It’s an unusual one: this Super Mario 64 DS. There we were shredding up an exciting tower of packaging (in a regrettably destructive fervour), sweeping Xboxes off desktops, rummaging for thumb-straps and chargers and getting as over-excited as one ought to be about a brand new toy. And obviously the first question once we had it in our fists, blinking cheerily back up at us was, “right, where’s a game?”. There, amidst cardboard carcasses and official warnings about taking breaks from screen-staring, not hitting your DS with a hammer and not putting your battery anywhere close to the sun (and let's face it, 93,000,000 miles is not close), lay the game. Only marginally bigger than a special edition Christmas postage stamp, there it was, the (US version) Super Mario 64 DS cart.
The established precedent for launching any games console dictates that there should be at least one key first party title that makes you want to go out and buy the machine. The Nintendo 64 launch, for example, relied heavily on Super Mario 64 (along with Wave Race and Pilotwings). So it does seem a bit strange that eight years on, Super Mario 64, in a slightly altered, bulked-out form, is once again being used to launch a brand new piece of Nintendo hardware.
There’s clearly a variety of factors that have informed this decision. Firstly, there’s the somewhat cynical explanation that Nintendo chose Super Mario 64 because it would be reasonably quick to adapt to the DS and so would facilitate a rapid launch, thereby getting a head-start on the PSP. And with that in mind, there are grounds on which to be a bit disappointed by Super Mario 64 DS.
By rights, Super Mario 64 DS, as many people’s first game for the system, should be a new experience that encourages bonding between the console and its new parent. But because many gamers will already be well acquainted with Super Mario 64, that honeymoon period has been cruelly snatched away. The impact of trying out the DS version for the first time is clearly subdued by the fact that the initial Mario 64 wow-factor subsided some time ago.