Super Mario 64 DS Review

Today, polygonal gaming is a given. We've advanced through a few generations of 3D gaming hardware, and generally speaking, 3D graphics are in a pretty good spot right now. But when polygonal games were first delivered to the masses, it was a huge paradigm shift that not only affected the way we looked at games, but also the way we played them. Systems that could portray large, more realistic 3D environments used to cost thousands of dollars, but were now on sale for $299 or less in the form of the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64, among others. In 1996, Nintendo released Super Mario 64, the game that rewrote the book for the platforming genre, and in many ways, console gaming in general. It's one of the greatest games of all time...and now you can fit an updated version of that game into your hip pocket with the release of Super Mario 64 DS. Though the game's controls will take some getting used to, the addition of some new areas and new playable characters make the adventure feel fresh, and some inventive minigames give you a pretty great reason to use the system's stylus.

The game that created the modern platformer holds up pretty well in its transition to a handheld platform.

Nintendo has been rereleasing its Mario games for its handheld systems for years, most recently via the Super Mario Advance series on the Game Boy Advance. Now that trend has carried over to the DS. Super Mario 64 DS is, essentially, the same game that was released back in 1996, though a few new twists and turns have been added. Though the game still opens with Peach inviting Mario to her castle (where she subsequently is kidnapped), you don't actually play as Mario right off the bat. Mario now shows up for the party with Wario and Luigi in tow, and the three of them enter the castle and promptly vanish. Yoshi, who has been sleeping on top of the castle (which is actually where he was hidden in the original game), wakes up, notices that everything seems just a little too quiet, and sets off to find the missing characters.

At this point, the game sets off as you'd expect if you've played the original, with Yoshi hopping around, jumping into paintings, and collecting power stars. Yoshi controls almost identically to Mario, though instead of Mario's three-hit combo attack, Yoshi can stick out his tongue and swallow enemies whole, turning them into eggs that you can toss at other enemies. Eventually, you'll find Mario, Luigi, and Wario, and you'll be able to switch between them whenever you like. Aside from Yoshi's tongue attack, the characters control almost identically. Luigi and Yoshi can jump a bit higher; Wario's punch is powerful enough to break bricks that the others can't dent; and Mario is the only character that can triangle-jump off of walls. Also, the game's flower power-up has a different effect on each of the four characters, and this sort of replaces the switch blocks from the original game, which gave Mario access to different hats with different effects. When you collect a flower with Mario, he inflates like a balloon and you can float around for a brief period of time; Yoshi gains the ability to breathe fire; Wario turns into metal when he grabs the flower, making him invincible, but also giving him the occasionally required ability to walk underwater on the floors of lakes and other bodies of water; and Luigi turns invisible for a brief period, which also gives him the ability to walk through some obstacles. Since some stars require specific power-ups, you'll occasionally have to swap in another character to get the job done.
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