Review by wiifitguy
This Is Why We Play Video Games.
I have been a fan of the Mario series since I was just barely old enough to see. It's strange that one of my earliest memories of existence is sitting in front of a small TV playing Nintendo games, and most prominently, facing up against King Koopa (which is what we knew him at, at the time.) in his castle, and being terribly frustrated when figured out that "the Princess is in another castle." The subsequent days playing and mastering the game, it's sequel, and many others after it were no less exciting. The second game was a cop out, being a simple sprite change of another game, but we didn't know that back then; it was just Mario 2 to us, and we loved it just as much as the first. When the third game came out, it absolutely blew us away, and seeing it at the center of the movie The Wizard, taught us how to cheat by finding the hidden flutes, and skipping to the very end of the game. When the Super Nintendo game out with Super Mario World, we were stunned yet again by the amazing improvement in the graphic, the elaborate characters on screen, and everything else about that game that made it incredible to play, even today. But we had no idea what was in store for Mario in the future, and yet again, it would floor us once we were finally able to set eyes on his next evolution.
Thrusting any video game series into the 3D realm after a life of the 2nd dimension is a very risky proposition. Platforming games were designed based on the prospect of 2D; you can only really move in four directions, and the best way to get a character there, is to make him jump up mysterious floating platforms. Scatter some enemies and hidden items, and you have the perfect formula for most of our games of old. It worked very well back then, and today, these games are still fun to play. So how do you deal with throwing full 360 degree motion into the mix? For the most part, some early efforts were highly disappointing. We would get our fair share of decent titles as well, but it wasn't until Super Mario 64 that we were able to sit back with our jaws on the floor, and mutter "wow." at the sheer scale of what was happening on screen. It was just like any other Mario game for the most part, but with full freedom of exploration. My friends and I would spend an ungodly amount of time running around the levels, trying to find secrets which were not there (LUIGI.) and just generally wasting time when we weren't trying to hunt out all of those 120 stars. It was a great time, and a great transition into the 3D realm, but could the success of that game really be repeated? Where could we go from there, besides copying the same style of game play?
Apparently, not very far.
When Super Mario Sunshine was released for the Gamecube, and relied on a somewhat gimmicky new element of game play where Mario was required to rely on a water pump to clean up the levels, no one was really stunned with amazement. It was absolutely a blast to play, but it didn't add anything new to the series, and it didn't have the wide variety of environments perhaps that it's predecessor did, relying largely on a tropical island theme in terms of it's art direction and general style. It was fun, it was Mario, and it was in 3D, but there was no way it could compare to Mario 64; the concept simply wasn't new anymore, and many hundreds of games after the first 3D Mario did nothing but follow in it's footsteps. We were so sick and tired of 3D platformers by then, that it was simply forgotten almost as soon as it appeared. It was a fantastic performer, a decent Mario, but hardly enough to catch our attention at the time.
But how do you stay fresh, new, and exciting, when just about everything seems to have been done? What could the next step possibly be? Our questions were answered when Super Mario Galaxy hit the Nintendo Wii. It was largely the same style as other 3D Mario games before it, but with several very important elements which made it stand out from the crowd. Whenever I think of Super Mario Galaxy, the original 2D games immediately come to mind. Even though it takes place in a completely 3D world, it take the formula and hones it down to such a fine point, that it is impossible to find any flaws on it's surface. It was 2D platforming in a 3D realm, with some incredibly intuitive game mechanics, and the new element of a gravitational field in place which fortunately, happened to enhance the game play a great deal, and was not gimmicky in any way shape or form. It was exactly what Mario should have been all along, and in many ways, it surpassed the insurmountable force that was Super Mario 64. Many nostalgic gamers will disagree with this statement, but regardless, Super Mario Galaxy was a huge leap in the right direction; it managed to refresh the Mario series not by adding a slew of new, untested elements, but by relying on old ones; simple but challenging platforming game play. It was about as perfect as it was going to get, and it's hard to imagine where the series will go from here; but if Super Mario Galaxy 2 is any indication, Mario is hopefully in for continued success, as this game is essentially the Stradivarius of Mario games; legendary, and seemingly insurmountable.
GAMEPLAY | 10/10
If people are expecting a massive change in game play compared to the first game, they will be severely disappointed. This is very much more of the same in that respect, but for fans of the original game, that is nothing to miffed about. What Super Mario Galaxy 2 does, is it takes the first game, and sharpens it up to the nth degree. Everything you knew and loved about the first game is improved, and it makes even more of an attempt to stay true to the series 2D platforming roots. You get a little less story, you get a little less mindless exploration between levels and in this way, it comes even closer to emulating the traditional games than it ever has. There is a much wider variety in the types of levels you will be exploring, though the art direction is identical to the first game; small isolated pockets of lush, brightly colored land hanging around in the middle of a beautiful, starlit sky. These planetoids are of varying sizes and shapes, some letting you run around their entire surface regardless of direction, where others will plunge you into the abyss should you miss a tricky jump to the other side. Game play is handled well regardless of where you are, and depending on the style of platform you are navigating, different elements of the game will be present. Sometimes you might need to drill through a planet to the other side to complete certain puzzles, sometimes you might need to use gravity to swing yourself to another area, or more traditionally, sometimes it's a matter of endless hopping in order to ascend from one platform to the next while avoiding enemies and pitfalls. Boredom will never set in as you witness the massive variety the game has to offer, and with the added elements of Yoshi, new Mario suits, and a traditional World Map, you will feel right at home even if you have not picked up a Mario game since the early nineties. Throw in some beautiful and sometimes tricky boss battles, and you have a formula that could easily span an entire series of games. Any complaints about this being a simple clone of Super Mario Galaxy are laid to rest when you pick it up, start playing, and realize you are having just as much fun as the first time you ever laid hands on a Nintendo controller.
GRAPHICS | 9.5/10
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the best looking game on the Wii, and although it isn't much of an advancement over the first game, it certainly feels more polished, and the wide variety of environments presented here makes it stand out above any other game on the console. It is a gorgeous feast for the eyes which will absolutely not disappoint, and though it is on a system which lacks high definition support, it is comparable to many games from it's rival systems, if simply for the amount of colors on screen at any given time alone. Menus are clean, simple, and effective, and the interface is incredibly straightforward and simple, never getting in the way of the game play. It is a little depressing to imagine what this game might look like in 1080p, but it's got it where it counts. Essentially, if you have seen Super Mario Galaxy in action, you likely won't be any more or less impressed with this one. But then, the last thing on your mind will be the graphics when you begin to realize how incredible the game play is. It looks very nice, especially with a component cable, and you owe it to yourself to play this in the highest definition that you possibly can. For the Wii, it is quite a technical feat, but we aren't seeing much here which hasn't already been done before, either.
SOUND | 9.5/10
The reason I am scoring graphics and sound so high, is because they really do deserve it. I am cutting points simply due to the fact that there have been no major improvements over the first game, but this will not affect the final score. It is just something that needs to be noted.
The sweeping orchestral score, the right amount of cutesy sound effects without border lining on being irritating; it is all perfect for a Mario game, and I think, about as good as it is ever going to get. Once again, much like the first Super Mario Galaxy, we are not seeing anything revolutionary, but what is being presented to us is simply more polished, more perfect. Many of the tunes are catchy, and the entire score is a major throwback to the first Mario Galaxy. But some more familiar elements of sound, such as the jungle beat whenever Yoshi is being ridden, are nice little touches, the kind we have come to expect and love from the series. Everything is crisp, clear, and wonderful, and this is one game you will definitely want to keep your volume up for when playing.
REPLAYABILITY | 10/10
With an improved 2 Player mode, a MASSIVE number of stars to collect and secrets to uncover along with the simple joy which comes through exploring the multitude of levels, this is one game you will not be finished with quickly. To give you an idea of the length to expect, my first two hours of game play consisted of beating the first world, and collecting about ten stars. With six worlds (plus a secret seventh world) to explore, 241 (!) stars to collect, and the ability to play as Luigi thrown into the mix, this is a true sandbox platformer which will take a long time to fully complete. It is very likely the longest Mario game ever made, and is truly a masterpiece in this respect. I don't think it could have gone much further than this. People may whine about the multilayer mode, how the second player essentially acts as a glorified pointer, but the game simply was not designed for multiple players anyways. If you want a multiplayer Mario fix, there is still New Super Mario Bros for the Wii to consider. But if you want the best single player platforming experience you have ever seen in your life, you will not be disappointed.
OVERALL | 10
This is, quite literally, a perfect gaming experience. It is the ultimate culmination of everything we have come to learn and love about video games, all in a single package. There are going to be counter-active reviews in the future from sour minded folks who simply can't cope with the fact that a video game could actually come along, and be this categorically excellent in everything it attempts to do, but these folks will very simply, be wrong. I could see new gamers perhaps not enjoying this game to the fullest extent, having been jaded by the current slew of multiplayer kill fests which now saturate the video game market, but as a person who has been gaming for over twenty years, I can honestly say this ranks up there with the best of the best, regardless of genre. It is indisputably, undeniably, a perfect gaming experience, and a must-play for any self-respecting gamer who knows what the word "fun" means...or perhaps who has simply forgotten, and who needs a reminder of why we played video games back then, and why we will keep playing them in the future.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Super Mario Galaxy 2 (US, 05/23/10)
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