Review by ND9k

"A very strong game in its own right, as well as a good SMB 64 sequel."

I've been playing Super Mario Galaxy for a while now, and I've got to say, this is without question the best platformer I've ever played on any system since Super Mario 64. After a long period of silence, rehashes, ports and sports games, Nintendo has finally gotten it all right with the Super Mario games. Galaxy, even a year after its release date, is still largely the game to beat on the Wii, and for two key reasons: solid gameplay and intelligent use of the Wii remote.

Right off the bat, you can tell that Super Mario Galaxy has the exact same story featured in Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario 64. Namely, Bowser has attacked the kingdom and stolen Peach, the typical damsel-in-distress. It's up to Mario to defeat Bowser and rescue Peach. It's not an original story by any means, but hey, it works. For Galaxy, it's good enough, and I doubt most people will care that the story isn't as original as it could have been.

The graphics are a clear step up from both Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. While it's true that the Wii will never match what's seen on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, Super Mario Galaxy has "more than good enough" graphics for most people. Remember, graphics do not equal gameplay. But when compared to other Wii games, Galaxy is clearly superior to nearly all of them. The worlds are huge and expansive, stretching in literally three dimensions in every direction. Water and lava look incredible, and the characters are all vibrantly animated and unique.

So, what's the actual gameplay like? It's good! Nintendo has really shown what the Wii remote can do. It's used in ways that I've not seen in any other Wii game, including Twilight Princess. Sure, you can use the Nunchuk to move around and the A button to jump, but what you can also do that you've never been able to do in a Super Mario game before is twist the remote, and suddenly, Mario performs a spinning attack. This spinning attack allows Mario to jump slightly higher, as well as defeat enemies and activate objects. It's a very significant trick. But Mario has the old tricks he learned back in Super Mario 64, too. He can still backflip, wall jump, long jump and crawl. But now, he has also learned how to walk on water and ice skate. Super Mario Galaxy includes new power-ups never before seen in Super Mario games, including "Bee Mario" and "Ice Mario." He can transform into a bee, Boo and even a spring to fly, turn invisible and jump higher than ever before possible. He will use all these skills in the various worlds, which are now called "galaxies" instead of the "courses" from SMB 64. And, as mentioned, there is also Ice Mario, which turns him to ice and lets him walk on water. It's the compliment to the Fire Flower, the classic power-up that makes a glorious return in Super Mario Galaxy.

Other innovative uses for the Wii remote include holding it vertically to control Mario when he's on a circus-like rubber ball, using it as a joystick to control Mario when he's flying and using the old Z button as a trigger to launch flying projectiles. Super Mario Galaxy shows that the Wii remote is much more than a gimmick. It proves that it's as valid of a controlling device as was the Nintendo 64 controller or the DualShock 3. Galaxy uses the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii in intelligent ways, and not just for the sake of "hey, it's there" like so many shovelware titles do.

Super Mario 64 was famous for its length and replay value. Sure, you could win the game with a minimal amount of Power Stars, but collecting all of them was a challenge. This has been faithfully recreated in Super Mario Galaxy. As with 64, there are 120 Power Stars to collect, but you only need about half of them to complete the game. Each galaxy contains up to six stars, with some very cleverly hidden, and others that can only be earned randomly at certain intervals. This calls for replay value even greater than what was seen in SMB 64, as you can no longer just get all the Power Stars you missed. Now, you must wait until the game makes them accessible to you.

To summarize, Super Mario Galaxy has a lot to do. In addition to the main storyline, there are also small mini-games that you can partake in, such as races and fun challenges. There is even room for a second player this time around, although their contributions are minimal, as they do little more than just collect Star Bits, a form of money used in the game.

I really cannot think of any major flaws or problems that take away from the game. Perhaps my one complaint is one shared by many others: some areas of the game border of being too easy. This is a trend that most video games have fallen victim to since the Nintendo 64. While no Super Mario game has ever been extremely difficult, Galaxy continues to guide the player with hints, shortcuts and even maps of where certain Power Stars are. Most of the boss battles in the game are not very difficult, being based on simple patterns that only need be repeated a few times. And perhaps most glaringly of all, Galaxy literally gives you infinite lives. Every time you return to the main hub, for example, there is at least two 1-up mushrooms immediately available to you. (There can be another seven as well, although it takes a bit more effort.) Combined with the ease of earning 1-ups in Galaxy overall, it's literally almost impossible to get a Game Over, no matter how terrible a player might be. I wouldn't really call this making the game easier per se, it just makes the game seem like it's oriented more towards the young or casual gamer than the true gamer that the older Super Mario games were generally catered for.

Super Mario Galaxy is easily one of the best, if not the best, games available for the Wii, even a year after its release. If you own a Wii, this is an absolute "must-have" for your collection. Super Mario Galaxy does for the Wii what Super Mario 64 did for the Nintendo 64. Namely, it turned what was already a hot-selling console into the console to own in 2007 and 2008. Even years down the road when the Wii is reaching the end of its life, Super Mario Galaxy will likely continue to be the game that all other games are measured up to.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/23/08

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

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