Super Mario 64 – N64
Platform: Nintendo 64
Release Date (NA): September 26th, 1996
Genre: 3D Platformer
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
What could I possibly say about this game that hasn’t been said before? Super Mario 64 revolutionized video gaming as we know it and ushered in the era of true 3-dimensional gameplay. It redefined the notion of a 3D environment, pushing it from gimmick to a whole new way to play. It also set the stage for later Mario games where varied and multiple objectives could be completed in the same level, drastically increasing replay value. What many of us take for granted about modern platformers and 3D games in general owes a great deal to the success and fluidity of Super Mario 64.
Graphics may look dated by today’s standards, but Super Mario 64 achieved a visual style that wouldn’t be commonplace for another couple of years. True that most of the environment is made up of simple geometric figures but the game uses its cartoonish appearance in its favor and embraces simplicity rather than striving for total realism. Colors are bright, shapes are distinguishable from one another, and never is there any ambiguity about objects in the environment.
Gameplay is truly what sets Super Mario 64 apart from all that came before. No longer is Mario confined to walking a mostly straight path from point a to point b, he now has large albeit finite spaces to freely explore. Mario begins his adventure in the Princess’ castle (also open to exploration) and from there can access different levels by jumping into paintings. This allows a great deal of freedom where the player is not necessarily restricted to completing one area before moving on to the next. Each level contains multiple objectives, highlighting different aspects of each painting and/or focusing on different areas within the painting. Introduced here is the prevalent “star collecting” seen in many future Mario titles. As more stars are collected, more areas of the castle become available to explore.
Missions themselves range from brute force reflex mastery to clever problem solving. There is such a diverse array of tasks with so many innovative methods of completion that Super Mario 64 never fails to surprise and never gets boring. Lots of trial and error is involved, especially in the later levels where hints are few and far between. This game truly encourages the player to use his or her imagination and pay particularly close attention to the environment while keeping Mario’s new repetoire of abilities in mind. Introduced here are such staples as the backflip, long jump, triple jump, and wall jump which the player must make full use of to properly succeed.
The controls can take some getting used to at first but with a little practice become second nature. The N64’s joystick was a relatively novel concept at the time and Super Mario 64 takes full advantage of the 360 degree movement. The one element that holds this title back from a perfect 10 are the sometimes conflicting camera angles. The player is afforded some level of control over the camera, but too often the camera places itself at a very strange angle making traversing tricky platforms a difficult process. At times the camera seems to want to place itself inside of Mario or behind a wall leading to a glitchy onscreen appearance. This proves frustrating as it often leads to moving Mario into a sub-optimal position just to be able to correctly view the surroundings.
While the game can be “beaten” by simply collecting enough stars to access the final level and subsequently defeating Bowser, true satisfaction comes from continuing to collect stars, numbering 120 in all. Finding some of these is tougher than beating Bowser himself, but it has always been Nintendo’s style to add a collection of impossibilities for the most seasoned (or jaded) of gamers to master.
The impact of Super Mario 64 on all games that have come after it is undeniable. This title stands as arguably one of most influential games in the history of video games and will always provide a fresh challenge to any gamer, regardless of how far the games themselves evolve. Super Mario 64 stands as a seminal piece of video gaming history that anyone with even a passing interest in Mario or gaming ought to be familiar with. If you don’t have an N64, buy one if only to experience Super Mario 64.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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