Review by NewMoonShadow
"A fun experience everyone can enjoy, but as for living up to the Mario legacy…?"
Super Mario Galaxy: A fun experience everyone can enjoy, but as for living up to the Mario legacy
It's difficult to judge the game based on its presentation. It's clearly on a less powerful system that isn't designed to run on an HDTV, so you can't expect Mass Effect caliber graphics work. On the other hand, if you give every Wii game a free pass into putting no effort into their graphics because the Wii isn't graphically focused anyway, you wind up with the jumbled mess of crappy-looking games that have clogged the Wii's arteries. Frankly, the game's graphics are lower quality than the game's GameCube predecessor, with less impressive textures and animations, such as the fact that the Chain Chomps don't actually animate to their dog-like barking (instead just rolling around like giant boulders with no animation to speak of) and the fact that water is half as interesting to watch.
However, the game does have a bright, vivid design scheme and an overall pleasant artistic feel whenever you find Mario flying among the stars. The game is less impressive when you find yourself on one of the themed planets, such as the ice-fire world or the desert world. These worlds look bright and vivid, but the animations and little details are simply not there. Seeing Mario ice-skate around and perform triple-axels while doing it is novel, but the fact that Ice Mario is essentially Metal Mario with a blue tint is just a complete letdown.
The game's story sequences seem to have gotten inspiration from Mario's pointy-eared green-tunic-wearing comrade. From the way the camera sweeps around to the orchestral score to the gibberish mumbles of the characters as they speak, the game's presentation in regards to the story is complete Zelda. There are certainly worse things to copy, and this in fact helps the game feel more epic than it really is. Still, copying other series' is bad!
A broad, sweeping and beautiful selection of tunes both new and remixed from classics is really nothing to complain about.
Now, the first time everyone got a glimpse of Bee Mario, I know exactly what popped into their heads. Holy crap! It's Super Mario Bros. 3 in 3D! Sadly, this is a premise that the game simply doesn't live up to. If it wasn't part of one of the greatest gaming series' of all time, the gameplay here would probably get a 9 or 10, but I can't forgive it for not fulfilling the massive potential that the game simply fails to capture. But then, its problems may stem more from modern gaming trends than lack of creative vision.
Let's do an experiment here. Let's take Super Mario Bros. 3. Awesome, isn't it? Now, strip away the item-collection process. Okay there's still something fun to be had with the powers in the levels. Now let's strip away all of the powers and transformations except where they're needed to progress. You only get P-Wings in levels with no floors. You only get Fire Mario in levels where torches need to be lit. You only get Frog Mario in levels that are completely underwater. Tanooki Mario? Hammer Mario? The cloud? The Anchor? Toss em. Who needs em? And once the sections are finished, the powers are taken away.
This is where Galaxy and 64 BOTH failed. They were so focused on challenging the player in specific ways that they lost sight of what it was that made Mario Bros. 3 and Mario World great. They were great specifically because of the potential to abuse the system and skip huge portions of the game. You had a truly magnificent amount of freedom in how you worked your way through the game, and that's what keeps them fun 20 years and 200 playthroughs later. This game lacks that, in fact it lacks that so hard that they made even Fire Mario temporary and only available in one or two specific worlds.
Speaking of strict restrictions, let's talk level designs. To illustrate this one, let's take Super Mario 64. In that game, when you chose a star, the game gave you the location of a star and perhaps a subtle hint on how to reach it, but it was up to you to figure out how to find it in a consistent world that was always open for you to explore. You could even find stars that you weren't looking for. Now let's take that game and take away the exploration. The entire level vanishes except for a straight line toward the chosen star with a couple of obstacles in your way that probably weren't there before, and maybe another branching straight line or two leading away from the main one with bonus stars.
Do you see my point here? There's no exploration in this game, choosing a star literally reconfigures the positions of the Warp Stars to point you in the proper direction, with the only deviation being when you discover one of the hidden areas that contains hidden stars.
Is this really the ultimate gaming experience that Mario has to offer? A game in which you're SHOVED towards your goals and handed the exact tool you'll need exactly when you need it? Especially when the game falls into the exact same hole the recent Spider-Man games always did in having difficult controls whenever Mario ends up on the walls or on the roof. Apparently the game's designers thought this was a decent challenging aspect of the game because one of the game's areas is based on it, but it's really just annoying and frustrating when the controls suddenly change into something completely confusing and counterintuitive. In some places it's possible to hold the stick in one direction and watch Mario run in tight circles with no idea where to go.
So the power-ups aren't power ups so much as they're simply a new form of challenge and puzzle within the game and there's no chance to explore the stages and the controls can be awkward and clunky when you're trying to work your way 360 degrees around a string of objects why then did I give it a 7? Because it's still quite fun. Jumping and flipping across planetoids and all that is great fun, and collecting stars is still decent enough to do. I'm not upset that the game is BAD, because it's far from it. It's a great game I think every Wii owner would do well to play. I'm upset because there is so much that it could have been that it is simply not. It's like a play-by-numbers game. Go where you're told and do what you're told, with only one a handful of really challenging sections.
Aww come on! I can hear you say. Mario games aren't about the story, they're about the gameplay! By that thinking, no game should ever be judged by its story. So what if Blue Dragon's story was trite and cliche? The gameplay was quite good, so why does it matter who the characters are or why they're doing what they do? The fact is this excuse is only given to Mario games because he's Mario, but I am not going to give the plumber a free pass. The story in Super Mario Galaxy isn't going to bring home any awards, in fact it's quite dull and DEFINES cliche. I don't know exactly how many times Peach's castle has been lifted into the sky but the number would probably be bigger than the number of games in the core series.
It does an okay job of carrying the game forward I guess, and for that gets a five. The last point comes from the beautiful storybook tale told by Rosalina in the library. I was way more interested in reading the rest of that story than I was in saving Princess Peach. Perhaps because that story gave Rosalina more personality as a character than Peach, Mario, or Bowser have ever had in any of the core games.
The game doesn't have much going for it outside of the main quest. There are of course many hidden stars to seek out and find, along with a certain surprise at the end that I'm sure people will enjoy, but aside from these the game doesn't have a lot of replay value.
Again, the game isn't BAD, but it fails to live up to the legacy of the Mario series. It's a very straightforward experience suitable for some enjoyment in the short term, but I seriously doubt you'll come back to it much once it's over.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/10/08
Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (US, 11/12/07)
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