Super Mario 64 DS
One of the greatest games of all time hits Nintendo's new handheld, but does it lose some of its magic in translation?
Mario goes with Nintendo like peanut butter and jelly, yin and yang, and rice and beans, so it goes without saying that everyone's favorite plumber would make an appearance on the Nintendo DS, and make an appearance he did! Super Mario 64 DS is much more than a port of the N64 classic. This version has been tweaked for the new hardware, but touch screen controls is only one facet to its charm. But is this Mario 64 just as good or (choke!) better than the original? Unfortunately, yes and no.
Mario 64 DS is fabulous because it's jam packed with all sorts of goodies. You can naturally play the famous single player game, except this time you begin it as Yoshi, who's searching for Mario and friends after they've disappeared while at a party, so in a sense what's old is new again because you'll be able to use Yoshi's abilities (like eating enemies), but what's also cool is the ability to play as the other characters as well. Ever wanted to see what it'd be like to play as Luigi or Wario? Mario 64 DS makes this possible.
Another neat feature to the game is the Rec Room, a section that contains 20 plus mini games that are played using the DS's touch screen and stylus. These range from rolling a snow ball to the finish line to matching picture cards in a casino. My favorite is definitely the sling shot mini game where you can pull back and let loose on a bunch of parachuting enemies. Whatever you choose, each game will keep you busy for quite some time. In fact, it's very easy to just completely lose yourself in the Rec Room. There were times where I completely forgot about the main game!
Way back in the mid nineties, Mario 64's graphics were considered to be cutting edge for a game console, and today they're equally as impressive on the Nintendo DS. The game runs in a much higher resolution so all of the fuzzies from the original have been washed away. It also runs wonderfully without a hint of slowdown, and the music and character sounds shine on the system's tiny speakers.
The reason why I scored Mario 64 so low (and it was hard, believe me), has to do with one of the worst things that can go wrong with a game: the controls. Unfortunately for us (and Nintendo), the main game just isn't much fun to play because none of the control schemes work well. The problem is simple. The original Mario 64 was built from the ground up to work with the system's analog controller and vice versa, and (as I'm sure many of you agree) it controlled beautifully, so when the game hit the Nintendo DS (which is sans analog stick), the result is a title that's a mere shadow of its former self. The best way to control the game is with the d-pad, but it doesn't offer precise control. As for the other schemes, using the stylus to walk makes jumping awkward depending on which hand you're using, and the ghetto thumb strap that comes standard with every DS system (in other words, you're thumb becomes the analog stick) is horrendous.
Mario 64 DS is without question the only must have Nintendo DS launch title, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a blast to play. While it's a fun pint-sized game that packs an enormous punch in terms of features, its controls make playing it a less than thrilling experience. If you buy the system this should be the first game you pick up for it, but it is by no means as tight as its big brother, which is still to this day the picture of great control in a 3D environment.
What's Hot: Extra levels of the greatest game ever? Manna from heaven.
What's Not: The control easily trips what could have been a world class title.