For the most innovative of platforms, only the most innovative of games will suffice; hence, the remake of the Nintendo 64's groundbreaking three-dimensional platform title, Super Mario 64. Melding the classic, genre-defining gameplay of the original with the innovative features of the Nintendo DS, Super Mario 64 DS is not only the system's premier launch title, but an innovative game that sets a high standard for other titles to follow. Aside from noticeable camera troubles, Nintendo has managed to improve upon the original game in Super Mario 64 DS and create a contemporary handheld classic.
Super Mario 64 DS follows Mario's quest to save the kidnapped Princess Toadstool from the conniving claws of Bowser. Through a myriad of levels, you'll pursue golden stars that enable you to unlock doors and battle Bowser. Using Mario's unique platform jumping abilities, you can run, jump, climb, and slide your way to saving Peach. Anyone who played the original will be in familiar territory. This time, however.you won't have to brave Bowser alone. Luigi, Yoshi, and Wario join Mario in his rescue mission. Throughout the game, you'll find keys that unlock doors corresponding to each character. Next to Peach's secret slide, you can switch characters by unlocking the respective door. Each character possesses specific characteristics, which makes switching between them essential. For example, Yoshi can hover for a short time after jumping, as well as eat enemies; whereas, Mario is able to jump and move with more speed.
On the Nintendo DS, the game utilizes both screens with the action displayed on the top screen and the touch screen showing an overhead map. Important items or objectives are pointed out on the touch screen with arrows; in multiplayer this becomes an essential guide to the location of your opponents. Surprisingly, the overhead map doesn't cause the game to become easy. When a star requires you to find eight red coins, the map won't display the coins locations at all.
The touch screen plays a second innovative role in controlling camera movement. Mario 64 offers three control schemes: standard, touch, and dual-hand modes. Standard mode, which is set by default, puts control over the camera to the computer, with character movement dictated by the directional pad and the face buttons providing actions. Pressing the L button centers the camera; additionally, you can use the touch screen to manually adjust the camera. The problem with standard mode is the fact that manual control over the camera, which is required frequently, requires taking your hand off the face buttons; consequently, you'll have to stop whatever you're doing in order to adjust the camera.
Super Mario 64 DS also encourages the use of the thumb strap, which essentially acts as an analog control stick. While it is easy to control your character in this mode, the camera still exhibits the same behavior as in standard mode. Dual-hand mode isn't any better; instead, it allows you to use both the directional pad and face buttons to perform actions such as jumping or attacking. It allows you to move your character with the thumb strap while using either the directional pad or face buttons to act. The camera can still only be adjusted manually on the touch screen, again meaning that you must stop what you're doing to angle the camera. Although the problems concerning the camera are occasionally frustrating, it is perhaps the only fault in an otherwise near flawless experience.
Along with the additional characters are 30 new stars, bringing the grand total to 150. New levels have been added, although several of the stars are found by capturing rabbits hopping about the castle. The new levels in the game don't feel as inspired as the originals, although they do offer plenty of new activities to play through. In addition to these areas within the castle, you'll be able to collect a star by finding five silver stars in a level. Unlike the red coins, silver stars can be found by defeating an enemy or accessing a hard to reach point. By using each character's special abilities, you can successful find all the golden stars. From early in the game, you'll discover that only certain stars are accessible by playing as specific characters. While at first it can be a bit disappointing, this brings a better pace to the game, forcing you to unlock each character and divide your time among each of the levels rather than each one all at one sitting. In itself, the game is quite lengthy, expanded even further by additional stars; Super Mario 64 DS possesses excellent playing value.
Aside from the main game, which is certain to be the main attraction, Super Mario 64 DS includes two brand new modes: a recreation room and multiplayer. The recreation room offers a wealth of mini-games specific to each of the four playable characters that you can unlock in the main game. Mini-games range from Luigi's slate of card games, such as blackjack or memory, to more varied games like 'Bob-bomb Squad' and 'Mario Slides'. While some don't necessarily take advantage of the Nintendo DS, other mini-games, like 'Mario Slides', lend a highly original feel. Using the stylus, 'Mario Slides' has you creating small paths in order to guide Mario's head toward a goal. Mario's head automatically falls down the screen and it's up to you to draws paths for him to reach the goal before he crashes into the bottom. Another called 'Snowball Slalom', unlocked from the beginning under Wario, has you rolling a snowball with the stylus to the finish line within a time limit. Deceptively simple, the mini-games are highly entertaining and an excellent incentive for playing through the main game. Given the success enjoyed by WarioWare, Inc. and its random set of mini-games, the more sane inclusion of mini-games in Super Mario 64 DS is welcome.
The most noticeable addition to the game, multiplayer, the mode taps into the system's wireless functionality allowing up to four players to compete against each other. At its core, you'll compete for stars on one of four maps: Castle Grounds, Sunshine Isles, Princess's Secret Slide, and Battle Fort. A time limit is given for the map and you'll have to compete for stars, with a new star appearing whenever one is taken by a player. In the same fashion as the main game, the touch screen serves as an overhead map, informing you of the position of the current star, as well as your opponents. Princess's Secret Slide stands out from the other maps, however, as you'll actually compete for stars while heading down the slide. While not the main attraction of the game, the multiplayer component is well done and a good distraction from the main adventure.
Visually, Super Mario 64 DS looks superior to the original Nintendo 64 edition running more smoothly and at a better, although not higher, resolution. With a smaller screen, the game appears clearer and more detailed. The recreation room, its subsequent mini-games, and multiplayer possess more style due to their new development, yet overall the game looks and sounds great. The voice clips have been taken from the original game; therefore, they sound familiar, yet retain their quality. The same music has been kept, as well, albeit with some moderate enhancements here and there.
Super Mario 64 DS perfectly complements the launch of the Nintendo DS by bringing an innovative classic to an innovative platform. While camera issues mar an otherwise outstanding experience, the game possesses plenty of challenges and considerable depth in its adventure alone. New mini-games and a wireless multiplayer mode provide a fun alternative, despite their limited appeal. While not the original platform title desired for the system's launch, Super Mario 64 DS does illustrate the potential of the Nintendo DS while reviving a modern classic.