Dr. Mario 64
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo 64
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • US 04/08/2001
Score: 75%

This review was published on 12/05/2015.

Dr. Mario 64 is a puzzle video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64. It was exclusively released in North America on April 8, 2001. That's pretty unusual, considering the game itself was developed in Japan. Not only that, but Nintendo's headquarters are also located in Japan, and the vast majority of Nintendo games get released in Japan first before making it to other regions, rendering this a severe deviation from the norm. Anyway, this is a sequel or enhanced remake of the original Dr. Mario, which was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy in 1990. In that game, Mario got a degree in doctoring and began fighting illnesses with his stellar puzzle solving skills. Apparently, being good at Tetris is very handy in the field of medicine. As for Dr. Mario 64 specifically, it's mostly more of the same, except with better graphics and some additional features. The music doesn't have the same charm as the 8-bit originals, though.

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Unlike the original Dr. Mario, this game actually has a story to accompany it, as unnecessary as that may be. Flu season has once again reared its ugly head in Mario's world, so the portly fellow puts on his doctor's attire and begins to heal the people of his land. According to the plot, Dr. Mario uses a miracle cure of sorts to treat his patients known as Megavitamins, which look like colored pills. Due to their miraculous healing properties, many unsavory folk desired to steal Dr. Mario's mysterious medicine. One such individual is the greedy Wario, who attempted to rob the Megavitamins to sell them on the street for cash money, but failed pathetically. After Wario failed to swipe the goods, a mad scientist, aptly named Mad Scienstein, successfully made off with the Megavitamins. In actuality, Mad Scienstein is working for Rudy the Clown, both of whom are villains from Wario Land 3 on the Game Boy Color. Dr. Mario and Wario now chase after the scientist to see who can retrieve the stolen Megavitamins first. The only thing that can solve this puzzling epidemic is a prescription for fun from Dr. Mario.

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This game is like Tetris, but with pills instead of blocks. Basically, pills of various colors get dropped into a bottle filled with viruses, which oddly resemble space aliens, and you're able to directly control the horizontal movement of the pills and also rotate them as they fall. Each pill is divided into two segments that may or may not be of the same color; when four or more segments of the same color are lined up horizontally or vertically, they vanish. Viruses count as pill segments, so if you line up two pill halves with two viruses of the same color, or three viruses with a single pill part of the same color, everything vanishes, including the viruses. The current stage is complete when all the viruses have been eradicated, but you sustain an embarrassing loss if the bottle overflows with pills, placing Mario's medical license in jeopardy. Obviously, this is all highly unscientific, but it's fun and that's what matters at the end of the day.

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There are a quite a few modes of play available in Dr. Mario 64, the most basic of which is classic mode. As its name implies, classic mode is where you go if you want to play a typical session of Dr. Mario with no strings attached. In this mode, all you have to do is bust all the viruses to win. Once victory is attained, you'll move on to the next stage, where there will be more viruses to bust and the falling speed of the pills will be slightly faster, making for a greater challenge. It's a basic mode for basic needs. Another minor variation of this mode is marathon mode, which is more or less the same thing, except new viruses will continue to spawn until you lose or quit, altering the objective to attaining the highest score possible. Yet another similar mode is score attack, where you're tasked with killing all the viruses within three minutes and, as the name implies, getting a high score. Then there's also flash mode, where you only need to kill the flashing viruses instead of all of them. All these modes can provide a few minutes of fun, but get repetitive in the long run.

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Story mode follows the plot of the game as you challenge opponents to one-on-one Dr. Mario duels. You can choose to play as either Dr. Mario or Wario, though there are no game play differences between the two, other than each one facing slightly different opponents during the adventure. Many of the individuals you face in story mode are creatures from Wario Land 3, which is a peculiar crossover situation. In any case, story mode functions like the two player versus mode from the original Dr. Mario, except it's against the computer AI. Both you and the opponent will have a bottle with viruses and falling pills, and the win condition is to either be the first one to bust all the viruses or make the other player lose by filling their bottle to the brim. You can send extra pill segments over to your enemy's bottle by getting combos in your own bottle, furthering their potential demise. This is the best single player mode the game has to offer, as it's the only one with a real sense of progression.

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On top of all the single player modes, there are multiple two player modes to test your already tenuous friendships with. You've got the standard two player mode, which works exactly like story mode, except you battle humans, preferably your friends. It's also possible to challenge your friends to a score attack or flash mode match; in score attack, players compete to see who can get the highest score in three minutes, and flash mode has them competing to see who can kill the flashing viruses first. The most notable of all the multiplayer modes, though, is the one literally called multiplayer. With this mode, up to four players can play a round of Dr. Mario at the same time, either in team battles or free-for-all. It's the best feature of the game by far, and also the most unique, as there aren't many other ways to play Dr. Mario with four people. This alone can make the game worth it.

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The results are in and Dr. Mario 64 is all right. The graphics and sound have been upgraded significantly and the game play is just as you remembered it. Many of the newly added modes aren't anything to write home about, but they do vary things up a tad. Besides the four player functionality, though, there's not much of a reason to play this over the original Dr. Mario, unless the graphics of a puzzle game really matter that much to you.

Word Count: 1,161