Review by nastynate3118
"This game is everything Super Mario 64 wanted to be."
Super Mario Galaxy is everything Super Mario 64 wanted to be and then some. It stands as a huge achievement on the Nintendo Wii and showcased what the system could add to the Mario franchise. Mario made a name for himself in the 2D platformer games until Super Mario 64 was released. Personally I am not that game's biggest fan due to its awful camera and repetitive gameplay and I have never played Super Mario Sunshine. I had tempered my expectations for Galaxy due to my previous experience, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well this game played and how it executes everything it sets out to do. It is not a perfect game by any means but is an essential Nintendo Wii game.
Super Mario Galaxy is a 3D platformer featuring Mario exploring different worlds. Instead of the traditional worlds of previous Mario games, there are galaxies which have a collection of levels for Mario to explore. Similar to Super Mario 64, you play through each world a few times to collect stars with the goal of collecting enough stars to reach Bowser. Even though you play through the worlds multiple times, you only have to do it a few times and the objective and map changes each time avoiding a repetitive feeling. There is a very non-linear design to the game in which you can revisit old levels at any time and collect new stars or do various secret levels and challenges to earn extra stars. These worlds are accessed from a center hub plaza that Mario can explore and unlock new areas in. He also can interact with various characters here and stock up on 1-ups.
Mario can punch, jump, ground pound and collect power-ups that transform him in a traditional Mario fashion. There is also a spin attack he uses that involves shaking the Wiimote around. This spin attack can be difficult to use because it is hard to see if you are going to make contact to an enemy with how the camera is set up, and it is not always responsive. The camera in general can be pretty suspect and often gives you weird angles that take some getting used to, especially on small planets.
I found this game to be very innovative and it incorporates the Wii hardware very creatively. There is nothing more fun than shaking your Wiimote and flying through different star portals to get to new planets. The controls for the most part are responsive except for the spin attack and trying to swim. I am not sure why Nintendo still has not mastered smooth fluent swimming controls for Mario but it continues to be a frustrating problem. Luckily, there are very few areas in the game where Mario needs to swim.
Ultimately, this game has a lot of variety and modifies the formula used in Super Mario 64 to avoid the game feeling repetitive. There is just the right amount of challenge in it and the game gradually and comfortably increases the difficulty as it progresses. Aside from a few frustrating tendencies, the gameplay is very solid and leads to a fun experience.
The interface in Super Mario Galaxy is very well-done. I like how you can save pretty much at any time and not only at certain checkpoints (like in Super Mario World). The menus have that modern Nintendo look in which everything is really large and easy to navigate through. The game is also fairly generous with the amount of 1-ups it gives you, allowing for more gameplay.
The only complaint about the interface I have comes with the pause menu. For some reason, it is unresponsive at times and you have to hold the + button on the Wiimote for it to show up. I'm not sure why they made it that way but it can be frustrating if you want to leave the area quickly and the pause menu won't appear.
The first thing I noticed about the presentation in this game is how much of an improvement it is over past Mario games. The introduction sequence is very well done and there are brief cutscenes sprinkled throughout the game that give the plot life. This is a much better plot than what most people are used to with a Mario game and is fleshed out very nicely. Mario must find stars to challenge Bowser and rescue Peach. It is still the same basic formula but they spice it up throughout the game and add more to that. Bowser has a master plan that he alludes to throughout the story, but unfortunately the writers never really expand on that and it is a bit of a letdown when the game is finished. Despite that, the dialogue is very clever and the ending is satisfying, making for a Mario game with an above-average story.
The graphics in this game are beautiful. I love looking at the sky in different galaxies; something so insignificant has a lot of detail put into it and that is the story of the graphics in this game. Mario and his classic enemies look better than they ever have and are animated very smoothly. On the outset, the visuals are simply outstanding. Small things such as water and grass are animated flawlessly and have that colorful, radiant Mario style that is familiar.
The only visual problems come with the camera. It can take some getting used to the small planets that Mario will travel across. I'll admit that I actually became nauseous the first time I played this game because of how the camera spins and rotates when following Mario on a tiny planet. Another problem that arises is when Mario is on a very small planet and it is never discernible if he can go underneath it or not. Some small planets allow you to walk underneath them and the gravity will keep Mario from falling off, and others act as a pitfall. There is no visual cue to see which is which.
The music in this game is among the best ever for the franchise. I really like the orchestrated approach they took as it adds a new dimension of sound that the series needed. A great example of this is the music that plays in the Good Egg Galaxy in the beginning of the game. It is full of life and wonder and that is the best way to describe the soundtrack. Both the music and sound effects mix the best of classic Mario tunes with new material. You will hear the old school Mario jump sounds and the going down a green pipe sound effect as well as music from Super Mario 3 and other old games remixed. This mix of old and new adds to a flawless soundtrack.
Play Time/Replayability - 10/10
There is plenty to do in Super Mario Galaxy and it can easily keep you occupied for a lengthy amount of time. I finished a playthrough with the minimum number of stars required in 14 hours and 1 minute, but if one were to try and collect all 120 stars it would take far longer. This is compounded with the fact that you can play through the game again as Luigi in a second quest (similar to The Legend of Zelda) and re-collect all of the 120 stars. This boosts the play time up to 50+ hours. This is astounding for a Mario game and the high replay value is a welcomed feature.
+Varied, non-linear gameplay
+Controls are accessible and easy to master
+Challenge builds up gradually and comfortably
+Menus are very user-friendly
+Great plot presentation with satisfying ending
+Beautiful graphics full of life
+Orchestrated soundtrack mixes the best of old and new Mario music
+Flexible play time
+Very high replay value
-Camera can be suspect at times
-Swimming controls are frustrating
-Pause menu does not open up right away
-It can be unclear when you can go underneath a small planet
Super Mario Galaxy surprised me with its fun and challenging gameplay. I consider it to be right up there with the classic Mario games and it is easily a key title for the Nintendo Wii. Anyone who owns that system really needs to play this game. There is so much to do in it that it can easily keep you busy for a long time and you will not get tired of it.
Final Score: 9.0833/10 rounded to 9/10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/20/12
Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (US, 11/12/07)
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