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Hey, editor look here! This is the one.

Super Mario 64 – Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console)

box aart 2Platform: Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console)

Developer: Nintendo EAD

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: November 19, 2006

Genre: Platformer/ Action-Adventure

Nerd rating: 9/10

Reviewed By: Steroid Gamer

Super Mario 64 is one of the most influential games of all time.  Innovation, creativity, cleverness, intrigue, and boldness were all in ample supply back in 1996 when Super Mario 64 first launched.  You might hear people talk frequently about Gears of War being the pioneer of third-person shooter games, which is a valid statement.  Third-person shooter games have evolved a ton since Gears came out and a huge amount of what we know and recognize today as the third-person shooter genre can be credited to the iconic Gears game and its sequels.  Well, the exact same statement can be made for Super Mario 64 and the platformer genre, or third-person platformers in general.  Hell, I’d go as far as to say Super Mario 64 was the lead component in establishing and forming many genres’ across video games including platformers, action/adventure, and 3D games in general, and so many more.

....And so it begins!

….And so it begins!

You’d have a hard time finding somebody that wouldn’t talk highly about Super Mario 64, and for that purpose I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach to reviewing this game compared to a more traditional review.  I played through this game on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console using the classic controller, and while this review will go over some of the basics the game has to offer, a significant amount will be focusing on how the game played on this downloadable version. It will also cover how good, or bad, Super Mario 64 holds up today in 2015 close to the 20-year anniversary.  Keep in mind that effects more susceptible to age such as graphics, frame-rate, and polygon count will basically be disregarded.  That’s what happens when games get older and new tech comes along.  So, we won’t hold Mario’s non-HD venture against him.

Let’s begin with the controls.  If you played the original version on the Nintendo 64, or played any game on the N64, you’ll sympathize with me when I say the N64 controller sucked.  Yes, some great games were made for the system and some of the games were great because they all controlled phenomenally.  However, the N64 controller has always been looked at as one of the weirdest, clunkiest controller designs ever created, so when I found out I could use the classic controller for the Wii version, I had no qualms to speak of.  You can use a GameCube controller if you prefer, contrary to the game telling you only a classic controller will work, but I found the classic controller to be the better option.

Mario doing his best Indiana Jones impression.

Mario doing his best Indiana Jones impression.

When I played Super Mario 64 as a kid I didn’t really notice any issues with the N64 controller or how the game handled.  However, as video games and hardware have evolved over the past nineteen years, so, too, have my “video game instinct” muscles.  In the original, to move the camera, players had to press one of the four C-pad buttons.  In today’s world, it would be totally non-intuitive to have four buttons moving your camera around as opposed to an analogue stick.  The classic controller features dual analogue sticks, and the second stick has replaced the C buttons in Super Mario 64’s controller mapping.  I was thrilled and quite surprised at how great the game controlled.  There are several big differences in the two controllers but Super Mario 64 on the Wii doesn’t skip a beat when played with the classic controller.  The Z button has been moved to the top of the controller and in-between the shoulder buttons.  The Z button is used for crouching, crawling, and long-jumping among other things.  This is why I prefered the classic controller over the GameCube controller, the Z button.  Yes, it’s nitpicky, but the tiny GameCube Z button wasn’t as comfortable for those “video game instinct” muscles I was talking about.  Also, the classic controller’s analogue sticks are identical in size and shape providing a more “modern” experience similar to controllers in today’s market, giving you less of a learning curve.  I know some die-hard Super Mario 64 players will call blasphemy on me, but playing Super Mario 64 with the classic controller is the way to go.  Everything feels more intuitive and it serves as a great bridge between old school gaming and how games control and play today.

Being that this is a port, everything from the original remains intact.  As Mario, you scour every nook and cranny of Princess Peach’s castle looking for secrets and hidden stars.  Stars that have been stolen by Bowser and are somehow helping him (Bowser) keep Peach in custody.  The castle has all sorts of secrets to discover, so you’d better be sure and not look anything over too quickly.  The castle serves as a hub area in-between levels/worlds and you unlock more levels, and progress further, by collecting more and more stars.  Each level has more than one star to collect, and dashing around each level trying to solve the many puzzles has never been more thought-provoking.  Super Mario 64 may have gotten older, but the many hidden stars in each level haven’t become any easier to solve.  It’s still amazing to jump, cartwheel, and wall jump your way to collecting all eight red coins in a level, earning you one shiny star, as an example.

"He, He, I got it!"

“He, He, I got it!”

All of your favorite levels are back and will trigger the nostalgic portion of your brain.  The catchy tunes found in “Dire, Dire Docks,” “Cold, Cold Mountain,” and “Rainbow Ride” are still as catchy as ever.  The familiar friendly faces of pink bob-ombs and Koopas are back and still bring a smile to your face.  So too, are the enemies.  Piranha plants, Goombas, and Boos are littered over every level just waiting to make Mario a tasty treat.  Remember, this game is a port, not a remake.  No drastic changes have been made and you’ll find everything from Super Mario 64 to be in this downloadable Wii version as well.

Here in lies Super Mario 64’s biggest struggle.  While the game was a complete success when it first launched, it wasn’t completely free of frustration.  Super Mario 64 had a few bad spots here and there, but the difference between them then and now is that back in 1996, this was all new, fresh territory. Super Mario 64 achieved so much, it was one of the few games that you could easily look past the few minor mistakes because the good outweighed the bad by drastic margins. The same can’t be said for Super Mario 64 in 2015/16.  Whatever areas of the game that frustrated you back in the day are still issues at large.  Performing wall jumps is finicky and requires a bit of luck, Mario himself doesn’t move and control as precise as he needs to be in order to land some of the more tricky sections of the game, and throwing on a wing-cap to fly around levels still feels weird as you have to control Mario and the camera separately while flying.

Super Mario 64 finds itself in a very unique scenario.  While I replayed through this game, I had many moments that left me smiling and remembering my days of playing the game through the first time with nothing but joy.  I also came across some of the bad rage-inducing memories too.  While there may be no real severe consequences for missing a jump, or getting killed, the aggravation that comes from it hasn’t softened up over the last nineteen years.  The most interesting part about all of this is how Super Mario 64’s sequels have lead to the game just not holding up very well. Super Mario 64 was an influential game and the game design seen here was further built upon by Nintendo with more recent games such as Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World.  Can you imagine what those games would look like if Super Mario 64 had never existed?  I sure can’t.

Careful! Don't F' up and release at the wrong time! Lord only knows how many times I've done that.

Careful! Don’t F’ up and release at the wrong time! Lord only knows how many times I’ve done that.

As previously mentioned, Super Mario 64 is damn near perfect, but the one area that causes it to lose perfection is created by the successes of Mario’s more recent adventures. Did you try and beat Grandmaster Galaxy in Super Mario Galaxy 2?  What about Champion’s Road in Super Mario 3D World?  If you’ve played those levels you know how difficult they were, yet neither of them felt unfair.  Those games made you feel like you had every skill, mushroom, Tankooi suit, or other power-up of choice possible to help you succeed.  Mario is capable of making some of the hardest, most precise jumps and landings that would leave a gold medal gymnast in awe.  Why is this relevant?  Well, when you go from Super Mario 3D World to Super Mario 64 it really stands out just how bad Super Mario 64 played at times.  Is this an unfair judgment?  In a way, it sure is.  After all, the game created in 1996 is what evolved into today’s Mario games, which has become the very high standard by which I measure my platforming games.

Getting up here isn't any easier in the Wii version.

Getting up here isn’t any easier in the Wii version.

To make a long story short, Super Mario 64’s controls and level design just aren’t as high of quality as his sequels became. So if you’re heading into Super Mario 64 for the first time in 2015, be prepared to scream in frustration.  However, if you played Super Mario 64 when it first came out, played some of the sequels that followed it, and then decided to go pick it back up today, you should be just fine.  The game itself is filled with creativity, and contains an amazing amount of variety in the levels’ visual style and design.

Super Mario 64 may seem a bit short and not control as smoothly by today’s standards, but come on!  This is Super Mario 64 we are talking about.  Don’t kid yourself.  This game was, and still is a terrific game.  Yeah, if you go from a more recent entry straight to Super Mario 64 you’ll notice Super Mario 64’s shortcomings much easier.  Whether you’re wearing nostalgia glasses or not,  play this Wii version with an open mind.  Remember, this was the game that created the genre and established the precedent for how it would be held for the next 20 years.  Your quest to save Princess Peach from Bowser is just as rewarding in the Wii version as it was in the N64 version. Yes, even as the original game approaches twenty years old.

For a review of the original Super Mario 64 click here.

Who'd want to save this place anyway? Looks like a child's playground to me.

Who’d want to save this place anyway? Looks like a child’s playground to me.

Written by Sean Collins

Sean Collins

Sean Collins (aka Steroid Gamer) started playing video games when he was 8 years old. His first console was a Nintendo 64 and his first game was Mario Kart 64. He fell in love immediately and has been playing games ever since.

My current systems include; N64, Gameboy Color, Gamecube, Wii, 3DS, PS3, Vita, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360.

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