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Game Review

Super Mario 64 – PC Port/120 Stars

There have been many “Gamer Bucket Lists” people have created over the years, and I’ve read a ton of them. One common checklist item is getting all 120 Stars in Super Mario 64. Something I sadly never have done. I always lost track at the end after getting all the stars in each course and was just missing a few of the Castle’s Secret Stars. Last time I attempted it, was on the original hardware back in 2015, but never got past 116 Stars. I know, I know, I was so close. 

This year (2020), we saw a HUGE gigantic scourge code leak of Nintendo properties. Lots of games like Star Fox 1 & 2, Super Mario Kart, and even Super Mario 64. This enabled people to dig through the files, and create a full native PC Port, updated with Widescreen support, 60 FPS, and a wealth of mods and options. Finding the PC port was a bit difficult at first, because this is a massive issue with IP theft and Nintendo is known to be extremely litigious with these sorts of thing. Heck, they took down one of the oldest and biggest Rom sites just because their games were on it. 

After finding and playing a bit of the PC port, I put it back down because I already have played Mario 64 many times before. Then later on, Nintendo announced and released the Mario 3D All-Stars compilation game on the Switch. Most assumed that the three games included would bring forth new remakes/remasters with much improved visuals like the original All-Stars game did back on the SNES. Sadly, when the game did release, it was meet with much less fanfare than most assumed. In what can only be described as a complete barebones package. You get three 3D Mario games; 64, Sunshine and Galaxy… with the weirdest issue being the omission of Galaxy 2, a game that is usually described as “Better” than Galaxy 1. 

Another bummer is that while Sunshine and Galaxy got some changes with a bump in resolution and widescreen format changes, Mario 64 received nothing other than using a updated ROM revision with Rumble Pack support and some voice samples changed. No widescreen support, no crazy graphical overhaul, and no higher frame rate support either. Which when compared to what modders were able to bring to the public with the same source code months earlier, the 3D All-Stars package looked like a joke. So while I watched others talk about replaying Mario 64 and post screenshots of getting 120 stars. I looked at my old save file of 116 stars and also the PC port and decided I finally was going to check off that 120 Star challenge once and for all, and with the best version of the game possible.

So I grabbed the Compiler and source code in my PC and went to work compiling my own version of Mario 64. Adding in 4K resolution,  60 Frames per second, Widescreen Support and some extra menu options to change the Audio and also be able to exit the game to Desktop. Once the game was done compiling, I loaded up the Executable into LaunchBox, thew a nice high resolution image made thanks to the leak, and launched my own version of the game. 

I’ve seen the game in High resolution before, thanks to N64 emulators before, but this was all running natively, which made it so much more enjoyable in my mind as a perfect port, not emulated. 

Running through the first 4 or so levels, I was able to get all the stars available really easily. They are at the beginning of the game, and I played through the game 5 years ago, so it was still semi-fresh in my mind. The only stars I didn’t get were the ones that required the different caps, and I also waited on getting the 100 Coin Stars until the end. 

Getting most of the stars for each level was not terribly difficult, each star’s description gives a bit of a hint on how to get each star. Most are easily doable without and lost lives. The only ones that gave me trouble were near the end, several very tall, vertical levels with many opportunities to miss angle a jump and plummet off the side of the level. Or ones that just took way too long to get to the top of, like the last level, Rainbow Ride, that requires you to stand on a Magic Carpet as it travels a transparent Rainbow route. The carpet is slow, and if you leave it for too long, it will disappear. 

Couple that with also having a pretty universally hated wonky camera system, that only allows you to rotate in about 220 degrees, and controls that feel less accurate than you remember. It makes for some pretty frustrating moments in certain cases. Trying to put your back against the wall, so that you can backflip higher is something that resulted in a shimmying move more often than not. And getting out of the shimmy animation requires some pretty radical degree of motion changes within the analog control stick, and adding that to a perilously small ledge atop a high mountaintop, well… Let’s just say I had to restart a few times more than I should have.

Once I got all the main stars in each of the fifteen courses, I went back and spent an evening going through each one just to get the 100 coin stars. This took more time than I would have liked because it was just tedious in some levels, as I got over a 100 in the Tall Tall Mountain, but it was in the slide portion, which I wasn’t able to get back up to, and lost out on the star when I returned to it in the same life. So I had to do it over again. 

When I have a level perfectly down, no mistakes and the game feels like a piece of cake until a single small screwup at the very end, like from falling out of the level, and having to go back in and do it all over again is something that I really hate in game. And that happens to me semi-regularly in games when I try to 100% them. 

Once I got all the normal stars and 100 coins stars for all the levels, then I set out to get the secret stars. Which is where I just couldn’t remember which ones I got with my original hardware version five years ago. So I went one by one and just spent time recounting all the cap stars, all the toad stars, all the hidden course stars and then it came down to the last three. One in each of the Bowser stages, by getting all 8 red coins. So I took my time, was carefully and got all 120 stars. Then off to beat King Koopa himself. 

After finishing the game, and getting the end credits and Game Over screen I closed the game out and immediately restarted so I can finally experience the prize for getting 120 Stars for myself. I ran to the cannon in the field outside of Princess Toadstool’s Castle. I shot myself to the roof and ran around back. I found and talked to Yoshi. I also received 96 extra lives, resulting in a grand total of 100 lives that I can… do whatever I want with. The game is beat. I collected all the stars, I did everything in the game outside of getting a higher coin count in each level, so the extra lives kinda seem pointless. Being able to carry those lives over to a new save, or even better some extra power ups or something along the lines of that I could bring into a level and use infinitely would be much more enjoyable. Lives aren’t that hard to come by. 

Over all, I’m really happy I didn’t just try to find the last stars in my old save, but instead started over with a new save and the PC port which performs beautifully in 4K60 & 16:9. Without changing and modding the fundamentals of the game, I can say it was worth it, just so that I can say “I did it”, but it’s something I don’t think I’ll ever do again, the reward just doesn’t justify the task unless it’s done over a long stretch of time. 

Editor’s Note: After writing, I actually loaded up my N64 original game save, and looked at that 116 Star completion and since it was fresh in my mind, I went around to find which stars I was missing…. 

  1. The second time you have to chase down the rabbit. I learned from trying it with the PC port that if you cut around the corners when chasing him down you can easily catch him without wasting any time.
  2. The Princess’s Secret slide has two stars, one for finishing the race and hitting the box at the bottom, and a second one for getting a fast time. I missed the Fast Time Star.
  3. The Secret Rainbow flying Red Coins Star (The Course on the other side of the room on the third floor, the one with Tick Tock Clock, Rainbow Ride and then the Rainbow flying level. 
  4. The 8 Red Coins star on the third and final Bowser stage.

After I got the stars, I beat Bowser again quickly and reset and visited Yoshi and got the lives then turned it off. I got all 120 Stars on the Original version and the PC version.