Super Mario 64 is undeniably one of the most influential games in the industry's history, so it's only natural that Nintendo would attempt to capitalise on its success with a re-release. What nobody expected at the time was for it to not only arrive on a portable console, but also feature Yoshi as the initial protagonist. Super Mario 64 DS expands upon the original N64 classic in an attempt to bring it kicking and screaming into the new century, but has this version withstood the test of time like the original?
The moment you gain control of the jolly green dino you'll be aware of how painfully slowly he moves, and that's for very good reason. Lacking an analogue stick the DS had to make do with a traditional D-Pad, which in itself offers no ability to control the speed at which you move, and so in a manner that can only be described as 'archaic' you must hold down the Y Button to run.
Granted this game was a launch title so DS technology was still very much in its infancy, and given what they had to work with Nintendo did a very good job, but having access to both the N64 and DS version of the game on the Wii U Virtual Console only highlights just how different they are in practice. Compared to the delicious, fluid, buttery smoothness of the original this DS outing feels clunky. You'll be spending almost your entire gametime holding down the run button, which in turn makes the plethora of acrobatics at you characters' disposal a lot more fiddly. Controlling the situation is by no means unbearable, but it certainly pales in comparison to its older sibling.
Thankfully this is without a doubt the biggest criticism of the game; the rest of what this title has to offer is considerably bigger & grander than the original. The addition of Yoshi, Luigi & Wario are small yet noticeable tweaks that don't change the game enough to sour the core, but just enough to give things a distinct freshness. New challenge levels that are required to unlock these characters fit perfectly with the older content but definitely elevate the experience beyond a simple remake.
Coupled with these new courses are a variety of mini games that attempt to break up the rag-tag, hectic main game with a light reprieve. Looking back it's incredible how similar some of these are to many modern games you can find on smart devices, and as such don't really have a tremendous amount of merit being on a home console. They're enjoyable enough, but it's clear that these were designed to showcase the capabilities of the DS system's touch screen technology and nothing more.
The Virtual Console enhancements such as save states don't really add much to the mix but it's nice to have the option if you're that way inclined, and the low resolution that has been apparent in all DS Virtual Console endeavours is exactly the same here. It's peculiar to be playing a game with blatantly superior graphics at a lower resolution than the original, but unless you're particularly sensitive to such things you'll get over it pretty quickly.
If you're one of the nine people left in the world who has yet to play Super Mario 64, you'll probably want to start with the original due to its vastly superior control system. If, however, you've managed to live above the confines of a single geological structure and are thus familiar with the N64 version, this remake is certainly worth considering. Whilst it doesn't stand up on the Virtual Console as well as its older compadre it's still a solid, enjoyable way to get your 3D Mario fix - just don't dive in expecting a whole new experience.