Stu and I were working together at PC Pro when Nintendo released its Ultra 64 console in Japan. A couple of days after the launch I nipped down to ACE games just off Carnaby Street in London and Nick (the guy who owns the shop) had an Ultra 64 console on display running Mario 64. To say that my jaw dropped when I saw this game running is an understatement of epic proportions.
I camped out in Nickâ€™s shop for an hour or so before I had to get back to the office and do some work. As soon as I got back I told Stu what Iâ€™d been doing and he instantly grabbed his coat and ran down to the shop to see it for himself. When Stu got back, we both lamented the fact that neither of us could afford an imported Ultra 64 console and had to make do with playing Quake â€“ a decidedly depressing state of affairs.
Of course one of the things that made Mario 64 so great was the revolutionary controller that Nintendo shipped with the Ultra 64 (or Nintendo 64 as it was known in Europe). Nintendo realised that a standard D-pad controller would never give you the accurate control necessary for its latest batch of games, and both Sony and Sega tried to keep up by producing analogue controllers, but neither could hold a candle to Nintendo.
But it wasnâ€™t just the controller that made Mario 64 great. The graphics were unbelievably detailed, the colours vibrant to the point of radioactivity and the gameplay was and still is unparalled. With the proceedings split across multiple lands, each with their own pitfalls and enemies, no two sections were the same. Trying to navigate an icy mountain while you slipped and slid all over the place was frustratingly difficult, but never to the point of anger, as is often the case with other games.
The sheer scale of Mario 64 was mind boggling, and even attempting to finish the entire game required a level of commitment that meant kissing any other social activities goodbye for quite sometime. And if you wanted to unlock all the secrets, youâ€™d have to resign yourself to the fact that youâ€™d be looking for new friends by the time youâ€™d achieved your goal â€“ youâ€™re old ones would have given up on you long before that.
Nintendo provided testament to the brilliance and longevity of Mario 64 when it launched the DS and ported Marioâ€™s finest hour to its new handheld platform. Although the game suffered somewhat from the lack of an analogue controller, it was still every bit as playable and enjoyable as the original.
It truly is amazing that even after so many years, Mario 64 hasnâ€™t lost any of its impact and as far as Iâ€™m concerned, itâ€™s still the finest 3D platform game ever created.