A True N64 Classic
This game was a release title for the N64. One of the most anticipated games of all time, the game boasted graphics ahead of its time, along with superb gameplay.
Honestly, I can say that it lives up to its name. The game features Mario, in his first 3D adventure, facing Bowser, who has trapped everyone in the castle and stolen all of the castle's star power. He has hid them in worlds behind secret paintings. Its up to Mario to take back the stars Bowser stole and free the Princess and the rest of the castle.
The game leaves you off in front of Peach's castle. After you venture in, Bowser explains what he has done, and the game gets going. Mario must find 7 stars in each of the 15 levels (6 objectives, 1 for collecting 100 coins), as well as 15 other "secret" stars (for a total of 120).
The game style is platforming, but most of the game varies in challenge and type. One level you will be racing a Koopa to the top of the mountain, and another time you will be helping a snowman find his body. Its stuff like this that make the game interesting.
Mario now has health, instead of his traditional one hit kill. Mario will take damage by getting attacked by enemies, touching them, falling from tall heights, touching lava, etc. There are also a number of one hit kills in the game such as drowning or falling in an endless pit.
One problem of the game is its lack of twists in the story. Its pretty much the same throughout the game: "Collect enough stars to rescue Princess Peach". However, the game makes up for this hugely by added sub-quests and side-stories to each individual world. Other than that, the game is very straight-forward.
Bosses and enemies, are, different. They pretty much don't stray much from "Kill Mario regardless of personal safety" theory. However, bosses vary nicely, each with different weaknesses. While enemies are mindless, it would have been nice if they put some thought into their actions.
The game is very open. If you do not feel like getting one star on a certain level, you can leave the world, go to another painting in the castle, and get stars there. This leaves a very open-ended gameplay feel to the game, because you do not have to get all of the stars to face Bowser (only about half is needed), however a reward is given to those who collect all of them. Levels are no-longer straightforward. Levels are literally massive, expansive areas, where all of the stars can be acquired. Even though you usually choose the star you are aiming for before the level starts on a select screen, this rule can, and is usually, broken.
Controls are done exceptionally well. They can be mastered fairly easy. All of Mario's moves are given from the start, so there is no backtracking to get stars you missed. The exception is the caps, which are generally gained less than a quarter length through the game. Besides that, they are not used in levels before they were discovered.
Sound is one of the best features of the game. Mario does not talk much, however this is the first time in history where he yells "Ouch!" or "Woah!" when damaged. The sound effects are nice, but pretty basic. The main feature is the brilliantly composed music, ranging from fast paced to slow and sober. They become part of the game itself.
The story line did not stray much from the typical "rescue princess peach" storyline. However, varying challenge types and sub-quests help to break the monotony.
Another annoying feature was jumping. This really got on your nerves when you had to time the jump JUST RIGHT, or else you would fall back down to restart, or worse, die.
Finally, the enemy AI is mediocre. The AI is perfect for an adventure, but you will find that the enemies are more annoying....than challenging. However, variety and numbers make up for this.
The Bottom Line
Super Mario 64 is a classic platformer, adventure game that will never die out. In my opinion, this is one of the best games ever made because it is innovative in so many ways. I think it is worth buying an N64 over, especially since they are so cheap. An updated version has recently come out for the DS, however, This will always be the game that kicked off the 3D platformer series.