Review by TheLostToaster
"Probably the most genuinely fun game I've ever played."
Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, on the Nintendo 64 and GameCube respectively, were Nintendo's first two 3D Mario adventures. Super Mario 64, quite frankly, was a revolution in gaming. Sprawling landscapes, a wide range of moves which were easily executed and an overwhelming sense of freedom were only some of the factors that set a skyrocketing standard for future games, and even now, with the advanced technology used in our current games, Mario 64 is considered one of the greatest games ever made.
Followed six years later by Super Mario Sunshine as one of the GameCube's launch titles, many were disappointed that Nintendo had not met their expectations with Mario's latest outing, what with FLUDD, the water-spraying companion of Mario's during the game, being a gimmick and the rushed, unpolished feel of the whole thing. Nevertheless, Mario Sunshine sold well and with 5.5 million copies, it was the second best-selling game on the GameCube (behind Super Smash Bros. Melee)
Gamers worldwide all began to anticipate Mario's third outing on Nintendo's new console, the Wii, the time for Nintendo to exceed all expectations completely, the time for the true successor of Super Mario 64 to be unleashed. They waited for five years, they positively burst with hope and anticipation, and then Nintendo's third, latest Mario adventure was released to the hungry crowds. It's name? Super Mario Galaxy.
This time, Mario's adventure would take place in the vast, sprawling universe, an interesting turn from Mario's usual Mushroom Kingdom-based quests. Regardless, copies of the game were swiftly whipped off every game shop's shelves and people hurried home for their expectations to be shot past.
The game starts off with a cheery intro screen and six different files to choose from. Once you've made a file, you start off in the grounds of Princess Peach's castle, where everyone's celebrating the centennial event of a huge comet flying overhead and scattering shooting stars all over the Mushroom Kingdom. After running around for a bit, and in true Mario tradition, Bowser shows up with his cronies, crystallises all the Toads and kidnaps Peach, this time even ripping her castle out of the ground. Mario tries to rescue her but the head Magikoopa Kamek blows him away into space. Mario lands on a planetoid and sets off on his adventure to find and rescue Peach. As you can see, it's a very basic plot. But then again, Mario has never been about deep plots and you'll really just find yourself wrapped up in the gameplay rather than the story.
Mario, as in his previous games, has many simple moves which can be used easily and efficiently. These include your basic A-button jump, a triple jump, a backflip, a long jump and a spin attack, among others. There's just the right amount of moves in Galaxy, not too little, not too many; you'll find yourself using all of them, none being thrown in for the sake of it.
The use of motion sensing in Galaxy is by very, very far the best on the Wii right now. Nintendo doesn't overdo it and force you to move the Wiimote in different directions just to turn (like in Red Steel) or to swing it every time you have a fight (which was irritating in Twilight Princess); they implement just the right amount. To spin attack or spin jump, you just give the Wiimote a small shake, and it has fantastic responsiveness. No accidental spins when you're trying to do another move; when you want to spin, you spin. It's as simple as that.
For other actions, you have a small, star-shaped cursor, about the size of a fingernail. Scattered across the galaxies in the game are little multi-coloured stars called Star Bits. To obtain these objects, you touch them with your cursor and they automatically fly to you. You'll often find them making up Star Bit shapes, hiding in grass, as the remains of your enemies, all over the place. Collecting 50 of them will give you a 1-Up and you can use them to unlock new galaxies or strike enemies with them (more on that in a minute).
Other things you can do with the cursor are stunning enemies and grabbing onto Pull Stars. With the former, you can aim at the weaker enemies with your cursor and hit B to daze them with a flying Star Bit. Since you can fire in quick succession, this is useful when you're facing multiple enemies (it does, of course, take away Star Bits). The Pull Stars are little blue stars hanging around the sky which you are pulled towards if you grab it with A. You often use them to reach way-too-high areas, and they even make a cool, whiny sound when you grab it, the further away you are, the higher-pitched it is and it never gets tiresome.
There are plenty of other new motion sensing ideas which I won't give away, but I have to mention where Nintendo really shines with the Wiimote, and that is in the Trial Galaxies. These are three long galaxies, each using a different idea that shows what the Wiimote is truly capable of. One has you controlling a ball that you must roll through a series of obstacles by holding the Wiimote upright and tilting forwards, backwards, left or right, just like a joystick. The second galaxy has Mario stuck in a bubble which you steer by getting the bubble from the back with the Wiimote and pressing A to blow the bubble forwards. The third galaxy is a surfing course (much like the Blooper-surfing levels from Super Mario Sunshine) where you find yourself on a manta ray and to control it, you tilt the Wiimote left or right, the more tilt, the more change of direction. All of these are great ideas that are only made better by the perfect motion sensitivity of the Wiimote, not only that but it really requires some effort and concentration to beat these levels thanks to their obstacle-filled, fast-paced nature.
Now the basic idea of Super Mario Galaxy is to collect 120 Power Stars scattered across the universe in different galaxies. Some galaxies have only one star for you to get, others can have up to seven. What's great is that there are so many more galaxies to go to, over 40 in fact, while in Mario 64 there are 15 stages and only 8 in Sunshine. Granted, Galaxy's are smaller and have less Power Stars but there's a much wider range of environments and themes which rarely fails to wow.
Some galaxies are just one big planet where you can run around at your own leisure while others are more linear and have you trekking across lots of different planetoids. It's certainly a good mix; the linear ones are usually great platforming levels, with throwbacks to the Mario games of old, like the original Super Mario Bros. while the ones you can do at your own leisure will give people happy memories of Mario 64. A little bit of everything.
Every level in the game has something which is just ingenious and could only be conjured up by the oh-so-wide imagination of Nintendo. For instance, you have the whole gravity aspect which is used in ways I wouldn't possibly have been able to think of. One stage has you climbing onto different shapes while the direction of gravity is constantly switched, meaning you have to quickly change your position on the shape so that you aren't sucked into a pool of dark matter.
Another stage requires you to collect 100 coins on a spaceship while you're on a moving platform avoiding cannonballs being fired at you from the ship. It's all fine until you're moving around vertically while the platform moves up the ship, and it even has you jumping over platforms upside-down! It's a big throwback to the airship levels of Super Mario Bros. 3 and it shows how well Nintendo can innovate and then blend it with the style of their retro games to make one awesome level.
Mario also has a new range of suits for the game which are a joy to use. Let's take the Ice suit. You turn into an icy figure of Mario which lets you run on water itself and turn it to ice beneath your feet. It can be used to climb to areas you couldn't reach before, like climbing onto the actual spurt of water from a fountain beneath it or even wall jumping off waterfalls!
There are other suits like the Bee suit which can be used to scale the honeycombs of the Honeyhive galaxy or to walk on the delicate flower platforms you couldn't walk on before, and there's the Spring suit, which you can use to bounce high up in the air and grab things which seemed impossible to get at first. It's a shame though that there are some suits (like the Boo one) which could've been used more; they were only in about two levels. But this is so minor you probably won't even notice it until someone brings it up.
The only bit of the game that I really have a gripe with is the swimming. It's confusing and frustrating to actually do, let alone get the hang of, and you'll often find yourself not being able to get something which is only about a foot away from you because of the awful swimming camera and the messy controls.
The game also has a rather easy nature, but then this isn't bad at all considering that if you were to make it harder, many of the levels would just be frustrating and unenjoyable. It's also great for anyone who just wants to pick up and play; they aren't treated to an overly difficult experience and can enjoy it far more.
The visuals in Super Mario Galaxy are fantastic; they're bright, colourful and full of life; much more enjoyable than certain Xbox 360 games which are dreary and dull, regardless of how much detail are put into the objects in the games. In Galaxy, Nintendo sacrifices detail for a stunning environment. The stretching universe beyond the galaxies is a starry, calm, beautiful sight to behold, and when I saw the gigantic Dreadnought Galaxy floating through the night, I just stopped in my tracks for a few seconds to gaze at its majesty, feeling so dwarfed in comparison, it was simply marvellous.
The soundtrack in the game is definitely one of the finest I've ever heard. It ranges from soft, loud, peaceful, fast-paced, powerful, all orchestrated and epic and there are pieces that you'll probably hum for a good while later. Remixes, new songs, they're all there as fresh ear candy. They fit in with their stages extremely well, which makes them even better. The sound effects are great too; what's really good are the sounds coming out of the Wiimote. They actually sound crisp and clear, used at the right time and not just as much as it can.
A new feature is the multiplayer, a second player can pick up a spare Wiimote and help out the first player with collecting Star Bits and hitting enemies. Unfortunately, it feels tacked on and the second player will tire of it quickly, but this doesn't really matter because Super Mario Galaxy really just focuses on fun with single-player.
Overall, Nintendo have made the most genuinely entertaining, stunning and downright excellent game since Super Mario 64. This is a must-own experience for anyone with a Wii, it screams at third-party developers: "THIS is how you make games!" and I really doubt that this will be bested by any other upcoming game.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 11/26/07
Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (EU, 11/16/07)
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