Review by Dave521
Innovative gameplay, and easily one of the best games Nintendo has produced
Is Mario getting stale? Some people asked this after playing Super Mario Sunshine. While the game was a good platformer, some fans believed that the game got dull about halfway through and did not feel like Mario, especially compared to Super Mario 64. The waterpack seemed to take away what Mario was all about: jumping. Add all the spinoffs that were milked like crazy, and some fans started to believe that Mario was heading down that path of worn out mascots with his old archrival Sonic. It sort of had that similar feel from Super Mario Brothers 2. When it arrived, it was different, and some people were not happy with the game (especially after finding out that the game was not the real Mario 2, but that's another story). Years later, Super Mario Brothers 3 arrived, and it was the plumber at his best in 2-D sidescrolling. The game is considered the best Mario game ever made, and one of, if not the best on the NES. 5 years after the release of Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy has arrived, and as the old saying goes, "time flows like a river and history repeats" (actually, that was Secret of Mana, so not that old).
When it comes to the exposition of a Mario game, if you've played one of them, you've essentially played them all, with a few exceptions. This is not one of those. Mario is invited over to Princess Peach's castle in order to receive a gift from her during the centennial Comet Festival. While on his way to the castle, Bowser attacks and rips Peach's castle out of the ground and into the sky, blasting Mario as he attempts to save his girl. When he awakens, he is greeted by a lady named Rosalina and starlike creatures called Lumas. Rosalina allows Mario to use her comet observatory to find the Grand Stars to power the comet so he can teach Bowser his nine billionth lesson and rescue Peach...yet again. It really would be nice to see Mario do something else for a change. But ultimately, the storyline is not that important to the game. There's no major twists, so don't expect to jump back at one halfway through the game.
If you're familiar with Super Mario 64's setup, then Galaxy will be pretty easy to understand. From Rosalina's comet, you'll enter domes that are basically rooms in a house. In these domes, you'll be able to access the various galaxies throughout the game. When you select a galaxy, you'll have a choice of stars to attempt, and then you have to complete the mission to obtain it, again similar to Mario 64. There are 3 base stars on most of the galaxies, and you'll be able to gain hidden stars, as well as comet stars, which has comets randomly circling the galaxy to set up a mission. These range from completing a task in a specific amount of time to completing a task without getting hit. Gaining more stars allow you to unlock more galaxies, and collecting the Grand Stars from the enemy bases allows you to open more domes. You can have a large amount of galaxies open at one time, so you'll be able to collect stars at your pace. The missions are linear, as most will have you travelling from planet to planet, and then completing a tough objective at the end for the star. But getting around is pretty interesting, and I'll get to that in a bit. There are 120 stars in the game, but you only need 60 to reach the final area. For the impatient player, it'll still give some staying power to the game, but for the completionist, you can easily burn through hours attempting to find all 120 stars. There's also a two player mode, but it's kinda worthless. One player controls Mario, while another uses the pointer to collect items and stun enemies. It gets boring after a while.
But is it worth it? Short answer, yes. Long answer, hell yes. Mario controls just as you remember him all those years ago: spot on. Using the Wii Remote and the Nunchuck is just as comfortable as using a typical controller, and you'll be able to pull off all of Mario's jump tricks with ease, as well as having that picture perfect momentum jump. You can't punch, but it's replaced with a spin attack, activated by wiggling the remote. You'll also be using the remote motion sensing to move a cursor to pick up star bits, which are currency for the Lumas to open new pathways and galaxies. Using it as a joystick for a couple of areas, that's pretty much it for Wii Remote functionality. It's probably a good thing that Nintendo decided to leave it limited, as it could have hurt Mario's razor sharp control scheme.
It wouldn't be Mario without powerups, and Galaxy gives you a nice amount to play with. You have Fire Mario (which we all know of), Boo Mario (who can hover and phase through bars), Bee Mario (who can fly to reach higher places and can stand on clouds and flowers), Ice Mario (who can walk on water by creating ice platforms), Star Mario (again, we know of this), Flying Mario (who can...umm, fly), and Spring Mario (who can reach high areas by bouncing very high). The powerups are interesting and intuitive (although Spring Mario can be a bit crazy to control) but underused. There's only a few spots with the powerups, and it makes you feel that they could've done a bit more with it. But the execution of them is near flawless.
We've had powerups and razor sharp jumping for years, and even the 120 stars from Mario 64. Sunshine tried the water backpack approach to hook it, but it got mixed reviews, as many people missed his jumping. Galaxy's hook is in it's incredible level design with the spherical worlds. On each of the planets, you'll have to attempt to find a way to travel to the next planet. This can involve being launched there by a star launcher, or simply jumping and getting caught in the gravitational pull. The gravity effect puts Super Mario Galaxy in a class of its own when it comes to it's gameplay as a platformer. You'll constantly be shifting perspectives, as you'll be going upside-down, backwards, sideways, and even on a 2-D area where the gravity takes effect. But what really makes it shine is how it all feels natural. When you run around a planet, it doesn't feel any different than walking left or right on Super Mario Brothers. Part of this is due to a very nice camera, which keeps things as tidy as it can. It'll sometimes get caught, but you can easily get it back, and the spots that it got caught on for me was when I was diving into corners for no apparent reason. The excellent implementation of the spherical worlds is just amazing. It redefines what a platformer is capable of, showing off new ways to explore.
All this, and the game looks great. At this point, it is becoming crystal clear that the Wii isn't going to be putting forth games that would make the PS3 and 360 look in the mirror, but the art style on Mario Galaxy is very well done. Details are filled in beautifully, the game is colorful, and Mario himself seems to have even more of a shine to him. But the best part of the presentation is the music. Each song fits the galaxy it is in perfectly. To make matters even better, many of your favorite classic Mario songs are here as well, and the original songs are incredible. If you find the soundtrack anywhere, pick it up.
Platformers have taken a hit for being stale and repetitive, but Super Mario Galaxy does neither of those. It redefines what a platformer can do by breaking the rules of one perspective. What truly makes it shine is that it pulls this off so well, that it feels like people have been doing this for years. If you have a Wii, you need to have this game in your collection. I know a 10 is supposed to be perfect, and the game isn't, but I think that the game is good enough to the point where it surpasses 9 territory. Super Mario Galaxy isn't just the best game on the Wii, and it isn't just the best Mario game created since Super Mario Brothers 3. It's one of the best games of all time.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Super Mario Galaxy (US, 11/12/07)
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