Review by Phediuk

"Eh. It's okay."

As I was playing through Mario Galaxy, I found I was having fun. But not the conventional type of fun. Let's call it “half-fun”. It's the kind of fun where you enjoy what you're playing but at the same time you're bored out of your mind. It's like after you drink a big Slurpee; you feel very quenched but simultaneously very thirsty. It became increasingly clear over the course of Galaxy that the game would be a lot better if it wasn't a Mario game. Forget being played out to death; Mario's been done to death, and then to undeath, and then a wooden stake's been driven through his heart so he's back to death. After ~150 games, it's time to give plumber boy a rest. Still, the game has its moments and could be great if you've never played a Mario game before.

Mario Galaxy is on Wii. You may make some assumptions based on that fact alone. You may assume the game looks like a GameCube leftover. And for once, you'd be wrong. Mario Galaxy is to date the only game on Wii whose graphics can contend with anything on 360 or PS3. Not much, mind you—only the lowest-end stuff on those systems—but it's a start. The game has a very well-made graphics engine: colors are bold, character models are smooth, the lighting effects look great, and the whole thing runs at 60fps. Seeing the fuzz on a queen bee's behind is almost jaw-dropping. Third-parties should be embarrassed at how bad their Wii games look compared to Galaxy.

You may also assume that Galaxy has a lot of gimmicky controller waggling. I realize that “gimmicky Wii game” is a redundant phrase at this point; nonetheless, there's a few stupid parts here. Manta ray surfing is a frustrating exercise in Wiimote waving (either you oversteer or do nothing at all—there's no in-between.) Likewise, rolling around on a ball in Rolling Green Galaxy is imprecise, as the Wiimote decides at random whether to be sensitive or unresponsive (prepare to fall off lots of cliffs.) The motion sensor is put to good use in all the other levels, being able to pick up “star bits” simply by moving the cursor over them. The star bits can then be shot at enemies by pointing at them and pressing the B button. Additionally, a single waggle will unleash Mario's spin attack, and it's satisfying to bash bad guys like that.

This is where Mario Galaxy's innovation ends. The rest is extremely similar to Mario 64. you hop, you bop, you hop some more. Once again, the plot is nearly non-existent—Bowser-kidnaps-the-princess is the order of the day. The rescue-Peach plot isn't even funny in parody anymore, and so Galaxy once again plays it straight. This story feels unbelievably tired; yes, Mario is about gameplay and not plot, but Nintendo just uses that as get-out-of-jail-free card to be unoriginal and boring. Platformer plots do not have to be dull: see Psychonauts or the Ratchet & Clank series. Both of them have witty dialogue and great voice acting to deliver some laughs. Mario has no voice acting—it's all silent text (yes, in 2007)—and after the opening cutscene it drops all pretenses of telling a story.

Like in Mario 64, there are 120 stars. Like in Mario 64, there's one “hub” area that you travel around to access each level. Like in Mario 64, there are three Bowser levels. Like in Mario 64—you get the point. Everything feels rehashed. There's a been-there-done-that vibe pervading the entire game. Many level ideas are reused from Mario 64: liked Big Boo's Haunt? Well...there's another one. Liked Shifting Sand Land? Yep, there's another one of those, too. Liked any levels from Sunshine? Don't worry, they're here. Everything falls neatly into platformer cliches: fire level, ice level, desert level, tropical level, technological level, space level (plenty of those—it is Mario Galaxy), swimming level, generic “grass” level, the level where everything is a giant cake or cookie, etc. It's all been done before. Only someone who has never played a platformer before could get excited about this stuff. If you've played Mario 64, you've played Galaxy.

Even if Galaxy revolutionized gaming, it'd be impossible to for me to get excited about any game with Mario in it. This guy has been in too many damn games. The number of appearances he's made is well into triple digits by now, and after hearing his high-pitched squealing voice in every possible game genre for the past decade, I'm tired of him. Why couldn't Nintendo have taken the few original ideas in Galaxy and made them into a new franchise? Why did Galaxy have to be a Mario game? Wouldn't everything feel a lot more fresh if this brand-new graphics engine, the orchestral music (a major step above other Nintendo games—this is by far the best Mario soundtrack yet), and the spherical worlds were all in the context of an original storyline, setting, art direction, and cast of characters? Of course it would. But this is Nintendo. Nintendo will keep retreading the same ground with the same series until people stop buying them. Yet I'll still shout it out loud and clear: Nintendo, get some new ideas. For the love of all that is good in gaming, get some new ideas.

It's not bad, but it's unfulfilling. Going into the game, I asked myself “How can Nintendo make Mario still feel fresh after the truckload of games he's had?” The answer is that they didn't. Galaxy is well-made, but only because it rips off past successes at every opportunity. It has its moments, and it's never terrible, but the whole thing feels played-out. I've bopped that Goomba and I've hit that question-mark block. Mario, it's time to retire.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 02/25/08

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


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