A remake of Super Mario 64 was something we never wanted, yet Nintendo brought it back, and to be honest, I could not be happier. The only thing is the big concerns that stem from this remake, the biggest of course being how would a 3D game of such depth as Super Mario 64 work on a handheld system such as the DS? The short answer before we go much further is that it doesn’t, the game suffers from numerous control issues that are often quite frustrating but makes up for this shortcoming with other advantages.
To this day Super Mario 64 is still widely considered to be one of Mario’s greatest adventures, as well as the 3D adventure that other Mario games try to beat. This game showed just how great you could make a Mario game in the 3D space and was loved by many as one of the earliest 2D to 3D transitions, the original is a remarkable game that can never be overshadowed. So where does this leave the remake? Surprisingly, this remake does turn out really well featuring many changes and improvements, but it never felt like the original which is fine because it never tries to. Super Mario 64 DS feels like a retelling of the classic tale striving to do more and offer a somewhat original journey.
We all know the story of Super Mario 64 by this point, or do we? Although different, this DS version does change up the story in a refreshing way, Peach calls Mario to her castle for cake and he shows up to discover things are not quite right, however he is not alone. For a reason I never found in the game to explain, Wario and Luigi tag along but soon disappear along with Mario. To change the story, this then puts you in the shoes of Yoshi who must now head into the castle to rescue Mario, Luigi and Wario, as well as help get back the power stars that Bowser has stolen. The changes are only small to this forgettable tale but are appreciated and don’t feel forced at any point.
The question that will likely be on peoples mind will be, how does this game control? And the answer is poorly most of the time. The original Nintendo 64 game lived off its joystick control which (while I still found that setup to be fiddly at times) was overall a decent system, the joystick still made running around these 3D settings enjoyable. This DS version suffers from the trade-off that inhibits the system, with the lack of a joystick, the game can now be played in one of two ways, for starters you can now move using the directional buttons which honestly never feels right.
Secondly, you can also use stylus controls via the DS touch screen which also personally felt awkward, neither option is that great but the directional buttons were the lesser of the faulty control options. As I have said, the original Nintendo 64 game felt fiddly and because of the control options it does suffer here as well but to a worse level, I faced many cheap deaths because I had trouble with getting the game to do what I actually wanted.
Controls are the only issue that really holds this game back and, to be honest it may be the thing that turns people off this game. However, if you can deal with the controllers and persist, a great game does exist. The improvements and additions over the Nintendo 64 game are notable and all make for a much more varied game than the original.
The biggest change made to Super Mario 64 DS is the addition of four playable characters, instead of just playing as Mario, you now have access to Wario, Luigi and Yoshi (Mario, Wario and Luigi you have to unlock). Each character brings their own unique traits to the game specializing in certain abilities and with each, you can change up the gameplay, to deal with the addition of these characters, changes have been made all throughout the game to complement the specific skills of characters and their uses.
The little differences of each character really changes up the game and makes missions feel unique, it is refreshing to wander into a level and possibly have the wrong character for a mission and this is a big thing. In the case of certain examples we can look at Wario, while the character is slow he also exhibits a good amount of strength and as such, there are certain blocks placed into the world and levels that can be broken by Wario. The changes even reflect down to the characters special abilities, in the past you would need to venture into three different levels all of which would offer a different switch to unlock a new ability such as metal and invisibility. This has now been removed and altered into working from a single level, by now pressing one switch you can access all the abilities except only certain characters can use specific abilities. Wario can turn to metal when the power up is collected, Luigi turns invisible, Mario floats, and Yoshi gets fire power, each power comes in handy for solving problems and make each character useful all throughout the game to deal with problems that others can’t progress through.
The other big change comes with levels themselves, while for the time the Nintendo 64 games were released levels were certainly interesting and worked, now some seem quite tedious and provide little challenge. Now Nintendo has altered some levels to include entirely new challenges to complete which are far more interesting and exciting than before. Just in the first level, I noted numerous changes to missions, one such example being fighting big bomb-omb twice. The first fight was altered to utilize Yoshi’s tongue attack where I needed to throw his little bombs back at him, the second then was a more straightforward battle utilizing Mario to beat him the classic way. This area also saw the removal of one of the game’s most simplistic missions which I appreciated.
Just as the game changes things for the better, Nintendo has also added things to the game that add a whole lot more replay value. While progressing through the main story, you can occasionally stumble across rabbits, the job here is to catch them and if you do you are rewarded with a key. This key brings us the ability to start playing minigames and there is a great collection available, however, you need to catch multiple rabbits using the different characters to unlock them all. Where there is usually nothing much else to do once all the stars are collected and the games been completed, these minigames add some much needed enjoyment to the proceedings.
Super Mario 64 DS is a decent game, the new additions to the original classic help redefine this game and become something new while still keeping the soul of the original game. Sure it has some problems, but if you can look past the frustrating bugs and glitches then there is an amazing game sitting here waiting to be played that simply expands upon what made the original great. If you are looking for a decent DS game to play, don’t look past this gem, though I will admit this version will not appeal to everyone.