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Mario 64 Was Released Years Ago


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- Saying Mario 64 was great why can't everyone 'do' good platformers now is a bit like saying 'chinatown' was great why can't everyone 'do' good neo-noir thrillers. The X factor, the artistry inherent in a great control scheme and cohesive 3D world - these aren't mathmatical equations manifest with set constants, nor shopping lists of ingredients thrown in a pot. The beauty of great games, great films, great anything, is the intangible, indefinable, special unseen quality that can't be replicated but looks oh so easily done.

Yes, I think that's true.

But it must be easier to learn from an obviously great game, and reproduce some of that, than it is to learn from, say, an obviously great novel, and reproduce that.

Certain mechanical gameplay features - control mechanisms, physics - game design decisions - the characteristics of level design, or more simple things like the way you progress through the game - all these can be itemised and replicated, can they not?

Or do they just give the illusion of that, and that's why it's so frustrating when games fail to live up to what's gone before?

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The X factor, the artistry inherent in a great control scheme and cohesive 3D world - these aren't mathmatical equations manifest with set constants, nor shopping lists of ingredients thrown in a pot.

Y'see, I'm not so sure about this. It's nice to think of good games as being more than the sum of their parts - but in some cases this is a romantic notion.

There's not really an 'intangible magic' about Mario64 - the amazement factor came from the period it came out in, and seeing and playing in familar environments in a completely new way. I could wax lyrical about what is so fantastic about the game, but I'd be able to nail *exactly* what it was - not some fluffy, indescribable emotion that it evoked, but actual *mechanics*. It's actually quite scientific for me.

The point is (and going back to the original point of the thread) it's not something that once it came out it couldn't have been 'built upon'.

Sadly, nobody seems to have taken the Mario64 ball and run with it, which saddens me no end. Even Nintendo themselves didn't seem to understand what made it so great. As mentioned before, every developer afterward seemed to follow the 'Banjo' route and turn platformers into adventures full of minigames in the belief that that was more interesting than jumping from platform to platform - and it's *that* template that has stuck.

POP came close, but it's DNA lays more with Tony Hawk than it does with Mario. I'd probably say that 'Vexx' came the closest - still way behind of course, but it's the most 'Mario' I've felt since the N64's classic (and I've actually played Vexx beyond the crappy overworld demo that everyone else who touched it for 4 minutes before writing it off starts having a go at me).

Sadly, I'm pretty sure we won't see a Mario64 again. Even though the coin collecting mentality of platformers seems to be fading, it's only been replaced by sodding combat .

I'd hate to be one of those bitter twits who moans about the passing of a genre, but I do feel that 3D platforming never got it's proper day in the sun, and there was a stack of potential to be unleashed from the genre. Unfortunately, it peaked on it's very first outing and that's got to be a first in the videogame world where genres develop and improve over time.

Here endeth the lesson.

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Uncleclive's post

I was just flicking back through your website, looking for your Mario Sunshine review, and it was making me lol all over again. Superb stuff, almost every single article...

Anyway, the link to your Sunshine review was down.

But, I think you're right. It's both frustrating and sad, and legitimately so, that there has been little or nothing (with the exception of Mario Sunshine, I would say) that has equalled, or at least learnt the lessons of, Mario 64.

To me it's pretty simple: get the controls right, then build the game round that. But it probably seems simple to me because I know absolutely nothing about game development...

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Y'know, I'm really kind of hoping that the Revolution gives me the Mario64 remix that I've been waiting patiently for 7 years for.

If Ninty don't do something like that it'll be a bit of a missed opportunity. What better way to get punters to purchase it again than to wack some new levels onto it and give us an 'Ura Mario64'?

If they keep it exactly the same, I'll just dig out the N64 for my fix and play it as nature intended.

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There's not really an 'intangible magic' about Mario64 - the amazement factor came from the period it came out in, and seeing and playing in familar environments in a completely new way.

This 'of it's time' noton is true in that Mario 64 was pioneering in 1996 and therefore amazing. It is not true in that Mario 64 has aged so well a slightly remixed version is selling new nintendo hardware in 2005.

Attributing the wonder of Mario 64 to 'back then' is manifestly wrong by the DS launch software.

I could wax lyrical about what is so fantastic about the game, but I'd be able to nail *exactly* what it was - not some fluffy, indescribable emotion that it evoked, but actual *mechanics*. It's actually quite scientific for me.
Even Nintendo themselves didn't seem to understand what made it so great.

You see this is the thing. Running about saying you know exactly what made it great but everyone else, including the creators, and numerous huge million pound budget generating teams don't is just plain ignorance.

It's like these people that analyse Hollywood scripts like Die Hard and then can't understand why so many action films, even involving the same teams (The fugitive vs. US Marshalls), have such poor scripts.

They say to themselves "this script writing lark is a piece of piss why is everyone else so lame?" and start to use actual *mechanics* - divide it into 'acts', and summerise the 'roles' of each characters or what page 'dramatic devices' are used to push the story. Then with that template they go off and write some utter drivel that is utterly moronic and can't understand what they missed.

Sometimes it's easy to look from the outside and just claim superiority, but trust me, Mario 64 didn't exactly sell poorly, and if WAS that easy to clone it, plenty plenty people would have done it already.

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You see this is the thing. Running about saying you know exactly what made it great but everyone else, including the creators, and numerous huge million pound budget generating teams don't is just plain ignorance.

Because people with huge teams and million pound budgets always create great games dont they?....

But yeah, I do know what made Mario64 great - the chaining of multiple jump techniques, character inertia and platform laden structures to traverse or climb - things that were missing from subsequent games and which suffered as a result. Nobody tried to copy Mario64 as such, other than the viewpoint and a token nod toward jumping around.

It's like these people that analyse Hollywood scripts like Die Hard and then can't understand why so many action films, even involving the same teams (The fugitive vs. US Marshalls), have such poor scripts.

The sooner we realise that games aren't films, or should be compared to them the better. Games are about human interaction, we don't passively observe them. Therefore decent control systems *ARE* tangible factors that can be 'right' or 'wrong' (to a certain extent, I'll admit), level design less so, but at least teams can 'rejig' them until they become interesting to play. A film's *story* is what a film may live or die by, and directors don't always have control over an actors performance.

Sometimes it's easy to look from the outside and just claim superiority, but trust me, Mario 64 didn't exactly sell poorly, and if WAS that easy to clone it, plenty plenty people would have done it already.

I think my point was that they seem to be cloning the *wrong* game, and because they've been pretty successful (financially) by doing so, they've decided not to rock the boat by following a different path. That's what I believe anyway.

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I am not saying films are like games. I was using film scripts as an example of how people wrongly assume that a good product can be aped simply by copying some undelining mechanincs running the thing. ie. copy the control layout of mario 64, the hub structure, the numer of jumps etc. and then just fill the gaps and you will have a brilliant game.

I take your point that with cheap item collection people are copying the *wrong* mechanic. Where I don't agree is that these people have made a conscious choice to go along this *wrong* path and it's just as easy to go the *right* way - as your frustration suggests.

Bland item collection is one symptom of many of a desperate plastering over the cracks when you have all the ingredients but the cake comes out flat. It shows an attempt to fill those 'me-too' efforts in exactly the areas where your argument fails - Mario 64 sublime *use* of those jumps, the novel *ideas* and *characters* filling that hub world, and how the world allows you to *ease* into the control layout.

Many games have had features that have worked brilliantly elsewhere, like triple jump backflips, but then later on have had them pulled because they just do not find use for them well enough in the gameworld and they are mere relic of some wishful copying.

I'm paying thief 3 at the mo. It's great but poorly uses ideas that feel lifted from somewhere else. This neato move involves thowing oil on the floor then seting fire to it with a fire arrow. On paper it's a great mechanism. Perhaps some game somewhere used it really well and Ion storm decided to thief it. I say this because I'm pretty near the end and I've not had to use it even once. Not one novel scenario to warrant its use.

Having all the ingredients does not always make a good cake.

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I always look forward to hearing what Venice Cull has to say about Mario 64. In other news, using food ingrediants as an analogy to video games is alw.ays a winner, but soon to be cliched. I like comparing them to cars these days.

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That's all very true, I think.

If you compare Mario Sunshine to Mario 64 (I don't know what other 3D platformer really can be compared to it...), it's amazing how little weight Mario in Mario Sunshine has compared to Mario in Mario 64. Mario 64 Mario is much more slow-moving and graceful. Perhaps Mario Sunshine loses just a touch of the joy here, but I guess these decisions are made partly on the level design too, and Mario in Mario Sunshine feels very much at home in the Mario Sunshine levels.

...

Okay, now someone else try and say 'Mario' more times in one grammatically logical paragraph than I just did...

"When one chooses to write out 'mario' twenty five times, some people may consider it a waste of time. I however, think that the sight of a post that reads 'mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario mario' is a beautiful one, and it fills my heart with joy.

Oh, and mario 64 rox, SMS sux, etc

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Y'see, I'm not so sure about this. It's nice to think of good games as being more than the sum of their parts - but in some cases this is a romantic notion.

There's not really an 'intangible magic' about Mario64 - the amazement factor came from the period it came out in, and seeing and playing in familar environments in a completely new way. I could wax lyrical about what is so fantastic about the game, but I'd be able to nail *exactly* what it was - not some fluffy, indescribable emotion that it evoked, but actual *mechanics*. It's actually quite scientific for me.

The point is (and going back to the original point of the thread) it's not something that once it came out it couldn't have been 'built upon'.

Sadly, nobody seems to have taken the Mario64 ball and run with it, which saddens me no end. Even Nintendo themselves didn't seem to understand what made it so great. As mentioned before, every developer afterward seemed to follow the 'Banjo' route and turn platformers into adventures full of minigames in the belief that that was more interesting than jumping from platform to platform - and it's *that* template that has stuck.

POP came close, but it's DNA lays more with Tony Hawk than it does with Mario. I'd probably say that 'Vexx' came the closest - still way behind of course, but it's the most 'Mario' I've felt since the N64's classic (and I've actually played Vexx beyond the crappy overworld demo that everyone else who touched it for 4 minutes before writing it off starts having a go at me).

Sadly, I'm pretty sure we won't see a Mario64 again. Even though the coin collecting mentality of platformers seems to be fading, it's only been replaced by sodding combat .

I'd hate to be one of those bitter twits who moans about the passing of a genre, but I do feel that 3D platforming never got it's proper day in the sun, and there was a stack of potential to be unleashed from the genre. Unfortunately, it peaked on it's very first outing and that's got to be a first in the videogame world where genres develop and improve over time.

Here endeth the lesson.

YES!

Especially with regards to the Tony Hawks series, I was thinking which game has the same design with regards to enjoying the level for the sake of enjoying it, and it would have to be Tony Hawks.

I think what has, certanly helped, is the use of the word 'platformer' for any game which doesn't fit into a conventional genre. Games like Banjo Kazooie and Psychonauts are adventures, with some sections where you have to jump. Most of them you'll spend running from point a to b and collecting and using items.

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Now, in a void level, if you fuck a jump up, you die.  That's cool, because you've got 3-4 lives.

Hrmm.

So, unless you're a complete ninja at jumping, you're going to be repeating a LOT of void levels.  Which means you're going to be repeating the finding of a lot of void levels.

The 3d Mario games are both viewed by many here with rose-tinted glasses.  Yes, they're good games-  but they're made artificially harder by specifically making sections hard to complete.

They could fix this with a checkpoint system, aka the Halo games.  That's the perfect thing to do IMHO - Halo's an ace game even in Legendary, thanks to those checkpoints..

In pretty much every void level there is an extra life about 2 platforms in, you only game over if your really terrible at the game. And where would the challenge be if you had access to the jetpack? However I do agree the walking to the void level bit is annoying but the fact they are full of extra lives makes it less of a problem.

Checkpoints are too hand holdy, anyone can complete a game where if the last 10 seconds or so went wrong then you can try it again.

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  • 3 months later...
And Banjo Kazooie?

It's shit. 

It's shit because Banjo lacks the elegance of control that Mario has.  It's shit because the levels are overly large and barren.  It's shit because it's too easy.  It's shit because Rare KNOW it's too easy and have chosen to pad the game out with challenges that try your patience rather than your skill.  It's shit because the characters are charmless and bland.  It's shit because nothing ever 'feels' quite right - too heavy, too light, too floaty, too sticky.  It's shit because everything that the game can boast about was done a hundred times better by Mario 64.  It's shit because I played it to the finish and realised that for all the fun that I had had with it, it was ruined by all of the flaws I've listed above - in particular the level-scouring challenges that harmed Super Mario Sunshine in a similar manner.

Happy now?

No, I'm not. I'm beginning to re-think my EDGE Top Ten games. I used to love Banjo Kazooie before I read your post, but I now the thought of playing with that plump bear and annoying bird gives me pains in my stomach*

* Nah (obviously...). For pure platforming, nay, for platforming full stop, Super Mario 64 is unrivalled. But the reason I loved Banjo Kazooie so much was because it had so much character. I do think it has a unique art design. SM64 had too many levels, of which half were empty and lacking in quality. The first four levels are ace, the rest are rushed and borrow heavily from the earlier set. Every level in Banjo was different. SM64 is the better 'platformer', but it's soul-less. Compare the haunted mansion in SM64 to the one in BK. One has you copying the piano keys of a gloved hand, the other has you.... *thinks* running around getting lost.

I played BK when I was young and liked pretty bright colours. I didn't appreciate great design, I just liked games that were neat and compact. 7 succinct brilliant levels, not 30 so-so levels that have one great mission in 40 rubbish ones.

But I haven't played them both for a long time. Another example: fly high in SM64 and collect coins above a rather basic level or fly high in BK above (and around) a christmas tree.

And then there's the ability to change into different animals. It was underused and usually only served for the player to complete set objectives, but back then, when you're young and you're able to change into animals, it's exciting. I was put off by SM64's loose structure and too many levels of which few are actually any good.

I remember enjoying BK more than SM64. SM64 is the better platformer and the better game, but BK has far more personality which just appealed to me. Yeah, the style was a good veil to hide the lack of real substance, if you want.

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Compare the haunted mansion in SM64 to the one in BK. One has you copying the piano keys of a gloved hand, the other has you.... *thinks* running around getting lost.

Well the entire post filled me with shock, but this! Banjo Kazooie had characters, but no charm. Tasks, but no structure. A level, but the reason you travelled around it was because of where you were heading, not because of how you got there. Compare that to the haunted house level. Not the missions, but the fact you could jump to the second floor without the stairs and it was fun. That a mission to simply wall jump into a secret room was more enjoyable than all of BK's fancy 'write your name with a glass' mission. That after the final big boo the game makes you jump to the top of the house something you can't think of doing the first time you visit that level, but which you can and feel surprisngly acrobatic whilst doing so. The respective haunted house levels are a perfect example of my first post.

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Seriously though has super mario world been bettered? Has Streets of rage 2 been bettered? Doesn't it just show the quality of a title.

First off yes, SOR2 in my eyes was bettered by Guardian Heroes.

However, going back to M64, it's a tricky issue. I was put off the DS one though, just by turning it on and seeing I was playing as Yoshi. Yeah I'm fickle.

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o/\o

Some people won't adapt to anything, eh?

I can't adapt whilst playing in the shop!

The D-Pad is not a patch on the N64 analogue stick. The touchscreen control method is just too much hassle. Its like, why bother? I can just take out my N64 and play it as it was intended, WITH AN ANALOGUE STICK.

I've heard the minigames are good though. Even better if they were accessible to play from the start and not hidden away in the game.

And, yeah, I can't judge a game in a store, and most probably with years of practise, I'd be able to control the game using the touchscreen. But, the point is, why should I be content with playing a game with a D-Pad that I played 7 years ago with a much superior analogue stick? Okay, I don't, no one is forcing me to buy it. Point made. The end.

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