OMFG, I am having the worst, worst, worst time with Skyrim right now. I found a couple more hours to play the other day, and I really couldn’t stand it, and I mean everything about it. The insufferable quest that I couldn’t figure out, my character, Lydia, all the annoying NPCs, my inability to navigate, all of it. I’ve barely made the tiniest of dents in the game and I am about ready to give up *sigh*.
This ordeal has me severely questioning my current relationship with video games, so much so that it’s given me a week-long headache (or maybe it’s just allergies). Allow me a few thoughts to clear my head…
Modern action/adventure RPG video games, the likes of GTA IV, Skyrim, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and L.A. Noire, which have consumed my play since at least 2008, require a lot of investment. Developers put tons and tons effort of into these games; and rightly so, they expect that gamers will put tons and tons of time into playing them, and most of us probably, generally do. So when you don’t play one of these games for an extended period of time, it’s easy to loose track of a story that’s so very entrenched in the gameplay — this is where I am with Skyrim. After almost two months of not playing it, I just couldn’t remember what was going on, the warring, who hated who, why I had Lydia, and such, so I just ended up trying to find my way around according to the most recent active quest – it all felt aimless and pointless. In the past, I had had several hours a week to devote to gaming; but life has changed and now I don’t have that kind of time, and it feels like a physical part of me is being torn away and shot into oblivion. It’s painful, confusing, and depressing…like withdrawal. And it sucks. Part of me really, really, really doesn’t want to give up on questing, but I think I have to, for now anyway. Our 360 is nearly dead, so I’m not getting ME3 anytime soon. A change might be good…maybe. I still have yet to figure out my perfect trio in Ultimate Marvel v. Capcom 3, and I still have to work through the Catwoman scenarios in Arkham City. And I’ve got some Wii points to spend. Yes, change. It’s alright. Everything is going to be fine.
Which brings me to a game that usually come to mind to help bring me out of a depressed state: Super Mario 64 – my most favoritest Mario game of them all. I wish I had thought to keep my good ol’ N64 back in the early 2000s when we traded up for a Gamecube. I need a damn time machine, people! Get on it! Okay, okay…I’ll just go to the Wii shop, jeez.
Though Mario has had a good run since (and before) this 1996 gem, no game in my mind compares to its imaginative levels and most awesome gameplay. It is also the one and only Mario game for which I achieved 100% completion. That’s right — every star, every secret, they were all mine.
A few story spoilers ahead, but nothing monumental.
Super Mario 64 told the story of Mario’s endeavor to once again save Princess Peach from Bowser’s horrible clutches Only this time, there was just ONE castle and Peach WAS in it…sorta. She was in one of the many worlds that were accessible from the castle. Peach’s castle served as the gateway to 15 different levels that followed the usual conventions. There was a sky level, a snow level, a desert level, a spooky level, a water level, and so on, and all of them were reachable via secret portals hidden in and around Peach’s castle. But Mario didn’t simply jaunt from one world to the next, jumping on the occasional goombah. Your task in each level was to retreive the hidden Power Stars, seven in each level, and a total of 120 throughout the game. This meant that you had to visit each level at least seven times because each time you found a star in any given level, you had to start it over to find the next star. Some stars were very easy to find; others took some doing, being well-hidden or tricky to get. You didn’t necessarily have to find the stars in order (some were easy to inadvertently stumble across), and you didn’t have to get all of them to complete the game.
I played through SM64, like, a million times (or maybe just several), and each time the game just got better and better. For me, the best things about the game were the fantastic level designs. Each level contained secret passages and separate sections that were not always readily apparent. There was nothing more awesome than finding a new part to a level and trying to defeat it. It made the game seem new 120 times over (and there were a few secret levels as well)! Of course, some levels were easier than others, and it was easy to find yourself going in circles, but the game never felt impossible. Challenging, yes, because you did have to master every action in Mario’s arsenal to make it to each star. The triple jump, the wall kick, the backflip, they were all there and necessary.
Controlling Mario in the colorful landscape was really just brilliant. SM64 introduced many of us to the world of 3D play, and it couldn’t have been more fantastic! Each level felt open and large. And you could explore with ease. No time limits here – peruse the levels all you liked, over and over and over! The N64′s swanky new controller with an analog stick meant you could move Mario with ease, seamlessly around each level. (And you could make him run in circles till he got dizzy, teehee!) You also had some control over the camera, which was also a fairly new feature in any game at the time. Though it wasn’t perfect, it was soooooo nice to be able to tailor the view you needed to get to a particular spot. Sure, I fell off plenty of ledges and died a bunch, but it was all in the name of fun! fun! fun! My most favorite level was Tiny-Huge Island, because you got to explore the level in two completely different ways! (For those that played the game, what was your favorite level? Did you hate the penguin race as much as me? Did you, upon finally beating it, accidentally let loose your controller into the wall with excitement that knew no bounds? Uh…maybe that was just me.)
Super Mario 64 was an excellent and all-around great 3D platformer; a classic in which all the elements – story, controls, and sounds and music – were brought together in perfect form, and without any flashy stylization or risqué behaviors. As much as I love modern games (and I do…even Skyrim), I wish there were more games like this today — games that are plain ol’ fun, offered a challenge, and didn’t require all the time in the world to play. Only got 15 minutes to spare? Why not find a star? Waiting for your friend to arrive? That’s a good time to find a star. Is the baseball game in a rain delay? Well then, go find a star!
You know you want to.