Obviously, I knew of it. Everyone did. Those screenshots we'd all seen in the mags looked too good to be true.
We'd gone for one of our meetings with the company's then head of public relations, Mark Maslowicz. Tim and I had a weird relationship with Mark; we really liked him, yet there was something about him which inspired us to wind him up.
As I may have previously stated, on one occasion we waited until he left his office, then drew a large penis mid-way through a notepad that was on his desk. Another time, when we overheard a conversation which revealed the pack-in game for the 32X, and enjoyed playing on his paranoia, making him think we had a mole working for us in his department.
He rang us up after we ran a piece telling the world: "I asked you not to say anything" he sputtered, exasperated. Yet something about Mark's manner was always friendly, whereas his successor simply out-and-out disliked us, and wouldn't give us the time of day. He was arsey and abrupt, wouldn't meet us at trade shows...
We arrived for a meeting with him on one occasion, to be kept waiting in the lobby for close to an hour. When he eventually deigned us with his important presence, he claimed to have know knowledge of ever arranging the meeting, and demanded to know what we wanted from him.
Apparently, he'd been dragged out of an audience with various more impressive journos from Emap, in order to tell us to get lost. The way he spoke about them, you'd think we'd dragged him away from an audience with the Queen by doing a poo on the bonnet of his car. Ironically, the sort of thing we probably would've done to his predecessor.
It certainly didn't warm us to Sega's cause... which was a fundamental error, as the company needed all the friends it could get back then.
It's hard to understate that first look at Super Mario 64. I remember some Sega employee was playing through that early Bob-Omb Battlefield, him and his imported N64 surrounded by a crowd of onlookers.
Specifically, he was on that bit with the cannonballs rolling down the mountain. It was hard not to be blown away. It was also not hard to be somewhat destabilised by the surrealism of watching the future of Nintendo unfurl before our eyes, while stood surrounded by Sega paraphernalia. It was akin to pinning a photo of a wolf inside a chicken coup.
"Right, you've seen enough of that," snapped Mark Maslowicz, realising how impressed we were becoming.
Oddly, I can't recall when I first went hands-on with Super Mario 64. It's entirely possible that Nintendo furnished us with a review copy - but we always had vague relations with their PR department. They were helpful, friendly enough, but kind of distant. Sort of like a bunch of Nice-But-Dims, who'd been through electro-shock therapy.
The one thing I do remember, is struggling. Struggling with the controls, struggling with the camera, struggling to walk across a narrow path without falling off it. Naturally, we gave the game the highest possible score.
I'll get to the imperfections in a minute, but there's no question that Mario 64 was anything other than epoch-defining. It's hard to think of another game - beyond something like Space Invaders or Pong - which has had the same impact. Even Wolfenstein and Doom felt like the result of steady evolution. Super Mario 64 just appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. It changed everything.
But, yeah... it wasn't perfect.
I think a lot of us overlooked a lot of the issues with Super Mario 64.
After all, it would've been churlish to criticise the first Apollo mission because the spaceship wasn't very cool.
Somebody has to be first, and it's remarkable how much Mario 64 got right, given that there was no precedent before it. It went far beyond just being some tech demo; the secrets crammed into its worlds made it feel alive.
However, looking back, I do question how good a game it actually was. Aside from the controls and the camera being awkward - how fiddly was it to do a triple jump, or a handstand on top of a tree?!? - the structure is just kind of bizarre.
It's like wandering around a succession of Dali-esque playgrounds. As a format or genre, Nintendo has gone on to perfect it with the Super Mario Galaxy games, and Super Mario 3D Land/World, but Mario 64 is quirky to the point of being baffling. I don't know how close I ever came to "finishing" it, but certainly I gave up earlier than I expected to; it's the only Mario game I've never played until the end.
Life was too short. Plus, there was a review to write.
Oddly, Tomb Raider on the Saturn - which was released in Europe before Super Mario 64 - had perhaps more of an impact on me. In as much as I probably enjoyed playing it more. It was the first proper proper 3D platformer I got to spend time with. It hasn't aged well, but it's certainly a more focused game than Mario 64. Plus, arriving earlier in this corner of the world, it possibly diluted some of the impact of Nintendo's game.
I've revisited Super Mario 64 a few times since, and I've still not come any closer to finishing it. Firstly, when the DS came out; I ended up enjoying the new mini games more than the main event. I also downloaded it onto my Wii. Again, I struggled with the controls and camera, before deciding it wasn't worth putting in the effort.
Most recently, last year I played it on my JXD gaming tablet thing; the original game with no bells and whistles... unless you count graphical glitches as bells and whistles.
Again, I didn't get very far. In fact, after about the tenth time of sliding down the big mountain with the cannonballs, I switched it off and played Sunset Riders instead. Maybe not the greatest video game of all time, but certainly a less frustrating five minutes here and there, than Mario 64.
That might sound like heresy, but I still think Mario 64 deserved all the plaudits it got. It was iconic, bold, and making up the rules as it went along. It was so different to anything that had come before - while still feeling like a Mario game - that it would've been a miracle if it had been perfect. And despite that, it's still sort of a miracle.
THE COMPLETE GAMES OF MY YEARS