Posts Tagged ‘1996’

Game 27: Mario Kart 64

Posted: February 8, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 305/1001 according to the list

Genre: Racing
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

As we know, Mario loves his racing, and he loves racing with his friends. After doing so for the first time on the SNES, he returns on the Nintendo 64 with full 3D tracks, more options and paths, different weapons, more variety, and detours that you didn’t think of before. It’s prettier, nicer, faster, better, more interesting. Right?

Our Playthrough

We did single player, we did multiplayer. Kat joined in for a bit to try three player gaming. In other words, we tried to see all there is to see – at easy and hard difficulty. With and without falling in random lakes, holes and other deep places.

Our Thoughts

This game explains why it’s important to have some sense of reliable, realistic physics even in a fantasy-based game. Only you could fall through the top of a wall (or find out such a physics glitch exists). It happens. Apparently, with the Bowser’s Castle barriers, only the sides are solid – you fall through the top. Then again it did annoy me no end that a carpet, dirt track and wooden bridge all have the same physics befitting polished marble. Yeah, and banana peels only make you slip ten seconds after you’ve raced past them. Don’t forget the snowmen filled with nitro glycerine. Ledges you can fall off from a few metres away. And the moment you even graze certain sections you tumble into a lake…

It looks nicer than the SNES game, there’s some improvement, but it just feels off at times, which makes the game a lot harder. It is true that with the later editions in the series like Mario Kart Wii and Double Dash we have become spoilt. Bear in mind this was the franchise’s first foray into 3D. True, and you can’t make the physics too complicated on the relatively limited hardware. So considering what they had to deal with… they did a lot with it, but you could find better physics on F-Zero X. Absolutely. It just gets frustrating to play at times,  an effect that increases exponentially as you get into the harder courses.  It matters little on the simple racing tracks, but when you reach places like the aforementioned Bowser’s Castle, it’s hard.

Then there is the total nightmare that is Yoshi Valley. Don’t even start.  I finished dead last, by a large margin. It was a good experiment in track construction. The idea of multiple pathways through it could have actually been a real boon of a track. In reality though, it didn’t turn our that great and is in fact an almighty mess that is a chore to play. The lack of barriers only makes it harder, as half the time, trying to pick a route means you just fall in between without any way of getting out. The extra bombs strewn about the place in Versus Mode doesn’t help much either.

Interesting note: if 3-4 players are playing at the same time it is unable to play the music so the only soundtrack is breathing and the occasional curse word. The latter is quite frequent and I’m sure with a nice beat, it could lead to a song that’ll top the charts. It looks nice, there’s nice ideas about multiple tracks, different routes, with areas of the track that are there to explore without it leading you anywhere, but as a whole, the game feels unpolished. Due to the limitations, it’s not as good as the later games, and that gets annoying. It’s a work in progress, and interesting in that sense.

Now for something completely different: positives. Sound, when it’s there, is good. The voicing makes it more alive. The sound effects are good. It’s nice. Although I did get a little bit tired of hearing Mario cheer every time he managed to overtake me. Because he’s better? Just because he was incredibly vocal about it. The music, as always, is really good too. This makes it more of a shame when it gets taken away in multiplayer.

Another good thing is the atmosphere of the track and how it impacts your races. One interesting example is the train in Kalimari Desert. One or two of them drive around on a track, and if you’re unlucky, they’ll pass just as you have to cross the railway. Then there are the penguins in Sherbert land which look adorable. The cuteness factor is multiplied threefold when you hit them and they make a little squeaky noise. Something we both loved to try out, of course. It was intentional when we did so. Which sort of leads us onto the graphics. The Mario style has always been beautifully rendered in the games and this is no exception. Yeah. The environments are beautiful and the creatures, where appropriate, cute. And the touches they’ve put in, both in the characters and on the outside, can be amazing. (who is also present in the Wii remake of the track) (Yeah.  Which is slightly more playable, as we discussed before.)
This may read a little bit one-sided in terms of thoughts but this really is a good racing game. It does strike a good balance between challenging and fun. It has a charming personality too. It just that the good sides of the game are all of the generic kind – looks good, sounds good – while there’s some specific issues with the downside of the game. It’s charming, it’s fun, but sometimes you need to be careful to avoid the tracks and areas where the game doesn’t work as well.

Final Thoughts

I would like to personally apologise for all the Mario games in the first 27 games, we’re going to steer clear of him for a while after this game. Then again there will be a lot of Final Fantasy and Zelda titles soon, just a fyi.

In terms of this game I do believe that we have been very harsh when judging Mario Kart 64 as we have done so in a more modern context. It is good, but there are a lot of racing games out there better than this one especially the Mario Kart games that followed this one.


Game 26: Super Mario 64

Posted: February 5, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 326/1001 according to the list

Genre: Platform
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Heads. I won. It’s time for a little bit of Super Mario 64. Yeah, and I don’t mind. The first real Mario 3D game. The game that moved it from a 2D platformer to a 3D action platformer that’s far more mission based and less linear. It also features far less mushrooms, so it’s a bit less interesting by default.

The Princess baked Mario a cake. Bowser was also hungry, and so he captured her and hid the stars you need to get to him to free the Princess in a number of paintings, inhabited by both the familiar old cast of friends of enemies and a number of new ones.

Our Playthrough

We had the fortune of being able to play a game with all 120 stars found on it (thanks Kat or one of Kat’s brothers), meaning that we had a chance to explore the castle and try out most of the levels and a couple of different missions.

Our Thoughts

I want cake, I wonder what sort of cake the Princess made for Mario. Why does Princess Peach bake cakes anyway? Doesn’t she have Toads to do that for her? It’s clearly more important than ruling a full Kingdom and that’s a proper kingdom, not just a figurehead position. Even though there’s no king we see either. In that way it appears to be more of a principality… like Monaco without the Formula 1. The Mario Kart series? Touché.

It’s a big country anyways. With its tennis courts, kart racing venues and whatever other sports facilities Peach builds in order to scratch that uncontrollable itch of hers to lose weight. Too much cake I venture.

And different lands in several different versions of the RPGs as well, in which she’s as often the damsel in distress as part-time hero. Still, this game keeps the world far more contained, by only taking place in Peach’s Castle and its environment even though there’s no way to get in or out of it except for one pipe that disappears immediately. Apart from the magical portraits; I do love the ripple effect as you jump through them. Are they portals to another worlds, or do you just jump into the painting?

It looks nice, yeah. It all looks nice to be honest. One amazing thing is that this is 15 years old and yet it does not look it quite yet. Maybe it helps that the graphics stayed the same in the DS port. You can tell there’s less polygons, it’s all not as complex as it could be and the environments are quite sparse – you can tell the difference between it and, say, Super Mario Galaxy 2 – but yeah, the graphics work great on the DS’s smaller screens.

Yes, there is definitely a difference I grant you but as a game it really has not aged too badly, especially when you compare it to the likes of Lylat Wars or Dune II. The bright and cartoony looks help a lot with that. True, but you have to admit that a lot of the things this game pioneered already feel very well perfected – the camera system especially.

The camera system bugged me at times. While you can set it yourself and make it better that way, it’s not yet smart enough to always do it automatically. I loved it when you saw the cameraman in the mirror. That’s a cute detail – there’s a Lakitu following your every move. It rarely shows – this and the introduction explanation of the camera are two of the few times – but it makes it a bit more… well, Mario. It does take a while to learn how to control it but once you do it’s actually really well done – even if the C-Buttons on the N64 controller do not feel that natural to use to move the camera. Yeah, you can tell it needed work, but once it works, it works well.

Same with the open world feel of each of the courses. It’s so much better in the Galaxy games, but it works very well here. It feels pretty open, but again, on having to develop it, the boundaries feel artificial at times. One of them is during the giant world, where the water just stops. There’s no real indication of where or why, you just can’t swim any further and the water is darker (similar in a way to Super Mario Sunshine.) I never understood why all the courses appears to be floating… that’s Mario’s world. From the start, there have been endless pits in the levels. Very true.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I am deeply in love with the first Super Mario Galaxy I would happily say that this is the best of the Mario platformers that I’ve played. It’s just so iconic. Some things are done better by other games, and the Mario games have evolved, but this is a good, basic game, missions, open world, 3D… it all works together well here. And there’s a lost penguin! Which you threw away! It throws itself away every time you get hit, jump wrong, or anything like that. I didn’t want to throw it. Likely story.

Final Thoughts

Have we peaked too early? This is widely regarded as one of the best games ever released (if not the best platformer) and we are only 26 games in. Super Mario 64 really is a great game and I would suggest that anyone who is yet to play this to try the DS port. It’s a very good substitute for the N64 version.

Game 2: Super Mario RPG

Posted: November 25, 2010 by Jeroen in Games
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Game 321/1001 according to the list

Genre: Role-Playing Game
Platform: Super Nintendo
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Bowser has caught the princess again. Mario goes out to save her. Having wisened up, he lives right next door to Bowser’s castle, so runs straight there to rescue. Just as he does, though, a giant sword falls from the sky into the castle, and sends Mario, Bowser and the Princess away. The Smithy gang is invading the world and Mario has to stop them.

It’s Mario in his first RPG adventure. It’s colourful, it’s funny, it’s memorable, and it features a marshmallowy character who thinks he’s a tadpole (even though he is clearly a Japanese anime chicken). How could that make sense?

(We’d normally start the series from the start, but Mario has enough games that we can break it up by the game types.  It saves some time and means we can start with a very pleasant and fun game)

Our playthrough

I’ll be honest – I’ve played this game before and really liked it. It’s a colourful, fun game, not so difficult it can’t be beaten, but quite tough as you get into it. However, I’ve let Peter take the lead so he can experience it, while I offer advice and play some parts just for fun. The first night went up to the point where your next party member joins you, and it seems to have gotten Peter hooked already.

Our Thoughts

I’d best start this off, as this was my first pick.

Super Mario RPG. Colourful, fun, using familiar characters, but with a distinct gameplay that really set up a lot of future games and some pretty decent battle music that becomes endearing rather than annoying over prolonged exposure. Yeah, absolutely.

It certainly got stuck in my head. The graphics are more clearly dated, but with this being a SNES game around the time the N64 came out (the last Mario SNES game if i’m not mistaken) that makes sense. Possibly one of the reasons why originally, this game never made it to Europe.

Considering this is 1996 the graphics would have been dated even for then. Possibly more on par. But yeah, using 3D models as sprites just doesn’t always work. It worked in the original Tomb Raider though. Both released in the same year and yet it’s graphics ran rings around Mario RPG I don’t understand why they did not wait another year so it could be a launch title on the N64.

It’s a different platform though – Super Mario RPG was for the aging SNES, while Tomb Raider wouldn’t run on PCs from the time the SNES launched. Probably speed of development – had they waited another year, a lot would need to be redone to make it work.

In Japan they were released 3 months apart, bit of a false economy if you ask me as it would have made for a supreme launch title. That’s true, although it’s worth remember that this might’ve meant that the game wouldn’t have been made – this is the last Square game for a Nintendo system for quite a while, things were probably already strained.

It’s also a bit obvious to me that this is a 3rd party development deal. The sense of humour is slightly different and the gameplay is a bit simpler (more traditional maybe?) compared to what was then a typical Nintendo game. That’s true. The Final Fantasy influences are there especially in the way that the battles and menus are arranged (and the lengthy cut-scenes) and the ambiguity of whether something is a frog, a cloud or an anime chicken (In-game, a cloud. I won’t spoil it, but there’s some neat sequences related to Mallow).

Still, I say it’s a great game, well worth playing for anyone who loves Mario or RPGs. A great game in both ways. However, if you are like me and see RPGs as the likes of Fallout 3 you will be slightly knocked by the stopping and starting concerned with the battle sequences. This is a highly traditional RPG in that sense and to be a serious gamer you really need to sample one like this at some point. The Mario RPG seems like a good introduction.

In style, absolutely. And if you’re like me, the turn-based nature means it can be easy playing as you get easily distracted. Plus, there’s plenty of secrets to discover.

But if you like gaming for the adrenaline rush of being under fire or nearly dying at the hands of some robot it could be a bit of a turn-off… then again so would Tetris.

Yes. If you’re curious – the game is on the Wii Virtual Console now, so nothing is stopping you from playing it (if you have a Wii)!

Final Thoughts

It’s funny, it’s a good story, it’s challenging, it’s Mario, it’s an RPG. It’s not a game if you prefer action-packed non-stop violence, nor is it for you if you want the latest and best graphics, but if you want to get into a Mario game that’s more than “Bowser captures the Princess, Mario gets her back by jumping around the world and making sure he doesn’t fall into endless holes.”, this is the best to start of with. Not to worry though – sequels are coming, other Mario RPGs with more action and/or better graphics. More on those before we’ve gone through all 1001!