Review by MisterMarioMan
"Poor controls and uninteresting areas ruin what could have been an excellent title."
Super Mario Galaxy was, in every respect, a title that should have been perfect. Combining the new and intuitive controls of the Wii with the fun, complex and exciting adventure that was the previous two titles, Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, this game should really have had it all. However, clunky controls reveal how flawed the title is, and the uninteresting and short worlds to explore greatly detract from the greatness that this game should have been.
Firstly, part of the reason that I loved the original two games is that the area those games provided to explore were fun and exciting, and I actually enjoyed taking the time to try and find all of the stars/shines in them. Each objective was hidden in the worlds with only vague clues as to where they are located, and I reveled at the opportunity to search for each. Galaxy takes a dramatic turn for the worst in this field: While they may still have "main areas", just as the previous two did, the areas are greatly truncated, with each only having three main stars to collect(Super Mario 64 had 6, and Super Mario Sunshine had 8.) Not only that, but the already small areas are broken up into even smaller planets, each with it's own mini-objective(this gets repetitive quickly; typically the objective is to defeat one enemy or collect five objects hidden plain in sight,)
Without one major objective to try to search for, this simplifies the star-collecting process, and makes the game easier. To counter this and ensure the game has the same level of difficulty as it's predecessors, Nintendo decided to limit your health to merely 3 points(Both previous titles had 8.) This creates a level of difficulty that in turn is much too hard, and makes the player question whether or not that was the correct decision.
The main objective to collecting the star typically comes when you reach the last mini-planet(for example, you may encounter a boss or a timed event.) And while these areas to remain true to the typical Mario formula of the previous games, they're much to short and the amount of fluff you must push through in the other areas to reach them makes you wonder if it was worth it. The game does shine in this area, however, as the last planet in a particular level is usually pretty fun.
Now let me tell you about my biggest issue. The controls. It would be dangerous to keep the typical Mario controls from the first game, as it could get boring. This is why Super Mario Sunshine expanded by adding the FLUDD device to the basic game play. Credit must go to Nintendo for this: The switch from one to two controllers and the addition of Wii motion sensing does provide a different yet familiar feel to the classic Mario style. An excellent example of this is the addition of the motion-spin jump. When Mario is in the air, simply shake the Wiimote to give him an extra boost. This is an excellent change from the norm and caused me to think different about several situations.
My issue comes in with the gravitational controls. Because of the space theme of the game(Another mistake, just like Super Mario Sunshine. Don't limit yourself to one theme! The differences in areas are what made the first game so great!) you'll find yourself going sideways and upside-down quite a bit. The controls here are clunky; Mario vaguely understand what I want him to do, and camera switches occur so often, I may adjust to upside-down style controls only to then switch to rightside-up, to move ten steps and then switch right back. It's tedious and provides a much more difficult control method then it should be.
Another major issue I have comes from the terrible water-based controls. This wouldn't be so noticeable if they didn't force you to participate in at least three major water-based worlds(of fifteen) Admittedly, they've never been stellar in the past, but this game takes it to a new low, forcing the player to screw up and lose on challenges they normally would've been able to clear. This comes from the strange two button control style, wear one button forces you down lower and another button allows you to swim(in the past, it's been one button to control everything, and it's been very simple.) This creates a much more difficult game because of poor controls. Couple that with poor camera angles and congratulations: You've got a harder challenge then the game actually should be!
Another issue I have with the game is the use of comets. These comets require you to replay a star with a certain disability; either having only one life, or the enemies moving twice as fast, or a time limit being imposed; or something equally sinister. This creates something I like to call false content: when a game seems to have more content then it actually does. All they're doing, essentially, is forcing you to replay something you've already done with a difficulty spike they can impose in a matter of a few lines of code. The levels are the same(though sometimes they'll start you in different areas) I make two exceptions to this complaint: Cosmic Comets, which, while yes, they are very similar to things you've already done, always seem to have significant changes to the landscape that helps differentiate them from other challenges. The other exception is the Purple Comet, which places you in an area you're familiar with, but forces you to find one hundred coins which are well hidden(sometimes even under a time limit D:)
The comets also make the game far too difficult. For a product that is marketed towards children, I, a college student mind you, had major difficulty in completing most stars from star one. I'm no newbie, either: I've fully completed the other two games as well, collecting every star and every shine they had to offer. I knew how to progress through an area to receive a star, and performed with quite a bit of skill, but the outrageous difficulty makes me believe that children should not be allowed to play it, or they'll just end up getting frustrated(as I personally did at many points...)
The game can be fun, however. Do not take assume I played the game without enjoying myself. I simply found the experience rather lacking, especially when comparing it to the fun I had playing Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario 64 back in my childhood(and I checked: They're STILL quite fun.)
In short, Super Mario Galaxy was an interesting concept but probably should have been scraped before it hit the shelves. Several areas are interesting, and you will definitely have some fun with it should you make the purpose. You won't have as much fun as you might have had with the previous games, because of the number of design and control issues. Super Mario Galaxy was a game that probably never should have been, but I will cut Nintendo a break: They were just learning. I've yet to play the games sequel, but if it's better, then my faith will have returned to the series.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 07/26/10
Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (US, 11/12/07)
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