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Birth of a Gamer: Waxing Nostalgic
By Heather "elki" Haselkorn
Vol. 2, Issue 10
February 1, 2000

Anyway, I finally found the first level. There I am, swinging on vines, climbing trees, having a great time, but getting nowhere. How frustrating! I was almost in tears by the time I just gave up. loony game over, pointed out a vine that I could climb, showed me to Funky’s store where I bought a gun, showed me how to aim and fire, and then basically took over the game until he suddenly realized he already had a saved game which was much farther along than mine. Two hours had passed and I just didn’t want to look at it anymore. I couldn’t believe how disappointed I was.

Still, I hadn’t yet played Mario 64. I figured it would be like all of the other Super Mario Bros. games I used to play as a kid...just plain and simple fun. True to form, I found myself in the midst of a brightly colored cartoon world with my pudgy little plumber buddy trying to save Princess Toadstool. Maybe it’s just my own perverted mind set, but I have to wonder about the beginning of the game. The princess invites Mario to her castle to eat a cake she just baked. Hmm...I wonder if that’s all he’s going there for. Well, the dating habits of video game characters aren’t any of my business, so I’ll just let that thought die there.

Again, I had some trouble navigating the 3-D landscape. Particularly troublesome was the camera. I could never find the right angle. Either I was too close or too far, and at times I couldn’t see Mario at all through the trees and hills. I also got dizzy, which was a surprise because I thought my bouts with simulator sickness were a thing of the past. And there was this one feeling that I couldn’t shake. Call it dejaz-vous if you want. I just couldn’t help but feel that I’d played this game before. Maybe I did, a couple of years ago on a visit to my brother out west, but I doubt it. I didn’t have to learn how to do anything new. I could already jump, run, pick things up, climb, and everything else. It was just intuitive. Within half an hour I had pretty much gotten the hang of moving around, and in spite of getting lost a few times, I managed to diffuse the big Bob-omb in the first level and win a star. For the first time since I began writing this column, I actually saved a game so that I could return to it later. That was really a momentous occasion.

Still, there are a couple of drawbacks (in my book) to Mario 64. For one thing, those pesky camera angles. Maybe that’s why I got so dizzy, all that zooming in and out. But then there were other things. The reason that I loved the old Super Mario Bros. games is that they were so simple. You followed the screen from left to right, jumping on enemies, hitting blocks, and collecting coins. It was perfect simplicity. Although I like this next generation of Mario games, I can’t help but notice that in adapting the game to new technology, its creators had to leave that element of simplicity behind. And it’s unfortunate. Not that this is an extremely difficult game to play, but I just feel that there’s something lacking.

I guess that old cliche is true. You can’t go home again. You can go to a place that looks like home, with familiar faces and names, but something is always different. No matter how many improvements developers make when they update old favorites to new tastes, I can’t help but feel that some of the spirit has been lost. I’ll never touch Donkey Kong 64 again. And while Mario 64 is a great game that I can’t wait to continue playing, I long for the old one. So I think I’m just going to sit in a corner tonight with my GameBoy Color and play Super Mario Bros. until my thumbs hurt and it’s past my bedtime.

-Heather "elki" Haselkorn actually enjoys this.

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Credits: Illustration © 2000 Dan Zalkus. Birth of a Gamer is © 2000 Heather Haselkorn. All other content is © 2000 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, you cartoonish villian, you.