Review by zeshin_reloaded
"Very recently, in a galaxy not too far away..."
In the past eleven years, only three 3 Mario games have been released. This can be attributed to Shigeru Miyamoto's perfect design creed that often either results in delays or total scrap-it-and-do-it-over-again' scenarios. Super Mario 64 is not only considered one of the most revolutionary games of the 90's, selling around 11 million copies, but is still considered one of the best games ever released in 2007. That single game went on to influence nearly every 3D-platformer that came out after it.
Six years later, Super Mario Sunshine was released. While it was released to high praise from critics, it had a less-than stellar reception from the general gaming consumer. A lack of innovation, considerably concerning the FLUDD, a water-filled backpack Mario used in Sunshine, was the main target of the harsh criticisms. It has apparently soured in the mouths of gamers since then, if one were to ask forum posters on the issue. Still, the game did well, selling around 5 and a half million copies.
Only now, five years later, do we receive yet another traditional 3D Mario game, under the moniker Super Mario Galaxy. This game is of a rare breed, being one of only three 3D Mario games in the franchise, and also starting life in development specifically for the Wii, unlike Super Paper Mario that was originally slated to be a Gamecube title. So far, the game has been receiving extremely positive reviews, seemingly none of which fall below a 95% rating. Will this review support these other examinations, or will Galaxy falter under this new inquiry of quality?
Chances are, if one has played any other Mario game, it's easy to guess the story without much work. In a nutshell, it's Princess Peach getting kidnapped by Bowser who beats up Mario within the game's intro, who then has to save Princess Peach again. The twist this time is that Bowser flees into outer space after kidnapping Peach during a star festival held in the Mushroom Kingdom, and Mario must give chase. Mario quickly encounters a new character, Princess Rosalina, who lives on the Comet Observatory with star creatures called the Lumas, who consider Rosalina to be their Momma. Rosalina explains that Bowser stole the Power Stars and seven Grand Stars from the Observatory and that they can find Bowser if Mario can find the Grand Stars again.
As one can tell, it is not exactly Pulitzer-grade material, but then when as anyone played a Mario game for its story? The game treats the audience to a couple of back-story segments in the form of storybook scenes. These aren't particularly engaging to someone older than six years old, but they do culminate in a rather sad ending, to those old enough to understand it.
The best comparison to the game's design is that it hearkens back to the days of Super Mario 64. There is the central hub, the Comet Observatory, which leads to a number of worlds, or galaxies. The biggest difference this time around is the number of stars and galaxies. While this game has fewer stars per galaxy, it has many more areas/worlds to explore than what 64 did.
In order to progress, you need to enter a specific area on the Observatory, in which you'll have access to a number of galaxies. Each of these galaxies then have a set number of challenges that must be completed, with a power star as a reward for each finished objective. Once a certain number of power stars are collected, the boss stage of that observatory will be available to fight. Bosses will yield a Grand Star that in turn unlocks a new observatory and set of galaxies. It is a merry-go-round of collecting.
One new feature is the prankster comets. These celestial anomalies appear at random around certain galaxies and present the player with a specific variation to a recently completed or wholly new one. Their effects can range from quickened enemies, time limits, or a lowered life bar.
While it has changed very little from the design of Super Mario 64, it still resonates with the player as endless motivation to collect more power stars.
This is an integral part of a Mario game. Nintendo has repeatedly hyped this as one of, if not the greatest game ever created. Of course, most boasts such as this are met with gruff skepticism. It is safe to say that this has become the new apex of platform gaming. The controls are incredibly intuitive to the point that there is almost no learning curve whatsoever. All the elements of the gameplay, such swimming, collecting the star-bits (a type of ammo/money), attacking, power-ups, etc. are slowly brought in to allow a good amount of time to master certain moves before moving on to something new.
One cool element that has made a comeback is the ability to nab power-up items. Mario can transform into a variety of forms: Fire Mario, Ice Mario, Bee Mario, Spring Mario, Rainbow Mario, and Red Star Mario, a new flight-capable form. All the forms are fun and interesting to play with. Spring Mario, however, is a little wonky in the terms of controls.
The game also includes a co-op mode in which a second player may join in or leave at any time. Co-Star mode allows a partner to join in by using the pointer to paralyze enemies, assist Mario's jumps, collect star bits, and shoot them for the 1st player. It's difficult to judge this feature, as the enjoyment taken from it really depends on what kind of gamer the Co-Star is.
Overall, the game is extremely fun to play. The controls are easy enough for anyone to pick up and play, yet the whole experience still has enough depth to satisfy the hardcore gamer. The controls are a definite improvement over the standard set in Super Mario 64.
Another stunningly marvelous aspect, Galaxy is definitely the best-looking Wii game available. Everything looks so smooth and crisp. It isn't quite Pixar-quality, but it is certainly very close.
The game's aesthetic is also the usual, quirky Mario theme everyone has become familiar with over the years. This time, the scale is so grand, thanks to the outer-space environments, that it is able to differentiate itself from the other entries in the series. The scenes in which Mario flies between planets are so cinematically treated, that they can easily steal one's breath away.
In short, Super Mario Galaxy is wonderfully gorgeous and imaginative.
Normally, music does not play a big part in a simple platformer. It is usually relegated to some obscure corner of the presentation, merely filling in space in the background. However, Galaxy's score sets the bar for game music. The music alone is worth buying the game.
Doing what should have been done with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Nintendo had the entire soundtrack performed by a live orchestra, filled with fantastic musicians. Koji Kondo still has a few tricks up his sleeve, as this game has some of the best music to date in a video game. The music always fits the mood, whether it is an eerie world or a grand and epic locale. The musical score is so great that people may just replay levels to listen to the inspiring acoustics again. The OST is superb and well worth a buy.
Rarely is the gaming community treated to something as magnificent as Super Mario Galaxy. It plays like a charm, it is presented in a top-notch fashion, and it has a good length to justify its price tag. It takes about 30 hours to beat the main quest, while it takes about double that to collect all 120 stars. If one were to count the extra mode in which the game is replayed as Luigi, the game can take up almost 120 hours.
While most games have at least one glaring flaw, one would be hard-pressed to find a single anomaly with Mario's latest endeavor. To really nitpick it, the story isn't very original and some of the stars feel a bit to easy to obtain. Other than that, Galaxy is pure gold. Wii owner should consider this an absolute must-buy.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/19/07
Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (US, 11/12/07)
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