Review by darkknight109
"A worthy successor to the Mario legacy"
I was one of the many Nintendo fans that were disappointed with Super Mario Sunshine. The water pack just didn't seem to lend itself to the Mario-style of play. It was therefore with a mixture of both elated anticipation and hesitant trepidation that I first placed Mario Galaxy into my Wii. However, any concerns I had about the gameplay and its mechanics were quickly washed away within five minutes of play.
The graphics in Mario Galaxy are incredibly beautiful and just drip with Shigeru Miyamato's incredible imagination. For most of the early Wii games, I've been rather disappointed with the graphics. They look like they could have been done on a previous-gen console. Mario Galaxy suffers under no such impediments. The graphics, while certainly not PS3 calibre, are still amazing, and much improved over many Wii games I've seen so far.
One of the things that stands out almost immediately after you set foot in space, is the incredible depth the whole thing has; you actually feel like you're in the game. This is done with some very unique camera angles and in-game mechanics. Mario will frequently find himself running across tiny planetoids, and the camera pulls back to allow you a full look at the terrain. The effect gives the whole game a very fanciful, whimsical feeling very suited to the Mario universe, and at some points I found myself getting a bit of vertigo as I looked at the Earth spiralling up ABOVE me.
The only real graphical hiccup I've found is that there is often no way to control the camera, leading to some occasional awkward moments where you wish the camera would swing one way, while it happily goes the other. These moments are few and far between, however, and the rare times the camera does put a wall between you and Mario, a silhouette of Mario is always visible to let you know where you are. Clever trick, that.
I have been absolutely enthralled with what I've heard in the game so far. The music fits the game's extraterrestrial theme amazingly well. Quiet, soothing melodies ripple in the background, providing the perfect ambience to a walk through the stars. Long-time fans of the series will instantly be able to pick up some obscure themes that have been redone for the game, such as Super Mario 3's airship theme that plays in the first story scene. Nintendo seems to have developed an affinity for fully orchestrated tracks, and they repeat that trend in this game. Not all the music has full orchestra work, but enough of it does to be impressive without being out of character. I found that the music doesn't have the elegant simplicity and catchiness of Super Mario 64, but is still excellent in its own right.
The voice acting is another nice treat. The series still largely remains without voice acting, but I don't consider that a bad thing. Mario, not unlike Zelda, just seems to work better with most of the characters silent. I'm not sure if you could even do justice to a star-person's voice. Anyways, Mario is the same old Mario we've come to know and love since the Mario 64 days. However, people like myself who were not pleased with the voice acting in Super Mario Sunshine will be in for a treat. Peach's voice actor has been replaced with someone who doesn't sound completely brain-dead and Bowser has gone back to being a character without voice-work. Instead, he communicates in growls and barks that are subtitled on the screen. After the abysmal treatment these two characters got in Super Mario Sunshine, I'm pleased to see that Nintendo has recognized the problem and dealt with it.
There are a few little bells and whistles that you hear throughout the course of the game. Cartoony boing noises happen whenever Mario does a double jump, and landing on a character will produce various squeaks and squawks. None of them sound wholly out of place, although a few of the Wiimote sound effects are more than a tad annoying...
The game looks and plays like something out of a story book. With a blatant disregard to most of the laws of physics, Mario basically ignores gravity throughout most of the game. If the surface slopes, Mario can run up it, even if that slope takes him up a wall, or even onto a roof. This sort of freedom gives Super Mario Galaxy a real sense of depth and freedom that is really quite refreshing. After playing it, you'll wonder why someone else didn't think of it first and why so many games have you playing stuck to the ground. It conjures up feelings not unlike the feeling of freedom most Mario fans got when they first played Super Mario 64 and experienced Mario's leap into 3D.
The game mechanics are mostly standard 3D Mario fare and the game plays quite similar to Super Mario 64, but with enough things changed to make it still feel fresh and new. You are once again searching for the power stars, only this time it's to restore power to a stranded spaceship/observatory and chase down Bowser, who has once again kidnapped Princess Peach (surprise, surprise...). One interesting addition is the ability to collect and shoot star-bits, little candy-coloured power-ups that can be used to stun enemies or activate powerups. This job can be taken up by a second player, should the mood move you to have a friend nearby when playing this game. Regrettably, this feature is more superfluous than anything else. Most of the larger enemies are immune to star-bit attacks and the smaller enemies are easy to take out without them, after a bit of practice.
Unlike previous Mario games, many of the levels are much more broken-up, taking place on a series of small planetoids that comprise a stage. This does not decrease the freedom of the levels, but does make them feel a bit smaller. For those of you who are fans of the more traditional style of Mario worlds, fear not! There are planets that are mostly one big stage with few breaks in them. Standard old themes, like defeat the boss to get the star return, but are also accompanied by a few new tricks. I found a house in the first world, for example, where I had to chase a string of musical notes across a house (running across the floor, wall and roof as I did so) in order to track down a 1-up Mushroom.
There is such a wide variety of things to do in the game, that it would be impossible to list them all here. The game has an open-ended and vast feel to it that is really quite refreshing in a series that, just last-gen, seemed in grave danger of losing its touch. There's a slew of powerups and different looking enemies that all hark back to the 2D days of Mario when the enemies and upgrades were well-varied and extremely numerous. The game is exceptionally fun and I look forward to being able to play it more.
I suppose I'm still getting used to the Wii, which is why it still feels a little strange to me after two decades of playing with a joystick, D-pad or analog stick. That said, the controls are mostly smooth and fairly easy to grasp. You play the game with the Wiimote/nunchuck combo and the controls are almost directly copied from Super Mario 64. There's a few new additions, such as a spin attack triggered by rapidly waving the Wiimote in the air. The punch/kick button is gone, replaced by the ability to shoot star bits. The whole thing is fairly smooth and intuitive, and I have no real qualms about it. The camera occasionally makes controlling Mario a little awkward and/or inaccurate, and there have been plenty of times I have wished for that punch button to return, but for the most part things are bang-on. The only major complaint I have is when Mario is facing sideways, at which point the directional controls are fairly awkward, but this little recurrance is still merely annoying instead of game-breaking.
Why mess with what works? You start the game, much like Super Mario 64, with a note from the Princess inviting you to the castle to celebrate the Star Festival. You are treated to a simply beautiful introduction to the game, as you enter into a starlit version of the Mushroom Kingdom, with vividly coloured stars falling from the sky. Then, of course, Bowser has to wreck everything, being the big jerk that he is, and invade the whole thing with a flotilla of airships (I always did wonder what happened to those things after Super Mario 3...). Peach's castle gets kidnapped by a UFO and Mario sets off to rescue her.
One of the things I really liked about this game is all the subtle nods it gives to long-time fans of the series. From small retro rooms featuring old-school Mario music, to longtime enemies revived in 3D glory (see aforementioned airships) to a proliferation of warp pipes. And best of all, the fire-flower makes its triumphant return! There's so many little moments in the game that will have you saying Oh! I remember that! or Cool! They brought that back!! The beanstalk, the magikoopas and the koopa-shells have all brought that feeling to me. It's really quite a lot of fun just wandering through the game and picking out things from past Mario games.
To be perfectly honest, I haven't had this much fun with a game in years. The last time I can remember being so enthralled with a game was when Super Smash Bros. Melee was released on the Gamecube. Before that, it was the N64 Zeldas. Games of this calibre are as rare as they are amazing. Mario Galaxy is an absolute blast from start to finish, and continually throws something new at you. This is an excellent game and I highly recommend it for any Wii owners out there. If you can find it in the holiday rush, that is.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/14/07, Updated 11/26/07
Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (US, 11/12/07)
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