Thought I’d share a letter I just wrote to a couple of developers who make a nice podcast…
I’m in this right alongside you guys. Last night I managed to find my 50th star. This is my first time playing the game, and… oh man! That camera… I don’t need to tell you two how moody it is. Sometimes I really don’t know what Lakitu’s thinking!
There’ve also been so many times I’ve made it up onto the apex of some hellish verticality, only for Mario to slide off the edge, whilst I fall into loud spells of swearing. This may be an issue of inertia, and also the directional responsiveness of Mario. (Notice how he can turn 180 degrees instantly if you flick the stick just so, but will do a kind of meandering turn with his feet if you don’t. I could mention Dark Souls 2, here, which has a similar problem; but I won’t.)
These are just trivialities. Like that other game, Mario 64’s imaginative content more than makes up for things. The whole premise of being in a quiet castle filled with painted portals is just delightful! I can only imagine how a child would have felt about it, at the time of release. Bitter-sweetly, I wasn’t one of those children. Back then, in late ’96, my twelfth birthday saw the bountiful gift of a Saturn with Tomb Raider. Which I in no way regret. My cousin Catherine and I would have scary sleep-overs, delving into that subterranean world well into the night. (And as I said to Tim on Twitter, it’s almost unbelievable that a team of six devs in England could have made that, with no similar game to learn from, in about a year.) And even though Catey and almost all my friends would get an N64, none of us felt like playing Mario 64 together. Perhaps we intuited that it was a game of trials to be overcome alone. Or perhaps the multiplayer to be had in other titles was too irresistible.
And in early ’98, my dad decided we needed a PlayStation. (Which, before the year was out, would lead us to Spyro – the game that surprised everyone by how 64-ish it was.)
Anyway, back to my point (which I do have)… I think you two and I are really lucky to be going through this journey almost fresh in 2017. Tomorrow I’ll be 33, and I’m so grateful to be experiencing this. I find myself alternately appreciating every aspect of the game historically, and then being overcome by wonder or delight at some unexpected turn; brought back into the moment.