Super Mario 64 - Does it hold up?
I was pretty nervous going to into my play-through of Super Mario 64 for the purpose of this write-up. I've long believed that Mario's first foray into the 3D world is one of the most iconic, epic, and legendary adventures in all of gaming. Sure, I enjoy games such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario Galaxy more, but Mario 64 was truly a revolutionary game that ushered in a new genre: the 3D platformer.
I played the game for hours on end as a kid, and I beat it multiple times. Mario 64 was the first title I ever gave a damn about completing 100 percent. It also paved the way for some of my favorite games such as Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, and Conker's Bad Fur Day — all of which were stellar 3D platformers in their own right, and all of which I've showered with praise over the past several weeks in my does it hold up? series.
So when I say I was nervous to play Mario 64 again for the first time in quite a long time, I mean it. I didn't want my memories of this game to be tainted. I was scared that the game wouldn't hold up. I knew the graphics and animations had aged, but I didn't want to think that the game would be a shell of its former self. I'm so glad to say that wasn't the case.
I could easily wrap it up here, tell you that Mario 64 is still a great game, and call it a day. But the fact of the matter is I don't want to end things so abruptly. I want to profess my love for this game in multiple paragraphs and tell you all exactly why it does hold up after so many long years.
This is a Mario game through and through, and it's that blatant charm that really makes Mario 64 so relevant even to this day. Yes, it's 3D, but it still looks, plays, and feels the way a Mario game should. Familiar enemies are sprinkled throughout the game's worlds, obstacles new and old stand in your way, and some of the most memorable bosses attempt to crush you. This is a massive game with huge ambitions, all of which it manages to deliver on.
The running and jumping aspects of Mario 64 are still a pleasure to experience. You literally feel like a tiny explorer in a massive world with no end in sight. Even despite the fact that I know where all of the 120 Power Stars rest, I still can't help but feel like a small speck on a majestic land. Mario 64 was beautiful back in 1996, and it's still beautiful in 2012. And I'm not even talking about the graphics yet.
Admittedly, I can't say the game is perfect. It never was. After playing so many games with smooth controls, it took a few minutes for me to get the hang of controlling the iconic Italian plumber. After that tiny hurdle, though, it was smooth sailing. Mario has a wide array of attacks and power-ups at his disposal, and whether your punching Goombas in the face, riding a Koopa Troopa shell, or soaring through the sky with the wing cap, there's a constant sense of empowerment.
Despite some low-res textures and evident polygons, Mario 64 still looks great. The assortment of color usage, the charm of the enemy designs, and the impressive levels all sport beautifully artistic graphics. Kim Kardashian wants to talk about how Black Ops II has "crazy graphics." No, Mario 64 has crazy graphics. It had them over a decade ago, and it still has them now.
Then there's the sound design. Everything in Mario 64 sounds amazing and adds to the game's wonder. When you first hear Bowser's bark-like laugh upon entering the castle, for example, you can't help but believe the superiority in the Koopa King's voice. Then there's the music that plays within the confines of the evil beast's lair, which is quite possibly one of the greatest level themes in video game history. Mario 64 really pushed boundaries with everything it presented.
As amazing as this Nintendo 64 cart may be, it still suffers from some archaic issues. Swimming levels? Still a pain. Hit detection? Could be better. Camera? Surprisingly, it's not bad like other 3D platformers (I'm looking at you, Donkey Kong 64), but you do encounter the rare hitch every once in a while. But even with these miniscule problems, I can't stress enough how amazing Mario 64 really is. Because really, this game was, is, and probably always will be exactly that: amazing.
The verdict: This one's a no-brainer. Mario 64 holds up with flying colors. This is truly a legendary experience.
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