Review by ping5000

"Super Mario Galaxy isn't just one of the best platformers ever, but it's also possibly one of the best games ever."

If there is one game that defines the Wii, Super Mario Galaxy is it. If there's a game that defines a generation, Super Mario Galaxy is one of them. It's that good. This is the best game that Nintendo has created in years, which says a lot, considering their pedigree. Super Mario Galaxy is in essence, a phenomenally fun game that has the ability to make you naturally smile because it's so wonderfully entertaining. Super Mario Galaxy isn't just one of the best platformers ever, but it's also possibly one of the best games ever.

The game starts with a brief backstory and a letter from Peach stating, "There's something I'd like to give you." And with that, Mario's curiosity spurs him into a reimagined Mushroom Kingdom. It's a fantastic scene. Dozens upon dozens of toads are celebrating the Star Festival, an event that occurs every 100 years when tiny little star bits land gently onto the earth. In short, the greatest meteor shower ever. The castle looms above the distance, and the lake casts a visually eye-popping reflection of the castle. The buildings off to the sides glow with life and jets of water shoot up into the air. It's a whimsical scene, but it's interrupted quite abruptly by Bowser. His latest plan is to rip the castle out of the sky, taking Peach with him. The plan works and Mario into chase-mode with a little help from Rosalina -- a hotter version of Peach. It's the same tired old kidnapping scenario, but the way it's presented is something else. The cinematography is great, the presentation is top-notch. This quality carries onto the rest of the game. It doesn't change the fact that the story isn't compelling, but the presentation makes it worth watching.

But we're here to play a Mario game, right? And in that regard, it's just simply amazing. Mario's movesets haven't changed much. He can still long-jump, backflip, triple jump and all that jazz. His melee is now a spin attack, which can be initiated by a quick shake of the Wii remote. It feels great, and the quick charge-up time keeps it from being overpowering. In general, Mario's controls are pitch-perfect and it's tweaked and polished to the point that just running around is fun. The core structure also remains the same; you collect stars which open more areas, which lead to more stars, and so on. And that's where all the similarities end. Each new Mario platformer has always tried to something fundamentally different, and this time the new key players are gravity and planetoids. It's an original concept with tons of potential, and Nintendo exploits it an infinite number of times.

What this means is, every single piece of real estate you step on will have its own pull and force. Smaller objects and planets obviously have a weak pull; you can actually go around a planet from a single jump. And bigger ones have a much more "normal" Mario-platformer rules of physics. Just screwing around with gravity is a ton of fun; guessing where you going to end up is a game unto itself. But it becomes much more involving when it affects you in such a manner that you can't tell if you're standing right-side up anymore. Are you platforming upside down? Are you actually platforming backwards, while actually being right-side up? Or is it upside down? It's just really insane, but it's presented in a such a thoughtful manner that it never becomes overwhelming. There are many excellent 2-D, side scroller-esque areas, when the gravity shifts according to the arrows which indicate what the hell's going to happen if you happen to jump onto a section with a different pull. They're a ton of fun, and the way the gravity concept is integrated with traditional and new platformer levels are a joy to be a part of.

The new being planets. For the most part, you'll be launching yourself from one planet to another in a very epic fashion. A quick shake of your remote while on a Launch Star will send you soaring into space; cinematic angles included. With the setting being in space, Nintendo has the all the creative freedom in the world, and damn, does Nintendo let loose here. There's so much variety, to the point that Nintendo could've created 3 separate games with all the insane stuff they threw in here. There's no sense of cohesion at all (in a good way), because there are planets in the sky without a reason except to entertain you. Off in the distance, there's an epic-sized Yoshi head, just drifting out there in space. Why? How come this galaxy's crafted from legos and toy blocks? It doesn't make any sense. It's nonsensical and random. These hodgepodges of ideas and settings are so ridiculous that it's hard not to smile. It can't be helped. As incoherent as everything else, there's a wondrous quality to it all, encouraging exploration, and to soar into the next frontier. Every flight into the air is an adventure, while you wonder where you're going to end up next with bated breath.

If you're a traditionalist and that bothers the hell out of you, there is a healthy amount of traditional big Mario 64/Sunshine-like levels. The gravity plays a minor role, but the power-ups come into play here. There are a ton of power-ups in the game, and each of them are really fun to use. Throughout the course of your adventure, you'll be transforming into a bee, a human spring, an ice man and much more. They never become truly integral into the whole experience, but they're a blast to use in the context of the galaxy. The same can be said for the motion sensing bits. Ray surfing is tough to come to grips with, as you twist your wrist to steer your manta ray, but it works well enough. The second bit has you holding the remote like a flightstick, and you tilt the remote like a joystick to control Mario while he's on a ball. Sega, thank Nintendo for your new Super Monkey Ball control scheme because it works like a charm. The one element that does remain important throughout the game is your cursor. Aiming with it is a snap, and you'll use it for things like guiding Mario while in a bubble by using the cursor as something like a bag of air. For the most part, however, you're going to use it to get star bits and then using those star bits offensively, defensively and as a form of bribery. Collecting star bits is incredibly addicting, and all it requires you to do is simply point at these little buggers. Shooting them at enemies can stun then and feeding these bits to cute little stars called lumas might result in totally new planets.

As polished, and phenomenal the gameplay is, the graphics might equally be as good. Galaxy is just straight up the Wii's best-looking game and it's just so visually accomplished that it looks as good as many 360/PS3 games. Not sometimes, but always. The simple art style certainly helps, but Nintendo pushes the technical boundaries of its console, too. Specular maps, real-time reflections and a ton of other technical feats are executed deftly here and it all rounds out at a smooth 60 frames, rarely ever pouting when things get busy. It helps that practically all the galaxies have a totally different look from another, making it fresh throughout the entire adventure. Galaxy's visuals prove that developers have been lazy as hell when it comes to Wii games visually, and all the claims of the Wii not being able to push better-than-GC visuals are completely unfounded.

If that's not enough, the sound is just as fantastic. Much of Galaxy's soundtrack is orchestrated, and the results are phenomenal. Simply put, Galaxy has one of the best soundtracks in the last 5 years in a game. All the pieces are epic, sweeping and have a distinct Mario tone to it all. It's also quite dynamic. For example, when you get Bowser into a panic, a choir kicks in to make your mind explode. The sound effects too are Nintendo-quality, with different surfaces creating different, punctual sounds and the general ambiance noises gel well with the environment. Voice acting is scarce once again, with the opening letter from the beginning representing the only major bit of voice acting. It's not sorely missed however, because the audio package in general is so outstanding, and conversations rarely last past a minute.

The game while at first feels brief. The road to the first 60 stars (that nets you the credits) lasts anywhere between 6-10 hours, when factoring how dexterous you are with Mario. However, much of it has to do with a genuine lack of difficulty while going after the first 60. There are moments when your mettle will be tested, but those are rare instances. It's impossible to deny that the ride's fun, though. The next 60 on the other hand, is a whole different beast. These are some of the most challenging levels in Mario's three-dimensional history, with one in particular that might drive you up the wall. Also, some of the levels you've already completed will be replayable for stars. They come with new handicaps, such as faster enemies or going through a level with only one energy bar. These are tough challenges, but the later galaxies in general get progressively more challenging, requiring you to be a hell of a lot more acrobatic and experimental with Mario's moves. The next 60 stars last 10-15 hours and these 60 are much more rewarding and fun. It sounds ridiculous, but yeah, the game gets better.

When it comes down to it, it's phenomenal game. It's worth getting a Wii for just this game. It's a game that comes every 5 years and shoots down all the competition with grace. For all the ambitious space operas, shooters that push technological boundaries, and compelling story-intensive games that are genuinely powerful, a quaint plumber, with a one-track mind comes in and well, humbly demolishes its competition. Sure, it's true, some of the levels aren't as memorable, the hub doesn't have much in the way of secrets and the camera can become problematic. You know how it is, a game never truly is perfect, but when they come close, like Super Mario Galaxy does, that's good enough. But if you think that's total bullpop, it doesn't change the fact that Super Mario Galaxy is a masterpiece, and it's something that'll be remembered and referenced for years to come.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 11/26/07

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

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