Today I’d like to go against the grain about a particular game:

mario64

Remember that one?

I do.

In fact my mother bought it for me after I spent the rest of my savings on buying an N64 back when I was about ten.

The point being that I was a child and it was new. I wasn’t a cynical twenty-something and I hadn’t seen PS2 games before seeing this. I saw it when it was new and groundbreaking.

I still don’t get what people see in it. It got rave reviews, people loved it.

I played it and found it lonely, annoying, and empty.

Lonely may seem a silly thing to say, particularly as I was surrounded by awesome friends who I could talk about it with (Hi Michael!). Playing some games though just feels that way. I’ve not had that while playing Bioshock Infinite, even without Elizabeth, at least not most of the time. The environments are rich enough and there’s NPCs. In SM64 on the other hand the environments tended to be massive whilst few NPCs existed. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time avoided this by littering the world with characters and interesting places, so it wasn’t a limitation of the system.

If memory serves I got either 106 stars or 112 stars (of 120). I couldn’t be bothered to keep trying for the rest simply because the game was too frustrating and dull.

To serve as a contrast in Super Mario Galaxy the three of us in Fort Sanity got all of them (242). Then we looked forward to SMG2.

The thing being that SM64 promised so much but ultimately I felt it under delivered. The graphics were ugly, even then (I always remember the terrible texturing on fences in the game, for example):246932-super-mario-64-nintendo-64-screenshot-bob-omb-battlefield

The thing being that solid colours could have been used to avoid the terrible blurriness that pervaded the game. More recent texture packs put a rather fun spin on things:

p11

starcarp

They might be a bit much, I’ve not tried them out. That said they certainly give a bit more style and life to the environments.

Graphic complaints aside (and they were present even at the time) the open worlds were novel but ultimately annoying. There was no convenient navigation between areas and I really felt the joyful whimsy of the series was left out. I don’t normally care about the princess particularly but in this instance she was even less interesting than usual.

Mario Kart 64 is still an excellent game. It has some failings, of course, but it was good then and is still excellent. SM64 on the other hand was overhyped and hollow.

I don’t want to end on a negative though. The promise of SM64 was ultimately fulfilled – by Super Mario Galaxy. That game is wonderful. Much more linear, certainly, but beautiful, charming, and… fun. So much fun that I’ve paused while writing this to see if there’s going to be an SMG3.288496-super-mario-galaxy-wii-screenshot-the-game-begins-heres

Hmmm, no word.

Even the soundtrack to SMG was beautiful. As a complete product it was everything I had hoped SM64 would be and more. In ten years time running it on the Dolphin emulator with all the settings cranked to max will probably result in a game that is still gorgeous. The same cannot be said of the awkward phase of 3D where everything looked like polygonal crap.super-mario-galaxy-dolphin

So essentially this post was to say – why do people love SM64 so much? It’s dull, ugly, empty, and primitive. I saw it when I was a happy child and even under those circumstances it couldn’t hold its own.

Play Super Mario Galaxy instead. It’s actually entertaining.

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