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Super Mario 64 Retrospective: The game that changed everything


Before I start off, I'd like to apologize for not really writing anything this week. I've had some stuff to deal with, and it's prevented me writing much. However, this is Friday, and Friday is retrospective day. Also, thanks to xXgravekillerxX for suggesting this. Today, we're taking a look at Super Mario 64, probably one of the most important games to ever be released. I'm quite sure that this statement has surprised many of you, in fact, more of you are probably laughing at this statement. How could a stupid Mario game be so important? What many of you don't realize is that Super Mario 64 is THE game that defined what a good 3D game should contain.

Okay, okay. Before you try to burn me at the stake for saying that SM64 is more important than (insert your favorite game here), take a moment to hear me out. SM64 introduced two HUGE things that changed how gaming works today, and are things we very much take for granted today: the analog stick, and a camera that was independent of the player's characters, but was still under the player's control. As trivial as these things seem, you have to realize that this had never really be done before. These two features broke away from the rigid viewpoints and motions that came with the D-Pad, allowing for so much more out of a game. Now, the fixed camera wasn't really a problem for FPS games, so they're exempt from this. However, the lack of a free camera really limited the potential. If you're wondering to yourself “how can the camera be such a big deal,” take a look at games like the first Resident Evil to get a good idea of what I'm talking about here.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can take a look at the analog stick. Those of you who grew up playing on a D-Pad before anything else will know exactly what I'm talking about here. Maybe you grew up with the SNES, traversing level after level with the tight and familiar feel of the D-Pad under your thumb. Or, perhaps you had a GameBoy, NES, Sega Genesis, or whatever. Got that feeling in your mind? Good, now, think about the first 3D game you played with an analog stick. I'm not entirely sure about you, but my first thought when playing a game using one was “wow.” The jump into 3D offered many new possibilities for players to explore huge worlds, and the analog stick introduced by the Nintendo 64 is what set the standard for how these worlds should be explored, by offering more freedom to explore, and (most of the time) keeping the tight controls found with the D-Pad. At this point, you might be saying “okay, well what does the Nintendo 64 and Super Mario 64 have to do with the analog stick? It wasn't the only console to use it, you know.” That's a great question, and I'm glad you asked. The Nintendo 64 controller was actually built with Super Mario 64 in mind. So, essentially, Super Mario 64 caused gaming to reinvent itself.

“Cosmic, I know about this (or just don't care), so get on to the game itself!” Alright, alright, calm down. For many of us, Super Mario 64 was one of the very first games we ever played. What comes to mind when you think about this game? A huge open world? An epic quest to save the princess and obtain “cake”? Paintings are apparently cool? All of those are good, and correct, answers. More than just all of gaming, SM64 set the standard for many of the games to be released for the Nintendo 64. To the surprise of many, our story begins with Mario paying a visit to Princess Peach. Peach told Mario that she had baked him a “cake”, which I still think means more than they're letting on, but whatever. Mario arrives at her castle to discover that Peach has, once again, been captured by Bowser. In addition to taking away Mario's cake, you find out that Bowser has stolen 120 power stars, and is using them to imprison Peach, her servants, and keeping most of the castle on lock down. So, Mario sets off to regain the 120 power stars, and save the castle from certain doom, I guess.

SM64 uses a hub world as the means for the player to travel from level to level. Each level is found within a painting, in which you jump into to play the level. Each level features several variations with one star available for each of the different challenges provided. To progress through the game, you must obtain the aforementioned power stars to unlock doors to other parts of the castle, and each door requires a certain amount of stars to unlock. In addition to gathering stars in each level, there are hidden portions in the castle that contain secret stars for you to collect. The hidden levels feature their own unique challenges to overcome, instead of recycling the exact thing each time. Speaking of uniqueness, each of the levels is exactly that: unique. All of the levels have their own memorable themes, from lava, to a world with both huge and small environments. Within those levels there are tons of memorable characters. From your first encounter with King Bo-bomb, to smiling with joy as you heard “So long, eh Bowser” when throwing that rotten turtle creature into a bomb and watching him fly through the air. And of course, we can't forget the game's 3 power-ups: the wing, vanish, and metal caps. Allowing you to fly through levels and obstacles, become intangible, and attend an Iron Maiden concert respectively. Well, not so much the last one, since it makes you temporarily invincible and sink in water. Close enough, though. With many puzzles being designed around these power-ups, not a single one goes to waste, and you truly learn to appreciate them.

There's really nothing else I can say that hasn't been said about this game. I guess I can try, though. Uh, Super Mario 64 is like toast, and like toast, this warm slice of gaming goodness is a healthy part of your gaming pleasure. There, don't think that's been said about it. In all seriousness, this really is a great game that showed the world that gaming isn't just a novelty, but an art form in its own right. Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading.
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Cosmic Owl
Am bird who love to hoot.


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