Super Mario 64 Grand Star is a huge 116 star ROM hack encompassing fourteen worlds, hidden stars, and a super difficult final challenge! While the ROM hack is a long and, self-stated from the creator (aptly named Grand Star) an “intermediate challenge”, I do have to say it is one of the more complete ROM hacks I have played in all. The game progresses as a normal game would with difficulty scaling as the game goes on and that’s something a lot of ROM hack creators don’t normally do in not just in Super Mario 64 rom hacks, but in tons of them in general. ROM hacks are usually categorized as vanilla, hard, easy, and so on, so each new hack is usually formed around that basis. With SM64 Grand Star it is a full adventure and no one world feels the same, that is of course, unless you count World 1 which is an imitation of Bom-omb Battlefield from Super Mario 64!
However, gameplay-wise you get pretty much vanilla Super Mario 64 here. Camera controls are the same, no extra moves, and no updated models for Mario or his enemies. While the game is vast and large, the hub-world is pretty dry being the mostly the same with levels scattered around the same overall layout (so you have to find where some of the other levels are as most are in the same spot but not all). The music choices are pretty spot on and fit the motif of each world, but that’s about it. However, the final world the “Astral Trials” is a culmination of all the skills you need to know and learn from all your Super Mario 64 adventuring that it’s by far the most memorable and the most grueling. I believe it took me roughly an hour just to complete the world itself, but honestly taught me a few cool tricks that I can see being annoying for a casual player or those just looking to play Super Mario 64 and not try “Kaizo” (a Super Mario World harder term here) Super Mario 64 hack.
Do I recommend Super Mario 64 Grand Star? I do, I think the game is a fine ROM hack with some great levels. While they may not be the most memorable, they certainly fit the game well and bring a great sense of accomplishment when completing them. Now, do I recommend them for those starting their Super Mario 64 ROM hack voyage? No, I think the game requires some Super Mario 64 skill and a bit of trial-and-error, that some may not be looking for in a hack. There are better options out there, but if you have played them then this is the hack for you!
Overall: 8/10 (8.2 for the DKC song in the Ice World)