Review by nintendosega

"A surprisingly good sequel that tops the (already incredible) original in almost every way"

Well, when I played Mario Galaxy I decided that no platformer this gen would touch it. Little did I know that a couple years later, Nintendo would release a direct sequel on the same system, the first time they had ever done that for a 3D Mario game.

I was skeptical at first, but this skepticism vanished as I played Mario Galaxy 2. This is indeed the rare sequel that's better than the original: it's a sequel that definitely doesn't reinvent the wheel but rather takes what worked about the original and makes it even better.

Well, for the most part. This sequel doesn't even try to make sense from a story perspective (it's the Star Festival once again...which is supposed to occur once every 100 years. How old is Mario, again?) and this time around, once you get into space, you simply chase Bowser through the different worlds as he gets bigger and bigger. There's still dialogue with your fellow travelers, for example, the guy who acts as your guide, as well as dialogue with the various people you meet along your journey, who join you on your ship. But the story doesn't go anywhere. There's no Rosalina and her storybook this time, which is a bit disappointing. It's a little sad, because the original's intro and ending were actually some of the more epic of the series. Galaxy 2, by comparison, feels cheap in the story department, half-heartedly going with a "pages in a book" theme that's the definition of "uninspired."

But that's about where Galaxy 2's inferiority to the original ends. Once you get past the introductory first couple of levels, which feel like leftovers from the first game, the game then reaches platforming perfection as you explore incredible-looking worlds brimming with life. Galaxy 1 was amazing visually, and Galaxy 2 once again proves that great art direction can overcome technical limitations. The boss designs are amazing and very creative, the colors are fantastic, the visual effects are some of the best on the system, and this is all complemented by an amazing and very orchestral soundtrack.

The new powerups are almost all a blast to use, especially Rock Mario, and they're all implemented so well and in so many different ways that the sense of surprise from level to level never stops. The team who makes these games knows how to design platformers. The "pieces in the sky" galaxies that were heavily featured in the original Galaxy have mostly been replaced by planets with much more landmass, and while you still progress through these levels in a linear fashion without much room to explore, (like the first game) Galaxy 2 manages to feel like a much bigger experience. The sometimes frustrating missions in the original where you had to chase things around tiny planets are gone for the most part, and that's another thing about Galaxy 2 that's so amazing: there's nothing in here that's really frustrating. The game's more challenging than the slightly too easy original Galaxy, but it rarely feels cheap, and the sense of fun and invention means that turning on Galaxy 2 will guarantee at least one "wow, this is awesome," moment. At least one: they're all over the place. Something exciting and new is always just around the corner. Mario controls as great as ever, the camera is always good (a couple iffy instances aside) and there's no lack of content here, seriously. The first 70 stars alone (which gets you to the end of the story) will take you longer than the 60 it took to reach the end of Galaxy 1, but then once you beat Bowser and "beat the game," a ton of new content is made available. You can continue the adventure through much more difficult missions and can even unlock additional galaxies. If you want it to, Galaxy 2 can take you a really, REALLY long time.

Issues that I thought would be issues turned out to be improvements, including the shrinking of the hub world, something that raised a few eyebrows when it was first announced. Though there's still a hub world between levels, (a star ship) and it still contains 1 ups to collect, characters to talk to, and some other things to discover. That said, it's very small and you no longer use it to walk from level to level. Instead, you head to your star ship's steering wheel and you're suddenly taken to a map where you select your galaxy from. This actually dramatically ups the pacing and I doubt that even the biggest fans of Galaxy 1's hub world will find much to complain about here.

My complaints are more like nitpicks. Galaxy 2 introduces the same "player assist" feature that New Super Mario Bros Wii featured, and if you're stuck, the game will offer to help you out. The good news is that this feature's only there if you want it, and if you don't, it stays out of the way. There are also numerous tutorials, but thankfully you're allowed to skip them, which is good. That said, there are times where Nintendo's efforts to cater to their "expanded audience" come across as condescending. After you lose all your lives and get a Game Over, a character on the starship will recommend you take a break from the game for a while. I don't feel like Nintendo needs to tell players when to or not to play their game, and while I guess the parents of little kids throwing tantrums might appreciate the game's advice, as a gamer since the early 90s, seeing this advice to quit my game every time I lost all my lives made me more frustrated about my Game Over, not less. The game also makes a big deal about your Wii Remote's battery life, to the point where it feels almost paranoid. A warning icon will pop up frequently on the left side of the screen while you play to tell you that your batteries are running a bit low, and, if that wasn't enough, a character in the game will actually warn you himself. This started happening to me a couple hours in, yet I refused to change the batteries because I knew I had plenty of battery life left. Sure enough, I made it almost to the end of the 70 stars without having to replace the batteries. When I finally did have to change them (many hours after the warnings started, which seemed to continue nonstop) the game paused itself to allow me to change the batteries....so since the game pauses itself, running out of battery life is a totally harmless scenario. Which makes the distracting warnings feel all the more excessive. Sign posts are also scattered throughout the levels to offer you tips if you go up to them and press the A button. Great. What's not so great? When some of these sign posts give you hints automatically through dialogue bubbles that appear above them, whether you want the hint or not, as you run past them. Come on, Nintendo. Do you really think your new fanbase is incapable of reading a sign post hours and hours into the game?

Last but not least, I found a lot of the dialogue to be childish to the point of being cringe-inducing, something I don't remember feeling about the original Galaxy. As a final complaint, some bosses could have put up more of a fight. Only having to hit a boss 3 times to win isn't exactly asking a lot out of the gamer.

Those are all nitpicks, though, which don't do much to take away from the platforming masterpiece that is Mario Galaxy 2. There's just little else to say about what Nintendo's achieved with this game. It's more Mario Galaxy, to be sure, but it's a *better* version of Mario Galaxy. It ups the ante in almost every category and doesn't feel at all like the same experience. Give us a better story, Nintendo, and maybe a bit more optional exploration, and we might have had a 10/10 game here. But what's here is very, very good. Like I said with the original Galaxy, I don't think any other platformer this gen will come close to the quality of this gameplay. This is platforming to near perfection: it looks great, it sounds incredible, it controls perfectly, there's always a sense of discovery and invention, and there's a ton of content here. If you haven't played the original Galaxy, pick up this sequel immediately. If you have, you still need to pick up this sequel, and prepare to be amazed once again.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/04/10

Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy 2 (US, 05/23/10)


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