Getting Hyped for E3 2015

E3
“This is from last year…Obviously.”

E3 2015 will be bittersweet for me, since this is the first E3 I won’t be able to attend since I first started going in 2009. I’ve had many fond memories of the past few years, and hope to make a triumphant return to E3 in 2016. Although I’m not able to physically attend this year, I’m looking forward to the show nonetheless.

Bethesda will have their first ever presentation at the show, no doubt to show off more of Fallout 4. Square-Enix will be showcasing the increasingly uninteresting Final Fantasy XV and maybe Kingdom Hearts 3. Who knows, maybe The Last Guardian will finally show up.

Wayne's World

I must be honest though, I always look forward to Nintendo’s presence at the big dance the most. I know, according to the internet, that makes me a fanboy (heaven forbid someone enjoys Nintendo games and isn’t one). But oh well, what can I say, it’s always fun to see what the Big N has in store.

What’s interesting is that, despite having a new console in production, Nintendo won’t be showing it off this year. Instead they’ll be emphasizing new games on the Wii U and 3DS. Some think this is a bad move, since the Wii U hasn’t exactly been a runaway success. But I love Nintendo’s defiance here. It’s like they’re saying “If you have a Wii U, here’s our way of saying thanks. If you don’t have a Wii U, here’s all the more reason why you’re stupid for not yet having one.”

On the downside, Zelda won’t be there. On the upside, it gives other Nintendo franchises a chance to shine. We know Mario Maker will be there, and I have huge hopes for this title, since it’s basically a dream come true. Hopefully E3 will give us a glimpse of how deep the final game will be. The return of Star Fox is also confirmed to make an appearance. Let’s just hope it’s like Star Fox 64 for a new generation and not like…every Star Fox game that isn’t Star Fox 64.

Project Giant RobotLast year, Nintendo surprised the world with Splatoon, their first new IP since Pikmin (well, not really, but don’t tell the internet that). Can we expect a similar surprise from Nintendo this year? I don’t know, but it’d be pretty cool! Perhaps Shigeru Miyamoto’s “Project Giant Robot” from last year’s show will become a new game of its own.

Then there’s Nintendo’s other mainstays franchises, like Kirby and Metroid, who could show up once again. Personally, I would love to see another Donkey Kong Country game to turn the revived series into a trilogy to compliment the original SNES trilogy. But that’s just me.

Of course, we can never rule out another Mario game. The Wii U has already seen Super Mario 3D World, but Nintendo has since announced that another 3D Mario is in the works for the system. If Zelda isn’t going to show up, it’s not too hard to imagine that a new Mario different from Mario Maker could take its place as Nintendo’s centerpiece. A new Mario RPG of some sort would also be great… Just so long as it’s not another Sticker Star.

"Guh-huh!"
“Guh-huh!”

Nintendo isn’t all I’m excited about though. Playtonic Games has already announced that they’ll be at E3 with Yooka-Laylee in tow, and I’m looking forward to any new information on that one. There’s even a rumor that Rare might announce a new Banjo-Kazooie. Considering most of the original minds behind Banjo are now working on Yooka-Laylee, I’ll still probably see that more as the next Banjo follow-up, but I love the Banjo-Kazooie series enough that I could finally invest in an Xbox One just for a new entry… Just so long as it’s not another Nuts & Bolts (curse these disappointing sequels!).

"Remember when you actually knew what was going on in this series?"
“Remember when you actually knew what was going on in this series?”

I’m curious to find out more information on Kingdom Hearts 3, if only because it might have a Frozen level in it. I’m actually not much of a Kingdom Hearts fan. The first one was great. It had some fun gameplay, and seeing all the Disney characters as well as some familiar Final Fantasy faces all lumped together was really cool. But Kingdom Hearts 2 turned the gameplay into button-mashing, the classic Disney villains from our childhoods were replaced with generic anime bad guys, and the story is so convoluted it makes Metal Gear look straightforward by comparison. It also doesn’t help that the small army of handheld spinoff games are actually part of the main story, so if you’ve missed out on those games (like I have), then it makes it hard to care too much. But lord knows I love Frozen, and a level based on the modern Disney classic may actually persuade me to give this game my interest. Of course, I’ll also be the first to pinpoint everything they get wrong with the Frozen level, so it’s a double-edged sword I guess.

Whoa, way off subject there. Anyway, with Capcom recently revealing the Mega Man Legacy Collection (a compilation of the first six Mega Man titles with some modernized bonus content), I can’t help but wonder if Capcom is finally letting Mega Man out of whatever cage they’ve locked him away in these past five years. It would be great if we see a new Mega Man title at E3, but I won’t get my hopes up too much. At least we’ll probably see something from spiritual successor Mighty No. 9 either way.

Of course, there’s so much to look forward to at E3 every year that I can’t cover it all here. Some of the biggest treats will no doubt be the surprise announcements at the show. There are plenty of games we know will be at E3, and I’m hoping we’ll be pleasantly surprised with a host of new announcements at the show.

Whatever E3 2015 has in store, I’ll be counting down the days. Even if I’m viewing from the sidelines, I’m hoping for a great show.

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Mega Man 8 Review

Mega Man 8

Mega Man 8 is a terribly underappreciated game. It was originally released in 1997 to celebrate Mega Man’s tenth anniversary, but gaming was changing at that time, and Mega Man 8 was seen as old hat. As the years have gone by its gained a small following, but still remains largely dismissed. Its reputation doesn’t begin to do it justice, as Mega Man 8 – while not perfect – remains one of the series’ best entries.

Mega Man 8 was originally released on the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation, so it goes without saying that this was the biggest leap in visuals for the series yet. Given that its sequels revived the 8-bit visuals of the NES games, Mega Man 8 is still the ‘newest’ looking title in the core series.

While a lot of PSOne and Saturn games have aged for the worse, time has been kind to Mega Man 8. The lovingly animated character sprites and colorful visuals still look lively. It expands on the art direction of Mega Man 7 and makes the series feel like an interactive cartoon.

Mega Man 8The game even featured fully animated cutscenes that have a similar charm to the anime of the late 80s and early 90s. On the downside, the game’s English voice acting is so bad it ranks among the worst in any video game (Dr. Light in particular sounds like Elmer Fudd, but even less eloquent). That’s quite a dubious achievement. But you could also say the bad voice acting gives the cutscenes a campy charm.

Mega Man 8 didn’t just overhaul the presentation however, as it made some meaningful (and largely overlooked) tweaks to gameplay and level design as well.

Similar to Mega Man 7, 8 separates the selectable Robot Master stages into two halves. After an introductory stage, four selectable levels open up, followed by an intermission stage, then four more Robot Master levels, culminating, of course, with Dr. Wily’s castle.

While the setup remains similar to Mega Man 7, Mega Man 8 built on its sense of exploration while also adding some fun variety to the gameplay, making its levels some of the deepest in the series.

Mega Man 8 includes Bolts similar to Mega Man 7, but they are no longer dropped by enemies. Instead they are hidden throughout each stage, with some requiring you to replay levels after gaining new powers in order to reach them. The Bolts are used as currency in Dr. Light’s laboratory, where Mega Man can purchase new upgrades to his Mega Buster, among other fun new power-ups. Finding the Bolts and acquiring these upgrades is completely optional, but those seeking a good challenge and full completion should have a good time tracking them all down.

Mega Man 8It’s in the levels themselves that Mega Man 8 differentiates itself from its predecessors. Although it’s classic Mega Man for the most part, various levels will suddenly throw the Blue Bomber into a rail shooter (where Rush, Beat, Eddie and Auto can help Mega Man blast away enemies) or he’ll be sledding through a stage at increasing speed, with a robot sign informing him of when to jump and when to slide to avoid obstacles. The levels themselves are some of the most fun in the series, but segments like these make Mega Man 8 one of the most versatile gameplay experiences in the franchise.

It’s easy to say that Mega Man 8 has some of the weaker Robot Masters in the series, with the likes of Clown Man and the trademark-infringing Aqua Man being downright goofy. But on the plus side, the powers Mega Man gains from them are among the more unique in the series. Mega Man gains weapons like an electrical grappling hook, an icy shockwave, a miniature tornado that sends Mega Man skyward, and a sword made out of fire. The introductory stage even gives Mega Man a soccer ball power! Not all the powers are great, but they all come in handy throughout the game in either combat or exploration. This is also one of the only instances in which Mega Man 2’s Leaf Shield isn’t reskinned and passed off as a new ability.

The fact that Mega Man 8 separates its Robot Master stages in two halves also means that the first four abilities are really emphasized in the latter four levels (Sword Man’s stage in particular is built around them). Not everyone likes the change of segmenting the levels, but it actually gave Capcom a means to better utilize the Robot Master abilities. It also gave them the opportunity to further emphasize the story.

In Mega Man 8, a strange meteor has crashed onto Earth, emitting a powerful, dark energy. Mega Man goes to investigate, but Dr. Wily has beat him to the punch, and is using this energy to power his new Robot Masters and a returning Bass in a plot to take over the world. Mega Man, true to his nature, sets out to stop Wily’s plans, but also encounters a new figure in Duo, a robot from outer space.

It’s the usual simple plot of Mega Man, but it gets some appreciated extra attention. The aforementioned animated sequences add to the stronger attempt at narrative, but are also undermined by the comically bad voice acting.

Mega Man 8Mega Man 8 ups the difficulty from Mega Man 7, and has one of the better difficulty curves in the series. The first four stages have their challenging moments, but shouldn’t take too many attempts to complete. The latter four stages turn things up a notch with some precise platforming and waves of enemies. Once Mega Man makes his way to Dr. Wily’s newest castle, things become reminiscent of Mega Man’s earliest entries. It’s never as hard as Mega Man 3 or 4, but Mega Man 8 is nonetheless satisfyingly difficult.

Another plus is that Mega Man 8 has one of the best soundtracks in the series, and that’s no small feat considering the quality of Mega Man’s soundtracks. Its techno-inspired tunes are as catchy as the best Mega Man tracks, and they each have a distinct personality to fit their respective stages. Much like the rest of the game, Mega Man 8’s music largely goes underrated, but it should be ranked alongside Mega Mans 2, 3 and 9 as being among the best soundtracks in the series.

As a whole, Mega Man 8 is one of the Blue Bomber’s most polished games. It has creative level design, fun powers, a good sense of depth and challenge, it has a killer soundtrack and the visuals haven’t aged a day. It might not have the same level of excellence as Mega Man 2 or 3, and the voice acting almost seems to be making fun of itself. But Mega Man 8 has always been, secretly, one of Mega Man’s finest.

 

7

Yoshi Touch & Go Review

Yoshi Touch & Go

Yoshi Touch & Go was one of the earlier games released on the Nintendo DS. As such, it fell under the category of early DS titles that were more about showcasing the DS’ capabilities than they were about delivering deeper gameplay experiences. The good news is that Yoshi Touch & Go provided a good example of touchscreen controls and took advantage of the DS’ duel screens in innovative ways. The bad news is that Yoshi Touch & Go can only hold your interest for so long, and its translation onto the Wii U’s Virtual Console can be a bit of a mixed bag.

 

Yoshi Touch & Go uses the setup and aesthetics of the SNES classic Yoshi’s Island, complete with cute visuals and simple but sweet music. Yoshi sets out to save a baby Mario from the clutches of Kamek and his minions, just as he did in the SNES original. The twist here is it places the events into a score attack game.

The gameplay is separated into two segments: One in which Baby Mario falls from the sky, with three balloons tied to his back, while the other sees Baby Mario riding on Yoshi’s back through a quasi-platformer.

The first segment has the top screen fixed on Baby Mario, with players needing to draw paths on the scrolling bottom screen to help guide where Baby Mario will go next, being sure to collect as many coins as possible for a higher score, and avoiding enemies so Baby Mario doesn’t lose any of his balloons.

The second segment turns things into a sidescroller, with Yoshi moving on his own on the bottom screen, requiring players to draw paths over gaps, tap the screen to throw eggs in order to defeat enemies and collect out of reach coins, and tap Yoshi himself to make him jump. Unlike Baby Mario in the first half of the gameplay, it only takes one hit to get a game over in Yoshi’s stage.

Both of these segments provide some fun, and no doubt they will have players trying to outdo their best scores. But the game has a distinct lack of variety. If you perform better during the Baby Mario portion, the Yoshi segment will see minor tweaks to make things more challenging for expert players, which is a nice touch. But you’re still more or less going through the same stage on repeat.

The game adds a little flair by including multiple modes: Score Attack sees things wrapped up in a complete little package, with Yoshi’s stage having a definitive end, leaving players to try and best their top scores within this miniature adventure. Marathon, on the other hand, has no end, and players are simply tested to see how far they can go.

Additionally, players can unlock Time Attack and Challenge modes, where they must continuously defeat enemies and grab coins to add time to a constantly ticking clock and put their skills to the test against enemy-riddled obstacle courses, respectively. The multiple modes all add nice spins to the formula, but the sheer lack of variety in the core gameplay prevents Yoshi Touch & Go from feeling like anything more than a fun little tech demo.

Yoshi Touch & GoIt should be noted that the game’s original release included a multiplayer Vs. mode, but that it is no longer functional in the Wii U Virtual Console release. So if you want to experience the game’s multiplayer mode, you and a buddy will need to play the game in its original form.

Another downside to playing the game on the Wii U is that Yoshi Touch & Go requires careful attention to what’s going on in both screens at all time. The Wii U features several play styles for DS rereleases, so look for the ones that put both screens onto the Gamepad, as anything else is more than a little tedious.

In the end, Yoshi Touch & Go can be a difficult recommendation today. Back in 2005 it was a nice showcase of the innovation the Nintendo DS brought to the table, and today its price of ten dollars is more reasonable than its full retail value of yesteryear. But given that you can download a classic like Super Mario 64 for the same price, Yoshi Touch & Go still costs more than it needs to.

Yoshi Touch & Go isn’t a bad game, it’s innovative and even provides some fun. But it’s an overall shallow experience that Nintendo could have expanded on to create a more complete game. A fun little diversion, but when you know what else the Virtual Console has to offer, Yoshi Touch & Go will probably be pushed to the back of the “must-haves” line.

 

5

Electroplankton Review

Electroplankton

When the Nintendo DS was first released, many of its games were little more than technical displays of the DS’ features. One such game was Electroplankton, which ranks among the strangest titles Nintendo has ever made.

That’s not to say it’s strange in the usual Nintendo sense of whimsy and surrealism. Rather, Electroplankton is a strange game because it’s hardly a game at all. It’s a title that allows players to tamper with nine different sound tests (each categorized by a different Electroplankton) to create unique melodies and sound effects. You can even record your own voice.

The way the game goes about these “mini-games” can be creative: One Electroplankton allows you to record voice samples to four fish-like creatures, which then play the samples back in unison as they swim by. Another has players change the trajectory of arrows, and as four different colored Electroplankton follow them, they create different melodies. These are among the more fun experiences in Electroplankton, but to say that the fun is short lived is an understatement.

Other Electroplankton games are so simplistic it’s close to shocking that they got their own category, instead of complimenting another: One Electroplankton has five records that the player can spin with the stylus to create (admittedly lovely) sounds, but spinning these records one way or another can only hold one’s interest for so long. Another game has players tapping the touchscreen to make Electroplankton eggs appear, which hatch seconds later to produce sounds. It’s games like this that require so little input they’d be better suited among WarioWare’s myriads of micro-games.

Possibly the game’s biggest downside is that you can’t save any of your work. Even if you’ve managed to create a cool and catchy little musical number, you’ll lose it as soon as you hit the B button and exit the mini-game in question. It’s a baffling piece of game design. Electroplankton is a game about creating music and sound that doesn’t let you keep any of your creations.

ElectroplanktonAt the very least, Electroplankton has some interesting aesthetics going for it, with its visuals being colorful and almost ghost-like, and its sound design is appropriately catchy (one of the more memorable Electroplankton lets you tamper with the invincibility theme from Super Mario Bros.). Its look and sound is unique enough that Nintendo’s decision to adapt them into a Super Smash Bros. stage isn’t too surprising.

The problem is that Electroplankton, despite its honest intentions at making a creative and soothing gaming experience, is just far too shallow to succeed. Perhaps with a host of additional Electroplankton or the ability to combine the existing ones, the game may have been a little more hefty. But Electroplankton ultimately feels flat, and the inability to save what you create just makes it sting all the more. Even in its day, Electroplankton felt a bit unfulfilled. Today it would barely even pass as an app on the 3DS’ home menu.

 

3

Mega Man Review

Mega Man

When it comes to third party titles on Nintendo consoles, few have had the impact of Capcom’s Mega Man. Back in its day, Mega Man was as synonymous with the NES as Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda. Although it was Capcom’s first console exclusive title, it proved to be a successful debut. Mega Man spawned countless sequels, and its hero remains one of gaming’s most beloved characters. While the original Mega Man is not without its problems (which its two immediate sequels touched up), it remains a great game to play even today.

Mega Man was renowned for its non-linear structure, allowing players to choose between six different stages in whatever order they saw fit. At the end of each stage is a boss fight against a “Robot Master,” with each one giving Mega Man a new weapon upon defeat. Another unique aspect of the game was its rock-paper-scissors-like structure, with each Robot Master’s given weapon working especially effective against another one.

Mega ManPlayers take the role of the titular Mega Man, a young robot boy trying to save the world from the nefarious Dr. Wily, who corrupted the six Robot Masters created by Dr. Light and repurposed them for his evil schemes. It’s the kind of simple but honest-to-goodness setup of many games of the time that adds to the game’s charm, even if plot was rarely present in the game itself.

Mega Man’s gameplay remains tight and intricate. Mega Man can jump like Mario, but he must use his “Mega Buster” arm canon, or one of the Robot Masters’ weapons, to defeat enemies. The weapon-based gameplay added a new spin on the platforming gameplay, and it gives the Mega Man series a sense of uniqueness among other retro platformers.

Also of note is that this is the only Mega Man title with a scoring system, as Mega Man is awarded points for defeating enemies, picking up items and completing levels. It doesn’t add a whole lot to the experience, but those who want to beat their personal high scores may find reason to revisit the game numerous times.

The level design was some of the most difficult of its age, and the game arguably remains the most challenging entry in the series. The game is fun, but some players may find the difficulty close to unfair, as some of the stages’ challenges require such precision in their platforming they teeter on unforgiving. The bosses (and even some standard enemies) can take Mega Man down in a few quick hits, and replenishing items and extra lives seldom appear. The entire Mega Man series is known for its steep difficulty, but the original is the one that may be off-putting to some players for the sheer level of its challenge.

One retrospective drawback to the original game is knowing how the sequels improved on the formula, leaving some aspects of the original to feel less fleshed out. The sequels would add sliding moves, charged blasts, and even sidekicks to the mix. The original, by comparison, feels stripped down and straightforward. A fault only in hindsight perhaps, but the comparison to its sequels is inescapable by this point.Mega Man

Visually, the game is one of the more approachable NES titles to revisit. The colors and characters are simple, of course. But the game has a distinct, fun look about it, and the great character designs add to its retro charm. The music remains one of the better NES soundtracks. It may not reach the same heights as some later entries, but Mega Man’s soundtrack is still one of the most iconic in the NES library.

Mega Man remains a classic of the medium. Its sequels may have bettered it, with the two following installments still being considered the ‘definitive’ entries in the series, but the original Mega Man remains, in its own right, an absolute blast.

7

Super Mario Kart Review

Super Mario Kart

When it comes to influential video games, there aren’t many that can match Super Mario Kart. This 1992 SNES classic not only created the kart-racing subgenre, it also helped shape multiplayer and party games from that point forward. Mario had appeared in games other than platformers before Super Mario Kart, but it is the game that made Mario spinoffs a ‘thing.’ Suffice to say it had an impact.

Despite its influence, the sheer fun and replay value that Super Mario Kart brought to the table is what has helped it endure. Its sequels may have added to the formula, but the original Super Mario Kart remains an impressive game even today on the Wii U.

Being the first entry in the long-standing series, Super Mario Kart represents Mario Kart in its purest form. It lacks the bells and whistles of subsequent entries, but in many ways it’s just as fun.

Players can take control of one of eight classic Mario characters: Mario and Luigi are well-balanced, the Princess and Yoshi have high acceleration, Toad and Koopa Troopa have better maneuverability, and Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr. have the highest max speed.

Super Mario KartThe tracks in Super Mario Kart are considerably shorter than later entries (they are downright bite-size by today’s standards), but they are smartly designed. Items like banana peels and Koopa shells made their debut here, but they are much more limited than in subsequent games. It’s the tracks themselves that provide the real challenge, as they host a variety of obstacles that will test players’ racing skills.

Super Mario Kart is still fun to play, though the gameplay isn’t quite so smooth as its modern descendants. Sharp turns will often lead to spinouts, and steering in general feels less fluid than today’s Mario Kart. But when considering this was the pioneer of the genre, it’s a pleasant surprise that it still works as well as it does.

The game made use of the SNES’ “Mode 7” graphics, meaning that scaling and rotation were used on the game’s environments to give a more immersive, three-dimensional effect. It still works for the most part, and it’s pretty impressive how Nintendo used such simple effects to create such a precise racer. Though some of the rotation may prove a little dizzying for the uninitiated.

Super Mario Kart features four different modes: Grand Prix sees one or two players take on a host of computer-controlled characters in a series of races. Time Trial is one-player only, where racers try to beat their best times without the use of items. Vs. Mode is a one-on-one race between two players. Finally, Battle Mode remains one of the game’s highlight, where two players face each other in an arena and must use items to pop each others balloons. The player who pops all of his opponents balloons wins.

Super Mario KartAlthough these game modes are simple, they provide a strong sense of fun and remain addictive, making Super Mario Kart an easy game to return to. One downside is that, even when playing in single player mode, you are still playing within a split screen. Due to the game’s emphasis on multiplayer and technical limitations of the time, Nintendo had to leave the split screen present throughout. It may have had its reasons, but the limited screen space can become a bit of a distraction.

Super Mario Kart, although no longer the best entry in the series, remains a very fun and engaging title that is worthy of a revisit on the Wii U. It was a brilliantly realized concept that revolutionized multiplayer games and turned the Super Mario series into a more versatile franchise. Some of the technical issues are showing their age, but the experience is still a blast.

 

7

Super Mario 64 Review

Super Mario 64

When Super Mario 64 was released all the way back in 1996 as the Nintendo 64’s key launch title, it was something of a miracle. For years developers had tried to make the idea of 3D gaming a reality, only for it to blow up in their faces. Then along came Mario, in full 3D, to show the world how it was done. Super Mario 64’s influence is hard to understate. Its design was such a creative and technical leap that it set the stage for just about every game that was to follow. The landscape of gaming was forever changed due to Mario’s debut outing in 3D.

What makes Super Mario 64 truly remarkable is how well it holds up. The N64 and Playstation generation is not one that has aged particularly well – with only a few handfuls of titles being as fun today as they are in memory – but Super Mario 64, the earliest of Nintendo 64 titles, is still one of the most fun and ingeniously designed games ever.

The plot remains unchanged from Mario’s past adventures. Bowser, that most perennial of video game baddies, has seized control of the Mushroom Kingdom and kidnapped Princess Peach. The twist here being that Bowser has trapped the Princess in her own castle with the magic of the Power Stars, which he then hid in various worlds that exist within the castle’s paintings.

Super Mario 64Mario must traverse the castle, enter these paintings, and uncover the Power Stars to progress further through the game. The Stars are the goal of each stage’s missions. Enter a stage the first time and you may have to wrest a Star from a boss encounter. The next time you may simply have to reach the end of an obstacle course. Mario partakes in footraces with Koopa Troopas, returns baby penguins to their mothers, and combs every stage for elusive red coins, to name just a few of the methods of earning a Power Star.

It’s a nearly flawless setup that remained the standard of platformers for years. The levels are a marvel of design, and include Mario’s standard fire, ice and water worlds, as well as more obscure locations like the inside of a giant clock, or an island that is both tiny and huge. These stages are stringed together through Peach’s Castle, which remains the single greatest hub world in gaming. Its outer gardens are a place of heaven-like serenity, while its inner design is so charming you would never guess that it’s currently occupied by the game’s villain.Super Mario 64

The level design of Super Mario 64 is still breathtaking to this day, with every stage, even those with repeated gimmicks, having an identity of their own. It would all be for naught though, if Mario didn’t play so wonderfully.

The Mario of 64 controls fluidly, and his actions are so precise that it’s a wonder how Nintendo managed to pull it off with their first try into this uncharted territory. Push the control stick gently and Mario tiptoes quietly enough to prevent a sleeping Piranha Plant from waking. Put some extra force into it and Mario sprints with wild abandon. Hit the action button once and Mario throws a quick punch. Hit it multiple times and Mario pulls off a combo straight out of a beat-em-up. And of course, there’s jumping. For the first time ever, Mario could somersault, backflip, triple jump, and leap off walls. Simple combinations of button presses and joystick motions perform these jumps, which added a whole new depth to Mario’s repertoire.

Mario has so many moves at his disposal in Super Mario 64, but Nintendo pulled it off with such finesse that the game is every bit as accessible as its 2D predecessors.

Super Mario 64The game makes brilliant usage of its (then) newfound space. Wide open worlds give Mario plenty of room to perform his new acrobatics, and enemies and obstacles are presented in such ways to leave players to test every last one of Mario’s moves. The fights against Bowser (of which there are three, which has remained something of the standard for the King Koopa ever since) are probably the greatest showcase of Super Mario 64’s understanding of 3D space. Run behind Bowser, grab him by the tail, swing him around and throw him into one of the bombs placed around a 360-degree battlefield. So much of Super Mario 64 was testing new waters, yet Nintendo crafted it with such playfulness and creativity that it never feels like a mere showcase of hardware. Super Mario 64 is a virtual playground.

Super Mario 64Mario’s list of power-ups was unfortunately shortened in the jump to 3D. Gone are the Fire Flowers, Tanooki Suits and Super Capes of Super Mario Bros. 3 and World. In their place are three caps. The Winged Cap is Mario 64’s premiere power-up, and grants Mario the ability of flight. The Vanish Cap makes Mario ethereal, allowing him to walk through walls. Finally, the Metal Cap turns Mario into an invincible, metal form, which can run through enemies with ease and sink to the bottom of water.

The three caps are a fun twist on Mario’s power-ups, though they’re maybe a tad underutilized, which stings all the more knowing that none of them have ever made a return appearance in the series. The Vanish Cap in particular seems like a missed opportunity, as it only shows up a small handful of times during the entirety of Mario 64.

Sadly, there is one aspect of Super Mario 64 that doesn’t hold up so well as the rest of it’s exquisite design: The camera. Even back in its day, some cried foul at Mario 64’s inconsistent fixed camera. Players have the ability to alter the camera angles themselves, but it only helps so much. Super Mario 64’s camera never feels broken, but you may find that, playing the game today, the camera will lead to more misplaced jumps and accidental plunges into the abyss than you’d like.

It’s not too big of a complaint, however, when you consider that this was Nintendo’s first attempt at 3D gaming, and that they were so wildly successful in so many areas. The visuals are obviously dated, but the color and personality of the characters and environments make you not really care about how blocky Mario may look. The music, while maybe not as catchy as Mario World, is nonetheless memorable (the theme music for the water stages is still one of the most beautiful pieces in the series).

But it’s the design, the genius structure of it all and the beauty of its execution, that makes Super Mario 64 such an enduring classic. The thrilling level design and the polished gameplay still hold up after all these years.Super Mario 64

Best of all are the little things, the throwaway details that display such creativity that most of today’s games wouldn’t even think to dream them up: The title screen which allows you to stretch and pull Mario’s face, which solely exists because it’s fun. The portrait of Peach that melts into Bowser’s ugly mug just before Mario falls through a trap door. The owl hiding in a tree, waiting to carry Mario into the clouds. The rippling walls that reveal themselves as entrances to secret worlds. And my personal favorite, the way the clock world goes into hyperspeed or a dead stop if the clock hands are in the proper positions when Mario enters its portal. Super Mario 64 is brimming with ideas both big and small.

Super Mario 64Super Mario 64 was a revolution in 1996, and it remains influential even today. But the greatest testament to its quality is how much fun it still is. The gameplay is still so entertaining, and the ideas still delight. The camera may prove troublesome to today’s gamers, and you may wish Metal Mario made a few more appearances, but make no mistake about it, Super Mario 64 is still one of gaming’s wonderlands.

 

9