Review by comebackking1
"The defining game of the seventh generation, where does it rank all-time?"
For 22 years running Mario has been an icon in the gaming industry. His initial NES offering revived an industry left for dead, and opened the doors for gaming to exist in the form it is today. Super Mario Brothers 3 has long been considered the pinnacle of the series. It was possibly the most hyped game in history (if you're old enough to remember the launch), it remains the highest selling, non pack-in game of all-time, and any gamer, who is worth their weight in gold, has conquered it numerous times. That throne has remained unchallenged
until now. Enter Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario Galaxy begins with Mario and friends at the Festival of the Stars. Mario is seen, making his way through town, en route to Peach's castle. Suddenly a fleet of airships (one of many throwbacks to the older games) begins attacking the town, freezing the townsfolk, and causing utter chaos. As Mario approaches the castle, he discovers the princess screaming for help. Try as he might, he is unable to save her before Bowser captures her in his evil grasp. The thing that becomes evident, even in this opening scene, is that Mario Galaxy may well be the most epic Mario adventure to date.
As the story continues Mario ends up in outer space with a mysterious woman named Rosalina. She is the mother of sorts to the Lumas (stars). Stranded on a space station with little power and far away from the princess, Mario embarks on an adventure to collect (you guessed it) stars. Each star he gathers adds power to the space station and places him one step closer to saving Peach from Bowser's evil clutches. You will slowly learn about Rosalina as you unlock chapters in a library book This part of the story is a bit cliche and boring, but in all honesty, it detracts nothing from the game, as you aren't even required to read it.
The visuals in Mario Galaxy are simply extraordinary. What it lacks in the HD, high tech department, it more than makes up for with tremendous style. Never before has the mushroom kingdom been so beautifully detailed. Throughout the adventure Mario will visit many distinctly different galaxies. These range from small, desolate planets, to colorful planets with lush vegetation, desert scenery, fiery volcanoes, an icy abyss, large menacing ships, soothing beaches and oceans, and nearly everything else that has ever been played out in a Mario series; each locale is as beautiful as the last. Comets and stars will leave you breathless. The attention to detail is a feather in the developers cap, and it really shows what the Wii is capable of when you go the extra mile. It really was a labor of love, and I can safely say this is the single most lustrous and gorgeous looking Wii game to date.
From the moment the Wii was announced we were promised revolutionary and radically different ways to play games. Galaxy does not deliver on this front, nor does it need to. Anyone who has played the previous 3D Mario entries should acclimate to this control scheme rather easily. Mario's movements are controlled via the analog stick on the nunchuk, while various jumps and the camera control are mapped to various buttons. Frankly, only two things will take a little getting used to. Mario's punch and kick attacks have been removed in favor of a new spin attack. It's performed by shaking the remote and can be used to attack enemies or to gain a little height or distance on a jump.
New to the series is the introduction of star bits. They essentially replace coins (don't worry purists coins are still present) as the primary means of gathering extra lives. They can also be shot at enemies to stun them or used to unlock hidden planets in certain galaxies. Collecting them is a breeze, simply point the remote at the star bit, and it automatically assimilates itself into your stockpile. To fire at an enemy, simply point the cursor at the enemy and press the B button to fire. It's incredibly intuitive and works very well.
The platforming elements remain largely unchanged from previous entries in the series, but with two key additions. Levels are still accessed from a central hub, in this case the space station. From there Mario blasts off to different galaxies. It's tried, it's true, and it works. Once in a galaxy Mario runs around collecting coins and star bits, and stomping enemies just like old times. Each galaxy consists of several small planets. Traveling from planet to planet is often accomplished through launch stars. Simply shake the remote to activate the star and shoot to the next planet. These scenes flying from planet to planet are indescribably gorgeous, and must be seen to be believed. It really conjures up images of Nights Into Dreams as Mario flies from planet to planet.
The other key addition is the inclusion of gravity into the equation. Mario can run around planets as he is always held firm by gravity. It's a bit scary the first time or two you run over what appears to be the edge, only to find yourself still firmly within the planets grasp. That's not to say there aren't deathtraps littered throughout. Remaining consistent with the outer space theme, Mario must contend with the super gravity effects of blackholes. Make a miscue while running or jumping and you may well find yourself spiraling towards one of these menaces. You will often find yourself upside-down or in the water, and this is where perhaps the biggest (though minor) flaw takes place. Every so often the game places you in a spot where you don't have optimum vision of the surrounding area, and it won't let you adjust the camera. These instances are pretty rare, but it can be frustrating to die just because the camera didn't allow you to see a nearby hazard.
Last but not least Mario Galaxy offers some of the most inventive powerups since Mario 3. While I won't bother spoiling what they are, let me just say they add a lot of interesting play mechanics to some of the levels. My only gripe is that they aren't utilized enough, but they are fun as bliss to play around with. All in all the gameplay in Galaxy is nearly flawless and plays like an absolute dream.
The soundtrack for Galaxy is music to the ears, quite literally. It marks the first time in the series that a real orchestra was used to compose the music. The quality and variety of tunes will keep you whistling for quite some time. On one side you have brand new, incredibly unique tunes, on the other you get a wealth of remixed classic Mario tunes. It's a perfect marriage of inventive new music, and nostalgic goodness, culminating in one of the finest game soundtracks you will ever hear.
The real x-factor in Mario Galaxy is that it manages to pay homage to past games in the series, while remaining entirely fresh and non-repetitive. Classic music, landmarks, enemies and so much more are littered throughout the game. It's the ultimate in fan service, and yet it manages to do so without infringing on or overshadowing everything that is new. As a veteran gamer, it really brought a tear to this reviewer's eye.
The game strikes a near-perfect blend on the subject of difficulty. Newer and younger gamers will find it somewhat challenging, yet totally in the realm of possibility to collect 60 stars and trounce Bowser. Veteran gamers will find plenty of difficulty in collecting all 120 stars, and acquiring the ultimate unlockable (I won't spoil it). It's also possible for a second player to use a remote to collect star bits and give Mario a little extra height on his jumps. Frankly, it will likely be utilized either by younger gamers or to assist younger gamers. It's still a nice inclusion, and just further proof that Nintendo held nothing back for this release.
If you haven't gotten the point yet, Super Mario Galaxy is one of the finest games ever crafted. The graphics are gorgeous and pleasing to the eye, the gameplay is as tight as ever, and the music and sound is top-notch quality. All of this culminates in the ultimate celebration of the Mario franchise, and offers gamers a once in a lifetime experience. For fans of Mario, platformers, or just plain quality games, I plead with you to play this game. It's not only the defining game of the seventh console generation, it's easily one of the best games ever created.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/29/08, Updated 03/24/08
Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (US, 11/12/07)
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