Review by Raistlyn

"We get one of these games roughly every 5 years. Nintendo isn't about to disappoint."

Mario.

Mr. Video Game.
Not just Mr. Nintendo.
Mr. Video Game.

Do me a favor and name three other video game characters whose popularity rivals that of Mario. Who am I kidding? Name one.

Sonic the Hedgehog? Hasn't sold over 150 million copies of games with his name on it worldwide.

Pikachu doesn't have over 20 years of popularity.

And sorry you Final Fantasy fanboys...Cloud Strife doesn't even come close.

I still remember the days when my mother would refer to games like Mortal Kombat and Earthworm Jim as "Mario." And maybe that doesn't happen so much nowadays, but rest assured it used to.

Now, Mario's been in a lot of games this past quarter century. He plays tennis, soccer, and golf. He's been a referee and a doctor. He races in Go Karts and has even had his own Dance Dance Revolution mix. He's appeared in RPGs. And you can often find him beating the living snot out of other beloved Nintendo characters such as Samus, Kirby, and Link.
Yeah...Mario's been around.

But an all-out honest-to-goodness Mario platformer is a rarity. We get one of these games every 5 years or thereabouts. So you know that Nintendo isn't pulling any punches when it comes to their official mascot.

Graphics: 10/10

The first thing you'll notice about Super Mario Galaxy are the graphics that make this game look like it belongs on an XBox 360. Any screenshot you see - be it online, in a magazine, or on the back of the game case - rest assured that NONE of them do this game justice. And not only do the characters and colorful worlds look spectacular, but the game runs oh-so-smoothly. There isn't a jagged corner to be found in any of the dozens of galaxies to visit nor is there a hiccup in the framerate.

Whether Mario is braving the perils of a planet that is half lava filled and half ice covered or zooming through space like a comet traveling from planet to planet, it's hard to complain about how the game looks. Some would say that the graphics haven't improved much over Super Mario Sunshine. Believe me when I say that that statement is a bald faced lie. The lighting effects, vividly detailed levels, and all other forms of beautiful eye candy you'll experience in this game are above and well beyond anything you'll ever see in Super Mario Sunshine. You shouldn't buy a game solely for it's graphics, but if you were going to, this would be a sure bet.

Sound: 9/10

Mario's vocabulary hasn't evolved much beyond "Here we go!, Yahoo!, and Mama-mia!" And you shouldn't worry about that. Limited voice acting is definitely the way to go in a Mario game. All the sound effects are what you would expect as well and are all just as colorful as the graphics - metaphorically speaking. All the little bleeps and squeaks from stomping on enemies fit right in seamlessly. There's still the thundering sound of cannonballs being blasted from their guns, and loud crashing from a huge Thwomp nearby and it all melds together perfectly with the various environments in the game.

But no matter how good the sound effects are, they can't hold a candle to the game's soundtrack.
Long-time Mario fans will instantly recognize various remixes of older tunes played throughout the game, but what really caught my attention were the new music tracks. Especially the very first galaxy you visit. A lot of the music tracks are fully orchestrated and sound fantastic. I think that the days are numbered for the short simple and catchy background music tracks from games past playing throughout the game. But I'm having a hard time complaining about the direction the music is going in the Mario series.

Gameplay: 10/10

Leave it to a Mario game to come up with new, exciting, and innovative game mechanics that set the bar higher and higher each time. Super Mario 64 brought our Italian plumber friend into the 3D world. Do you remember your reaction to playing that game for the first time? I do. And I can safely say that the feeling you get from Galaxy mimics that kind of "wow factor."

Because now, you're not limited to the rules of the laws of physics and gravity. What looks like a relatively small world on one side may have a boatload of goodies and obstacles on the other. If you jump off the edge of a planet, you'll find yourself adhering to that planet's gravity and ending up with an upside-down view. It's truly an experience to be had.

All that gravity bending gameplay had to have a new "death pit" invented in the form of black holes, so it's not like you can never go out of bounds in this game. Some of the black holes are strategically positioned to directly affect the platforming itself. Mario may be using a block as a shield so he doesn't fall into a black hole as it moves along a path. He may even have to jump from block to block without entering a different gravitational pull that would result in certain death. The way the game works may sound complicated, but sitting down and playing reveals the kind of twisted simplicity the game offers. Sometimes you'll be kicking yourself for over-thinking in certain situations when the simplest answer was the correct one.

Now, that isn't to say that each level in the game is like that. There are levels in the game that play very similar to those you'll find in Super Mario 64 or Sunshine. "Traditional" 3D platforming levels, if you will. A lot of the galaxies in the game will incorporate all different sorts of mix and match planets. You may be on a traditional 3D platforming level once, but are required to travel to a distant planet that uses the new physics bending engine. You even get a few opportunities to change the gravitational pull yourself in certain areas. All in all, Galaxy offers some of the best level designs to ever be created for a game to date. I can't even imagine what Nintendo will have in store for us when the next Mario game comes out.

Objective wise, the game remains largely unchanged from it's predecessors. Once you select the level you want to enter, you are shown which stars you've collected in an area, and are given a hint for the one you need to search for next. Most times, the levels are altered slightly to allow a linear path to each star - though there are some hidden stars in the game you'll have to find on your own. To 100% complete the game, you will have to collect 242 stars in total. It'll keep you busy for quite some time.

I should also mention that the motion controls in this game are rather limited, but those controls that did make it into the game are used to their fullest effectiveness. For example, Mario will ride a Manta Ray like a surfboard around a watery track. You don't steer with a control stick. You steer by twisting your wrist. While it may be a bit challenging to get used to, you have to figure that there was absolutely nothing like this in a game before! There are some games that bring familiar controls to the table and you can play them well because you know what to expect...but Nintendo has wiped that clean and allowed us a brand new way to experience gaming in this respect.

A quick flick of the wrist, either with the Wii Remote or the Nunchuck attachment will cause Mario to use his spin attack - which you receive very early on in the game. There are various powerups that make use of that spin attack in the form of a new attack, or ability.

The new powerups in the game are also very refreshing. It's been a while since we've seen the fire flower. Well, it makes a glorious return in Galaxy. Aside from the ability to shoot fireballs by flicking your wrist, the super mushroom returns in a bit of a different form which gives Mario additional health. The Ice flower powerup allows Mario to walk on water and lava. A quick flick of the wrist to initiate the spin move will cause him to skate on the water - moving faster. Wall jumping off of waterfalls never gets old either. Transforming into a Bee, a Boo, a...Spring... They're all extremely fun to use.

Galaxy brings way too much to the table to be told here. You'll just have to experience it yourself.

Overall: 10/10

If you've been waiting to buy a Wii, now is the time. Super Mario Galaxy is just one of those games that is too good to pass up. The variety this game offers is almost beyond comparison. Remember, we only get one of these roughly every 5 years. Games of this degree and quality are very rare and are an excellent experience to be had from start to finish.

And come on now...it's Mario.

You honestly didn't think that Nintendo was going to go ahead and screw up it's flagship franchise, did you?


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/28/08

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


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