Review by darkknight109

"Exactly what it says on the box"

Well, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is out, marking the first time ever that Nintendo has released a direct sequel to one of its 3D titles on the same console. I was a big fan of the original Super Mario Galaxy, so I had high hopes for the sequel. The question on everyone's mind appears to be, “Does it measure up?”

Well, the apple didn't fall far from the tree. As one could expect, Galaxy 2 borrows quite heavily from its predecessor, featuring the same beautiful graphics, the same orchestrated soundtrack, and the same overall gameplay mechanics. I have no complaints about the game doing this; after all, why fix what isn't broken? For those who haven't played the original (what is wrong with you?!), Galaxy's twist on the usual Mario fare is that the titular main character moves from one planetoid to the other over the course of a level, each one ranging in size from expansive enough to hold an most of the level on to a few metres across, if that. The game uses some pretty nifty physics and even early on in Galaxy 2, there are some gravity puzzles where one has to time jumps to cross between orbiting planetoids; it's an overall fun experience, although the controls can seem a little loose at times.

The graphics are bright and colourful and look very nice, proving that the Wii does have the power to live up to its title as a next-gen console, even if most developers don't seem to take advantage of that fact. The fully-orchestrated music fits in well with the space theme, calling to mind countless sci-fi soundtracks while still managing to convey a distinctly “Mario-esque” feel. The mood and atmosphere of the game could best be described as “whimsical”, featuring strangely-shaped planetoids that look like creatures and characters from the Mario universe, travelling sequences where Mario flies through the air at great speed and arcs through the sky Superman-style towards his destination, and power-ups that call back to the days of Super Mario 3, granting powers that range from the ability to shoot fireballs to turning Mario into a gigantic bowling ball.

This is all nothing new to anyone who's spent any appreciable time with the original game, so what does SMG2 bring to the table to differentiate itself from its predecessor? Well, as the box art and promotional material should make apparent, Yoshi makes a triumphant return and is present almost from the word go. Unlike the terrible implementation our favourite green dinosaur received in Super Mario Sunshine, Yoshi in SMG2 appears to be more in line with his Super Mario World incarnation. You hatch Yoshi from an egg (by spinning into it), hop onboard and run around the level with him. Your cursor – which is normally used to shoot starbits – becomes a targetter for Yoshi's tongue, allowing you to grab onto various items or consume enemies and edible scenery. If you get hit, Yoshi goes running just like he did in Super Mario World, and you have to track him down and catch him before he disappears. However, losing Yoshi is more of a mild annoyance than anything to really be bereaved about. If the early levels are any indication, there are Yoshi nests everywhere, which all spawn eggs for you to hatch if you're not already riding a Yoshi.

Much like the original, there's nostalgia galore in SMG2. Even in the first few levels, there's a lot of call-backs to older Mario games. Latiku and the spinies make an appearance as enemies which, I believe, is the first time they have done so in a 3D game, the Lumas return from their SMG debut, and those little berries from Super Mario World are all around the Yoshi levels. The soundtrack draws thematically from older games with instantly recognizable remakes of tracks from Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 sitting amongst the new tracks. They even brought back the slide mini-games from 64, which are now much faster paced and quite exhilarating to boot.

The game uses a world map instead of a central hub, although beyond the cosmetic differences, the functionality is pretty much identical. There are multiple paths to your destination, blocks which require a set number of stars to open, and hungry lumas that can open up new galaxies. The prankster comets are back, adding some replayability to earlier levels, although now you must collect "Comet Coins" to make them appear.

Unfortunately, while SMG2 does carry over the strengths of the original, its weaknesses are also present. The game's difficulty is incredibly mild, even when compared to its predecessor. By the time I had collected my first two stars, I had already amassed 17 lives and had yet to die even once. There are brief snippits of challenge amongst the levels, but these are usually just a very brief "tricky" segment, rather than an entire level. There are a plethora of save points around the levels, allowing you to resume almost from the exact same point you die if you happen to make a poorly distanced jump. Speaking of which, the physics are still fairly wonky when you pass between the gravity fields of two small planetoids, and it can be somewhat frustrating trying to land on a specific planet in a cluster. The camera can behave a bit strangely from time to time, although you have the ability to adjust it as necessary. Fortunately, all these flaws are minor nuisances rather than anything substantial.

The plot, for those of you who couldn't guess already, is that the Princess gets kidnapped by a king-sized Bowser during a festival in the Mushroom Kingdom. Bowser takes Peach to the centre of the universe where he plans to build an Empire for himself and Mario has to rescue her. To this end, the red-clad plumber becomes the honorary captain of a Luma spaceship (a planet shaped like his head) and pilots it across the galaxy. For those who are curious, Rosalina and her observatory appear to be absent from SMG2, replaced instead by a portly purple Luma and the aforementioned “Faceship.” Story has never exactly been a selling point for the Mario franchise, so this one's pretty much par for the course.

The game really takes its title in the most literal way possible; it is almost the exact same game as the original Super Mario Galaxy, just with new levels and a handful of new mechanics. I am given to understand that the game was largely made out of levels that were cut from the final version of SMG1, and I can certainly believe that. For those of you who were big fans of the original and wanted an “expansion pack” experience with minimal deviation from the SMG formula, SMG2 certainly fits the bill. If you were hoping that the game would introduce some revolutionary new gameplay that would take the series in a new direction, you're going to be disappointed in that regard, since SMG2 is anything but original.

Overall, SMG2 delivers a satisfying experience that is closely in line with its precursor, and it's a solid purchase for any Wii owner. It introduces enough new tweaks and features to keep the game interesting without deviating from the formula that made the original popular and fans of the original will not go home disappointed.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/24/10, Updated 06/01/10

Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy 2 (US, 05/23/10)

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