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November 13, 2015

Super Mario 64 DS (Part 1)

My problem with Nintendo DS games these days is that I’m running out of games! Well, not quite. I still have at least 10 Nintendo DS games to review for this site, but at least 5 of them are planned for later, usually for a future theme month. Other games are pretty long, and sometimes I like to have simpler reviews. What’s more, I had no idea what to review this time around, so I decided to ask the members of the Planned All Along community on Google+.

The result? A crushing majority for Super Mario 64 DS. And when I say “crushing”, I mean 100%. Everyone who responded to the poll checked that box.

Oh, so you guys want me to bash the Mario series some more? No problem! In all seriousness, though, I really like to talk about the Mario series. It’s still one of my favorite series, even if I've been mocking it quite a bit. And I know I’ve been referencing Pokémon a lot these days, but I still adore the Mario games. And Super Mario 64 is no exception. Hailed as one of the best games on the Nintendo 64, the first platforming Super Mario game in full 3D. Sure, there was Legend of the Seven Stars before, but again, I mean platformers specifically. Super Mario 64 paved the way for more 3D Mario adventures; then followed Sunshine and two Galaxy games. And then some. A lot of good can be said about the first three-dimensional Mario game, but it wasn’t quite perfect, what with all those glitches to exploit to beat Bowser with only a few stars – or worse even, with none!

So such a game had to be remade. But how do you improve that which is near-perfect? Good question, Watson, and the answer is simple: More playable characters. More missions. More mini-games. More secrets. More multiplayer options. More. More. More. MOOOOOOOOORE! How much MORE? Well, read this to find out!

The game opens simple enough; Princess Peach sends a letter to Mario. She has baked a cake for him. Peach, that cake better be worth the forty-three lives I’ve wasted saving you the other day! There better be a place for me in the castle after that!

Must... resist... Portal... meme...

However, three plumbers show up at the castle: Mario, Luigi and Wario. Clearly two of them haven’t been invited and will certainly ruin Mario’s alone time with Peach, so the three start battling as they run towards the castle. Luigi, you’ve got Daisy! And Wario, you’ve got Mona! Let Mario have his princess! It’s not like they’ll push their relationship to the next level anytime soon! We cut to Yoshi sleeping on the castle’s roof. He gets awoken by a camera-wielding Lakitu (Urgh. Paparazzi. Won’t they ever leave us alone?), and told that the plumbers still haven’t come back.

Yoshi gets transported to the field in front of the castle. The good dinosaur tries to enter, but the door is locked! And a rabbit has the key-wait, what? How can a rabbit have the key to this huge castle? …Ah, never mind. Once captured by Yoshi and his long long tongue, the rabbit hands over the key. Yoshi enters and finds himself in the main Hall. Bowser reveals his presence and makes sure to scare the crap (or the eggs?) out of the dinosaur.

Here's to compare between the graphics of the original
game and those of the remake.
From the main hall, a number of doors can be accessed. See, the spell put on the castle by Bowser and his servants (I’d say the Magikoopas, or Kamek, but they’re mysteriously absent from this game) has enchanted the paintings in Peach’s castle. It created worlds inside them. …Wait, Bowser created entire worlds, entire ecosystems? Holy crap, that’s some high-level magic right there! He’s crossing into reality warper territory! How the Hell can Mario go up against THAT?

We even get nice panning crane shots of the level
before it starts! That's beautiful.

Anyway, the paintings behind the doors lead to Bob-Omb Battlefield, Whomp’s Fortress, Jolly Roger Bay and Cool Cool Mountain. Each one of these worlds has seven missions, and each mission gives the main character a Power Star as a reward for completion. There’s a lot of different missions, but the ones that come back most frequently are:
-Defeat the boss in this level;
-Find 5 Silver Stars;
-Collect 8 red coins spread across the level;
-A race against time, or against a large Koopa, to get the Star.
There’s also an eighth Power Star that can be obtained in every main levels; to get it, you need to collect 100 coins in one of them. Thankfully, red coins (worth 2) and blue coins (worth 5) often make this easier.

Though, allow me to ask: What the Hell is Princess Peach doing with a picture of bombs in one of her rooms? Was The Raft Of Medusa too expensive? Or too depressing?

Marching Bombs? Huh.

Let's just hope that all this air doesn't go out,
well, the natural way...
A lot of stars require certain power-ups, such as the Flight Cap, the Balloon Cap, the Vanish Cap or the Metal Cap. However, this game works differently from its predecessor; see, in this game, aside from the Flight Cap (which is unique to Mario) all three are replaced by a Power Flower that grants an ability depending on the character. When Yoshi has it, he’ll spit fireballs. Mario will inflate like a balloon (I’m getting flashbacks to Super Mario World….) and can float to higher platforms, Luigi will turn sorta-invisible and intangible, and Wario will turn into a metal version of himself. To use any of these powers, you need the corresponding character, which can be a problem... unless you happen to find special caps in the level. These caps can be worn by any character and will transform them into the corresponding plumber. Of course, for these caps to appear in each level, you need to have unlocked the character. Even Yoshi can turn into one of the plumbers if he wants; in fact, since Yoshi’s abilities are so different from those of the other three playable characters, it’s almost a given that the dinosaur will need to use these caps at one point.

Meh. It's just a Goomba, right?
Just stomp this guy and be done with it.
On the other hand, Yoshi’s abilities also have their limits, as he is unable to kill Boos. We need Mario for that. A room can be accessed upstairs with the number 8 on it; most doors leading to levels have a star with a number on them, indicating the number of Power Stars required to enter. After collecting 8 Power Stars, Yoshi enters this room and jumps into a picture of Mario. This is one of the new levels created for the remake; in there, Yoshi has to find his way towards the end, where he’ll be fighting Goomboss around a torus-shaped arena. Once Goomboss is defeated, it drops a key marked with a red M. Gee, I wonder what this is for…

Nah, just kidding. Before that room, there was another, large room with four doors, with three of them marked with letters and colors. Yoshi just has to use the key on the locked door marked with a red M, enters… and out comes Mario! Alright, we saved a plumber! Wait, is Yoshi trapped in that room now? Dammit!

Yes, there are four special doors.
The fourth one gives out a Star.
No Waluigi. Sorry, folks.

Now that Mario is playable, we can go visit a few more places. The Boos in Peach’s backyard can be defeated, which means we can access the level Big Boo’s Haunt. Hm, maybe I should have written some horror story about the darker elements of the Mario series, instead of going for a super-depressing story… Also, once 12 Power Stars are collected, the big doors marked with a Star can be opened; these lead to a large picture of Peach at the end of a hall, but it turns into a picture of Bowser halfway through… and Mario falls in a pit that opens under his feet. Yaaaaaay. This is it, the first Bowser level! There’s three of those, and each one is difficult. The first one, Bowser in the Dark World, is very athletic and requires some precise jumping and running, as the platforms don’t have barriers to prevent the character from falling into the abyss.

Keep firing, asshole! You cannot hit me!
At the end of this level, Bowser is waiting. And it’s a tough fight, as Bowser can follow Mario around and spit fire. Thankfully, Bowser’s raw power is only topped by his stupidity when it comes to picking a battlefield, so there are large spiky balls all around. And Mario can easily run around… grab Bowser by the tail… then spin him around… and then release, causing the dragon-turtle to have a very intimate face-to-face meeting with a ball of spikes.

When this Bowser falls back, he drops a key. This new key unlocks the door leading to the castle’s basement. There’s a few more levels to be found there: Hazy Maze Cave (where Wario is the more important character – too bad you can’t get him yet!), Lethal Lava Land (the most unwelcoming name I’ve heard since… uh… the Lake of Rage) and Shifting Sand Land. Behind the door with the large star (which you can only unlock after collecting 30 Power Stars), there’s the second Bowser level, but there’s also the level Dire Dire Docks. You know what the Dire Dire Docks are, right? They're like docks, only dire. Extra dire.

But before we get to that, let’s go somewhere else. Remember when I mentioned Big Boo’s Haunt? That’s where Luigi is held prisoner. Poor guy, always getting captured by ghosts… You first need to earn some of the stars in this level, after which you get a mission where you must defeat the Big Boo on the balcony; and during that mission, you can find a portrait of Luigi. Huh, these ghosts have a pretty bad taste in decorations. I mean, between this painting, and the toothy piano downstairs… but I digress. We get in there with Mario and…

…well, it’s a maze. Every wrong door leads back to the entrance, but thankfully villainous stupidity is still in full effect as King Boo, none other than him, just keeps laughing like a maniac. And of course, its laughter resonates across the rooms, which makes it extremely easy to know which door to pick; just follow the path of the laughter. Shouldn’t be too difficult. Hey, the Stereo sound option on the Nintendo DS has to serve SOME purpose, right? At the end of this course, Mario falls in a large room with a mirror, and when he inspects the mirror, his reflection turns into Luigi! Oh no! Mario is now Luigi? He will never be able to live with this! He’s too used to having the spotlight on him! 

Spookiest? You just look like a Boo that went on a
Mushroom overdose and found a crown in the dumps.
That’s when King Boo shows up. Now, this is a creative fight, as King Boo is invisible on Mario’s side, but his reflection is still in the mirror, so you can use Luigi to punch the crowned ghost from behind. After which King Boo appears on Mario’s side and you can keep on chasing the ghastly monarch around to punch it from behind. After which, the haunting sovereign (I’m running out of synonyms!) reappears behind the mirror. A last attack from Luigi and the creeping intangible emperor finally admits defeat. It vanishes and leaves behind a key marked with a golden L. We can now play as Luigi! We just need to unlock his door.

It’s time to beat Bowser again. After Mario and his “team” collect 30 stars, they head into the big star door. First they need to complete a mission in Dire Dire Docks, after which they can access Bowser’s level… located on a sea of fire. It’s a good thing Mario’s clothes are all conveniently fireproof, or he would be half-naked and suffering from second-degree burns by the end of the adventure! Who designed his overalls: Edna Mode?

…That would explain quite a bit, actually.

Mario reaches the fight against Bowser, and he’s a lot tougher than before. In addition to his old tricks, he can also:
-Ram towards Mario to throw him off the platform;
-Jump high, then fall back down and tip the entire goddamn platform, causing Mario to slide back towards him;
-And teleport around when he feels himself cornered or Mario’s running around him too much.

Is it just me, or we're a little too early today
to be dining in Hell?
Oh, also, he’s a lot faster than before, so good luck running around him aimlessly. You pretty much need to wait for Bowser to stop turning around before you can even think of grabbing him by the tail. Still, he’s powerful and dangerous, but he can’t take a hit, and Mario sends him flying again. Make sure not to miss, though, or Bowser will return AND cause the platform to tip! However, Mario succeeds and Bowser gets a face-full of spike ball AGAIN. That’s gonna be a whole new lot of holes for piercings.

After he is defeated here, Bowser drops the key leading to the higher floors of the castle. Now, Yoshi, Mario and Luigi can access most of the levels... But I’ll continue this review Monday. Be there!

I couldn't find this gif for the Fire Sea.
Or for Super Mario 64 DS, for that matter;
only for the original game.

Author's note: Damn, it's hard to find pictures for this game! Either they're from the original SM64 (which is made obvious by the square-y Mario we see in these screenshots), or they're from fan edits of the game. I can't be reviewing Super Mario 64 DS, while using screenshots of fanmade games! Seriously, it would be like reviewing a movie while using only footage I've captured for a parody I made myself of that movie! Wouldn't that be the dumbest thing ever? I mean, how could you trust me after that? I wouldn't be trustworthy anymore! And yet, that doesn't stop some reviewers from doing that...