selection of â??funâ? mini-games to test out your stylus skills and a 4P Vs mode to remind people that the DS does have wireless capabilities.
Creating a launch title for the DS to demonstrate the new features of the system couldnâ??t have been an easy task for Miyamoto et Co at NCL; not only does the title have to introduce Nintendoâ??s new touch-screen technique to playing games, but also harness itâ??s wireless features and other capabilities. Despite making a brave attempt to introduce â??rubbingâ? to the gaming population along with an amusing if short-lived multiplayer mode to test out the wireless communication, Super Mario 64 DS makes no attempt whatsoever to introduce the opportunities that voice recognition has within games â?“ so as a launch title for such a â??differentâ? format itâ??s slightly disappointing.
Perhaps the biggest problem we have with Super Mario 64 DS is that with control. The original title was designed around the delights of the N64 analogue-stick and the sublime control system encompassing it; although the DS does an adequate job of replicating this, some of the precise movements needed by the game throw up the odd occasionally frustrating moments. Realising a few potentially fateful flaws with the game, Super Mario 64 DS offers three different control set-upsâ?? to choose from within the game.
Firstly the â??Standard Modeâ? allows you to either take control with the stylus or the d-pad, however the restrictions imposed by the d-pad for such a fluid game like Mario 64 ensures that this is no fun at all. Miyamoto and his team performed miracles back in 1996, creating a fluid and responsive control system that was literally a joy to play â?“ the sheer variety of jumps and spins that Mario had and the ease at which the player could pull these off, was one of the most important aspects of the game and something all the imitators forgot to pick up on.
So onto the â??Dual Hand Modeâ?, which challenges players to control the character with the stylus â?“ however thereâ??s one problem, unless youâ??re left handed youâ??re not going to be able to press the buttons at the same time as holding the stylus â?“ although you can try. To work around this, Nintendo have mapped jump, crouch and camera commands to the d-pad; but again the problem is that this solution just isnâ??t fluid or responsive enough for the game in question, techniques such as the long-jump which require you to quickly transition between crouching and jumping are often hit-and-miss affairs with this technique.
So itâ??s up to the â??Touch Modeâ?, which proves to be the most authentic, enjoyable and dependable; players have to put the stylus back into the DS and lasso the wrist-strap around your thumb. This technique gives you the greatest control over your character whilst also being able to access the buttons at the same time - although sadly those who had Mario flipping like a Russian gymnast in the N64 original will still have times when youâ??re jumping off the platform to your darkly doom.
It takes awhile to get used to, however in introducing a new way of playing games this is altogether expected. Within the first 30 minutes however youâ??ll soon have Mario somersaulting through the air, with if not the greatest of ease, at least some sort of resemblance to the agile panache he had back in 1996. Thankfully the camera system is absolutely spot-on and rarely causes any aggravations, although youâ??re free to rotate this around and zoom-in as you so please in a somewhat clunky fashion.
The second screen is used as a map throughout the game, which can be useful when trying to locate the eight red coins on each stage; however much of the game youâ??ll spend with your thumb scrawling across it (unless you really want to use the d-pad) making it almost redundant for anything else; hardly revolutionary, however we suspect thereâ??s much more to come.
Control issues aside, Mario 64 is still in a class of its own and we quite happily found ourselves falling back into the Mushroom Kingdom to save Peach all over again. Thankfully the game has been changed around quite considerably, most notably from the introduction of Luigi, Yoshi and Wario as playable characters.
To begin with youâ??ll only be able to take control of Yoshi as he awakens from his slumber on the castle roof, to find that Mario, Luigi and Wario have disappeared. The majority of the ground floorâ??s stages are then played with Yoshi and his egg chucking abilities, although certain Stars require you to collect Marioâ??s hat and change into the moustachioed plumber for a short duration. Itâ??s not long into the game however before you can unlock the various characters to choose between at the start of each mission. Each character has basic differences in their abilities such as Luigi being able to walk on water for brief periods (he was always the true messiah), which ties in nicely to securing certain Stars as youâ??ll require specific techniques to capture these. In addition the game features various Power Flower power-upâ??s, which grant each character varying special abilities; Mario inflates like a balloon and can reach higher areas; Yoshi can breathe fire (ideal for those icy stages); Luigi turns invisible and can walk through certain barriers; whilst Wario turns into a metallic form granting him invulnerability and being able to walk on waterbed. An addition that will have true Mario fans bottom bouncing all day long is the return of the Mushroom, which temporarily turns the characters â??Superâ? and of gargantuan size â?“ itâ??s a feature thatâ??s been dearly missed during the last decade and looks to be taken to new dimensions in the forthcoming Super Mario Bros DS.
The interchange between characters and the strategies you have to use to acquire certain stars gives the game a feeling of freshness and ensures that even those who found every one of the 120 Stars within Mario 64 will enjoy the experience. To guarantee this however, the game features 30 new Stars to collect and more then one or two surprises!
Although itâ??s slightly ineffective in the single-player, the second screen is used to far greater extent in the huge number of fun mini-games that are featured within the game. Each character has a variety of mini-games, which you unlock by capturing various bunnies that youâ??ll find scattered throughout the main game. These are pick-up-and-play and designed to entertain you when youâ??ve got a couple of spare minutes; the games often entail using the stylus for various techniques, such as rolling a snowball down a hill whilst avoiding obstacles as it grows larger; or pulling a catapult backwards to destroy bob-ombs that are parachuting down from the top-screen. In total thereâ??s over 40 mini-games featured within the game, and although not exactly a revolutionary mark in videogames history, they do provide a nice bit of respite from the main game and are always enjoyable when youâ??re stuck in traffic.
Finally the game includes a rather basic multiplayer mode of sorts, which sees players assuming the role of Mario, Luigi, Yoshi and Wario and having a certain amount of time to collect as many stars as possible. Sadly itâ??s a little dull and coupled with the lack of stages, itâ??s unlikely to sustain your interest once the initial novelty factor of testing out the wireless capabilities has passed by.
Visually the concept of playing a 3D game on a portable provides a lot of the initial buzz, and itâ??s fair to say that the N64 classic has been accurately ported across to the DS. The crisp screen helps to create a very distinct look, which only enhances the bright and vibrant look of Mario 64. It does seem that the game omits the mip-mapping techniques of the N64 version, as some of the textures do look pixellated on close inspection and lack the trademark blurry look associated with the N64; however to make amends the four playable characters look much better then before, whilst more importantly the game runs at a super-smooth rate consistently.
The sound and music has been lifted straight from the N64 title, with classic Nintendo tunes that will have you humming away on the bus ride into work. Some sound effects have changed slightly, whilst weâ??d advise not whacking the volume up to the maximum as the overall quality lessens along with the clarity. One particular touch that I did particularly enjoy is Marioâ??s greeting and farewell message whenever you put the DS into Sleep mode, simply by folding or unfolding the unit â?“ â??Itâ?? sa me Marioâ?, but then again I do have a certain soft spot for the Brooklyn plumber.
The main issue is naturally the control which brings up one or two occasionally frustrating moments, however we’d personally liked to have seen a game that made more of the “innovative” features of the DS – how about Mario’s face on the title screen responding to comments you make to demonstrate the voice recognition features Nintendo???
The mini-games are certainly fun, however the multiplayer Vs mode is sadly lacking; as a game the quality of Mario 64 still remains there to this day, and even those who collected everyone of the 120 stars (twice) along with the dozen or so glitches in the N64 version will enjoy the experience.
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