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Mario 64 DS Review
A modern masterpiece, marred
When the GameBoy Advance launched back in 2002, it landed with a port of Super Mario Bros. 2, not exactly the most fondly-remembered of plumber outings but one that still hit the mark by fitting the platform to a tee. Come 2005, Nintendo hit on the idea of launching the DS with a revamped Super Mario 64, showing off all the machine’s powers and offering newcomers the chance to experience one of the company’s greatest ever games.
Super Mario 64 was nearly ten years by the time the DS launched, so Nintendo set about revamping it for the 21st Century. Adding playable characters Yoshi, Luigi and Wario opened up the levels in new ways, with each gaining a power-up similar to the various caps in the N64 original. In fact, it’s the first ever Mario game where the main man himself is an unlockable character, requiring the collection of eight Stars before you can even don the plumber’s cap. Now that’s innovation.
Once you’ve gained access to the main man, it all becomes pleasingly familiar: climbing trees, wall-jumping, backflip jumps and all the classic moves come flooding back, but also present the biggest (arguably only) obstacle to Super Mario 64 DS’s true greatness: the controls.
In its original form, Super Mario 64 pioneered analogue control, granting total precision over all Mario’s movements in true 3D for the first time. It was a true watershed moment for the industry, introducing the new standard in game control and genuinely revolutionising how we interact with games. Arguably the DS has gone on to do the same, yet here the two clash. Simulating the analogue thumbstick with the touchscreen was a halfway house, attempting to offer the same precise control that the DS’s traditional D-Pad and buttons couldn’t match. The biggest drawback to this control scheme is the lack of any feedback; although an onscreen target indicates how far you’re pushing the virtual stick, it could never replace the tactility of a real thumbstick. The “thumbshoe” packaged with the original DS was an attempt to encourage this style of control, but there’s also a good reason it never caught on.
The stylus controls work far better elsewhere, with the introduction of brand new minigames that quickly highlighted the new console’s versatility and accessibility. With tile-flipping puzzles, simplistic card games and the infuriatingly addictive Shell Smash, the minigames were every bit as playable as the game itself and a great deal more enjoyable than most DS titles released in the console’s first months.
Graphically, the game was more advanced than its N64 brethren, with more detailed textures and character models bringing the game firmly up-to-date. It’s easy to be blasé about the original game nearly fifteen years on, but seeing it improved is a good reminder of what a great first 3D transition this was for Mario. It’s almost a shame the Virtual Console release is so faithful to the N64 original; had it included DS graphics it would be an absolutely essential purchase.
It’s a shame to criticise such an accomplished launch title for its controls, but Super Mario 64 was designed to maximise the freedom offered by analogue control and, though versatile, the DS’s touchscreen simply isn’t an adequate replacement. The wealth of minigames and size of the game itself still provide plenty of value for money and as one of only two Mario platformers on the machine you’d be hard-pressed to find many quality alternatives.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit Review
Mario Kart: Super Circuit has to be one of my favourite Mario Kart games of all time. I love the graphics, classic sounds and the memories that come back to me when I play it. It is touching how the classical characters (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Wario, Bowser and Donkey) are playable and unique in their own sort of ways. Each time when I think of the game, I become upset about a similar cancelled game which I would rate a whopping 10/10 if it had been completex. I love the fact that it is technically a remake of Super Mario Kart with all of the Extra Cups included, really epic.
Now, for the flaws of the game; while the game is excellent and all, it still has downsides. The maneuvering is really tricky in the game, snaking makes you turn one direction too far. Second, why do you sometimes get a star in second place? No other Mario Kart game has that... I have to also complain about the removal of the Golden Mushroom in the game. I thought it'd be excellent to have it. Because the maneuvering is really tricky in the game, I sometimes unexpectedly fall off ledges.
Well, that's my review. Hope you all liked it ;).
Super Mario Galaxy 2 Review
I remember the day it released. I hadn't bought it yet, but I remember walking into GameStop and getting ahold of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and playing it. Immediately I was in love. The graphics were bright and beautiful, the controls were nice and simple, the characters and animation were great, the gamplay was clever, and the music, now recorded with a real orchestra, was outstanding. Overall, this game was a very great game.
As for the graphics, like most Mario games, they didn't disappoint me, having perfect lighting for being in the area of outer space, consisting of colorful galaxies, and textures that brought everything to life. This, I thought, has got to be one of the best games for the Wii, graphically.
Then we pick up the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. And I'm just hoping this will be easy to learn. Sure enough, it was as easy as yelling, "Peach!" And better, they took the smart road and decided to rapidly change the controls since previous installments. It was just how I wanted it.
Next we observe characters. Mario hasn't changed, running the same, walking the same, and talking the same, with of course the legendary Charles Martinet voicing him once again. We take a look at Bowser, and his features are more detailed and look better than ever. We notice him holding the beloved Princess of the Mushroom Kingdom in the palm of his giant hand, and she's still keeping the cute looks. Toads aren't any different, that Toad Brigade appears helpful in this game. The Lumas return with their cute looks and voices, making you just want to give them a nice, big hug. And then a big, fat, jolly, purple Luma named Lubba that is apparently the captain of the Lumas' ship and jokes around a lot, makes his first appearance here, and everything just works. Other characters reappear like Penguins, Piantas, and even those friendly Bob-omb Buddies return to make the experience more fun. And of course, Yoshi reappears, eating fruits that give him special abilities, which makes the game even more interesting. Concluding this long paragraph, clearly this game was great when it comes to characters.
Now on to the story, or plot. It's the same traditional story. Mario is invited to Peach's castle to eat some cake while watching the stars. That's sounds pretty usual, right? Mario, at the beginning, is always lured to Peach's castle by cake. He gets to the castle just to find that Peach has been kidnapped by a huge Bowser (ok well the "huge" part was new).
Aah, how can we possibly forget gameplay? It was certainly one thing -- clever. The gravity changes kept me playing, Yoshi obviously added fun to it, especially now because the dinosaur can do different (and helpful) things depending on what type of fruit he eats. And at the end, when credits come on, I was thinking, 'Oh great, I'm going to have to watch all this crap before doing anything else.' Fortunately, that wasn't the case. Instead, only about a minute into the credits, and I'm able to play as Mario, screwing around and doing whatever I want in the area the game puts me in, as the story--or book--flips pages through different stages until Mario, Peach, Yoshi, and their friends return home at the Princess's castle, and I (playing as Mario) jump all over a giant cake Peach made. And that's the end of the credits. So for the first time, the credits are entertaining.
But there was a problem with the game. It was a little too easy. There were only 6 Worlds (traditionally there would be 8), not including World S. There also weren't enough episodes, I don't think, and most of the levels were a little too easy. To add on to this, the final boss was much too easy (obviously being Bowser), and I feel that Bowser Jr. himself could've done better than that. This was the biggest disadvantage this game had.
Oh yes, last but certainly not least, the soundtrack. With probably more than half of it recorded by a real orchestra, Koji Kondo and Mahito Yokota once again write a brilliant soundtrack, putting this game's soundtrack on my list of Top 10 Best Game Soundtracks ever. To put it simple, the soundtrack is amazing.
With all this said, clearly the game is worth the buy. I'd give it a 9/10, translating into "Go get the game; it's worth it." I will certainly remember this game, because it's become part of my "special memories."
Paper Mario Review
Paper Mario was the first game I both bought and played. It's a wonderful title that inspired my love of video games and here I am today. Overall, the game was a brilliant title with quirky jokes and humour. From Bowser's incompetent minions to the wildly ranging party members, nearly every character has a small addition to the fun of Paper Mario.
I personally also fell in love with many of the tunes within the game from some of the beginning hits like "Bowser's Theme" and "Goomba Village" to some of the awesome hits later in the game like "Crystal Palace Crawl" and "Star Powered Showdown" (can't remember if that's the actual name). The music hits a huge variety, but a variety in a good way having several frantic battle songs with some smooth eerie tunes as well.
The game sports a very well-designed setting having various sections for most geographical features and landscapes. (Much like any other RPG) Although the "paper" part wasn't really implemented until Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the game itself really had some funny tricks with the paper element (especially in the first chapters). I also love the whole Princess Peach's Castle in space thing; it really made me anticipated as to how in the world Mario's supposed to get there. The game really pulled an all-out awesome story-line with the star spirits and twink. One that will always be one of my favourite stories of any Mario game.
The badge system of the game and the items overall actually, were a much more enhanced setting than that of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars's. I rather loved mixing items to try and find all the recipes. Although, I still haven't successfully completed all of them, it's a fun little joyride. The other sidequests in the game like Chuck Quizmo's quizzes and collecting all the badges can be a hefty task and yet still be adventurous and fun. One thing I found that the game was lacking in, although having tough bosses for sidequests like Kent C. Koopa and Super Blooper (If toad town tunnels is performed right), having a real challenge in the end. The Master is hard, but with the right badge setup, the fight becomes incredibly easy. The level cap of 27 is odd, but fits too since there's not much fight left; much differently than Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door's level cap in which one can achieve god-like stats.
All in all, the game is a must play! I gave the game a 9/10 here due to the minor flaws in replay-ability and small aged dialogue over the years. Paper Mario has started a brilliant serious of Mario Games and I think it's one of, if not the, best spin-off series released thus far.
Super Mario 64 Review
10/10 Perfect Score
Ah yes. The good ol' days. When 3D gaming was still new to the world. I remember when I was not even 3 years old playing this game. Not only was it new, but Super Mario 64 was the game that defined 3D platform and exploration gaming. Forever. It showed everyone what 3D gaming would be like in the future, just like Mario had done in the past with Super Mario Bros., which defined platform and exploration gaming. Super Mario Bros. showed every other video game who was boss. And now Mario was going to remind them again. He would show them a game that would become one of the best video games ever known.
The gameplay in this game is possibly more than half the reason this game was so outstanding and one of the best games ever known. First off, this game was the big picture on to where the camera was supposed to go. And this was the first game to show where it would go for all future 3D games to come. Behind the character, in a third-person perspective. To add on to this, this game was a first on another thing. Mario is no longer counting on the stage to get him through it. The stage now counted on him. In other words, this was one of--if not the first--game to involve solving puzzles in a stage, in order to get through it. There were so many enemies, obstacles, and areas to go through. And it was clever. You entered Princess Peach's castle, and the idea is that you jump through paintings in order to get into a stage. But there's still more. Lot's more. Instead of Mario jumping on a flagpole, he gets stars, in order to unlock more doors to more stages. Finally, Mario gets so many stars he'll reach the final level, beat Bowser (who's kidnapped the princess one again), and beat the game. But Yoshi gives Mario 99 lives, hoping that the player will play more. That, right there, is some good stuff. Stages vary from deserts to Thwomps, and there's no telling what stages could be hidden in the game. There are so many, it's unbelievable how much Nintendo achieved creating the Nintendo 64 and creating this game. Clearly Super Mario 64 was a hit.
Now that I've proven my point this game was amazing, let me give more evidence. The story was much like previous games, where the princess gets kidnapped by the Koopa King. That's no different. But Peach said something about a cake… and Mario wanted it. I believe that's new. This is what attracted Mario to Princess Peach's Castle, which then ended up in some bad news. There isn't much to speak of about the story, though, because it's the same o' thing. Which isn't bad, in my opinion. I'm glad they kept the tradition going.
Controls? Heh. I don't think I need to speak about this anymore. They were fine. Perfect, really, especially for being the first true 3D game (not technically the first real 3D game, though). You're able to switch camera modes easily, look around easily, run around easily, and do just about everything easily here. Not much more to report here. I immediately picked up the controller and was good to go.
The music was cheesy, but that's what made the game a Mario game. Without the cheesy music, what's Mario? Ha! Although cheesy and rather horrible sounding, the way Koji Kondo wrote the music was the same as always… catchy. So catchy, that after 10 years I could still remember the tune of "Slider" from the sliding stages in the game. No one can forget. It's my childhood. It's much of what makes the game so "magical" to me and "brings back my childhood." Ah, the memories.
The characters were great, as well. I mean, think about it. It was the first time a Mario game was put into 3D realms. So all those wonderful 2D pixelated characters were going to a whole new level. And it worked. Everything seemed to be perfectly fine, as if Mario had been in 3D forever. Not just Mario, though. Everyone in the game looked good. Although the polygon count had to be low, due to the technology at the time, just think about it. They had successfully put all the Mario characters into a 3D game without making a single one of them look like they had a huge physical disorder. New enemies were added, as well, and every single one, new and old, worked perfectly into the game.
And that brings me to the graphics. Although this game would be considered as having horrible graphics now, at the time they were remarkable. It looked so good at the time, mostly because there hadn't been many 3D games before it! For being one of the first, it was successfully good. I mean, who would care at that time? They just wanted to enjoy the game, not the graphics! Oh, the good ol' days, when people didn't get so mad at bad graphics…
Concluding this review, clearly you've noticed my love for the game. And have you even heard a single disadvantage said here? No. That only means one thing. This game has a perfect score. And only the best games get perfect scores. And this, is one of the best games ever made, not just in the Mario series, but video games in general. I'd suggest going and finding this at one of those good ol' stores where they sell the real stuff.
Luigi's Mansion Review
Luigi's Mansion was an intriguing game to say the least, yet it wasn't the greatest. I mean, the second time Luigi on his own, trying to save Mario. (The first being Mario is Missing!) I guess, being a Luigi fan, I just had to get the game, but sadly, I never bought it until a couple years after first playing it. Instead of immediately buying it, I rented it occasionally, and eventually I ended up buying the game I longed to thoroughly play it. The game, being as short and somewhat simple as it is, is quite the joyride. The very idea of Luigi running about a mansion, defeating ghosts with a vacuum cleaner of all things is just amazingly creative.
Over time, Luigi's Mansion becomes a game with some quite quirky puzzles and enemies, as well as offers various bits of comedy. Personally, it's one of the best early GameCube games, however, next to the next Mario series game, Super Mario Sunshine, Luigi's Mansion does fail in comparison. The game offers some strange new enemies into the Mario universe, and it also features the return of the old Boo character — including the dreaded and laughable villain, King Boo. The portrait ghosts featured in Luigi's Mansion are also a large plus on the overall game, seeing as each one has their own small personality and likableness (and un-likableness) to be had.
The game also has a large amount of collectibles within. With that, the game features an odd way of replay-ability. Part of the game is, and is one of my personal favourite parts of the game, to collect as much money around the mansion as you can. From small Golden Coins to large pearls and diamonds, there's a wide variety of jewels, items, and cash to find throughout the haunted building. Other than direct money, defeating all the portrait ghosts and boos will also grant Luigi a very large sum of cash. After the completion of the game, the player is granted another chance to beat the game — this time slightly harder and with more money; this process continues the next time the game is beaten, and so on.
However, much with these bright spots within the game, there are several flaws with the gameplay and easiness of the game. The controls for the game are quite simple, and are quite fun when you get around to it, however, they make for an easy game experience, and that was the major flaw with Luigi's Mansion. While the game is a fun run for a while, the game allows a practical 6 - 12 hour gameplay experience. The game gets to be tedious and boring (as is the case with most games) after multiple play-throughs, so the game gets to be rather lame and thus boring after a while. All in all, it's not that the game is bad, it was mostly a pseudo test for the GameCube in my opinion, so I rate it as 7 out of 10 seeing as it is mostly fun, but the difficulty could have used much more work.
Super Paper Mario Review
Super Paper Mario's predecessor, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, was (and is) my all time favorite game, so naturally, I was expecting quite a bit from this game. The verdict, was that it was not as good as Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, but still a superb game, and a solid addition to anyone's gaming library.
One of my favorite things about the Paper Mario series, was the consistently excellent stories, and this was no exception. Though not quite matching that if The Thousand-Year Door, it far surpasses almost any other game that Nintendo has produced. Bowser has another plot to take over Mushroom Kingdom, this time, he's in cahoots with a new villain: Count Bleck. There's a lot to cover, so to make a long story short, Count Bleck has a master plan, Mario has to stop him, there's various plot twists and such, etc. There are many characters that you'll meet on your journey, most of them hilarious. You won't want to skim through any of the text (and there's a lot of it).
The controls work well, with few exceptions. You use the Wii Remote sideways, using the control pad to move. Doors are opened by pressing "up" on the control pad, and talking/reading signs are performed in the same manner. Because opening doors (and the other actions) require using the control pad, you may end up opening a door or talking with one of the characters when all you wanted to do is run to the other side of the room. Also, some of the Wii remote uses (waggling the remote, etc.) are a bit gimmicky, you won't do this often. Overall, the controls are great, with only minor nitpicks.
The music is excellent (all done with video game instruments, not with orchestra), but not nearly as strong as the previous Paper Mario title, and it's not as strong as other Nintendo efforts either. Regardless, there are many pleasant tunes, some of which will stick in your head, others you'll instantly forget.
There's not too much to cover as far as graphics go. Everything is simple, yet clean, and there's lots of color. If you're searching for detailed-Zelda style graphics, you've come to the wrong place, but there's nothing ugly (or particularly stunning) to be seen.
With the exception of a slightly slow beginning (though not nearly as slow as The Thousand-Year Door's beginning), the game moves at a reasonable pace. Gameplay is simple, there are lots of puzzles to solve, etc. My main complaint is when you're fighting enemies.
Unlike in The Thousand-Year Door, enemies are defeated by jumping on them (or using items, etc.), rather than playing in turn based battles like The Thousand-Year Door. Some gamers may delight in this, but one will find that due to this, the game is considerably easier than it's predecessor. In fact, I never had any trouble with any of the bosses (including the final boss), all of them were disappointingly easy. The Thousand-Year Door was much more challenging, and I was terribly disappointed at the lack of difficulty in the enemies.
On the other hand, there are some objectives and puzzles that may stump you, which balances out the lack of difficulty with the enemies.
During the game, you will also utilize "Pixels" that provide various abilities. Also, instead of being limited to playing as Mario, you also unlock Peach, Bowser and Luigi as you progress.
Of course, the most radical change in gameplay is the ability to change from the classic 2-D perspective, to a 3-D perspective, allowing you to uncover secrets, items and enemies that you would have never seen before. To limit you from using this ability abusively, you have (roughly) 10 seconds in 3-D mode before Mario starts taking damage. You regain this damage by playing in 2-D mode. You will be using 3-D fairly often in this game, and I feel it was utilized well (but it does feel a little gimmicky).
You can collect "cards," discover secrets, play in three (yes, three) pits of 100 trials, and of course, there are lots of side-quests.
Though not as great as Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, it's great fun, and a lengthy adventure (around 20-30 hours). There are downsides; easy bosses namely, but overall, this is an excellent game, and I recommend it.