Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 was one of the first video games released for the Nintendo 64 and was the console's flagship killer application. It debuted in Japan on June 23, 1996, in the U.S. on September 29, 1996 and in Europe on March 1, 1997. It was the first 3D game in the Mario series, and though it was not the first-ever 3D platformer, Super Mario 64 revolutionized and redefined the genre, much as Super Mario Bros. defined the 2D sidescrolling platformer. It has now been ported to the Nintendo DS as Super Mario 64 DS, with additional characters and enhanced gameplay.
In leaping from 2D to 3D, Super Mario 64 replaced the linear obstacle courses of traditional platform games with vast worlds in which the objective was to collect special items — in this case stars — which were awarded for exploration or successfully carrying out tasks. While doing so, it managed nonetheless to preserve the feel of earlier Mario games, including many of their game play elements and characters. It is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest games of all time.
Super Mario 64's game play is notable for accurately translating the earlier 2D Mario gameplay into a 3D world. The game was designed with the earlier Mario titles' signature jumping maneuvers, power-up blocks, level themes (such as lava, desert, and so on), enemies, and other characters in mind. Few other games are considered to have successfully brought a series of 2D games into full 3D while maintaining their signature feel, and Super Mario 64 is often counted among games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Metroid Prime, Sonic Adventure, and Final Fantasy VII as having achieved this. Super Mario 64's translation of traditional 2D platforming action into 3D was hailed as a great success, and the game itself went on to effectively drive sales of the N64 console.
Shigeru Miyamoto actually developed most of the concepts for Super Mario 64 during the era of the SNES, which may help to explain why the game exhibited the characteristics of 2D platforming so well. Miyamoto was actually considering making the game an SNES game, but was driven to develop it for the Nintendo 64 due to the earlier system's technical limitations.
As in the earlier Mario titles for the Famicom/NES and Super Famicom/SNES, Mario has to save Princess Peach Toadstool from Bowser. To do this, Mario must find power stars scattered throughout Peach's castle, of which there are 120; however, only 70 are needed to get access to the final stage.
In each of the fifteen main levels, seven stars can be obtained, one of which always requires gathering at least 100 coins in that level. Additionally, the several secret levels and areas in the castle provide 15 of the game's total 120 stars, and are called the "Castle Secret Stars." Most courses are accessed via a painting that Mario must jump into from the castle overworld. Some paintings have unique quirks, such as sections of the painting that have different effects on the level when jumped into. The secret courses are largely found by jumping into out-of-the-way paintings, looking at different areas of the castle, or falling into holes.
Each course is an enclosed world of its own. The player is free to wander around and discover the environment, and he or she may go in all directions within the boundaries of the world. The worlds are filled with enemies that will attack Mario as well as friendly creatures that will give him information, help Mario, or ask him for a favor.
In order to gather the stars, Mario must find and pass various challenges in each stage. The challenges themselves vary; generally, Mario needs to defeat one or more opponents, overcome one or more obstacles, race an opponent by running or sliding faster than it, or accomplish tasks such as finding a baby penguin for its mother or opening treasure chests in the right order. Each course also contains one star for collecting all eight of the course's red coins.
Particular attention was paid to jumping, as this was Mario's signature move in earlier games. Mario has a variety of special jumps that can be executed by combining a regular jump with other actions, including the extra high double and triple jumps (jumping two and three times in a row, respectively), the long jump (pressing the 'crouch' (Z) button while running and then jumping), and the somersault (jumping from a crouching position). Additionally, there are various maneuvers that Mario can perform with jumps, such as the wall jump (jumping from one wall to another in rapid succession to reach otherwise too high areas). The Wing Cap (see below) allows Mario to fly, but it begins with a triple jump (or a launch out of a cannon).
Additionally, Mario has a number of physical attacks other than jumping. The standard attack is executed by pressing the B button and causes Mario to punch. If this action is used while jumping, Mario executes a kick jump. Pressing B while running will cause Mario to lunge forward. Pressing the Z button while in the air will execute a butt stomp. Pressing the Z button while running then immedietly pressing the A button will exectute a slide kick. Mario can also pick up items and carry them around, which is required to solve some puzzles and acquire certain stars. Mario can swim by holding B while in the water, and can swim faster by pressing B at regular intervals. Mario's life slowly diminishes while underwater, and he must collect coins or return to the surface - which, oddly enough, heals all damage - or drown.
There are three types of cap blocks throughout the game that Mario can use after pressing the hidden cap switches.
- The Red Block yields the Wing Cap, which enables Mario to fly.
- The Green Block grants the Metal Cap. This overlays Mario's graphic with a metallic sheen, making him immune to ordinary damage, including drowning and fire, but not falls. It also allows him to withstand wind gusts and walk normally underwater.
- The Blue Block outputs the Vanish Cap, which renders Mario partially immaterial, allowing him to walk through some obstacles, such as wire mesh, and resistant to certain types of damage.
The game contains fifteen standard courses scattered throughout the castle, in addition to three Bowser courses, three cap courses, and three secret courses. Each of the fifteen standard courses contains seven stars, and there are a total of fifteen secret stars in the game. In addition, there are a combined number of approximately 2092 coins from all of the fifteen stages. The castle consists of three floors and a basement, which are unlocked by keys obtained after defeating each Bowser course, as well as a moat and a back garden. As Mario gains access to new floors the courses increase in difficulty. Collecting 70 stars enables Mario to enter the third and final Bowser course and finish the game, but if the player collects all 120 available stars, the ending will change slightly and Mario will be able to meet with Yoshi on the castle’s roof, who will give him 99 lives, upgrade his triple jump, and encourage him to continue playing the game.
- Bob-omb Battlefield, the first course in the game, is a bright grassland, following the tradition of earlier Mario games. Here, Mario meets the friendly pink "Bob-omb Buddies," who are at war with the black Bob-ombs. The black Bob-ombs are led by King Bob-omb, who waits at the summit of a mountain as a boss character, guarding the first star in the game. In this course, Mario also meets a Chain Chomp and races Koopa the Quick, a Koopa Troopa with sprinting skills.
- Whomp's Fortress is a fortress floating in the sky. Here, Mario encounters Piranha plants and the classic enemy Thwomp as well as their larger, walking Whomp variations. One of the stars requires Mario to grab the talons of an owl, ride it into the air, and drop off onto a platform high above the fortress (or use the cannon). One star is required from Bob-omb Battlefield to access this course.
- Jolly Roger Bay is an underwater course, centered around a sunken pirate ship and the treasure within and about it. A monstrously large eel named Unagi also lives here. Three stars are required from earlier levels to access this course. This is the first course in which you get the metal cap.
- Cool, Cool Mountain is the first of two snow-themed courses in the game and features some penguins in need and various snowy enemies. Additionally, there is a penguin that will race Mario down a slide for a star. After collecting all 120 stars, Mario is able to race a tougher version of this penguin, though he does not receive anything for his efforts. Again, three stars are required to access this course.
- Big Boo's Haunt is a haunted house that features various Boos and other frightening enemies. Among the many haunted things in the house, there is a piano that grows teeth and attacks Mario if he gets too close and a library whose books hurl themselves at him. There is also a haunted carousel that offers a star if Mario can discover its secret. Big Boo's Haunt is the only course not accessed from within the castle; its entrance can be found by defeating a ghost in a courtyard behind the castle once you have 12 stars.
- Hazy Maze Cave is a maze that is the home of a friendly sea monster and the entrance to Cavern of the Metal Cap. It is based on the dungeons from earlier 2D Mario games and features a remix of the dungeon music in the original Super Mario Bros. The course derives its name from the poisonous gas that fills part of the mine area. Monty Moles are plentiful in this level.
- Lethal Lava Land is partly played on platforms above a sea of lava and includes a volcano that Mario can enter.
- Shifting Sand Land is a desert that is home to a labyrinthine pyramid as well as a cap-stealing vulture and the fearsome Eyerok. It is quite similar to the Desert Land in Super Mario Bros. 3, although it lacks the earlier game's angry sun. One of the courses that lacks a painting entrance, this level is accessed through a fake wall in the castle basement.
- Dire, Dire Docks is another underwater course. This one involves two main areas separated by a tunnel and a submarine that belongs to Bowser. 30 stars are required to access this course.
- Snowman's Land is the second of two snow-themed courses. This world is centered around a giant climbable snowman. It is notable for being accessed through what appears to be a mirror. The boss in this level is similar to the bullies in the lava course except this one is blue and has a spike instead of horns.
- Wet-Dry World is a course where Mario can raise and lower the water level to better accomplish his goals and gain stars. It also features an abandoned town area. Wet-Dry World is notable in that the water level is influenced by the height at which Mario enters the painting.
- Tall Tall Mountain takes place on an extremely steep mountain. It plays host to a cap-stealing monkey called Ukkiki as well as many precariously placed mushroom platforms that are similar to those from World 4-3 of Super Mario Bros. In Tall Tall Mountain there is a secret mini-course that is similar to The Princess' Secret Slide.
- Tiny-Huge Island can be played either as a small Mario in a world where everything is larger than normal, or as a large Mario in a world where everything is smaller than normal. Its two differently sized paintings allow Mario to start the course either way, and warp pipes within the level allow him to switch. It also features a rematch with Koopa the Quick and an angry boss Wiggler.
- Tick Tock Clock takes place inside a gigantic clock, where Mario must navigate between moving parts such as pendulums and gears. The speed of the platforms in this stage are affected by the positions of the hands of the clock when Mario jumps into it - the lower the minute hand at the time of entry, the slower the clock moves (12 acts as 0 with the clock stopped).
- Rainbow Ride takes place in the sky, with various platforms and floating buildings that can be reached by riding a magic carpet that moves along a predetermined path. The course's name, difficulty level and high altitude are reminiscent of the "Rainbow Road" courses from the Super Mario Kart series of games.
The three Bowser courses each contain eight red coins and a star. By beating Bowser in each course, Mario is granted a key to unlock a new floor of the castle.
- Bowser in the Dark World — Mario must traverse a floating path riddled with obstacles. Bowser is fought for the first time after reaching the end of the course; upon defeat, Mario gains access to the basement. Eight stars are required to access this course.
- Bowser in the Fire Sea — by journeying through this floating, fiery stage, Mario is able to fight Bowser for the second time. Once defeated, Mario is able to access the upper floor and tower. 31 stars (including the first star of Dire, Dire Docks) are required to access this course.
- Bowser in the Sky — the road to Mario and Bowser's third and final confrontation is composed of floating and spinning blocks riddled with troublesome enemies. Once Bowser is defeated this time, the story of the game has been completed. 70 stars are required to access this course.
The three cap courses grant Mario access to their respective caps when completed. Each also contains eight red coins which, when collected, reveal a star. Prior to completing the cap courses, the blocks which produce the corresponding caps appear ghosted and unusable in levels.
- Tower of the Wing Cap — this stage will grant Mario access to the Wing Cap if he stomps on a red switch positioned in the center of the level. Mario can access this stage by looking directly at the ceiling in the first room of the castle while standing on the rug using the up C button. Ten stars are required to access this course.
- Cavern of the Metal Cap — this area will unlock the Metal Cap once Mario stomps on a green switch, which is located upstream. It is accessed through the Hazy Maze Cave.
- Vanish Cap Under the Moat — this course will unlock the Vanish Cap once Mario stomps on a blue switch located on a floating block. It is located outside, underneath the bridge to the castle.
The three secret courses also contain stars for Mario to collect.
- The Princess' Secret Slide — Mario can pick up two stars here: one for getting to the bottom of the slide, and another for doing it in under 21.00 seconds. One star is required to access this area.
- The Secret Aquarium — collecting eight red coins in this underwater stage near the entrance to Jolly Roger Bay will get Mario a star.
- Wing Mario Over the Rainbow — considered by many to be one of the most challenging courses in the game, Mario has to collect eight red coins dispersed throughout the sky. Failure to do so relocates Mario in the front lawn.
Super Mario 64 set many precedents for 3D platformers to follow. Foremost among these is the use of a free camera. Unlike 2D games, 3D games must emulate a real perspective of characters and events. Super Mario 64 did this by imitating a video camera's view in its visuals. Indeed, the development team even personified the camera by giving Mario a cameraman in the form of a Lakitu. He is mostly an invisible observer; he is only seen at the beginning and end of the game and whenever the camera focuses on a mirror.
Super Mario 64's game camera was notorious for being wildly unpredictable, often becoming "stuck" behind walls or at odd angles. The player was also unable to control the camera at some times during the game. In its defense, it was the first implementation of a game camera and poor camera behavior persists in mainstream 3D gaming to this day, and the camera was also both stable and reliable in the zoomed-out second magnification level available in-game (the one which causes an image of Mario's head to appear instead of Lakitu in the bottom right camera indicator). Most modern consoles now have a second control stick devoted to this purpose.
The Nintendo 64's analog Control Stick allowed for more realistic and wide-ranging character movements than the digital D-pads of previous video game consoles, and Super Mario 64 exploited this feature extensively. For example, Mario's rate of speed varies depending on the tilt of the control stick. The range and direction of many other movements can be controlled as well. The Bowser battles exhibit this by forcing the player to rotate the Control Stick in circles in order to swing Bowser into mines placed around the arenas.
A central hub, where controls can be learned before entering levels themselves, has been used in many 3D platformers since. In addition, the game's mission-based level design was an inspiration for other game designers, including Martin Hollis , director and producer of GoldenEye 007.
- "From Mario 64, I took the idea of 5 missions per level. Yes, we changed it from the Mario format, which was attempt-one-mission-per-play, but the idea for the huge variety of missions within a level came from Mario 64."    
Because of Super Mario 64's great popularity, unsubstantiated rumors spread like wildfire after its release.
The most infamous rumor is that Luigi is an unlockable character in the game. This rumor was fueled by a blurry texture on the pedestal of a statue in the castle courtyard near the entrance to Big Boo's Haunt that some think reads "L is Real 2041" (or alternately, 2401 or 2014) when magnified. Some have suggested that in the year 2041 Nintendo will unveil the secret, while others have wondered if collecting 2041 coins (many have thought that in a Bowser stage, where Bowser's flames give off coins, this could be possible, although nobody has managed to get more than 1000 coins) would do the trick. Photoshopped pictures of Mario with a green tint were offered by many as claims of this rumor's truth, but so far, no one has been able to accomplish this feat in the game. Nintendo has consistently denied Luigi's playability, but has (pointedly) not commented on the meaning of "L is Real 2041." However, in one Nintendo Power April Fool's issue, the table of contents said that this cryptic phrase would be discussed on a page whose number did not exist in the magazine.
Upon further examination, the text looks to many like it reads "Eternal Star," which would follow logically since the texture itself appears on the pedestal of a star-shaped statue. Furthermore, the phrase "Eternal Star" has been used by Nintendo in other games, most notably as an unlockable board in one of the Mario Party titles.
The suspicious texture also appears, though slightly shrunk in size, in Dodongo's Cavern in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a game which recycled and revamped the graphics engine from Super Mario 64. Many suspect that one of the artists simply reused the texture as a joke, knowing the fuss it would create amongst keen-eyed fans. Several other out-of-the-way Mario references exist in that game.
Luigi, Wario, and Yoshi are, in fact, playable in Super Mario 64 DS, a remake of the Super Mario 64 world using multiple playable characters and with additional stars and courses.
- Super Mario 64 was followed on the Nintendo GameCube by Super Mario Sunshine, which built on Super Mario 64's core gameplay by adding a water pump device and add-on nozzles for it, similar to the Caps.
- Super Mario 64 was remade into the multiplayer Super Mario 64 DS for the Nintendo DS.
A Metal Box is a green cube in the Super Mario Bros. series that has appeared in several video games. It makes its first appearance in Super Mario 64 and contains the Metal Cap, which can turn Mario into living metal. This has the effect of making him heavier than normal, allowing him to perform actions such as walking on the sea floor, and withstanding wind gusts. It appears again in Super Smash Bros. Melee as an item able to turn characters into metal, except that there is no Metal Cap because the box itself activates the transformation.
- Miyamoto Interview October 1996, Nintendo Power
- ^ The Making of GoldenEye 007
- ^ GameSpy's Top 50 Games of All Time
- Super Mario 64 - Game Info - GameFAQs
- MobyGames' Info on Super Mario 64
- IGN's coverage of Super Mario 64
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