Review by RageBot

"Old and new collide... at a price."

Super Mario Galaxy is the third 3D Mario title. For the last two titles, the game has changed. From a simple platformer found in the NES and SNES games, Super Mario 64 has introduced us to a massive world. The world consisted of several stages, and in each, a few quests had to be completed. Each completed quest granted you a star. There were 120 stars, all in all, including some well-hidden stars. However, only 70 start were required to defeat Bowser and win the game. The final need, to collect 120 stars, followed on to this game.

Every 100 years, a Star Festival is celebrated in the Mushroom Kingdom. One time, Mario was going to the castle at the night of the festival, when none other than the Koopa King came to steal the show... by kidnapping Princess Peach. With a majestic return of the Koopa airships, Mario is blown sky-high by cannon fire, but then, a mysterious force rescues him. Finding himself on a planet smaller than the moon, Mario must help the Luma species and their leader, Rosalina, to save stars across the universe from being exploited for malicious intent.

Just like the previous 3D titles, there is a main "hub" from which you will access all of the stages, or "Galaxies". The challenges are entered via six "domes" scattered across the hub. In each domes are three main galaxies. Each galaxy consists of three challenges, as well as one hidden challenge. You get a star from each completed challenge. Get enough stars, and you will unlock more stages. However, some optional stages can only be unlocked by completing specific challenges. Eventually, you'll encounter a boss stage, which features only one challenge, a short course with a boss fight at its end. For those stages, the N64 theme for boss stages is back.

Defeat the boss, and you'll get a Grand Star. Beside increasing your count towards 120 stars, the Grand Stars illuminate the hub, granting access to domes farther and farther away. After getting enough stars, you can simply avoid every normal stage, get all four mandatory Grand Stars, and after getting 60 stars altogether, drive to the center of the universe and defeat Bowser for good.

The gameplay itself is a crossover between classic and 3D Mario titles. While the stages are all 3D, each challenge has a linear course, so that you can't get one challenge while intending to complete another. In addition, transformations are back. The super mushroom is back, and it increases your health from 3 to 6. The reduction of health, from 8 bars in previous 3D titles to 3, was needed in order to make this game more difficult. And boy, is it difficult at times.

The fire flower is also back, but the fireballs are not meant to take out enemies more easily, but to melt ice. Then there are many new powers. You can turn into a bee and fly for a short while, or into a ghost and pass through specific walls. An ice flower grants you the ability to walk on water and jump up waterfalls. There is one power up that I hate, however. The spring power makes you constantly jump. You can jump higher, but it's really hard to control Mario as a spring. While it's necessary, I always see it as a power DOWN. Also, the powers are deactivated by touching water (bee, spring), light (ghost), or after a certain period of time expires (fire, ice).

A new monetary unit is introduced, the star bits. Those are small sparkly things that can be picked up by a cursor, moved by the Wiimote. Each time you get 50 star bits, you get a 1-up. However, unlike coins, the star bit count is not reset after dying. Star bits are used to feed pink Lumas, and you can also shoot them at enemies using the B button. Another new thing introduced is gravity issues: There are planets that you can walk on their underside, and sometimes you must walk upside-down or sideways. Black holes function as pitfalls: Fall into them and you die.

While you can beat the game with 60 stars, there's much much more. First off, there are more galaxies, containing about 80 stars altogether. Then there are the comets. After a certain point in the game, Comets will start to show. When a comet is flying over a galaxy, you must complete the comet's challenge. A comet's challenge, in a nutshell, is an extra boost given to a specific challenge. You may be required to complete it under a strict time limit, without taking a hit once, or under the presence of faster enemies. It's always only one limitation imposed on you, though. Some galaxies feature blue comets, which lead to races against a copy of yourself. There are 15 comets altogether, one for each major galaxy.

There's more to it, though. Unlockable in every dome are a few mini-galaxies. Those galaxies will feature new things, such as surfing with Motion Controls, blowing Mario in a bubble across a poisonous swamp, or playing hide-and-seek with galactic bunnies. Other galaxies will appear outside of their respected domes, as pink Luma people. To unlock the galaxies, you must feed the Lumas with star bits. There are seven such galaxies. In addition, Luigi plays a role. Every once in a while, you'll get a letter from him, with a picture of him. Get to that galaxy, find him, and you'll get yet another star.

Then there are the green stars. Three of the hidden stars are green. Get them, and you'll gain access to three extremely hard challenges. Each challenge uses one Motion Control feature, used only once or twice in the entire game, and takes it to the max. Those are the ultimate challenges in the game, and you will lose at least 20 lives in each. Fortunately, the game is incredibly generous with extra lives, with one for every 50 star bits collected, along with occasional letters from Princess Peach, each awarding you with five extra lives.

After defeating Bowser once, fifteen MORE challenges will appear. Those are the Purple Comets. In each main galaxy, there is both a regular comet and a purple comet. Have you enjoyed collecting 100 coins in Super Mario 64? I hope you have, because you're going to do that again. Sometimes, the purple comets require you to scour an entire galaxy, usually huge, for 100 purple coins. Each attempt may take up to ten minutes, and if you die, those minutes will be wasted. Oh, and some of those coins are places in the most dangerous of places. Other comets will incur a severe time limit upon you, eating your lives fast. Beat all of those, and you're finally at 120 stars. Now you'll have to fight Bowser again.

You're still not done, though! There are another 120 stars, and to get them, you'll have to do the entire game all over again, as Luigi. What Nintendo has done here is basically throwing a Ghosts & Goblins upon you. So you'll have to repeat those 15 hours again, going through the same frustration at the tough spots, and you'll finally get all 240 stars, and get one more star by each member of the Mario family. Wow, you must feel exhausted.

For the presentation, the graphics are way better than those of the predecessors. Everything looks perfectly proportioned and greatly animized. It's definitely not realistic, but since this is a fantasy game, and Nintendo consoles could have never hold a candle for Sony's in terms of the graphical engine, it is for the best. As for the soundtrack, most of the tracks are new. However, covers are found for the Athletic theme, Super Mario 64 boss stage theme, and the classic themes from the first game.

This may seem like a bad review. However, for all the trouble that Nintendo has thrown at their loyal fans in this game, it's still fun. Even the toughest of challenges fill you up with the desire to get better. You may lose many lives, but you'll get better, get optimistic, and finally beat each and every challenge. Have fun.

Final grade: 8.2/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/10/12

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

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