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Author Topic: [N64] Super Mario 64  (Read 1303 times)

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Offline theJudeAbides

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[N64] Super Mario 64
« on: October 14, 2011, 07:17:59 AM »

Super Mario 64

Having recently played through Super Mario 64 again, I felt compelled to jot down my thoughts on the game.  As the game recently had it's 15th birthday (Good Lord, the game is older than some forum members here), I believe a retrospective is in order.  However, it's hard to know where to start, as so much has already said about the game and it's legacy is well known.  Additionally, it's hard to gauge one's bias factor on these things, and it would be easy to wax nostalgic and/or let my Mario fanboy-ism run rampant.  However, I will endeavor to put these things to the side and be as fair and balanced as possible... Hopefully moreso than Fox News.

To be honest, there's no way I can begin this review without first acknowledging what has already been said by the majority and legacy this game has had.  This game was a huge success when it was released and is often cited as the reason many purchased the Nintendo 64 console to begin with.  What this game did had never been done before, at least never successfully.  What's absolutely astonishing is that this was Nintendo's FIRST try at making a 3D platforming game, and yet the managed to do so many things correctly where others had failed.

It's hard to know exactly how much this game has impacted the industry over the past 15 years, but it's a safe bet to say that it has.  This game single-handedly set the standard for what a 3D platforming game can and should be.  While other N64 3D platformers would eventually improve upon the standard this game set this set, without it, it would have taken the industry a lot longer to get to where it is today.  And beyond that, this game set many standards other 3D games would look to in terms of analog stick movement, camera controls, and more.

So, knowing it's history and legacy, I begin my review proper.

Let's face it, the Mario games have never been ones to strive towards "realism."  Instead, they tend to lean towards the cartoonish spectrum.  Super Mario 64 followed this trend as well, and is better for it.  While many games from this period, which strode for a more realistic aesthetic, have not aged well, Super Mario 64 has.  Although it would be considered blocky by today's standards, Mario still looks great and the environments and enemies he sees are just as nice.

And even beyond that, as Extra Credits has taught us, the game has a great aesthetic that is consistent with itself and other Mario games.  So, while the graphics themselves are nowhere near where we are at today, it is still aesthetically pleasing and honestly, looks better than many of today's games.

"It-sa Me, Mario."  Everybody knows it, everyone's heard it, and this is the game its from.  Again, the aesthetics of the sound really sell this.  From the "boings" when Mario Jumps, to his "Whoopee"s and "Hot Hot Hot"s, the sounds compliment the visuals in a fun, cartoonish way.

Additionally, the music always suits the levels whether it be brooding backgrounds for the darker levels or joyous overtures for the fun and bright stages.  So although the music varies from stage to stage, they are always appropriate, always enjoyable, and you will almost inevitably find yourself with one or two of them stuck in your head.

From the moment you pick up that weird shaped N64 that you questioned Nintendo's sanity over, everything just suddenly makes.  Mario moves quickly and easily, jumps and attacks as he should, and overall feels exactly the way Mario should.  Then, you start playing with the camera and find it's quite simple to get the angle you're looking for.  Even when Mario is positioned in weird and awkward places, the camera still manages to find a way to find a decent angle.  Now, to be completely fair, the camera isn't perfect.  There are some times when it doesn't do what you want it to do or will swing wildly in some direction when you'd rather it had stayed where it was.  Others would eventually improve on the design, but if you looked at the schemes used before this, it's easy to see why this was considered such a vast improvement.

A mixture of exploration, platforming, and puzzle-solving, the game features a wide variety of activities and environments that will always keep you on your toes.  What surprised me, coming back to this game, was realizing how quickly this game starts to get difficult.  Although it's always fair, this game features a fairly solid difficulty that I feel has been lost in some of the newer games, and that's a shame.  Sure, some of the difficulty comes from (almost) always having to start over from scratch whenever you fail, no matter how far along you were, but it's the enemies and environments that make it difficult.  And as frustrating as it can be at times, the sense of accomplishment you get when you finally succeed almost always outweighs it.  Ousting the baddie, figuring out the puzzle, or nailing the jump perfectly is practically guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

So yes, this game really is as great as everybody has already said a thousand times before me.  Am I really adding anything new?  To me, the real question to be asked at this point is: does this game still hold up?  Has it stood the test of time?  And truthfully, I think the answer is yes.  Sure, it doesn't have all the bells and whistles seen in the newer games, but the beginnings are there and the experience is still enjoyable.

As you probably know from my other reviews, I'm not terribly fond of numerical ratings,  As such, I won't be giving this game one either.  However, I will give this game a hearty recommendation to everybody.  N64s and the SM64 cartridges can be found quite cheaply, and are really the best way to play the game.  You can also download the game via the Virtual Console on the Wii, although many have stated that the Classic Controller (and even it's "Pro" successor) tend to be less-than-ideal for N64 games, although they are usable.  Either way, though, it's a great game that's still fun and enjoyable to this very day.

Final Thoughts - An Old Man's Rant
Sometimes I worry about the future of gaming and the way we indoctrinate new players.  It seems like we're always looking to the future while forgetting our past.  I hear so many kids today obsessed with graphics, HD, and other marketing BS that it makes me shudder.  They have little to no respect for gaming's past and how we got to where we are today.  They act like, "if it ain't HD, it ain't worthwhile" and I have to ask: Where are the parents?  Where are the teachers?  Is this the attitude we're teaching our children?

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it's mistakes.  And believe me, gaming has a very sordid past.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, then go do your research.  Heck, even watching some AVGN will start to give you a small idea of what I'm talking about, and he's only scratched the surface.  The point is, as gamers, we must be consious of our past, with all it's successes and failures.  To truly understand how we got to where we are today and where we're going, we must understand where we've been.
I don't always play videogames, but when I do, I prefer Excitebots.  Keep spinning, my friends.  8)
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Offline theJudeAbides

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Re: [N64] Super Mario 64
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2011, 07:27:50 AM »
As a side note, I've recently become fascinated with the regional differences between carts of the same game.  To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here's a picture of all the Super Mario 64 cartridges I've found:

At the top is European "normal" release.  There was also a European "Player's Choice" release, but I've been unable to find a decent picture of it yet.  Below that are the American releases, with the "normal/original" on the left and the Player's Choice on the right.  Note that beyond the obvious "Player's Choice" symbol being slapped on, the ESRB rating also changed.

Below those are the Japanese releases.  I find it interesting how drastically different these are from the NA and EU releases.  On the left is the original release.  However, in Japan, instead of getting a new "Player's Choice" edition, they actually got an updated version of the game which featured rumble-pack compatibility, and is seen on the right (the text in the tan box actually refers to the Rumble Pack comapatibility).

Anyways, just thought I'd share.
I don't always play videogames, but when I do, I prefer Excitebots.  Keep spinning, my friends.  8)
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