Review by bradleyoXD
"A Galaxy of brilliance - winner of cheesiest tagline ever..."
Super Mario Galaxy Review
Where do I begin? I'll start with the fact that this is undoubtedly the greatest Mario title since the legendary Super Mario Bros. 3. Forget all the other games; forget the fact that this series has gone to some serious low-points since 1990. Super Mario Galaxy is the homecoming, a return to form for the portly plumber. I'm so glad that Nintendo has nailed it.
But what makes Galaxy so great? Is it the innovative physics? The Wii Controls? The Graphics? All of these aspects are certainly assets, but the fact that clearly remains in my mind while I play it is clear: this is Mario in 3-D. There's no compromises, no changes. The essence that make those 2-D titles so memorable has finally made it's way into a 3-D title.
But, wasn't Super Mario 64 the game that translated the series into 3-D? Well, for those who look on the surface, that's perfectly true. But for some Mario nuts (like me), Mario 64 just didn't provide the brilliant experience that I got from Mario 3 and World. Mario is renowned for perfect control, yet Mario 64 was too convoluted in it's control scheme. Running from the start to the goal? Sadly, Mario 64 became a poor man's Metroid; while provided a vintage explorative game, the simple goal-focused design was reduced to fetch
Galaxy changes all of that. While it feels like Mario 64 and Sunshine on the surface (retaining all of the good qualities of those titles), it returns to the old-school style of play we had with the 2-D games. Returning penguins to their mothers? Not at all. Instead, the star's location is clearly pointed out. All you have to do is reach it.
Of course, reaching the star is no walk in the park. Just like with the 2-D titles, Nintendo sticks a whole load of obstacles to hinder your journey. From vanishing panels to rotating blocks, from small planetoids to gigantic landmasses littered with enemies, the obstacles are all unique and just plain cool. The mountain and tower climbing from Mario 64 have thankfully returned too.
These obstacle courses are only a small part of a large galaxy. Just like the obstacles, these galaxies are all very unique, with a different theme and focus. Imagine a traditional ice-world, floating right next to a large fiery planet? What about an asteroid, armed with large cannons manipulated by a command station floating above? And how about a galaxy strewn with space debris and bits of a long lost spaceship? These unique levels
are all packed with inventive ideas and pesky enemies, ranging from the cool to the absurdly clever. Thankfully, Nintendo strikes a perfect balance between barren worlds and superfluous features, making sure you never get bored yet never feeling hopelessly swamped.
Many people have complained about the relative ease of the game. Yes, Galaxy isn't Contra. Yes, reaching the credits isn't much of a challenge. But what about finding all 120 stars? Some of the later objectives will certainly provide extra challenge and length for those who want it.
People have also mentioned the lack of difficulty and depth in the boss battles. But, just look at the rest of the game; look at the serie's past. Mario aren't supposed to be complex; boss battles are supposed to be quick and simple. Despite the lack of difficulty, at least the designs were inspired. From obese moles to the classic Magikoopas, from colossal robots to Bowser himself, they all provide a unique experience - just like the level designs.
What about the camera? I'm glad to say that, despite the odd moment of disorientation, you'll be able to see where you're going clearly. Sunshine's camera was good, but would sometimes stick in stupid places, totally disabling your vision and causing you to unfairly lose a life. Galaxy's slightly zoomed-out position almost always views the action from the correct position. I'm sad that Nintendo didn't allow the option of controlling it manually (as in Sunshine), but you'll hardly ever need to anyway.
The control system established in Mario 64 has been retained, albeit in a simpler and smoother form. Mario is still manipulated by the analog stick (which feels smoother), and he still jumps with a tap of the A button. Mario can still perform a whole manner of different jumps, although there is less emphasis on their usage.
So, has Nintendo added any new material? Yes, and there's a fair amount of innovation in there. When it comes to the new control mechanics, there isn't a whole load of shoehorned remote waggling and superfluous gesturing. Instead, the new additions are intuitive and meaningful. An on-screen reticule is controlled by pointing at the screen, allowing you to interact with the environment. This addition doesn't only add more layers to the gameplay, it adds complexity without complicating the game itself. Imagine collecting star bits while fighting a boss at the same time. That's simply pure genius - how Nintendo has managed to add meaningful additions without letting it to get in the way of the gameplay.
Although I mentioned earlier that the game isn't inundated with silly gestures and waggling, that doesn't mean there aren't any moments where unique gestures are required - and, just like the level designs, they are all unique in concept and execution. Imagine having to ride a glass ball by using the remote like a flight stick. Or how about riding a manta ray, manipulated by a "lock-and-key" motion? The game also requires you to waggle the remote, which makes Mario spin - it sounds gimmicky, but it feels great and is used in many situations throughout the game.
The new physics are also cleverly implemented. Due to the fact that Mario is in space, he must abide to the laws of gravity. Every planetoid has it's own gravitational pull - stray too close and you'll be pulled onto it's surface. It also means that Mario can run all over a planetoid - standing upside-down looks great. These gravity effects are cleverly used - imagine riding on a tetris-esque block with constantly changing gravity, making sure you don't fall to your doom; it's pure genius. The physics never eliminate the chance of falling - a nearby black hole will engulf Mario if you make a mistake.
The power-ups deserve a mention too, seeing as they're featured on the back of the box. While they don't add much to the overall experience, they still look cool. I'm glad Nintendo included them. The comets are another cool little addition that, while only making up a small part of the game, are pretty cool. These comets take an objective you've already completed, and adds a little twist. Daredevil comets require you to beat a boss with only one segment of life, while the speed comets add a timer. While they're only there to add to the length of the game, at least they aren't as lame as the stupidly obvious blue coins in Sunshine.
Most games with such brilliantly designed gameplay have to sacrifice something - but that isn't the case here. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful lighting, smooth textures, and realistic particle effects all at 60 fps. Mario animates fluidly, and the worlds are as smooth as syrup. It's simply wonderful. The style is certainly inspired, too - while Galaxy centres around a space motif, that doesn't mean there aren't any traditional themes. Ice, water, sandy and fiery worlds abound, along with Princess Rosalina's beautiful starship. My particular favourites are the cookie-inspired and the toy themed worlds - both bursting with personality and colour. The attention to detail is typical of Nintendo - but it's still worth mentioning. How about a floating Yoshi egg in the middle of space? Or an apple, containing a worm which can be flushed out by driving a stake through the core?
What about the music? Well, it doesn't get much better than this. From the bold, brilliant Good Egg Galaxy tune to the whimsical bee hive music, from the sweeping orchestra in the Gusty Garden Galaxy to the delicate notes in the hub world, you'll hear a plethora of unique tunes that perfectly suit the galaxy. There are even some songs you wouldn't expect to hear from a Mario game - the music in Battle Rock Galaxy sounds like something out of Star Trek, yet it perfectly fits the situation. Nintendo has even included some lovely remixes of classic tunes - it's a nice breath of fresh air from the new material.
However, the sound effects aren't worth writing home about - just the usual mix of explosions, footsteps, etc. There's no VO either - just the usual Nintendo tradition of giving the characters grunts and catchphrases. On the same note, the plot is nothing to go crazy over - the usual "damsel-in-distress" plotline - but at least it gives focus to the gameplay, and sets the pace.
Super Mario Galaxy is a spectacular game, the best game of this generation so far. We can applaud the clever nuances, the attention to detail, the inventive level designs. We can gush over the little details, the gorgeous graphics, the lovely music. Yes, this game isn't without it's flaws: the camera isn't perfect, finding the first 60 stars is pretty easy, and there's a galaxy that is simply a mirror-image of another.
But these are simply small planetoids in a universe of brilliance. Why bother pointing out these tiny problems in a game so huge and full of fantastic ideas? But, the reason I love this game so much is because Mario is finally receiving the treatment he deserves. We finally have a Mario game that can stand proudly next to other titles like Final Fantasy VI, resident evil 4, Majora's Mask, and (dare I say it) Super Mario Bros. 3.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/29/07
Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (EU, 11/16/07)
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