Monday, April 10, 2017

DAW: Skelux (Super Mario Star Road)

This year's Developer Appreciation Week has been greatly successful, and in result many bloggers have written several articles rather than one only. I'm taking the opportunity to write one more article for this event as well. This is dedicated to Skelux, creator of the unofficial Super Mario 64 sequel, Super Mario Star Road.

Note that I may be interviewing Skelux in the next few days for a second blog post.


But first, let's talk about Mario 64. It's a game that frequently comes up in top lists for the best games of all time, and I'd have it there as well if I were to make a list of my own. It's a game that delivered so well on our expectations back then: having this 3D open world of adventures, puzzles, bosses, amazing gameplay and mysteries that still intrigue us up to this day. Much like Ocarina of Time, it was a child's dream come true.

It took us months to finish the game back then. I remember spending a whole evening with my cousin trying to beat the first Bowser, we'd take turns switching every time we died and I'll be damned if we didn't die a whole lot of times. We felt proud discovering the Wing Cap level and sharing the knowledge with our friends; we went on to kick every single brick in the castle to try and find hidden levels afterward. The great thing was that we did find such hidden levels. The game just kept delivering on and on in every single one of these expectations we had, and for that it felt very rewarding and incredibly fun.

Above everything, Super Mario 64 seems to have been blessed with immortality. It has hardly aged at all over the past twenty years. Its gameplay mechanics and graphics are still perfectly acceptable as of today. Many platform adventure games have aged horribly because of their slippery jump mechanics or pixelized graphics, but Mario 64 doesn't have any of that. It's polished to perfection, is aesthetically pleasing, has memorable soundtracks and sound effects and is repeatable to no end.

I hoped for a sequel the moment I finished this game. Not a new version with different mechanics and what not, but simply more worlds to explore and new enemies to fight. Fifteen years later, my wish came true: Super Mario Star Road was released by game hacker Skelux, featuring 130 new stars within 15 new levels and 9 new hidden levels. It has all the ingredients that made its predecessor great: nerve wrecking challenges, LSD-inspired map designs and mind twisting mysteries. Skelux truly managed to capture the feel of the original game with this sequel of his.


I didn't make it to full completion yet, but I did make it through all the levels and to the final boss, and it was one hell of a challenge. The platform puzzles are generally tougher than in the original game, and some stars are so well hidden it has taken me whole days to find a single star in certain maps.

It's absolutely mindblowing that all of these maps and their new soundtracks, enemies and sometimes even textures were designed by one single person. Granted, most of the work creating the game's engine and all its base sound effects and graphics had already been done by Nintendo, but this is still an impressive feat of dedication coming from a fan that did it for free.

Even though it came nowhere close to being as popular as the original version - understandably so, as we're comparing an unofficial hacked game to a legendary one, this game has received very positive criticism and has become somewhat of a benchmark for Super Mario 64 game editing. Fans have submitted speedruns, created Wiki fansites, and even modded the game, even though it is already a mod of another game itself. Think of it: a community of thousands based on a game modded by a single person. It's nothing to sneeze at.


I'm still working on those 130 stars and it's managed to give me some great memories. Like with the old game I also played this one with friends, and as with levels like Tick Tock Clock from the original game I'll never forget the sadistic platform puzzles found in maps like Fatal Flame Falls or Mad Musical Mess.

Once again I'm grateful to Skelux for this amazing game and I'd definitely recommend Super Mario Star Road to anyone interested in Mario games, platform adventure games or really anyone looking for a new gaming experience. The game can safely be downloaded from here:

http://sm64hacks.com/hack.php?id=2

It also comes as a multiplayer game, which you can download here if you wish to play with a friend of yours:

http://sm64hacks.com/pages.php?page=starroadmultiplayer 

It requires an emulator, the standard being Project64, which is also safe to download and use - don't let the names "emulator" or "hack" scare you away from it, these download links have been used millions of times and are perfectly safe:

3 comments:

  1. Super Mario, oh dear... I absolutely adore the art style and the playful nature, but I'm just dreadful at it, at any Mario game (platformers). I do own a pair of awesome Mario leggings to commemorate my frustrated attempts of getting anywhere. Never played Super Mario Star Road specifically, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These games are pure evil to beginners but become so fun to play once you get used to them, with Mario 64 there's so many ways of getting around with all the various jumps and wall-kicking, every time you need to get anywhere you can try new stragies and find new paths.

      Let me know if you ever want to give it a try, I'd help you out on Super Mario Star Road's multiplayer mode!

      Delete
    2. I dread my existence when trying platformers. It just requires so much concentration (which I don't have much of, being chronically tired) and I don't see the fun. Believe, I've tried for hours and hours. So thanks, but no thanks. :)

      Delete