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2, Issue 10
February 1, 2000
of a Gamer:
the good old days. The days when innocent children could pop a
video game cartridge into an NES and play and play until their
thumbs were sore and it was past their bedtimes. I remember that
time fondly. I decided to try to revisit those days by making
use of loonys massive collection of consoles and games and
I discovered, much to my dismay, that sometimes there just isnt
any going back.
at a shelf full of familiar favorites and their new, 3-D reincarnations,
I settled on Donkey Kong 64 and Mario 64. Both these
names brought back warm memories of my old Atari, and of the NES
and Super NES that became fixtures in my brothers room as
the years went by. I figured DK 64 would be a revamped
version of Donkey Kong Country, arguably one of the most
fun games in existence. And Mario, well, thats just Mario...who
couldnt have a good time playing that?
ya, though, you just cant judge a new game by its previous
incarnation. Donkey Kong 64 was indeed the brightly-colored,
cartoonish game I expected it to be. Considering that Ive
been playing a lot of dark, violent, and frankly, depressing games
since this column debuted, the silly plot and childish gameplay
were a refreshing change. Basically, King K. Rool and his evil
crew of alligators are out to destroy Donkey Kong and his island.
They capture his friends and steal the golden banana hoard. Your
goal in this game...free your friends and reclaim your bananas.
No problem! I envisioned 3D versions of Donkey Kong Country,
swinging from tree to tree, throwing barrels, and eating bananas.
I hit start to bypass that annoying hip hop sequence at the beginning
and began the game.
thing I had to do, though, was play a tutorial. I think Ive
complained enough about tutorials, so I wont make you read
through another litany. I did get my first lesson in using a Nintendo
64 controller, though. You have to remember that the last time
I held a controller was about 5 years ago, and these things have
really changed over the years. I am now up-to-date on the proper
technique: One hand near the stick thing (sorry, the technical
name of this highly sensitive piece of equipment escapes me at
the moment) and one hand near the key pad. When did this get so
through the tutorial, all happy and excited and expecting to have
tons of fun. And then I found out that I just cant play
this game. First, theres the fact that the game is not a
side-scroller. Theres no reason this should bother me; after
all, Im already used to that in computer games. But for
some reason I just couldnt translate on-screen depth perception
from a computer monitor to a television. I had no idea which way
to go. I swam around the islands a bit, talking to other characters
and trying to find my way to the first level. Fourty-five minutes
later, I finally found the island that was actually the beginning
of the game. I dont know why it took so long...I just kept
getting lost and basically swimming around in circles. I know
that the game does give directions about which way to go, but
frankly, I just wasnt paying attention.
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 Funkys 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 didnt want to
look at it anymore. I couldnt believe how disappointed I
I hadnt 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 its 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
thats all hes going there for. Well, the dating habits
of video game characters arent any of my business, so Ill
just let that thought die there.
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 couldnt
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 couldnt shake. Call it dejaz-vous if you want. I
just couldnt help but feel that Id 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 didnt 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.
there are a couple of drawbacks (in my book) to Mario 64.
For one thing, those pesky camera angles. Maybe thats 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 cant help but notice that in adapting
the game to new technology, its creators had to leave that element
of simplicity behind. And its unfortunate. Not that this
is an extremely difficult game to play, but I just feel that theres
that old cliche is true. You cant 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 cant help but feel that some of the spirit has been lost.
Ill never touch Donkey Kong 64 again. And while Mario
64 is a great game that I cant wait to continue playing,
I long for the old one. So I think Im just going to sit
in a corner tonight with my GameBoy Color and play Super Mario
Bros. until my thumbs hurt and its past my bedtime.
actually enjoys this.
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