Nintendo defined an entire generation of 3D platformer video games with 1996's Nintendo 64 launch title Super Mario 64, bringing analog control sticks and camera control buttons to the game console world in a significant way. Eight years later with the launch of the portable Nintendo DS the company sought to evoke that same feeling of amazement, resulting in a release of a revamped and expanded Super Mario 64 featuring new levels, additional playable characters, new goals, over a dozen mini-games, and a multiplayer mode. This new 2004 version of the game, Super Mario 64 DS, helped launch Nintendo's latest piece of hardware with the aid of new features and a wave of nostalgia.

The original Super Mario 64 began with Mario arriving at Princess Peach's castle, only to find that the palatial home was empty thanks to another attack from Bowser, King of the Koopas. The DS version of the game opens similarly, except now Mario arrives alongside Luigi and Wario and the three of them vanish along with the other denizens of the castle. Enter Yoshi (who had been sleeping atop the castle in the original game) who is tapped to investigate the disappearances and save the day. By making Yoshi the default main character Nintendo has changed the structure of the original game; the dinosaur cannot grab enemies or destroy blocks, but he can snarf up enemies and items with his long tongue and either spit them out or make them into eggs suitable for shooting (as first seen in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island). This means that when Yoshi battles the leader of the Bob-ombs in the first level of the game, he cannot pick up the leader and toss him to the ground as Mario once did, nor can he lap up the leader with his tongue. Instead Yoshi must lick up the smaller Bob-ombs that roam the mountain and spit them back at the leader. Changes of this type are frequent in the game, making old goals that seasoned players could achieve in their sleep something new to figure out all over again.

But Yoshi can't do everything by himself. Early in the game Yoshi meets a Koopa Troopa who wants to race, but the catch is that he'll only race against Mario (who is currently missing in action). Later in the game Yoshi will have a chance to rescue the perennial plumber, but at that immediate moment the only way to meet the Troopa's challenge is for Yoshi to find Mario's classic red cap laying around somewhere in the vicinity. Once Yoshi puts it on he'll transform temporarily into Mario, taking on all the abilities and appearance of the famous hero. If Yoshi is struck by an enemy while wearing the cap it will fall off and he'll turn back into his dino-self, so extra caution must be observed while wearing one of these hats. Other goals in the game require the talents of Luigi or Wario, but fortunately their hats are scattered around as well.

And speaking of our other heroes (and anti-hero), before too long Yoshi comes across the magical paintings in which Mario, Luigi, and Wario are being held captive. These paintings contain three of the DS version's five new levels, complete with the classic "eight red coins challenge" and a boss battle. Defeat the boss to rescue the imprisoned character. Rescued characters can switch with Yoshi, allowing them to join the adventure. In order to keep things fair, Nintendo has taken all of Mario's abilities from the original Super Mario 64 and divided them up amongst the four playable characters. Mario is the only character who can perform the wall kick jump and utilize the wing cap for flight His only new ability is the power to inflate like a balloon (first seen in Super Mario World) and float into the air. Luigi can jump higher than the other characters and turn invisible. Wario packs immense strength for breaking heavy blocks, punching enemies into next Tuesday, and can become metallic, but moves slower than the other characters. Yoshi, as mentioned above, relies on his tongue and egg skills and can also breathe fire, but his ground pound skills are non-existant.

Nintendo has expanded the original game in other ways, too. Each course now contains an extra star objective to meet, something that usually involves collecting five silver stars from somewhere in the level to unlock the main gold star. Some of the easier objectives are gone altogether (the star on top of the floating island in the Bob-omb Battlefield is no more), whereas some of the harder objectives have become even more difficult (the boss battle in Shifting Sand Land in which Mario had to stand atop the four pillars to blow the roof off the pyramid has been extended; now after flying into the pyramid Mario must find the Wario cap in order to break the big block that's blocking the passage to the boss). The helpful owl from Whomp's Fortress and Klepto the Condor appear in other levels now as well. There are also two smaller mini-levels that contain a silver star challenge to find and complete. On the whole there are an additional thirty stars to find, bringing the grand total to 150 stars. The final battle with Bowser is unlockable after collecting only 80 stars, however. One of the elements that makes the new features stand out from the original game is that for years after the release of the original Super Mario 64 there have been a number of rumors circulating about supposedly hidden features that were in the game, such as Luigi being a playable character who was trapped in a painting and the existance of a 121st star. Now, in this new version of the game, Luigi is a playable character hidden in a painting and there is a 121st star (plus twenty-nine more). Part of the wonder of playing Super Mario 64 DS is actually seeing Luigi in action; it seems very odd to actually see him in the game after seeing many faked screenshots in 1997 of Luigi running through the castle. There are also a number of rabbits to catch in the castle itself - Mips the rabbit is back with a whole family of multicolored rabbits. For each rabbit our heroes can catch, a new mini-game is unlocked.

The mini-games of Super Mario 64 DS are designed to aid players in becoming accustomed to the Nintendo DS's touch screen and are divided up by character. Yoshi's games are simple point-and-choose affairs, challenging the player to choose under which moving tox box an item is located or pick the right sequence of tiles to complete a pattern. Mario's games are more action-based, such as a challenge in which players must draw trampolines under falling Marios in order to keep all the plumbers in the air. Variations on this theme include also bouncing the Marios off Fly Guys and through floating rings. Luigi's games are casino based and include poker, slot machines, and memory match challenges. Wario's games are strategy and luck based, including a simple pinball machine, a plinko board, and some interesting slingshot rounds of target practice. Each game keeps a high score record and make for an interesting diversion from the main adventure.

The last new element added to the original Super Mario 64 is a multiplayer mode. The original game lacked such an option, but now up to four players can run around four small levels - the main castle garden, Princess Peach's secret slide, the new Block Fort, and the new beachside environment - trying to collect more stars than other players in thirty seconds. Each player takes on the role of a different-colored Yoshi, although with the aid of the special caps scattered around the level players can become another character and use their skills to grab stars. Just as in the single-player adventure the top screen displays the action and the bottom screen shows the level map. This multiplayer mode requires only one Super Mario 64 DS game card, but each player will need his or her own Nintendo DS to join in on the fun.

Nintendo has provided three different control methods in Super Mario 64 DS: a standard control mode that uses only the control pad and buttons, a touch screen mode that uses the touch screen to simulate the Nintendo 64's analog control stick, and a dual hand mode that uses both the stylus and either the control pad or the buttons. Standard mode uses the control pad to move the current character at a slow walking speed, but by holding down the Y button the character will run at a faster speed. The camera is controlled via the touch screen. The touch screen mode requires the use of the Nintendo DS's thumb strap and allows players to drag a thumb across the screen; small movements make the character creep and large movements allow for full-on running. The camera is controlled by the X and Y buttons. This mode is the only mode that approximate's Super Mario 64's original controls. Dual hand mode allows players to use the stylus in either hand to move the character on the touch screen and duplicates the button functions on the control pad. This is a rather complex control system, but is beneficial for left-handed players. Note that the mini-games require only the stylus for control; no buttons or control pad are required to control the action.

Super Mario 64 DS is an excellent way to launch a system, as it reproduces the original memorable Nintendo 64 experience on-the-go and adds in some new features plus revamped visuals (Mario looks more like his Super Mario Sunshine character model than his original Super Mario 64 appearance) and added sounds (Yoshi grunts and whines as always). North America and Japan received the game in late 2004, but Europe and the rest of the world will have to wait for 2005 to explore the expanded adventure along with the Nintendo DS itself. Let's-a-go one more time.


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