It has been awhile since Nintendo really showed us just how superb they are at creating innovative games. Sure, gamers can now purchase the Wii but let’s face it, though it is a system that has massive amounts of potential, with all the Mario Parties, Wii-Fits/Sports and Brain Academies that constantly bombard it’s library, there hasn’t been a title that matches the system’s ability to redefine the gaming experience, as Nintendo was once known for so long ago. With that said, when Super Mario Galaxy was revealed many gamers remained skeptical thanks to Mario Sunshine’s gimmicky shortcomings and severe lack of ground-breaking material. But unlike squirting things with a silly water gun, this time, Mario has gone where no fat Italian plumber has gone before, outer space. And it’s not just water physics Nintendo EAD Tokyo decided to incorporate into this title; now perspective and gravity take on a unique role in an adventure that not only shatters everything that the revolutionary Super Mario 64 was, but also what Platform gaming is all about… period. Wii owners, your prayers have been answered.
STRUCTURE (STORY, GAMEPLAY, CONTROLS,) 8/10
The game starts out predictably in the Mushroom Kingdom where all the Toads celebrate the passing of a comet, enabling gamers to toy around with most of Mario’s classic moves from his 64 days minus his punch and kick attacks. Immediately they’ll notice Mario’s fluid controls through the nun-chuck joystick before Bowser terrorizes the Mushroom Kingdom and snatches the helpless Princess using a powerful UFO (reminiscent of Independence Day), and pulling it into space. And just as Mario is about to make the type of rescue attempt he is known for, he’s blasted by MagiKoopa into deep space… and that’s when the game becomes a little intimidating.
Mario wakes up on a small planet where he finds a “luma”; some star-shaped bean-bag looking critter that prompts Players to chase him all over the planet and get used to the feel of running around on a sphere. Since gamers are used to playing Platform games where characters jump on solid, rectangular objects, the somewhat abrupt change in perspectives can be very daunting. The joystick has to be alternated in a way that suits the player’s intended direction, so there will be times where instead of pushing up to make Mario run forwards, players will have to press down, or left, or right. This is actually the threshold point of the game, where gamers decide whether or not Galaxy is worthy of investing time. But once Mario is jettisoned from his first Launch Star via shaking of the Wii-mote and straight towards the first objective, there’s a strong chance those initial perceptions will change for the better.
This game is all about the sheer volume of meticulous level structure and a hefty percentage of Super Mario Galaxy involves players having to think about their current perspective and how to shift it in order to achieve success; the results can be mind-boggling but the amount of multi-tasking involved makes for an incredibly enjoyable experience. There are times when Mario has to fight Goombas upside-down while on a shrinking platform and other times where gravity forces him to run along walls in order to guide bombs into caged launch-stars. Using blue Pull Stars with the use of the Wii-mote, Players can guide Mario through space, passing obstacles, racing enemies, and opening puzzles, all while simultaneously ensuring he doesn’t fall into a black hole. Even smaller missions prompt Players to race Doppelganger Mario, roll on top of a ball containing a star by tilting the Wii-mote or even swim on top of a manta-ray, all of which help vary gameplay.
A personal favorite of mine is on a rocky planet full of Thwomps that are spaced out upon a spherical maze of very thin paths and moving platforms. Even the enjoyable boss battles go from ridiculously easy to almost epic, especially when fighting Bowser in his SM64-inspired stages, though the levels themselves will often prove more of a challenge. The only issue here is that some star missions have little to do with the general story and can seem nothing more than an excuse to nab a star. Since when have surfing penguins become universally acceptable, especially when there is no surfing against them…in space? Though the same can be said about 64 and Sunshine, at this point in the Mario franchise it would’ve been nice to see a stronger connection between achieving some stars and the overall story. But that would involve a stronger story altogether now wouldn’t it? Bowser steals Peach and in order to save her, Mario has to collect a mass abundance of stars. We’ve played this game twice before haven’t we?
And let’s not forget those classic Nintendo power-ups. Players will recognize Bee and Boo Mario, using them to traverse otherwise unreachable paths. Galaxy also brings back Fire Mario to be used temporarily alongside Ice Mario’s ability to skate on water. The power-ups that falter in control however are Spring Mario, which takes some getting used to since jumping becomes default and attacking a bit harder to manipulate, and Flight Mario, though his costume becomes cooler, altering flight in full 360 degrees can be a pain.
Then there’s the camera, which depends solely on the gamer. With the way the camera is usually fixed, Mario will always be positioned in the center, appearing much smaller in comparison to the world around him. So, the camera itself will be neither helpful nor obtrusive. Long-time veterans will find the lack of camera usage a little awkward but the absence of a frustrating camera is certainly an improvement over Galaxy’s predecessors. Overall, though the game does feel shorter than Mario 64, Galaxy trumps it with its abundance of imaginative, even nostalgic gameplay elements and fascinating ingenuity.
PRESENTATION: (GRAPHICS, SOUND, PLAY DESIGN): 9/10
Though graphically, the Wii usually seems to crank out GameCube-esque effects, Super Mario Galaxy blatantly ignores the status-quo and becomes a visual feast. Particle instances are abundant and animations on character models are slick, adhering to cartoony squash-stretch and gravity, while landscapes and backgrounds are bright and admiring. The cotton-candy cloud and smoke effects are plentiful and are enhanced brilliantly from smooth oscillating water animations. Even Bowser’s hair flows wildly and (dare I say it?) awesomely in accordance to wind and secondary motion. Some facial animations are lacking however. While Mario has advanced to some kind of Folgers’s-commercial gesture after star-retrieval, Peach and Rosalina oddly look like mannequins. It doesn’t help that the cast is constrained to one-letter words, quips and other garbled speech either. This is expected of Nintendo, but not necessarily favored either. A better attempt at voice-acting would have been greatly appreciated. However, music is another story. Just about every track has a sort of addictive hero theme to it as Galaxy throws out the jazzy beats of older Mario titles and successfully experiments with a more orchestral overtone. The result is what feels like an actual adventure taking place. As in older titles, the music distills a feeling of good times while searching for a Princess; Galaxy’s music invokes a sort of urgency and ostentatious atmosphere to the quest of saving “the special one”. It’s like players absolutely must save the Princess or else Bowser will do awful, awful things to her (like run up her phone minutes while she watches). The orchestrated music makes for addicting arrangements to older Mario melodies and players might find themselves scouring the internet in search of downloadable themes for “Good Egg Galaxy” and “Battlerock”.
Galaxy plays a lot like Super Mario 64, where Mario is tasked with collecting 120 stars; though only 60 are required to complete the game. The main lobby is actually an observatory/space-ship run by different-colored lumas and their enigmatic mother Rosalina (who for some reason, looks a lot like Princess Peach… except strangely hot). Once Mario gains enough stars, he can open up a variety of domes that lead to different solar systems. Each system contains over four galaxies, each with its own abundance of stars so gamers can choose which galaxy they can launch to (Nintendo does not get points for accurate astrology knowledge however). It’s kind of like choosing which mission to select in the worlds of 64 and Sunshine; the more stars gamers get, the more places they get to discover. Good on Nintendo for referencing the past and appealing to the long call of fans wishing for the return of Mario 64 elements. Bad on the Nintendo for exactly the same reason. Though playability is in no way hindered in this respect, more experienced players will no doubt brush off galaxy as a 64 space romp. By encompassing 64, Sunshine and Galaxy together, gamers would have collected about 361 stars by now. Galaxy may amp up the formula to insane proportions but hopefully by Mario’s next full 360 adventure, there will be another way to saving the Princess than copious item collection. Heads up Nintendo, at some point sticking to formula will get old!
In A Nutshell (Opinions, Possible Improvements, Total Review)
Oh snap, son (yeah I said it). That’s what this game is, an amazing succession to Super Mario 64 and I feel like a total tool for almost not picking it up in the first place. At first, players may be put off by the seemingly wacky controls and somewhat unoriginal design (it is Mario 64 in space after all). But within the next few hours, the game establishes itself as an innovative and enjoyable take on platform games, especially when a second player buzzes in to grab star-bits alongside the first player. Though veterans will find the general lack of camera control off-putting as well as the somewhat derivative and purposeless attempts at achieving stars, the game has enough appeal and wonder for future platform games to take notes from. And while it would have been nice if Galaxy had not borrowed so much from Mario 64, a true sequel to the Power Star predecessor has been what fans have been clamoring for. Now, they have their wish and more. Just don’t let your girlfriend play Bee Mario… you’ll never get the controller back. Well done EAD Tokyo, well done.
Gravity, perspective take a new role in platform gaming. The variety of (sometimes pointless) star collection yields hours and hours of playtime; especially when collecting all 121 stars. Camera may pose a problem since it’s largely absent when you think you might need it. You’re basically playing a really awesome update to Mario 64.
Be prepared for a few hours of practice. Shifting camera angles will cause gamers to become a little frustrated at first. Stick with it, it takes getting used to. After awhile, controlling Mario will feel like controlling butter… or something smooth-like.
Wow. Nintendo’s art style truly shines in this title from fantastic water reflections to very fluid character models. Some bland facial models though, especially during close-ups.
Okay, bubbled voices are a bit Nintendo 64 but the music is very reminiscent of a Narnia tale.
Does things normal platform-adventures dream of doing. Own!