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November 16, 2015

Super Mario 64 DS (Part 2)

Missed the previous part? Just go here, and give it aread!

The map of the higher floor.
Bowser has already been defeated twice, the heroes have found 30 Stars (and are thus 20% through finding every single star in the game), and it seems that the turtle-dragon is itching for a third and final battle. Plus, we’ve just unlocked the top floors of Princess Peach’s castle! From this point on, we can access a number of new courses: Snowman’s Land, Wet-Dry World, Tall Tall Mountain and Tiny-Huge Island. It should be simple to get a lot of Power Stars around here… Oh, what’s that? Another big Star Door? Oh hey, maybe we can get there already?

Well, no. It would be too easy. We need 50 stars to get through that door. Well, we have 30 Stars, thus it’s time to collect 20 more. There’s enough levels in this section of the castle for that! Oh, what’s this door? It leads to a room with a large mirror, and this is where we can find the entrance to Snowman’s Land… but wait, what’s that here? A portrait of Luigi? And in the reflection, it’s actually a portrait of Wario?

I’m afraid that attempting to comprehend the logistics – no, the MAGIC – of this would just fry my brain. On the other hand, if we enter this room as Luigi, a Power Flower appears on one of the pillars; by turning intangible, Luigi can pass through the mirror and into the Wario painting. This is another ice world, similar to Cool Cool Mountain and Snowman’s Land.

Your stache, better than mine? Hah!
MY stash is bigger! Stash of what?
I'm not allowed to say it in a child-friendly game!
A boss awaits at the end, however… Chief Chilly! This ice creature takes great pride in its snow mustache, and challenges Luigi to a battle. Chilly is a powered-up version of the Chill Bullies seen so far, creatures that will resist any and all of your attacks and will only die once you’ve punched and kicked them either in lava (for regular Bullies) or very cold water (for the Chill Bullies). Chief Chilly is stronger than the others, and will not admit defeat until it has fallen thrice off the platform and into the water. After which we get the key that opens Wario’s prison. Yay, we have all four characters now!

Eventually 20 additional stars are collected, and we can pass through the big Star door. In there, we can access two more levels: Tick Tock Clock and Rainbow Ride. Oh no, not Rainbow Ride! I hate that level! Just like I hate Rainbow Road! Oh, but wait, there’s yet another Star door up a set of stairs… and this one will open only once you’ve gathered a total of 80 Stars. You know what that means: More star-seeking!

Thankfully, you’ll never run out of choices when it comes to hunting Stars in levels; there are 15 main levels, with 8 Stars each (for a total of 120), and then there’s 30 secret Stars hidden around Peach’s Castle, sometimes within secret levels, sometimes given out by Toads. And some of those are in the Bowser levels. And then some others are in secret areas, like that door on the other side of the mirror in the room with the portal to Snowman’s Land. In the end, 150 Power Stars can be found, compared to 120 in the original Super Mario 64. Finding 30 additional Stars shouldn’t be all that difficult.

Let’s just fastforward until the heroes have 80 Stars. Time to head into the last Bowser level! Oh, but wait. The door indicates that Bowser only considers Mario his enemy. Oh, all four playable characters can enter the room, but all of them except Mario will end up climbing an endless set of stairs. Mario, however can climb all the way up, and thus he jumps into the hole and winds up in the final Bowser level… in the Sky!

*gasp* It's a CLIMBING LEVEL!

I find it kind of funny how the first level was the Dark World, the second level was a Fire Sea, and the third one is just… the Sky. It’s like Bowser ran out of ideas after the second level. “Uh…. What does Mario hate? Oh yes, endless pits! Let’s make it a whole world in the skies, so that Mario will die as soon as he falls off! Gwahahahaha!”

I can just imagine a poor Koopa step up. “Your Growliness, it was already the case in the Dark World…”

“Shut up!”

Lots of athletic sections.
The final level in the game is difficult, of course. You’re facing all of the most common traps that were in the previous levels, placed in a devilish manner at exactly the places where they’re assured to do the most damage. Every section of this level is tricky. After climbing up for who knows how long, braving winds, flamethrowers and plenty of other enjoyable things to get brutally struck by, Mario finally reaches the pipe leading to Bowser.

Star players on a star-shaped field.
Stars Mario and Bowser.
And what a final battle it is! This time around, Bowser won’t admit defeat until he gets thrown headfirst into a spike ball three times. And he’s wised up, too; this battlefield has five spike balls instead of eight, and when Bowser hits one, he renders it harmless, which means you must send him into three different spike balls to win. Oh, and if you miss and throw Bowser in the vast emptiness below? He jumps back up and breaks off a piece of the circular field. After Bowser has had a taste of spikes twice, he’ll fall back on the platform… then get mad and break pieces around the circle until it’s reduced to the shape of a star. And the tips of the star are all placed conveniently far enough from the spiked balls, so you’re gonna have to aim right. And it’s difficult. Well, it was difficult in SM64, but in SM64DS it’s a little easier, since you have access to the map on the bottom screen – emphasis on “a little”. It’s still very difficult.

...Thanks, game. The last thing I needed was a
crotch shot from Bowser.
Still, after a third fateful encounter with these good ol’ balls of spikes, fifth if you count the previous two boss battles, the dragon finally cries Uncle and leaves. A mega Power Star appears, gives Mario his winged Cap, and our protagonist flies back to the front of the castle where, joined by Yoshi, Luigi and Wario, he sees Peach being freed from the stained glass portrait above the entrance. Princess Peach descends to the ground, then congratulates Mario by kissing him on the nose, and then invites everyone for a piece of cake. They will enjoy a neat dessert, and that’s not a lie. And Bowser has left.

Or has he?

Sure, sure, Princess. Now where's my kiss?
Where's my room in the castle?
And where's my cake?
Oh... there it is.

Well… technically he won’t be gone as long as there are still Stars to be found in there, so you need to find all 150 Stars to free the Castle from Bowser’s spell once and for all. Well, until the next remake, of course. But for now, we celebrate. The end, roll credits.

Oh, but wait! I just said it wasn’t over, haven’t I? But wait, aside from getting the remaining 70 Power Stars, what else can there be to do?


That's just one of many annoying bunnies.
…No, wait, I didn’t phrase that too well. Forget what I just said. Remember that bunny with the key at the very start? Yeah, it’s not alone. I’d even dare say that these rodents have been multiplying like… well… rabbits. And these darned ones are everywhere… that is, on the Castle grounds, and inside the castle, on nearly every floor! Not in the levels, mind you; in the Hub world. And that’s more than enough. Each playable character has to catch seven of them. The bunnies that appear are only that character’s, in that there will always be at most seven rabbits running around at once. Never all 28. Also a strange thing to notice, the rabbits to be caught by a character are of a color corresponding to that character (Yoshi’s are yellow, Mario’s are pink, Luigi’s are green, Wario’s are orange). And the task is to find them, chase them and catch them. Of course, some of them are behind locked doors, while others are hiding behind big Star doors, so you need to have anywhere from 1 to 50 Stars to catch all of these rabbits.

Oh, except for one of Luigi’s rabbits, who is located at the worst possible place…

How did the little fucker get on the roof of Peach’s Castle? For reference, you need to have found all 150 Stars to gain access to the cannon that can be used to get on the roof, which means this area is available only once you’ve achieved (near-)100% completion. Why “near-“? Because that damn rabbit is the last thing you need! And what do these buggers unlock, exactly?


The Minigame Menu.
This is NOT
a minigame.
It's boring.
And 100% luck.
It sucks.
Because hey, we never have too many mini-games, right? The good thing is that Super Mario 64 DS contains 36 different mini-games, 9 for each character. And yes, 28 of those are locked until you catch the bunnies, who will give the character a key that can then be used in the toy room of Peach’s Castle. The okay thing is that most of these mini-games were already in the Mini-game Mode of New Super Mario Bros., which I reviewed awhile ago. That’s a good thing if you like to have them again, a bad thing if you hate seeing mini-games you already have somewhere else. Oh, and the bad thing about these mini-games? Some of them have no reason to be there; some are barely mini-games! Some are just rehashes of others, with perhaps a higher difficulty level.

Bounty: 39.99$
Luck, luck, luck.
Hello bad luck.
And what's worse, these games cannot be played in a Multiplayer mode! Unlike the ones in New Super Mario Bros…, which could. And yes, that includes the ones that were also in NSMB. Oh, and Luigi’s section is NINE frickin’ mini-games that require luck in a casino-like atmosphere. Honestly? The last mini-game is a roulette? Fuck those minigames. You know what, I kinda regret getting to that damn last green rabbit on the roof. 150 Stars for a roulette minigame? Gah!

Oh, but wait! Isn’t there another mode in here? Why, yes. Yes, there is. And it’s a deceptively simple multiplayer VS Mode. In this 1 to 4-player game, everyone can only play as Yoshi. Because Yoshi is the starting character, I guess? The goal is simple; a Power Star appears on the field. The Yoshis race to get it, and once one of them has it, another Power Star appears and the race continues. There are four different battle fields: Peach's Castle grounds, Sunshine Isles, the Princess' secret slide and Battle Fort. When a Yoshi gets hurt, he loses a Power Star, so all the Yoshis can race for the released Star. The three plumber caps are always in the levels, so even though you can choose to stay as a Yoshi, you can look for your favorite plumber's cap to turn into that plumber. At the cost of a few seconds of Star-seeking. There's always a maximum of five stars in the level, so after they've all been caught, the Yoshis can just fight to steal Stars from the others. Oh, and you wanna know what the best thing is about Yoshis? The tongue-and-egg combo. Or tongue-and-spit. Either way, these four Yoshis over there, they can all use their tongue to grab an opponent and spit it back. Yes, the Yoshis will eat and spit each other as a means of defense, over and over, until they get tired of it.

So yes, you can end up with all four characters, although
three of them are Yoshis in human costumes.

Not the best mental image out there, if you ask me…

After 30 seconds, the time limit ends, and whichever Yoshi has the most Stars and coins wins. That’s all there was to explain, so I guess it’s time for my final thoughts on Super Mario 64 DS.

And it’s a very good game. I really like it. The true challenge in remaking Super Mario 64 was to add enough new stuff to make it interesting for those who had never played it, all while making those who played the original interested enough on trying the remake. Having four playable characters was a great way to start, and giving each of them their own powers and abilities was a neat addition. By adding 30 stars (and going from 120 to 150), it offered new challenges for old-time players who had gone through the Nintendo 64 games more than once. A new Star on each course, fifteen new secret Stars to look for, and call backs to other Mario games with new bosses and secret levels to enjoy. And all those damn rabbits, too. Plus, the difficulty level is just right. Add to this an update to the 3D, which looks better than in the original game (though the smaller screens also help), and new control mechanics that make good use of the Nintendo DS’s features… All in all, this remake is a success, combining the old and the new inordinately well.

And that’s all the good I can say, but don’t worry, this still counts as the most important. It’s just that my praise wasn’t all that long to explain, while my points of criticism will take a little longer. First off, giving different abilities to each character, as well as a different Power Flower effect? It’s all fine and good, but the result is that you never know before selecting a Power Star mission which character is necessary to complete it. And sure, the plumber caps are there to help, but the problem with those is that they’re dropped when the character takes a hit, and if you do get hit, good luck getting that damn back before it fades… and if it does, enjoy having to go back to the part of the level where the caps are to get it back! Unless you want to take the long road, leave the level, go back to the room to change heroes, then go back? That’s long.

Another complaint I have is that the rabbits are extremely annoying to catch. Oh sure, some can be found easily, but some others are not all so simple to spot. Especially when they run around the same zone and constantly manage to get away from the player character. I absolutely loathed this side-quest when I first got the game; thankfully, even if you erase all of your save files, you still keep the mini-games unlocked by catching rabbits, so once that’s done, you never have to do it again.

My other points are simple: the mini-games aren’t all that interesting, and the lack of a multiplayer mode for them doesn’t make them as enjoyable as they could be; for this reason, I prefer to play them in New Super Mario Bros. The rabbits side-quest isn’t even all that worth it, though I guess you can still do it if you want to go through everything the game offers. As for the actual Multiplayer mode, it’s disappointing. Sure, you can have up to four players at once, but it’s just something simple, nothing all that interesting.

So, despite those minor flaws, Super Mario 64 DS is an amazing game, and I heartily suggest that you go and buy it as soon as possible.

But… I have the impression that I’m missing something… what could it be… oh damn, I forgot to write a movie review! I… might have something… in my collection… Dammit, where is it? Okay, found it!

This Friday, I’m shaking things up a little. I’ll be talking about a little-known film, one you may have heard of… if you watch certain reviewers… and if you like to support them by buying their cheap films… and if you don’t mind adult humor… and a lot of stupidity… and utter Frenchness…

Next Friday, I'll be reviewing Benjamin Daniel AKA Benzaie’s Hard Corner: Le Film!