We take a deeper look at the final retail version of Mario's DS adventure.
In our last look at the retail version of Super Mario 64 DS, we focused on the multiplayer mode. Now, after spending a few days tooling around in the single-player mode, we bring you some insight into how the core game has been changed from the original Nintendo 64 classic, and we relate how it handles with the DS's touch pad.
The single-player game has undergone a number of changes to better support the multicharacter setup. As we mentioned, you'll start out as Yoshi, and you'll work your way through the various paintings in the castle to both collect stars and rescue Mario, Luigi, and Wario. While the structure is close to the original game, there have been a number of tweaks made to improve the experience. The most obvious is an ever-present map on the touch screen that lets you get a look at the whole area you'll be exploring. The stars you'll have to collect are usually shown there to help you navigate to them. Additionally, talking to red bob-ombs will let you see the location of the red coins you'll have to collect, although they aren't permanently marked on the map. Fortunately, you'll usually find more than one bob-omb in a level, so it's not that hard to get your bearings.
The additions to your quest revolve around rescuing your three friends. Each character will be trapped in a room, so you'll have to find the appropriate key for the room's door. As is always the case, the keys are guarded by bosses that require whuppings before giving up the goods. Once you've rescued a character, you can visit the character room and switch to him or her at anytime, which subsequently makes him or her your default player. Each character will handle differently, and each will have his or her own unique abilities that can help deal with the obstacles you'll face. If you happen to choose the wrong default character for a level, the odds are favorable that you'll find a magical hat that will let you assume the appearance and abilities of the best-suited character for that level, which is a nice feature. In addition to finding keys to free your friends, you'll also find keys to unlock the 36 minigames in Princess Peach's rec room that you can play in the separate rec room mode.
Control in the game poses some unique challenges, especially given the differences in the button layouts and input methods for the DS and the Nintendo 64. As we've mentioned in our previous looks, Super Mario 64 DS offers three different control configurations--standard, touch, and dual hand--which you can switch at any time in the pause menu. The standard mode handles much the same way a traditional action game would, with some touch-screen functionality tossed into the mix. You'll move your characters with the D pad, dash with X, jump with B, and attack with A. The right trigger lets you crouch, and the left trigger centers the camera. The Y button lets you cycle through camera modes, which include those perspectives that zoom in and out and also let you switch to a first-person view. The touch screen comes into play for rotating the game camera and for moving your character, although this isn't the ideal configuration, because you'll often find yourself inadvertently hitting the camera rotation buttons on the touch screen.
The proper use of the touch screen can be seen and employed in the touch mode, which requires you to use the touch screen exclusively for moving your character. You'll simply run a finger, stylus, or a finger with the DS thumbpad over the touch screen. The setup offers a fair approximation of the analog control system used in the Nintendo 64 version, although from what we've played so far, it doesn't feel as precise. The face and shoulder button configurations have been tweaked fairly well to compensate for the frequent use of the touch pad. Y rotates the camera left, while X rotates the camera right. A small arrow in the lower left of the touch screen lets you zoom the camera in and out, while the left trigger centers the camera behind you. Meanwhile, the right trigger lets you crouch, B lets you jump, and A lets you attack.