Here’s a little known fact about my younger days: I went through a bit of a rocky patch in my gaming ability around the same time that Nintendo 64 was released, which inevitably unleashed 3D gaming upon a poor, 2D-centric world. At the time when Mario 64 was released, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I had chased Dr. Robotnic out of town with Sonic and Tails, and Elrood and I were taking the fight to some jerkface aliens in Contra Hard Corps. But, the moment Mario sprung that third dimension on me without warning, it felt like any ability I might once have had was suddenly and horribly leeched out of me by some cartoony aliens who… you know what? No. I’m not going to make a Space Jam reference. You’re welcome.
Mario 64 is one of my first failures as a gamer. I was bad at it. I was so incredibly bad at it. So when Nintendo re-released it for DS as the creatively named Super Mario DS, I picked it up. Because apparently it wasn’t embarrassing enough the first time.
There wasn’t a whole lot of plot in Mario 64, which holds pretty true in the remake. The original game had Mario arriving at Princess Peach’s castle (this may have been the first time she had been referred to as Peach. I’m not sure how peaches fit into a trippy world filled with dino-turtles and mushroom men, but WHATEVER, Nintendo) just in time for a party. Or maybe it was cake? Don’t remember. It doesn’t matter because Mario finds the castle empty, as Bowser had absconded with the princess yet again.
Of course, for whatever reason, Bowser decided not to leave the castle? He instead chose just to chill in some random painting and wait for Mario to gather enough power stars from OTHER paintings in order to throw down with him. Yeah, the game didn’t make a whole lotta sense.
I was bad at this game. Three dimensions were not a thing I was prepared to deal with, and as such even the tiniest of jumps were a friggin’ production for me to make. Elrood, loyal, supportive Elrood, would help me out in these rough days by making me fight Bowser over and over, or the damn gigantic bomb bully on the lava level, knowing FULL WELL that I was physically incapable of defeating either of these two jerks. The space that should have been filled with advice on how to proceed was instead filled with his cruel laughter, which would cease only when he would venture out of the room to secure another soul for his dark and satanic rituals.
No Elrood I’m not bitter about this at all! That was years ago! That would be CRAZY. HA HA HA HA.
Aaanyway, childhood trauma aside, lets move to the more recent. Super Mario DS has the same basic plot, except this time Mario was accompanied by Luigi and Wario to the party! (I thought Wario hated Mario, but whatever. I guess they do race go-carts against each other and play baseball and stuff so maybe they’re bros after all.) The three of them enter Peach’s castle and promptly vanish.
Meanwhile, YOSHI is on the roof! Yes, don’t question it! Nothing weird here, just a sweet ridable and egg-pooping dinosaur chillin’ on the roof of a castle! Yoshi decides something is up, and ventures off into the castle to rescue some Mario brothers and possibly save the day.
Within the first ten seconds of game play I realized the problem. I am still terrible at Mario 64. Even after all this time. Simple jumps are horrible, complex jumps impossible. Even Yoshi’s egg throwing and constipation floaty jump noise aside, I was getting the floor wiped with me. I guess some things never change. I’m not as bad at the game as I was at, say, Turok, but it was still pretty awful.
The levels are exactly the same from each game, but you need to use a bit more strategy this time around. Only Mario can jump off walls, while Yoshi can chuck eggs. Wario essentially fills the role of metal Mario this time around, while Luigi can become ghosty and transparent. Mario still gets to do the flying, though.
But here’s where it gets weird. Rescuing each character is not needed to progress. You can run right by the custom levels to rescue the fat Italian plumber of your choice if you’re not paying attention. But, in the right conditions, Yoshi can do all of these things by finding the correct colored hat in the level.
So, by finding a yellow hat he BECOMES Wario. He is a dinosaur hiding inside of a fat man, who also looks like a child molester. As with all Mario games, it really helps to not put too much thought into them.
But the more I played, the more I began to question WHY I am so bad at it. The controls are all wonked out. The game obviously wants you to use the stylus for movement, but as a right hander, every time I wanted to go left, I’d completely block the screen. If the stylus is too close toy your character, they’ll walk slowly or shuffle like ninnies.
I eventually changed the controls to use the D-pad, but this was a game that was designed with an analogue stick in mind. Accuracy is an issue. More so for me, since I am awful at this game, but you get the idea.
Another addition includes a series of mini games. This time around, Peach’s castle is FILLED with annoying squeaky rabbits for some fucking reason. Catching these rabbits will give you keys that will unlock little one shot pointless mini games that don’t really help you out at all. Its like they just shoved the overflow of Mario Party games into Super Mario DS and called it a day.
I actually made it past the first encounter with Bowser, which is an enormous deal for me, but didn’t make it much further. The basement of that castle, man… I still find it intimidating, even after all these years.
Also, fun fact: Dinosaurs are not fat enough to kill ghosts. I just thought you’d like to know that, just in case you stop thinking about how weird Mario games are.