Mario 64 is the first title to have the privilege of being a launch game twice. Why did Nintendo decide to revamp an 8-year-old game to demonstrate their new system’s capabilities? The reason could be because Nintendo is infatuated with creating ports of their old games.
Unlike Super Mario 64 on the N64, players now start the game as Yoshi. The game begins with the lovable green dino meeting up with his friends Mario, Luigi, and Wario at Peach’s castle, but when they never show up, Yoshi investigates the apparent disappearance. Eventually, Yoshi rescues members of the Mario squad and each of them becomes a playable character.
Each playable character has a unique set of moves. Mario has most of his moves that he did in Super Mario 64 including the wall jump and the ability to pick up and throw objects and enemies. However, Yoshi cannot wall jump or pick up and throw enemies. He can, however, perform his trademark flutter jump and swallow enemies with his tongue. Wario’s strength enables him to crush big rocks with his ground pound while Luigi can reach new heights because of his elevated jump.
These standard moves are not the only thing that separates each character. Flowers, found in red colored boxes, give each character a special super move. Once this flower is touched, Mario will inflate like a balloon, Luigi will turn invisible (allowing him to pass through walls), and Wario’s metal body lets him walk on sea bottoms. In contrast, Mario had all these abilities in Mario 64. Giving other characters Mario’s moves does not make any sense. This DS version just spreads out each move to a new character, forcing you to change players to solve puzzles. The game is short changing players by making it inconvenient to perform these moves. Giving other characters Mario’s moves does not make any sense. Why should a gamer have to play through a level only to realize they need another character and be forced to replay the entire level once the correct character has been chosen? Changing characters is more work than it needs to be.
Because each character is slightly different, levels have been added or changed to fit these accommodations. For the most part, all the stages that were in the N64 version remain the same except for a few minor instances. For example, Yoshi must use his unique skills to defeat the bomb boss at the top of the first stage. Besides from some subtle changes in the level design, a few new stages have been added to the roster. Because of these new additional stages, the 120 star maximum has been increased to 150. Collecting all the stars does add replay value to the game.
Super Mario 64 DS plays very similarly to the N64 version. However, controlling the playable character can be rather difficult. Mario 64 DS supports three types of play control. The default option uses the D-pad for movement while the face buttons control the actions and camera movement. The other two options utilize the stylus for left or right-handed people. Sliding the stylus across the bottom screen moves the character in that direction, acting like the missing analog stick. Touching the screen provides a considerable more accurate form of play control as opposed to the D-pad, but the player’s hand can get in the way of the map on the bottom touch screen. The D-pad option is the most convenient way to play because holding the system is easier, but it is nearly impossible to turn your character 180 degrees. This will often result in accidental deaths by falling off cliffs. Mario, as well as all the other characters, controls like an over-weight teenager when using the D-pad. Unfortunately, using the stylus is a more accurate form of movement, but performing all the rest of Mario’s actions with the D-pad is a little awkward (for right handed players). No matter which mode of control is chosen, it is not as smooth as the revolutionary N64 analog stick.
There is also another small, but annoying problem when using the D-pad. When a new star has been collected, the game tallies up the score and asks if the player wants to save the game. However, the player must touch the save screen in order for it to activate even if the D-pad option is checked. This means that the player must remove the stylus from the back of the game hardware, touch the screen, and put it back in its place each time the player wants to save. It seems that saving could be simplified by having the player hit the “A” button. Again, this is more work for the player. Of course, you can touch the screen with your finger, but smudges will soon fog the screen.
If the main mode of play seems a little familiar, then the mini games will break up the monotony. If a hidden rabbit is caught in the main game, a new mini game will be unlocked and playable through the main menu. All of the mini games make great use of the stylus and are a good way for players to get used to touching the screen. Naturally, some mini games are more fun than others, and each game will save your highest scores. On the positive side, there are many mini games to unlock. Card and casino fans will especially like Luigi’s games, but a sure favorite is bound to be Wario’s slingshot bomb game. Each mini game is worth a curious trial play, but they will not keep the average player entertained for extended periods of time. Since these mini games are pretty well done, the thought of a Mario Party DS becomes intriguing.
Also new in the DS version is a wireless multiplayer mode. Up to four player can compete with only one game card and the download only takes about 30 seconds. The objective is to grab the star before your opponents. There is only one star on the map at a time, but when that star has been collected, a new one pops up. Naturally, players can steal stars by attacking other players. On the down side, each of the four environments are rather small. The multiplayer is not revolutionary by any means, but it is still worth playing a few matches. Having only one type of multiplayer mode is very limiting, and the game should have offered more modes of play. Also, why aren’t any of the mini games multiplayer? For shame.
Graphically, the game looks just as good as it did on the N64. The frame rate is smooth and camera control is well done. However, I did see a few instances of pixilation, but it is easily excusable considering this game plays in full 3D on a handheld machine.
The DS has a wonderful set of speakers. This Mario game gives the player the option to play this game with Mono sound, Stereo sound, or even Surround sound. Since the Surround sound is so well done, it is a wonder why Nintendo added the other two options. Even without headphones, everything sounds clear and accurate. All the musical tracks that were in the N64 made it into this game, but many new voiceovers have been added to each character. Luigi’s voice work is always comical and will generate smiles on player’s faces, and the water level has one of the most soothing melodies in all of gaming.
Without a doubt, the Nintendo DS is an amazing new piece of hardware. It is just a shame that Nintendo has a port for their launch game. Plus, the game does not even use some of the system’s specialties like the microphone. Due to the limited amount of games for the DS’s launch, Super Mario 64 DS is probably the best for the system, but players will get bored if they played this game on N64. The new content, like Mario’s balloon float, playing as Yoshi, and some of the stylus mini games are worth a curious play through, but it really is not anything that hasn’t been done before. The D-pad control scheme needs work, but the camera control is still easily executed while the music and audio sounds great coming from the DS’s speakers. On the other hand, Nintendo has now ported over every Mario game (except Mario Sunshine) to either the DS or GBA. This means that gamers can only get a new Mario platformer in the future. If you have not played Mario 64, then Super Mario DS is a worthy purchase because everything will seem new and fresh. However, if you played this game a lot on the N64, expect to be bored and disappointed.