Once again time to look at another one of the most important games of all time with Mario’s leap into the 3rd dimension. I’ve touched on the later entries to 3d Mario and now it’s time to look at how it all began… for 3d Mario we haven’t gone to look at Donkey Kong the arcade game just yet.
Now the leap into 3d is an exceedingly difficult one for gaming. Some never survived that leap or at least completely messed up while others chose not to bother and remained 2d. It’s a difficult job introducing a whole new dimension into gaming and translating a game play style into that. With platforming there were some solutions one of the most famous being the one done by Crash Bandicoot. But Mario took a different path.
With Mario 64 you are allowed full reign over the direction Mario can move (within reason, he’s not going to come out of the TV except in your nightmares). Rather than the courses or running to the end, Classic Mario and Crash had done, Mario 64 would drop Mario into a mini world for you to explore and run around, completing a certain task to getting a power star for completing that task. These would range from beating a boss, winning a race, collecting 8 red coins or maybe just blowing a hole in a wall.
The game opens up by Princess Toadstool, now for the first time in the West, as Peach inviting you over for cake (where that joke came from) only to find Bowser has taken over, captured all the power stars and imprisoned everyone in the walls. Magically they have brought the paintings to life creating the worlds you will explore. Foolishly Bowser left one of the doors unlocked allowing you to enter your first world to get power stars and start unlocking the rest.
The game fairly forcibly controls your choices at the start limiting the worlds you have access to for the first region of the castle while later ones allow more freedom of choice of worlds to choose. This was most likely to allow new players to get used to Mario’s 3d controls.
Mario controls very smoothly with punches introduced as a regular ground attack, kicks for in the air and not moving too fast. But main part is the jumping. He has triple jump – if you time your jumps to when you just land. A long jump, a wall jump… Basically enough jumps that allow some people to break the game. The camera is controlled by the player which sets him apart from many other 3d platformers of the time too. While in default it will follow behind , you can have it controlled to look in the direction you want (though trust me there are a few levels that the camera can get annoying, usually in enclosed spaces).
While the main game can be beaten by getting 70 stars and beating the final Bowser fight (a fight clearly designed to show off the 3d stick of the controller) there are additional rewards if you collect all 120 stars in the castle, some of which Bowser didn’t know. While nothing too wonderous the task isn’t as horrible as some other games and it will put a smile on your face as a reward for doing it.
I was able to recomplete this game thanks to it being part of the Mario 3d All-Stars on the Switch and I did enjoy doing it… well except for getting 100 coins on the clock level… yeah some of the later levels seem to be lacking in imagination, especially in the music department.. Well ok only the last two levels. The rest of the music has stood the test of time with many covers especially of the final Bowser fight. It’s one of those that gives what is meant to be a somewhat cartoon esc villain a really imposing feeling.