A nostalgic trip like no other: Super Mario 64 HD
I’ve been what some people would call a gamer for much of my life and it’s a pastime I have retained into my mid-twenties. Most gamers I’ve talked to seem to have a game from early on in their life that just resonates with them whenever they see it. One of those games for me is Super Mario 64 released on the Nintendo 64 in 1998.
Imagine my excitement when, at 23, Nintendo announced a collection of three Mario titles released on the Switch in high definition and Super Mario was one of them. I was over the moon. I was flooded with memory upon memory, of hour upon hour spent in this game. But then a part of me thought “There’s no way this game holds up. You’re looking at it through coloured glasses”.
But I took the plunge and bought it anyway, chasing that nostalgic feeling.
And from the moment I started the game up, saw that familiar title screen and heard Mario’s iconic “Let’s a-go” when I started a new game, I knew it had me hooked once again. I was taken back to memories of my family sitting around the loungeroom, taking turns at the game life by life and level by level.
Moments later I was running and jumping through iconic stages such as Bomb-omb Battlefield and Shifting Sand Land like I had never been away. The levels were exactly how I remembered them being, very simplistic on the surface but the more you explore, the more things there are to find. Level design for this game has been praised time and time again as the first real 3D platformer and it really set the gold standard for which 3D platformers would be judged. Most 3D platformers released since have had their level designs be compared in some way to the Super Mario franchise.
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One of the things this release did well in the first place was its abundance of secrets and little tricks that could be used on each and every level. This HD port maintained these little details, meaning that everything that I had found out about over a decade ago still worked!
The gameplay hasn’t changed at all in this 20+-year-old game, but that’s not a problem. Anytime a movement with a controller hurts my hand, then it’s probably a good thing to get changed. It’s the same as the graphics, while minor details seem to have changed to make it appear smoother, it has maintained its charm by keeping the sharp edges typical of games at the time. The game has a simple control scheme that still allows for more advanced movements which means that it’s an easy pick up for beginners and hardcore gamers alike.
Story focus typically isn’t the Mario franchises strong suit and this game isn’t an exception to this train of thought. To say this games story depth is shallow would be an understatement. The whole point of the game is to complete a variety of different levels and collect coins and Stars. and that’s about it, no real story depth. Three encounters with the game’s main antagonist and very few NPC interactions mean the games story is superficial at best.
But that’s because that’s never what it was intended to be. The game was always meant to be a light-hearted romp through the world of the Mushroom Kingdom, running and jumping and puzzle-solving to your heart’s content, set to an upbeat and very simple soundtrack. And with that being the aim, Nintendo absolutely hit the mark.
Whilst everything about the game is the same or improved from the original release, I can’t help but feel that there is something missing. There’s just something almost intangibly different.
Maybe it’s just me, but I miss the awkwardly clunky controller of the N64. I miss having my hand hurt after 20 minutes of playing and having an awkward grip on the controller and I miss the way the analogue stick hurt my thumb when doing a variety of different movements.
All in all, this game stands the test of time and was well worth the purchase, even if it didn’t include the other two games that are included in this bundle. Just the chance to experience that nostalgia again was worth every dollar spent and I would gladly do so again. Whether you are have been gaming for years or are just looking to get into it, this game is a must play!