My apologies to my fellow Europeans: the Nintendo DS won’t be available for another two months in Europe yet I’m already writing a DS game review. Be brave, at least it is worth the wait.
It’s me, Mario!
Mario, Luigi and Wario receive a letter of invitation from Princess Peach. The Princess baked a cake for them and asks them to come over for a private party. But when the trio arrives at the castle they find it strangely empty and set out to explore. A little later Yoshi awakes from a nap on the castles’ roof but the castle is deserted and now Mario, Luigi and Wario are missing too!
Playing as Yoshi you soon discover that Mario’s archenemy, Bowser, has stolen the castle's Power Stars and his troops have conquered the magical words hidden in the castle's magical paintings. Now it is up to you to find and rescue Mario, Luigi and Wario and with their help drive back Bowser and save the Princess!
Super Mario 64 DS is a port of the Nintendo 64 classic but several things have been changed. First of all Mario is no longer the sole hero of the game. Mario, Luigi, Wario and Yoshi take turns in fighting Bowser and each of them has unique moves: Mario can punch, kick and wall-jump, his brother Luigi isn’t as strong but can jump higher. Yoshi can swallow enemies and turn them into throwable eggs. Wario, being the bully we all love, is incredible strong and can break blocks no one else can break. Well-hidden Power Flowers give each character yet another unique power. Mario can float through the air, Luigi becomes invisible, Yoshi breaths fire and Wario becomes solid metal.
The levels themselves basically have remained the same but now there are a total of 150 power stars to collect (30 more than in the original game, 80 are needed to complete it), but to make sure that no character is left behind many levels can only be solved with one of the four playable characters.
While the game action takes place on the upper screen the lower screen (the touch screen) shows a map of the area, often a big help when searching for a well-hidden Power Star. In theory you can also control the camera and your characters movements via the touchscreen but in real life most people will rely on the “classic controls” and leave the second screen alone most of the time.
As a bonus each character can unlock 9 mini-games so 36 in total. Those mini-games are fun to play and concentrate on the usage of the touchscreen and the second screen. One has the feeling that the developers wanted to make up this way that in the main game the DS’s special features are not really put to use.
Graphics & Sound
Not only thanks to the smaller screen the graphics look better than ever. The textures are crisper than the blurry originals and the characters are more detailed as well. Thanks to the surprisingly good DS speakers the sound is clear and even the infamous “It’s me, Mario” is there.
Exclusive to the DS is the new multiplayer mode. In 4 small arenas up to 4 players can battle each other. The goal of the game is to capture as many power stars as possible before the timer runs out. But beware – all your opponents need to do is hit you and you will lose one of your precious stars! Since the levels are pretty small and there is only this single game mode the multiplayer game is not truly a revelation. Early screenshots suggested that a coop mode planned for some single player maps but in the final version there is no trace of this mode. Too bad, might have been interesting.
One of the best 3D platformers ever created for the Nintendo 64 is available on a handheld for the first time. Thanks to the additional features and a galore of fun mini games that focus on the new hardware features Super Mario DS 64 is a really good title and definitely worth buying.