I agree that the structure of the levels remained largly the same regardless which star you chose, but in SM64 you could only get the star you picked in the beginning, any other star would be blank and thus wouldn't count to your star total. That's a design decision I never understood.
I can say for a fact that that wasn't the case. There were a small handful of stars where to obtain that star, you had to choose it specifically at the select screen (both of the races with Koopa the Quick come to mind), but most were free choice
Monster Hunter: pissing me off since 2010.