Review by ryan_pf
"To Goomba-finity, and beyond!"
The first thing that impressed me about Mario Galaxy was how good it looked. The design is obviously Mario-themed, but with just a little more style than Mario games of the past. Technically speaking, the character models are well done, the frame rate is solid, and the motion is fluid.
The music and sound effects for SMG are very good. The score has a lot of completely new music, but it also contains many old favorite themes. Most of the new music seems very outer-space Star Wars or E.T. style, complete with a full orchestra. It's very good, and although it's different from some of the other music in the game and games from the past, it's definitely of equal caliber. It might even appeal better to those spoiled "casual" gamers.
The sound effects are of good quality. Most characters have a voice (thought they speak only single words or gibberish), and the ridiculous voice acting for all the dialog from Super Mario Sunshine is scrapped. A good voice acting crew would have made the story cutscenes even better, but no speech is better than bad speech.
One thing I want to mention about the presentation is just how space-y it is. The story the builds throughout the game is incredibly confusing, but it's not imperative that it be completely understood. There isn't a true "overworld", but instead an area that functions like a simple menu of levels, but with more interactivity. Don't get me wrong, the player moves around just like in real levels, but just about everything that can be done in the area could be done with a simple text-based menu. It's obviously patterned after Super Mario 64's castle, but these aren't necessarily bad things. I would compare it to gumdrops versus ice cream, with SMG being the gumdrops. Both styles of food are sweet, but the gumdrops are definitely distinct pieces to be eaten one-by-one. Ice cream is completely coherent, not defined in distinct pieces, and intermingled from start to finish. I know I've made us both hungry by now, but have I made my point?
Super Mario Galaxy's biggest hype point is the game play. The openness of space opens up a new facet to standard Mario game play, and that is the gravity. Can't find what you're looking for on top of the planet? Just walk around to the bottom! That's not to say that you can just jump around a go crazy: if you fall off and the planet's gravity is not strong enough, you'll be sucked into a black hole! Mario just can't get away from those bottomless pits!
While the planet-to-planet hopping and the crazy gravity play a large part, there are still plenty of "traditional" levels that are basically no different from the structure or game play of a level from Super Mario Sunshine or Super Mario 64. The mixture of levels with the new gravity aspects and levels that feature standard earth gravity makes a refreshing experience that doesn't wear out fast.
Nintendo saw no reason to change the object of the game from past Mario 3D adventures; you still collect one star per mission. Most levels have six missions, though some small levels have only one. There are a ton of levels, though some share a common theme. (e.g. Desert) Unfortunately, none of them are extremely memorable, but they are still good levels.
The controls of SMG are fairly simple, and they are very responsive. The motion-sensing feature of the Wii remote is only used for one move -- spinning -- but it doesn't take anything away from the experience. The pointing capabilities are used to collect star bits and various other things. The controls never bothered me once.
Super Mario Galaxy has, in my opinion, reached the perfect level of difficulty. That is, I didn't get frustratingly(real word?)stuck more than once or twice. Some missions were easy, and some were hard. You don't have to beat all the hard missions to get to the final boss, but you must in order to complete the game.
One last thing I'll mention is the camera. It is, for the most part, inflexible. Occasionally, on the outer space levels, this makes it hard to see where you need to and judge distances. This doesn't come up very often, and the game makes sure to give you a margin for error when these situations come up.
Super Mario Galaxy doesn't cut any corners; even though it has tremendous presentation and game play, it doesn't skimp on the length of the game or the extras.
It takes about 10 hours to get to the final boss with half of the game's stars, and about double that to complete the game. But after that, you can play through the game again with a few changes in game play... I won't give that away. If you were so inclined, you could spend 40+ hours on Mario Galaxy.
SMG has a small co-op mode in which the second player points his remote at the screen to collect star bits, stun enemies, and some other third thing to aid the first player in his quest. It's not engrossing or addictive for the second player(since you just point and click at the screen), but it's a nice little addition.
Nintendo wanted to make Mario appeal more to the casual gamer, but they didn't go overboard in doing so. All-in-all, it made Nintendo work harder to make a better game, instead of settling for a fairly good game that only Mario fans would buy. In the end, it's just a little more wax on Mario's 'stache.
Mario is not only still alive and well, he's getting better with age! In 20 years, Super Mario Galaxy won't be remembered for memorable guest characters or classic levels, but for its impact and outstanding embodiment of the ideal game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/24/08
Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (US, 11/12/07)
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