If you are comparing it to the current generation of full, non-portable consoles, maybe tentatively contrasting it with an approximated vision of the PSP, then it’s not all that amazing. But there’s a clear window in which the DS will be able to boast of its technical supremacy over its competitors, and now’s that time. Because, over the longer-term, the DS isn’t being pitched as the most powerful handheld, the attention really needs to be placed on the role of that touch-screen.
So how does Super Mario 64 DS, or Super Mario 65, as it could sensibly be called, fare with showing off the touch-screen-ness? Well, via the main one-player mode, it doesn’t do that impressive a job. We do still hold a place in our heart for Super Mario 64, but even with the three extra characters and the slight twists to the main-game, it still doesn’t necessarily provide the impetus to dedicate the number of hours you might wish to spend with your new DS. But conversely, this isn’t competing with Halo 2 or San Andreas for your attention, it will get played during those ‘handheld moments’ and compared to, say, Snake on your scratch-screened Nokia, this is a superlative portable experience.
There is, on the other hand, a healthy smattering of mini-games conceived entirely to take advantage of that lower screen. And for many, this is what Super Mario 64 DS is really about. As light-hearted and low-calorie as these miniature portions of entertainment may be, they really are good fun and, more importantly, prove that there are plenty of enticing possibilities for stylus-controlled games in the future.
The Bo-bomb slingshot mini-game is already building up quite a healthy fanbase amongst DS pioneers. Superficially, it’s little more than a 2D shoot ‘em up, not much more inventive than Space Invaders with Mario-related characters. But with the stylus control system it’s easy to see that this sort of thing could undergo an exciting revolution. In this example, you use the stylus to draw back a slingshot on the lower screen, before launching projectiles up towards the enemies: and that works with an impressive accuracy and crispness. As whimsical as it may be, this makes an important point concerning how traditional video-games could be recreated in an even more interactive form.