It's hard to explain just how mysterious the N64 seemed in the mid-'90s unless you lived through those sparse, quiet days yourself. News about Nintendo's 64-bit cartridge-based console floated overseas from Japan at a turtle's pace, and video footage of games in development was hard to come by.
Beta footage of older games is still hard to come by, and whatever we find tends to look fuzzy and sound muffled (VHS tapes and other magnetic storage methods aren't celebrated for their hardiness). So as someone who was forced to pick up her N64 news in drips and drabs via game magazines, I'm stoked to learn there's a very clean-looking and clear-sounding sample of early Super Mario 64 footage on YouTube.
The early version of Super Mario 64 revealed at Space World 1995 looks quite different from the final product. There's a definite lack of polish in the beta (though the game still wowed attendees with its free, open levels, something unseen in console games at the time), plus levels are put together differently. Enemy models also appear more primitive, and Mario's now-iconic pseudo-Italian chatter is replaced by stock shouts and screams better suited for a Tom and Jerry cartoon.
Beta64 already has a breakdown of Super Mario 64's early incarnation, but the aforementioned crisp, clean footage of the game is also worth a look. Redditor "ericargyle" brought the footage to the attention of the Nintendo subreddit when they found it hiding in an uploaded episode of Bad Influence!, a British tech show from the '90s. You can find the N64 segment at the video's 7-minute mark. It's nestled in there quite deeply, which might explain why the footage has gone largely unnoticed for years. It was uploaded in 2012, but only garnered a few thousand hits before its re-discovery yesterday.
"ericargyle" claims this is the clearest video footage they've ever seen of Super Mario 64's beta, and I echo that. How'd Bad Influence! manage to wrangle such good-looking video? Well, it seems they only "sort of" asked for permission to capture footage of the game. "Bad influence" indeed.
Just kidding. Looking back at the show's actions in a time when most early footage of N64 games has degraded into electric mush, I'm glad they engaged in a little rule-breaking 20+ years ago.
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