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.
How is the camera controlled in this version?
I personally feel like it isn't too bad to control the speed with a run button. Especially if you grew up with more modern Mario games such as New Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario 3D World/Land, which use a run button. Also, if you are using a 3ds to play it, you can use the circle pad, which doesn't allow you to control the speed without a button, but it's certainly better than the d-pad.
@AG_Awesome It controls better. Personally, I love this version better than the original. I didn't care about the controls as I had a great time and its one of my favorites on the system!
Why is this just now being reviewed? I thought it came out forever ago, or at least in North America. Surely there's someone on the Nintendo Life staff to cover US releases, right? Or has Europe had this game for a while, too?
@Not_Soos Check the release dates on the right side of the page.
Strange, I thought it overwhelmingly improved playing this DS remake on the Wii U than the actual DS, so all the tweaks, bonuses and adjustments can be basked in and enjoyed without the control issues. For me, easily 9/10. Very worthwhile, but sure, play it after the original.
I definitely prefer this version over the original, if only for playable Yoshi. There's still no 3D Yoshi game (oh what could have been if Nintendo hadn't turned down the Croc prototype Yoshi game), so this game is all there is concerning 3D Yoshi platforming. Unless you count mountable Yoshi in SMG2.
What really annoys me about Nintendo is how they put zero effort into these releases and a title like this could be greatly improved with some minor touches .
All I wish for is for DS games to be rendered natively at 1080p. They look so inexcusably ugly on the big screen. Simply an increase in resolution would make such a world of difference as emulators have demonstrated. And would it kill them to allow Download Play and even Local Multiplayer for those with DS/3DS consoles (and in some cases, hard copies of the game)? They could simply disable save states for games that offer this kind of functionality. I don't care much for save states for DS games given the fact that modern games handle save data much better than games of old.
I bought this cause your review was taking too long anyway I'm glad I can use the control stick cause movement is an issue in this game. That said, having played Mario 64 a zillion times, its nice to have a different version
And besides, the minigames are already worth it.
Don't you have to hold the run button in Super Mario World 3D World, both being on 3DS / Wii U, despite having an analogue stick (not counting if you use Wii Remote)? If you can live with that, then that is a very minor issue.
Plus you can use the Wii Gamepad's left analogue stick, and while not true analogue movement, it is much more easier to pull off some moves (like spinning Bowser around).
I only played very little on the N64 (years after it was released I should add) so this is the only version I've ever finished in full. I didn't have any particular issue with the controls at the time of release (I probably would nowadays) and I loved having the other characters playable too. Also, the minigames were my jam. I wish they would have put some minigames into later ports in this same manner.
@sillygostly I'm pretty sure multiplayer isn't possible between a Wii U and a (3)DS. The closest you can get is data transfer and using the 3DS as an extra Wii U controller.
I'll stick to the N64 version.
My first ever DS game and I still love it very much today.
Tl;dr review 7/10 you're a hermit loser if you've not played this bad port. If you spared yourself these bad controls on the original DS, you should play it now on the WiiU so you can stop being a moron and have played this already even if the N64 version you played and loved is so much better.
Erm... @Editor, the DS touch screen was available to be used to control Yoshi on the Ds version of the game, there is nothing saying that they couldn't of made the controls better or even a graphic upgrade... These are some lazy ports...
I played the real DS version without any problems, although I kept the manual handy to remember what some of the more obscure controls were, but other than that, I didn't find the controls that bad, honestly. And with the additional characters, I never felt the need to go play the original, since I really enjoyed this one. Much better than a 7 though...maybe an 8 or 9. Probably a 9 IMO...
@Yosher Every time I play Yoshi's Woolly World, I can't help but find myself thinking what a mess I would make in my pants if they made a fully 3D version. Mario is great, but Yoshi is better
FWIW - I've never played any version of Mario 64 and this review, and the subsequent comments, still leave me terribly confused about which version to go with.
Do you realize this game is meant to be played with a thumbstrap or stylus? The d-pad is the worst control option available and only an excuse if your touchscreen is dead or unresponsive. In fact, it works flawlessly with a thumbstrap.
EU why do you get so many amazing DS Virtual Console games?? You have Spirit Tracks, Phantom Hourglass, and now this?
Come on NoA, get your heads in the game!!
While I generally prefer the more colourful style and smoother analogue control of the N64 version (vs using the touch screen nub on the DS) the one thing that is definitely better on the DS version is the camera.
On the N64 version of Mario 64 you can only move Lakitu in fixed amounts each time, often resulting in him being not quite where you'd prefer him to be while lining up a difficult jump. The DS version allows much more fine control over the camera allowing it to be placed in exactly the right place.
It's a pity Nintendo didn't map the touch screen analogue control of this version to the left analogue stick of the Wii U, it could have been awesome!
This game could do with the Zelda Windwaker treatment. And another dozen levels added, then watch the sale's figures pass the 2 million mark within a short time.
Why ooh why Nintendo don't you update the controls...
@rushiosan hand cramp! I remember playing this and prime hunters.... Definitely not for long term play lol
"Blatantly superior graphics to the original" I disagree. Its all down to the art direction and I prefer the original as opposed to the generic bug eyed toon look in DS.
On DS, Nintendo did however bring an intelligent approach to the use of polygons and textures, but you have to consider that Super Mario 64 was Nintendo Tokyo's first 3D engine, so the team had a lot to learn.
The DS remix features reduced polygon counts, worlds are more compact, the graphics feature less and lower quality effects, however Nintendo used these polygons on coins and characters, it is of no surprise that Nintendo managed to make a game with reduced polygons 'look' better on vastly inferior DS hardware. They had built up 8 years experience of working in 3D after all.
I really don't get what Nintendo was thinking with DS games for the Virtual Console. Yes, the DS library is great, but even with the GamePad, there is no great way to present DS games. You either have two screens cramped together or much farther apart than ever intended. At least other VC games can be played on just the GamePad, keeping them looking decent.
I'd prefer Nintendo focus on their N64 VC lineup. Even when they pushed the VC on the Wii, that was a weak area.
@zool It doesn't even need that. If Nintendo simply increased the rendering resolution, patched in analogue support and texture filtering into their DS emulator your probably talking one weeks work by one person, if even that.
I got this at launch with my DS and thoroughly enjoyed the new additions. Controls weren't bad with the quirky "thumb strap", which allowed for 360° control and meant the run button didn't need holding down. It was never going to be as accurate as the analogue control of the original, but itwas a good compromise.
The mini games are brilliant. They kept my mind sharp while I was up all night writing a dissertation.
If only the DS emulator ran the 3D games at a higher resolution it might not look as bad on a TV
The Wii U eShop has digital versions of Wii games, I don't get why the 3DS can't do the same with the DS. (And if you're about to say "because the 3DS is backwards compatible as DS cartridges work just fine on it", don't bother; the WiiU can play Wii games as well.) Wasn't the GBA Virtual Console enough? Does the Wii U have to hog the DS as well?
I'm ranting on this review because Super Mario 64 DS was - and is - a spectacular game I'd like to own in digital format, even though I have it in cartridge format as well; and despite Super Mario 64 was born on a home console, this remake marked the game's handheld debut and there's little to no reason to take a step backwards.
I swear, if the NX is gonna be a successor to both the 3DS and the WiiU, I'll be one of the first to get it. And then, only then I will purchase the GBA Virtual Console games.
This is the only version of Super Mario 64 that I've touched, having missed out on the N64 as a kid. I picked it up cheap at retail a couple years ago and disliked the controls; the button control scheme worked best for me, but I still found it somewhat fiddly. As I also had played New Super Mario Bros. shortly before picking that up, the minigames didn't do anything new for me either.
So in short, the DS game didn't really appeal to me, and I didn't finish it. Perhaps if I had gotten it when it was initially launched, my impressions would have been slightly different. I'm hoping to pick up its N64 cousin at some point on the VC as I feel that my impressions of the game will be better served if I play it as originally intended.
I played this game to death on the original DS and then on my DS Lite. What is really like to see is either this game with the original control scheme or an HD remake of the original SM64. Let's be real, the original doesn't hold up very well in terms of aesthetics.
I tried my best to like this game but it's just a bad remake. Also the added characters was a lame gimmick. Felt like when Sega crams characters into a Sonic game.
Aww, they didn't map the touch screen analogue movement control to the analogue sticks? A missed opportunity right there. :
I am still playing this via my 3DS and really enjoy it. For me, it gave a fresh injection of fun to an established classic. I can't remember the name of it, but the mini game where you drag black and pink bombs is still addictive!
Kinda sucks that it's got 99% less multiplayer modes...
I am one of the nine
I never got the complaints of the d-pad controls, I didn't have any problem with them. Good to see this is making it on the VC, too!
@Socar Thanks! I actually meant "what is the button layout for the camera" though. Lol. I haven't played it in years and can't remember if it was mapped to the shoulder buttons or something else.
"If, however, you've managed to live above the confines of a single geological structure..."
What a huge, roundabout way to just say, "If you havent been living under a rock..."
I love it. :V
@RadioShadow "Don't you have to hold the run button in Super Mario World 3D World, both being on 3DS / Wii U, despite having an analogue stick (not counting if you use Wii Remote)? If you can live with that, then that is a very minor issue."
Yep. And I actually did complain about that when the game came out because it's utter lunacy, but that was the golden game at the time and of course I got jumped on for daring to criticize.
But when it's a port of an old DS game, now it's suddenly okay to point out that having to hold a button to run is "archaic" and everyone's cool with it. I hate the internet sometimes. Especially because at least SM64DS had the excuse of being on a system that had only a d-pad. Every Wii U comes with a GamePad which has two built in analog sticks, and I still have to hold a button to run and still don't have full analog control? That's absolutely more archaic than SM64DS.
To top it off, SM64DS actually does have controls that let you run without holding a button. Anyone else remember how the original DS came with the strap that had a little pad on it to wrap around your thumb and touch the screen like it was an analog stick? There was a control method based around that where you touch and then slide your thumb in a direction and the character either walks or runs depending on how far you slide. I 100% the game back on the original DS by playing this way. And I highly doubt they removed this control method for the Wii U version, so presumably you can still use it.
Which makes Super Mario 3D World the only 3D Mario game that forces you to hold a button to run no matter what. But that's fine. That's not archaic. Because reasons. The internet sucks sometimes.
Why is there no mention of the touch screen control option in this review? Back in the day I mastered that control method.
@gcunit Here's a few things to question yourself.
The controls on the original DS version were so disappointing that I ended up trading the game back in after owning it for only a couple months after picking up the game upon its release. I can't believe how many people actually prefer this turd of a port over the stellar original! Holy denial, Batman!
When the added the analog stick on the DSI, and then you played this game, it was a little better being able to use the analog. Other than that, the game ran pretty good and wasn't that bad, just a little different collecting hats to play as different characters. I enjoyed it, but the N64 version was the definite best.
It's a shame they didn't tweak the graphics slightly it can be easily done on ds games it's a poor effort on Nintendo's part
I didn't actually realise you could use the gamepad analog stick on ds games!?! That's a game changer for me as playing a 3d platfomer with a d pad or touch screen controls would just feel wrong!
I'm with everyone who actually prefers the D-Pad here. Nintendo did an exceptional job fixing up the movement mechanics in this version to work well with the D-Pad, and I feel it is much more precise than the original 64 control pad (that thing wasn't very comfortable to use, honestly). Using the Wii U/Classic Controller does help a lot, but I personally prefer the DS version controls do to the almost guaranteed precision jumps.
Aside from the controls, the DS version looks better, has more characters, more power stars to collect, and a lot of mini-games to play if you're bored. Super Mario 64 DS is honestly my preferred version of one of, if not my all-time, favorite games of all time
No mention of the touch controls? That's how I played SM64DS.
@Azikira My thoughts exactly.
Having not bought a DS VC title to date, can the run button be mapped to ZL (or ZR)? Putting it on a shoulder button could really free up your thumb for some face-button action.
I find absolutely no problem with the D-Pad controls. And besides the controls, this version has minigames, better graphics, more Stars and locations, more playable characters, more bosses... there's no reason at all to get the original over this, if you ask me.
9/10 for me. I had no problems with the controls and really enjoyed the new content.
@EmmatheBest Exactly how I've always felt about it.
"blatantly superior graphics"
Honestly, I never understood the complaints about the controls. They're so simple to grasp and far more responsive than the N64 version, but that may be down to the way Mario moved. What's so "archaic" about a run button, anyway? Many games today use this system, even recent 3D Mario games.
"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."
How would I do this?
@Yosher Thanks for your thoughts on the differences. I'm a bit confused as to why the 64 version is more pleasing to the eye despite the DS characters looking better, but either way, I think I'm inclined to get the DS version cos I really do not like the 64 polygon look, so it will be more acceptable on my 3DS screen than on my TV (I hope), plus the extra characters and mini games are an obvious win. Thanks again.
@gcunit I guess it can differ from person to person, but what I mean with the N64 version looking more pleasing to the eye, is that you can't really see the pixels (that much) in the N64 version, whereas they're VERY obviously present in the DS version (even with screen smoothing). This is more because of the way the N64 and the DS handled their graphics though, and not really because of the games themselves.
If you get the DS version in physical cart-form for your (3)DS though, the pixels won't be all THAT obvious (though still very much present), so that shouldn't be as much of a problem in that case.
Whichever version you choose though, it's hard to go wrong with this classic game. Hope you have fun with it, regardless of version!
The original is far superior. Looks better and controls much better. The N64 pad was basically designed around this game, the controls were completely enmeshed with the game design. To take that subtlety of control away diminished the entire experience.
If you haven't played the original you may not know so this compromised version will be acceptable (though my advice is get the original - its one of the most significant games ever and still plays beautifully) but anybody who played the N64 version first will only find value in the DS version if they want the extra challenge of attempting to finish it with inferior controls.
The best bit about this version is the Luigi Pair-a-Gone minigame. Addictive stuff.
This game was much-improved by the thumb stylus strap. I ordered it separately for my used DS Lite years ago. It didn't give you true 360 rotation if I remember correctly (because those mechanics had been altered at a software level to suit the d-pad) but the simulated free rotation system worked much more smoothly. I do think I remember some folks feeling as if using it made those modifications and restrictions more glaringly obvious because now you had smooth thumb movements accross all compass points but characters who moved on a more limited axis. Still though, while the precision of the original N64 version was definitely downgraded, I thought the thumb stylus strap was a great improvement over the d-pad. The additions in graphics and content also made this the definitive version in those respects. Restoring analog controls and upgrading to HD could make for one heck of a rerelease.
"in a manner that can only be described as 'archaic' you must hold down the Y Button to run"
So I guess that according to Nintendo Life, Super Mario 3D World is "archaic"? Oh, wait, Nintendo Life gave that game 10/10! Not bad for an "archaic" game.
And now NA gets this game... 6 months after its PAL release. NINTENDO!!!!...
I would have bought this on the VC had it not been for the fact it's the original DS version blown up on a TV screen without the resolution being optimized. Oh well, I have the Wii VC N64 version and the original DS cart.
@mjc0961 Aren't you quite the petty whiner.
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