Review by CStrife7

"Simply a Marvel, Super Mario Galaxy Retains the Old but Delivers the New"

It's been a long time coming, but with the release of Super Mario Galaxy, Mario's third jump into the world of 3D gaming is finally here on the Nintendo Wii and it is good, really good. But let us lay the groundwork here and now; it would be an injustice to limit comparisons to only Mario's previous 3D adventures, Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64 and Super Mario Sunshine for the Gamecube. Super Mario Galaxy borrows concepts from the entire collection of Mario games, 2D and 3D. It manages to mix them together with a host of brand new gameplay features that feel fresh and original, all while retaining that Mario magic we have come to expect and come to love.

The game begins like any other for Mario. Princess Peach has invited Mario to her castle with promises of something she would like to “give him,” and of course he takes off obligingly toward her faithfully and beautifully recreated castle in the heart of Mushroom Kingdom. If only life were easy for our favorite Italian plumber, he might just make it to her castle and get what he wants, which is probably a giant cake to dive headfirst into; but alas, no, things are different this time.

The story is a little discontinuous; something that only slightly affects the game. Fortunately, most Mario platformers have never relied on the story. But for the little there is in this game, it would have been nice to see some thought put into it. Apparently, every hundred years or so, a comet flies over the Mushroom Kingdom. On this particular pass, it rained down hundreds of Star Bits, which turned out to be tiny fragments of a greater power star.

As Mario – perhaps curious, perhaps hungry – heads off to the castle, Wart and his fleet of minions interrupt the festivities. Did I say Wart? Silly me, I meant none other than Bowser! Bowser has been using the power of the stars to transcend space and the galaxies. Of course this means kidnapping the Princess and dragging her entire castle into the vast reaches of nothingness. Mario comes along for the ride but does not make it far before being booted to a small planet. Here, several Lumas, a space-breed of star creatures, and their Mama, the mysterious Rosalina, train him in how to survive this new intergalactic adventure. We learn that Rosalina and the Lumas are the real keepers of the power stars and that Bowser has a real card up his sleeve. Great, now both have an incentive to team up, collect the power stars and stop Bowser. On with the game!

Like the previous 3D Mario adventures before, this game has a hub world. The Comet Observatory drifts initially powerless throughout space. The more stars you collect, the more the ship powers up. There are domes on the Comet Observatory that unlock accordingly. These lead to galaxies, and those galaxies are comprised of a couple of planets. The level design of each planet is amazingly unique and one of the biggest selling points of the game. Some are big, normal land-like levels with gravity that play similarly to previous games, but others take place in space full-on, having you jump with wild, anti-gravity abandon through far reaches. Each one has different characteristics, so you might find yourself in a 2D maze jumping around for an exit, or down in a pipe underground running from ground to wall to ceiling. The possibilities feel endless. Unlike the worlds in 64 and Sunshine, there are only three stars to collect on each planet. However, every once in a while a “Prankster Comet” comes in orbit with a planet and unlocks a new means of attaining a star. Whether it is a speed-run of a previous mission or something different altogether, you will have fun chasing down comets and revisiting old galaxies as they show up. Each mission is generally very different from the last.

There are few coins to collect in each board, and as such, they have done away with the 100 coin collection star altogether. Coins still revive your life, however, you only have three slices of life in this game as opposed to previous 3D installments. That being said, you might want to leave coins behind in order to come back for health later if you can. While fifty coins does equal a 1-up, you will find that this is not the ideal way to achieve them. Furthermore, you lose all previously collected 1-ups every time you turn on the game. Along with the fact that the game is ludicrously easy, you will only be wasting time trying to collect them unless, like me, you are a perfectionist. There are various power-ups in the game as well, most that come in the form of mushrooms. One mushroom might give you an added three slices of life while another might turn you into a bee and allow you to fly around momentarily and stick to certain surfaces. There are quite a few other transformation mushrooms that are fun to try, but you might find that they only serve their purpose when necessary. Other items appear as well, so you will also find yourself picking up and tossing bombs and Koopa shells.

As Mario shows up late on the eve of the festival, we first get control of him outside in the small Castle Town. You play the game with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. Many of Mario's basic, familiar actions from previous games apply. Using the Nunchuck, he moves fluidly and responsively with the control stick. It may be deliberate as a result of constant gravity shifting, but Mario seems to walk and run slower than in his previous installments – though this has no negative impact on the game. I am surprised to see how responsive the controls are with all the constant sideways, upside-down direction changing, but it is still occasionally an issue. The Z-button lets Mario duck low enough to be completely inside his hat while the C-button centers the camera, when you are allowed to control it (I will get back to the camera).

On the Wii Remote side you will be using the A-button to jump, double jump, triple jump or wall jump. Wall jumping has been made even easier in Galaxy as Mario sticks to walls for a longer time before beginning to fall. The A-button is used for swimming as well. You will also be using other familiar moves such as the now classic butt-stomp, the cartwheel jump and the back flip.

Mario now has the ability to walk, albeit slowly, while ducking as opposed to that horrific baby-like crawl we saw in Super Mario 64. Speaking of which, three cheers for the return of the long jump, a very useful ability in the Nintendo 64 adventure that was not included in Super Mario Sunshine. However, you will notice that in this game Mario no longer has the ability to dive. This will be missed not only because it once served as an alternate attack, but it also worked well as a means of stopping short. When it comes down to it, you will find the right use and mix for all of your moves.

Out with the old and in with the new, the B-button is used for shooting Star Bits. Star Bits are items that appear everywhere in Super Mario Galaxy and seem to have split precedence with the traditional coin. They can be used in a number of ways. As you aim on screen with your Wii Remote, a blue star acts as your cursor. Aim it on any Star Bit within a generally long reach and it will come flying toward you. Like with coins, every fifty Star Bits collected will net you a 1-up. And if, like me, you hoard Star Bits, you will end up collecting tons of extra lives per planet. You can fire Star Bits at enemies as a means of attack, but it is generally only effective for the lowest of enemies. For the most part you will want to hold onto them. Every once in a while a hungry Lumas will appear asking you to feed it Star Bits. Within planets, this will usually leads to hidden stars. And all the Star Bits you collect in planets, some planets will have hundreds of them, get carried out and added to your grand Hub total. The hungry Lumas' that begin to appear on the Comet Observatory will ask for many more Star Bits in exchange for leading you to hidden stars. There are also other uses for them as the game progresses.

This is also the first true game in the Mario series include a two-player co-op mode. With a second Wii Remote, another person can join in to help collect Star Bits and fire them at enemies. I have not tried this out, so I do not quite know how it affects gameplay. I imagine it only makes the game easier than it already is.

As far as enemies are concerned, there are a plethora of them, each which several different methods for disposal. Soon into the game you will learn your spin attack, which can be activated by shaking either the Wii Remote or Nunchuck. It can sometimes be hard, especially at first, to judge how close you are to an enemy (the move has little range), but after a while you will be knocking enemies around like the best of them. There is also a little strategy to be taken into account as well. Some enemies can be defeated one way to produce a coin or another to produce Star Bits. You will want to remember this when you are running low on life. You can also use the spin attack to gain a little bit of height on your jump, but this is only sometimes useful.

The bosses are very varied and very fun. The game developers took their time combining the use of the Wii Remote and the game physics to make exciting, “out-of-this-world” battles that require different techniques to take them out. However, the bosses, like most of the rest of the game, are still quite easy.

The control pad is used for the camera, one of the games biggest flaws. Since the dawn of 3D Mario gaming, the creators at Nintendo have yet to perfect a well-balanced camera scheme. In fact, it is something that has progressively gotten worse. Super Mario 64 had camera issues, but mostly it was tolerable. The user had complete control throughout most of the game. In Super Mario Sunshine, the camera had a way of locking up. Control was smooth, but it was troublesome to angle it in the right positions necessary for making quick moves – especially since as soon as you did angle it, the camera moved somewhere else. In Super Mario Galaxy, the camera might as well have been fully fixed. There is very few times where you can rotate it, and when you can, it only goes so far. You can go into first person mode most of the time, but it is not necessary unless you want to see the beautiful scenery. The fact that the game is generally pretty linear makes up for the fixed camera, but it is hard to angle the camera when looking for secrets. You will find yourself sidetracking unnecessarily on occasion just to see if there is something hidden behind this or that. If this is the worst part of the game, though, then consider us blessed.

Super Mario Galaxy is an absolutely beautiful game. It does not hold a candle to the graphics processing of the 360 or PS3, but it is stunning nonetheless and easily the best looking game on Wii. Mario's traditional red and blue are shining brighter than ever before. Bowser looks brilliant, his red, bushy eyebrows and Mohawk blowing in the wind. Some of my favorite achievements are with the hair. You can see the individual strands of fuzziness on creatures like hopping spiders and bees. It is so soft-looking you just want to jump on in and cuddle up.

The music is also stellar. Everywhere you visit has a remixed and fully orchestrated tune playing perfectly to match that type of place. Many songs are easily recognizable, like the fleet theme from Super Mario Bros. 3 or the pre-Bowser battle stage theme from Super Mario 64. Each one has a nice new touch that will leave you exploding with nostalgia. Of course, Charles Martinet has returned to voice Mario. I have heard complaints that Mario's constant “Ya-hoo”-ing gets annoying after an hour, but it has not caused me any irritation. Other sound effects have either been enhanced to meet the new look, or have aged just fine. Going down a pipe still nets you that classic sound I cannot even spell out; new sounds, such as the whirring of Star Bits shooting toward you, is fitting as well. There are several other complaints I heard for the lack of voice acting. This is something that I cannot comment on because I generally find American voice acting to be very poor in most video games. They would have to do a fantastic job to pull it off. And while I usually lean toward the original Japanese voice acting, I do not feel it would properly suit this or any other Mario game. So with all respects, I guess I would rather just read it and imagine it myself.

Super Mario Galaxy, while incredibly easy, is a wonderful game in many different respects, old and new. Most importantly, it comes together as a package with which we are familiar. It has that flare for the original Mario and it creates a new breed all its own. I also enjoy that they toned down the excessive, and often tedious and repetitive, world wandering – as seen in Super Mario 64 and much more so in Super Mario Sunshine – for more straightforward variety. To me Mario has always been a linear game. After all, it is a traditional platformer. The game is pretty lengthy as well, so you will be searching for all the power stars for at least fifteen to twenty hours. I spent much more time, but I can be excessive. As far as replay value is concerned, I might leave this one alone for a while upon completion. However, that does not mean I would not pick it up ever again. The game never feels like a chore, which I could not say for Super Mario Sunshine. So is Super Mario Galaxy worth your time and money? You bet your sweet butt-stomp it is.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/16/07

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

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