Super Mario 64 Switch: How to Remaster a Classic
Super Mario 64 is one of the greatest video games of all time, the news of a potential remastered version coming for the Nintendo Switch is definitely something to be excited about. It has already been re-released once on the Nintendo DS as Super Mario 64 DS.
When Super Mario 64 does come to the Nintendo Switch, how should it be remastered? There are a few approaches that Nintendo could take.
The most obvious option, is to develop the remake based on Super Mario 64 from the N64. Considering that even today, the N64 game is still quite beloved and revered as a classic, they shouldn't mess up around with the formula. A remake is always tricky to execute, although a small amount of change is nice, going too far might make the game no longer feel like the original game anymore.
These are the major upgrades that need to be done for a remastered Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo Switch.
Completely overhaul the graphics engine - The N64 graphics were great for the time, but they have become incredibly dated today. An improved graphics style with higher quality art, improving the frame rate, are obvious necessary updates. The polygons in Super Mario 64 were quite blocky, so Nintendo ought to smooth things out a bit to modernize the presentation. Even if they make the new Super Mario 64 look comparable to Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario Odyssey, that is more than solid.
There are Super Mario 64 fan communities that have done HD remakes with significantly improved graphics. With the work to redo the game engine, the game presentation can look really brilliant. There's no doubt that Nintendo can do something similar for an official Super Mario 64 remastering on the Switch.
Fix the camera - One of the biggest gripes that gamers have is with the camera being troublesome in many areas, notably in Tick Tock Clock and Rainbow Ride where the camera often gets into weird positions making it hard to play. It was an excellent concept to use Lakitu as a cameraman to introduce gamers to 3D space back in 1996. But after two decades he should be able to do the job better. If Nintendo uses lessons learned from subsequent games to enhance the camerawork, this should significantly reduce the frustration and make the Super Mario 64 far better to play for a new generation of video gamers.
Re-orchestrate the music - We've seen a couple of Super Mario 64 tunes redone over the years. In Super Mario Galaxy 2, there were a few updated tunes, the overworld music from Whomp's Fortress in Throwback Galaxy, sliding music, and also remixed "Bowser's Road" beats. Of course in Super Mario Odyssey we saw the return of Princess Peach's Castle, which had a bit of an internal redesign along with updated music. This is a no brainer and there will definitely be some updated music, it will be exciting to see what style of music they'll come up with, orchestrated music like Galaxy, jazzy beats like in Super Mario 3D World? Or something different altogether?
One example of an excellent Switch remastering is The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, which was originally released for Game Boy and Game Boy Color. For Switch remake, the developers completely revamped the look with cartoonish 3D graphics, while retaining the isometric presentation of the original game. It totally brought the 2D Game Boy style into real life.
Gameplay wise, it played pretty much exactly the same as the original game, it felt authentic, it felt like the old Link's Awakening, even the intro and ending felt the same way. This is what Nintendo needs to be aiming towards for the Super Mario 64 remastering, it's one of their best games, they can't have it go wrong.
There is one thing that probably shouldn't be redone. Nintendo should not base the Super Mario 64 remake on Super Mario 64 DS. This would be a mistake. There are plenty of reasons why this would be a bad idea. The DS release is a bit strange, and the way the game plays it just doesn't entirely feel the same as how it did on the N64, it's hard to explain why, but there's some sort of magic factor that is missing.
While it is interesting that Luigi, Yoshi and Wario are new characters that you can use. It comes off as quite gimmicky in that you have to swap between characters to collect certain stars - bringing back some bad memories of the old Donkey Kong 64 collect-a-thon, which required a regular rotation of the various DK characters. It feels like they just forced the addition of characters in for marketing reasons. Besides, what the heck is Wario doing here? Wasn't he supposed to be a bad guy?
When gamers think of Super Mario 64, there is no doubt that the N64 version is what comes to mind, and a Nintendo Switch remastering needs to follow that formula for the remake to be a success.
One thing that Nintendo should consider is adding a co-op mode, where two players, Mario and Luigi can both be on the adventure together. This has always been a concept that has been challenging to execute in an open-world game. The Nintendo Switch is an excellent system for co-op games, and a Super Mario 64 co-op would be a great concept if executed well.
One of the early concepts discussed in a developer interview with Shigeru Miyamoto in 1996 suggests an idea where the co-op with Mario and Luigi can do a camera swap with the click of a button. Presumably, this means that one of the characters can run off to a different area, while the other remains idle.
Camera swapping between Mario and Luigi in Super Mario 64 Multiplayer Mod
It's an interesting concept that has been executed in the Super Mario 64 Multiplayer Mod created by a fan community. In reality, it would likely make the gameplay come off fragmented. For example, what happens to the swapped character? Are they put in a protection bubble? Would they be vulnerable to attack at that time?
This kind of co-op gameplay would be really challenging to come out smoothly. Ironically, this idea of asymmetric co-op could've worked quite well on the Wii U, since one player can see something on the TV, and the other can see something else on the Wii U Gamepad. But with the single-screen Nintendo Switch that would be a huge limitation unless two systems are linked together.
If a co-op mode is included in a remastered Super Mario 64, the best way is to have both characters on the same screen at the same time with a single camera view. We've seen this done in Super Mario Odyssey, where P1 controls Mario and P2 controls Cappy, but with the caveat that the second player is limited to where they can roam around. The first player is in the lead and dictates the main flow of the gameplay.
An excellent co-op was included in Luigi's Mansion 3, this should be the basis for future co-op games. Both players are on screen at the same time, where Mario controls the flow and Luigi will also be able to roam around the visible area. Effectively, this would be like how co-op is in Super Mario 3D World but with camera controls, since Super Mario 64 is a free roam game.
Since this is Mario's game, sorry Luigi, you're going to have to play second fiddle here. However, any co-op mode has to be careful to not come off as a gimmick, and it needs to remain close to the 1P experience.
What about split-screen co-op, could this work? While this would be an interesting concept in that both Mario and Luigi can go off on their own - this probably wouldn't work with the way the game is currently structured, the limited real estate on screen might be a significant issue, making it hard for both players to play.
However, split-screen multiplayer could make a fun mini-game concept, imagine Luigi's Balloon World from Super Mario Odyssey, but instead of racing the clock, both players can race simultaneously to see who can reach the prize the fastest, this might be a fun multiplayer option to test Mario platforming skills as long as to increase the replay value.
If additional courses are added to the Super Mario 64 remastering, perhaps Nintendo should add them as bonus stages similar to the Special World in Super Mario World or the "post-game" content that was found in Super Mario Odyssey. If done this way, the remake will remain more genuine. The tinkering that they added in Super Mario 64 DS should not be replicated for the Switch version of the game. Going back to the example of Link's Awakening, the developers added a new dungeon in the Game Boy Color version of the game. This is something similar can be done for Super Mario 64 as well.
Given the amount of space in Princess Peach's Castle, it wouldn't be difficult, nor break the flow of the game, to add a few extra paintings, extra rooms to add additional courses into the game. If new areas are added, Nintendo should definitely add platforming challenges similar to what we've seen in Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Odyssey where you need to use all the different mechanics and moves, such as long jumps, wall jumps along with excellent precision and timing. Mario had a lot of new moves in Super Mario 64, but it was rare that you had to sequence many of them at once to complete a mission.
It has been over two decades since the release of Super Mario 64, a reimagining of this classic game has been long overdue, and it will be exciting to see how the game will turn out on the Nintendo Switch.
What do you hope to see in a Super Mario 64 remastering? Share what you think with us!