Review by ShadowGuardian9

"Yay for jumping!"

Mario is gaming's main man. He's come a long way since his debut as the quirky plumber/carpenter Jumpman in Donkey Kong, currently being the poster-man for gaming period. Since Super Mario 64, Mario has been Nintendo's man-to-call for a good platformer. Although Super Mario Sunshine, Mario's Gamecube outing, was a resounding financial success, it wasn't really an excellent game. It was fun, but there were some things missing. Well, regardless of whether it was good or bad, Nintendo got to work on Mario's follow-up adventure, still codenamed Mario 128. When the Gamecube fell from the gaming race, Nintendo got set on their newest Mario adventure for their Revolution console, later named the Wii. It's taken five long years for Nintendo to get their act together, but finally, we're gifted with a Mario game unlike any other. It's Super Mario Galaxy and it's one of the best games of 2007.

Super Mario Galaxy begins with Mario on course through a starlit field, while he approaches the Star Festival at Princess Peach's castle. Once he gets there, the old Mario son-of-a-gun Bowser appears and whisks the Princess and her castle into space. Mario wants to save her, so he gets some surprise assistance from the mysterious star mistress Roselina and her crew of sparkly, twinkly Luma star children. Quite honestly, the story is pretty odd. Roselina's story is described rather well throughout the game, but it tends to have little relevance to Mario's journey. Her story is also pretty sickeningly sweet; it sounds like a story you read to your little sister. It's both interesting and forgettable at totally different times, but it is best just tossed away, because that's not why we play Mario games. We play because we like jumping.

Which is exactly what you're going to do in Super Mario Galaxy. But Mario isn't on Earth this time around. This time everyone's favorite red-clad plumber isn't hindered by the limitations of the planet and instead takes off into outer space. Mario's adventures take place on smaller planetoids that exist in different galaxies, with each galaxy being linked with the Luna's observatory hub. Mario's worlds usually surround spherical worlds where gravity is rarely an issue. Mario can run up, down, upside-down, and many other directions, and using different star transports, can take off to completely new planets. What we get is a bunch of galaxies populated with high-flying intergalactic mayhem. Taking off from a planet onto a huge new one is nothing short of incredible. In contrast to Super Mario Sunshine, the level design is refreshing. There's rarely a moment in Super Mario Galaxy that feels reused or redone. Try taking off to a floating waterway to race on manta rays. Try jumping to a giant intergalactic pirate ship. Even in the first hour of playing you'll explore at least five completely different galaxies with even more planets and stars to collect. It's that huge and that fun.

Control has been a darn-near flawless mechanism in Mario games from the beginning and Super Mario Galaxy mixes up a lot of the classic 3-D platforming mechanics with some simple, though incredibly effective twists. First is the cursor, which is interesting that you can gather Star Bits simply by moving the cursor over them. A second-player can even join in and gather Star Bits for you. Even cooler is the ability to shoot these Star Bits at enemies to stun them using the B-Trigger. Another new addition is Mario's spin attack, which is executed by shaking the Wii Remote. The attack stuns enemies to be finished off by running into them, although coins can be earned simply by jumping on them with the A button. Shaking the Wii Remote when near different star transports lets Mario fly higher than ever before. The Nunchuk's Control Stick is used to move and the Z-Trigger is used to crouch. Mario can still triple jump, wall jump, and backflip so fans who played past Mario games will find some familiar abilities along with the cool Wii controls to experiment with.

A majority of the game revolves around collecting different Power Stars to power up the observatory. Earn more stars, earn more galaxies to explore. Complete enough galaxies and you get a shot at finding Grand Stars in some of Bowser's floating fortresses, where Grand Star's power up the observatory significantly. Fortunately, there aren't just a handful of objectives. Each level has a select amount of stars along with stars triggered by comets, where different challenges appear on specific planets. Some involve racing Mario's old nemesis Shadow Mario, while others only give you a single bar of life. These “prankster comets” add even more depth and creativity to the levels, and combined with the different objectives, let you explore the worlds in creative and fun new ways. Some of these are reused, but unlike in Super Mario Sunshine where you complete these in nearly every level, the exquisite level design is a healthy compliment to these classic methods of video game creativity. There are also some hidden stars that are even harder to find, but looking for them is half the battle. Super Mario Galaxy has a ton of style and creativity, making it one of the best Wii games since Zelda: Twilight Princess. If you've been waiting for another golden hit from Nintendo, Super Mario Galaxy will satisfy in droves.

To top of the amazing gameplay, Nintendo put plenty of emphasis on bringing Nintendo's main hero to the next-generation with next-generation graphics. Unlike Twilight Princess which was originally designed for the Gamecube, Super Mario Galaxy's presentation is built from the ground up specifically for the Wii. Resultantly, the game is downright beautiful. The graphic effects and fantastic level design merge together seamlessly, showing one of the best presentations on the system. The game is full of bright colors and rich textures unlike any other game seen on the Wii. The animations are clean and vibrant; the different worlds are simply beautiful to see in action. Also, the sound design is a climactic mix of classic Mario tunes and some incredible orchestral scores. Fortunately, the minor voice acting is done pretty well, and isn't overused like in Super Mario Sunshine. What you get is a presentation so jam-packed with beauty and action that you'll no doubt be playing levels over just to see the amazing graphic effects. But seriously, with such high quality, who minds that?

I know that some people may not agree with some of the 10/10 games I have awarded, but it's safe to say that Super Mario Galaxy, though incredibly, incredibly fun, has some miniscule problems. First is that the camera control is pretty minimal. The D-Pad does a respectable job of providing camera control, but usually the game prevents you from using it. This is much less a problem on the gravity-defying spherical worlds, where the game does an excellent job of keeping up with Mario, but on the more traditional planetoids, it would've been better to get a bit more control. If you're a Mario purist, then the new storyline featuring Roselina will no doubt make you a bit flustered, but seriously: how can you update a Mario game's story every year? These minor issues don't stop Super Mario Galaxy from being one of the best games of 2007. It's full of enjoyable and memorable gaming moments, has plenty of style, and controls just as well as Super Mario 64 did. It's beyond me how Nintendo managed to make Super Mario Galaxy so fresh and interesting, even in this day and age when new platformer heroes are appearing so quickly. It's hands-down the Wii's crowning achievement since Twilight Princess and is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.

Pros
+ Tight and focused controls are fun and accessible
+ Imaginative and creative level design offers plenty of fun
+ Musical score is full of entertaining sounds and themes
+ Plenty of stars to find
+ Graphics are beautiful and full of surprises

Cons
- Story is still generally by-the-book
- Not much camera control

Calling Super Mario Galaxy a great game is an understatement in every way. It manages to capitalize on an already interesting gaming engine, throwing in some beautiful and inventive worlds and some clever controls, all while making it great family fun and satisfying to the modern video gamer. It's almost an apology from Nintendo. “We're sorry that Super Mario Sunshine was more a graphical demonstration. We're sorry that the water cannon felt gimmicky. We're sorry that it took so long to figure out this game that we couldn't set it for launch. We're sorry for that, but here's a little something of a reward.” Super Mario Galaxy isn't flawless, but there's so much to do and so much finesse and polish in the graphics and gameplay that it's incredibly easy to ignore the minor, almost completely negligible areas of possible improvement. Only Nintendo could have made such a phenomenally tight, brilliant, and clever platformer while ingeniously integrating the Wii's power and controls so well. If you own a Wii, you really should get Super Mario Galaxy. I mean, you REALLY should. Like now. If you have yet to own a Wii, this is an excellent reason to get out there and look for one, because right now, gaming doesn't get much better.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/06/08

Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (US, 11/12/07)


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