Remembering Super Mario 64 DS

A great Super Mario 64 port already exists, on the Nintendo DS by Ana Diaz for Polygon

True fans have been asking for the King to return. The impending release of the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection has had me walking down memory lane back to the summer after the release of Nintendogs in April 2004. I was getting ready to get my own DS and was extremely excited. One day after church, my Dad took me around town in his truck looking for an Electric Blue Nintendo DS just like my friend had gotten for his birthday. The plan was to buy the Electric Blue DS bundled with Super Mario 64 DS and snag a copy of Nintendogs too.

Unfortunately, the Electric Blue DS was a hot commodity in the summer of 2004 and every store we stopped at was sold out. Our last stop was a Walmart and they too were sold out, but they did have a Titanium Silver DS bundled with the Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt demo. I decided to buy that system instead of waiting to find the Electric Blue. This decision did force me to chose between Super Mario 64 DS and Nintendogs thought; two games I was incredibly eager to play. I ended up choosing Super Mario 64 DS and would end up getting Nintendogs later on.

I had played Super Mario 64 before at neighbor kids’ houses, but I never owned it myself (and wouldn’t until I bought it in college for $15). This portable remaster/upgrade was my first real introduction to the game. I must have played over 100 hours between the main game and all the multiplayer minigames with my friends. I absolutely loved this game growing up.

After the announcement of Super Mario 3D All-Stars, I decided to download a copy of Super Mario 64 DS on my Wii U. You read that right. The Wii U has a nicely curated selection of Nintendo DS games for $9.99 or less. I was fiddling around with the game, capturing some footage, and I realized how much this portable version actually changed from the N64 original. Ana Diaz puts highlights the changes in the linked post:

Mario 64 DS wasn’t just a carbon copy of the Nintendo 64 game. It added a plethora of new content. This included a whopping 30 new stars, entirely new areas, and secret stars. It brought in Yoshi, Luigi, and Wario as playable characters. It also boasted a catalog of 36 touchscreen-based minigames. Those are just some of the highlights.

I’m not here to say that more content is inherently better. What made this port work was that the new content enhanced and improved on the experience of the original game.

This strikes me as the kinda of remake in the same vein as Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. When remaking Metal Gear Solid for the GameCube, Silicon Knights decided to fuse the gameplay from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty with the original game’s setting and plot. While not necessarily a graphical powerhouse upgrade over the original, Super Mario 64 DS does add new gameplay elements and modernizes some of the original game while keeping its spirit. The one star per level structure was always a perfect format for portable play and Peach’s Castle shined on the DS.

It really is a bummer that Super Mario 64 DS really has never been properly acknowledged after its initial release. Maybe if Nintendo ever decides to truly remake Super Mario 64 (maybe with the Super Mario Odyssey engine), they’ll turn to the DS version instead as their foundation.

Xbox Series S Officially Announced at 3 AM

It seems that leaking the actual console design, price point, and release date was the leak that broke the dam. After Windows Central reported that the Xbox Series X and S would release on November 10 at $500 and $300, respectively Xbox decided to confirm the Series S’ existence, design, and $300 price tag. They have remained mum on the Series X pricing and the release date.

The Series S is all-digital, supports raytracing, 1440p up to 120fps, 4K upscaling for games, 4K media playback, and has a 512GB SSD. No other specs were officially revealed, but since the Series S has been one of, if not the, worst kept secret for this upcoming generation, I think it is safe to bet on the previously leaked specs.

The key differences between the Series X and S lie in the GPU, RAM, output, and storage. The GPU is reported as having less than half the compute units (20 CUs vs the Series X’s 52 CUs) and only a third of the teraflops with 4TF instead of 12TF. The RAM is reportedly only 10GBs of GDDR6 instead of the Series X’s 16 GB. The Series X does have an interesting combination of RAM though, with 10 GB at a speed of 560 GB/s and the remaining 6 GB at 336 GB/s. I wonder if the Series S’ RAM will be at 560 GB/s or 336 GB/s.

I find the more interesting comparison for the Series S is between it and the Xbox One X. While the CPU and GPU are less powerful on the One X, its GPU does have 40 CUs and 6TF. The One X has 12 GB of GDDR5 RAM at 326 GB/s. It also outputs full 4K gameplay, instead of upscaling it and comes with a disc drive. Unfortunately, the Xbox One X was discontinued in July 2020.

The $300 price tag is going to grab a lot of people’s attention. It will definitely look better on the shelf next to both the PS5 and the Series X, especially when an electronics department employee is giving a weak pitch. Parents and kids will snag these up quickly. I am curious how the different specs will impact performance and development. Microsoft has promised cross-generational support for many of their games. This adds one more combination of hardware to the mix. Despite all the hemming and hawing surrounding the PS5’s price and date, Sony does have clearing messaging between its two PS5 variants: One has a disc drive, the other does not, otherwise the two boxes are identical. While this won’t lead to a price gap like the Series X and S have, it does make for a cleaner message.

On the flip side, having a price tag of $300 is a much louder message.

Two is One and One is None

I come to you today to warn you about hard drive corruption. Backup your data. Save yourself the headache, heartache, and wallet-ache that comes with trying to save corrupt data.

Back in April-May, I bought a 5TB external drive and began recording most all of my gameplay. I’ve wanted to build a collection of footage I could use for video projects and reference. After years of capturing guide footage and having to delete it for space, I really wanted to try and start keeping it.

I captured all of my Death Stranding play time and all of The Last of Us Part II. I had some Call of Duty matches, Persona 5, and test footage from my Super NT and GameCube. So far, this had amounted to between 2.5-3 TBs of footage.

Then last weekend I was brainstorming a video idea. I plugged the drive in to transfer new footage and everything was gone. This happened to another drive of mine roughly two months ago, an external SSD, but I had a backup of it through Backblaze. I did not have a backup of the game footage because of its size. I knew the upload would take ages. I completely regret that logic.

I tried using First Aid in Disk Utility on my Macbook. It found out there was corruption. I booted into recovery mode like Disk Utility recommended, but it wasn’t running recovery on the drive. I couldn’t solve it. So I turned to third party software.

I picked Wondershare Recoverit that would scan for free and then I could chose to pay $80 to recover if it found anything. After 12 hours of scanning, it found 2.13 TB of data. I went to preview a file and it prompted for payment with no option to just back out and keep looking at what it actually found. The payment screen showed three tiers, which I was not aware of. There was the basic tier for with the $80 price tag I was expecting. Then there was the top tier that included “advanced video recovery” for $160 lifetime license. I talked to Abby and we decided it’d be okay to go for. After seven hours of moving the data to another drive, everything should have been saved.

Unfortunately, almost every single file was still corrupt. The bits were there, but unplayable in video software. Advanced video recovery required a completely different scan of the drive.

After 28 more hours of scanning and copying to another drive, the software found 12 “recoverable” video files. Once again, unplayable. The “advanced video recovery” seems to just have the files capable of being recovered. Don’t worry, Wondershare sells video recovery software just for that purpose. It was here when I finally gave up. I kept the functioning files (plus all of the footage from The Last of Us Part II, just in case).

I’ve (mostly) accepted my loss. I have definitely learned my lesson. I immediately backed up some essential work video files to four different locations. And now I have begun the long process of backing up my gameplay footage. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Always have a backup.

 

GameCube SD2SP2 Thoughts

I’ve been a lifelong GameCube fan. Ever since the kid down the street said his Dad built them (in suburban Indiana), I’ve been hooked on the Cube. Back in 2018, I was fortunate enough to unlock the full visual fidelity of my original Black GameCube with the GCHD MK-II (the unit was provided by EON to DualShockers for review).

When I was tasked with that review, I took it as an opportunity to finally buy an Action Replay and a SD card adapter so I could use the Game Boy Interface I had learned about from My Life in Gaming.

I loved the power that homebrew unlocked for my Game Boy Player, but using the SD card through the Action Replay was incredibly slow. The Action Replay only supports a max of 2GB cards and an older standard. It regularly crashed and wouldn’t load settings.

The SD2SP2 completely changes this dynamic. It’s a small chip board that I bought preassembled from CastleMania Games for $11. It supports micro SD cards up to 1TB and modern speed standards. The SD2SP2 accomplishes this by tapping into the GameCube’s unused Serial Port 2.

I still have to use the older SD adapter and Action Replay to launch the homebrew software called Swiss, but once that boots, Swiss immediately recognizes the SD card in the SD2SP2.

It loads GBI practically in the blink of an eye. This thing is a huge improvement and greatly reduces the fiddly hurdle I had before.

When did I get so many Controllers?

panorama

I swear I have no idea how this happened. I woke up one day and had 41 controllers in my apartment. This doesn’t include the few remaining in storage either.

Here is the break down:

  • Nintendo Total = 30
    • NES Joy-Con = 2
    • SNES / SNES-Styled = 6
    • N64 / N64-Styled = 5
    • GameCube = 7 (Got another WaveBird since this photo was taken)
    • Wii = 4
    • Wii U = 1 (technically 5, if you include Wii, but that’s double-dipping)
    • Switch = 5 (not pictured are the Joy-Cons on my wife’s Switch)
  • PlayStation Total = 11
    • PS1 / PS1-Styled = 3 (Not pictured is my original PS1 controller currently in storage)
    • PS2 = 2 (Not pictured is my Guitar Hero III guitar controller)
    • PS3 = 1
    • PS4 / PS VR = 5
  • Xbox Total = 2
    • Xbox One = 2

I think it’s obvious where I have spent most of my life playing games and what controllers I prefer. My favorite controller ever is the GameCube WaveBird. It is a wireless champ and the GameCube’s A/B/X/Y layout is smart design for the platform. With one glance, you can tell what the button heirarcy is and you are never far from any button. The analog triggers are perfectly springy with the most satisfying click at the end. If only the D-Pad wasn’t mushy. Thankfully, I can turn my GBA into a controller for my GameCube thanks to a link cable.

I love the GameCube controller so much I have a brand new one still in the box.

By far, the most money I’ve spent per controller is for the Xbox. The Elite is rock solid with good heft and those sweet, magnetic, clicky paddles. My work on IGN’s Cuphead and Celeste guides would have been much more difficult without those paddles. As for the steering wheel – I love Forza Horizon. I cannot wait to finally play those games in 4K on the Series X. The only problem with the steering wheel is that there is no room in our apartment to use it without dragging our dining table in front of the TV. No super feasable, so I just keep it tucked away until we get more space some day.

My small(er) set of PlayStation controllers is definitely the most practical out of them all. Platform focused with not a ton of fluff. The only reason I have so many DualShock 4 controllers is I keep buying PS4 Pro consoles. The only one I bought solely as a controller was my transparent red controller. I kept the transparent yellow controller from the Death Stranding PS4 Pro and The Last of Us Part II PS4 Pro came with a sleek gunmetal gray controller.

I probably have too many controllers. In my defense though, I find the controller to be essential to how I play a game. I’m not a mouse and keyboard person. I grew up on the N64 controller. My brain is wired for analog sticks, triggers, and buttons. I find playing with a game-accurate controller to be just barely more essential than playing with a physical cartridge when applicable. I have adapters to use old controllers with new systems. To me, the controller is the way fully experience a game.