Mario Wings to the Sky

One of the most commonly seen covers for any system is the launch title. It’s there, in your face, hyped up, and well packaged. But as soon as the next system comes out in the line, it’s as easily forgotten as the last title pushed out. The game I’m talking about is Super Mario 64, but, for trivia, the last title for the n64 released was: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3.

So, why should we bother to remember this game? I know I usually think of launch titles as fodder for a system. Of course, every single Nintendo one is usually a Mario game – and a good one at that, but more often than not, they’re just created to fill in the hole until companies can get a steady stream of games coming out for their system.

What sets Mario 64 apart from other N64 games, is how many things it set out to achieve and did well – intentionally or not. At the forefront of this list would have to be 3D. There was certainly a list of games that had already cracked into this field – even the earlier, Mario RPG (kind of), but Mario 64 did this one with aplomb. This was a balanced, fast moving, smooth 3D world with an adjustable camera angle. Clearly Nintendo sat there and thought of every possible quality they could add to make it the best experience, and they hit it on the mark.

Continuing off of the idea of 3D, is this feel of openness. This aspect caused me to hate the game when I first tried it, but I later realized how great it was that I could not only choose which stars I wanted to do whenever I wanted, but I could also accomplish them in any way I saw fit. Apart from racing tracks, there are no time limits, and no cues or arrows to force me to go in some direction. It’s kind of funny when you think about how much hullabaloo that Scribblenauts got for being this sensational new approach to gaming, when it was really Mario 64 played with words. If that sounds like a huge generalization, then hear me out.

The cool feature of Scribblenauts, was that there is no one way to solve a puzzle, and the 3D world of Mario supplied that same approach – through glitches or not. You can find speed runs and YouTube videos that take completely different paths to get through the game, either by using incredible imagination and dexterity *cough* tool-assisted dexterity *cough* or just interesting glitches. But as much as it seems ironic to say, you can always count on glitches with Nintendo, and that means that there will always be a new way to solve a level.

Take the last star in the Bomb-omb portrait for instance: I would think that I would have to keep ground pounding the post until he broke free and I could then take the star. But, if you watch Spazz’s speed-run, you will see that you can actually glitch into the fence by using a bomb-omb to knock yourself in – much faster than it would be to do it the proscribed way and watch the cut-scene.

One other feature that I will talk about briefly in closing, since I know that going on about every single feature is exhaustive, is Music. The music of Mario 64 not only was jazzy, top notch, and ambiently fitting to every level, but it also touched on a cool feature that you see off and on in video games: adaptive.

The level that comes to mind immediately in this vein of thought is Dire, Dire Docks. If you listen to the soundtrack, you’ll get the standard cut in the VG music world of intro, two repeats, and a fadeout. But when you play the game,  the music will only play certain parts from the main song depending on where you are, which always made for a fun time for me. For instance, the cool drum beat that slides in, will only appear when you go to the top of the level and jump from the sticks (to my knowledge).

Hopefully after reading this, you’ll walk away from steam for a minute, dust off the old 64 – or just take Smash Bros out of it, and toss in that good ol’ Mario game and try for 10 stars or so. Just this time, don’t do what the instructions tell you, make your own course. When I recently played I realized that for the past five years I always shortcutted the first race by using all of the teleports to do it in like 40 seconds instead of actually racing the roid-induced Koopa, and I thought to myself, why do I always do it that way? So why don’t you ask yourself the same question and map out a new way to the princess and her pretend cake.


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