Review by Midnarules
Phenomenal, but just not as much of a highflyer as the first.
Let's get something straight. Super Mario Galaxy 1 is probably the best game of the 00s. Sublime in every respect, with the sole exception of being a little lacking in the difficulty department, no game has so far topped it for the sheer experience it provides.
And I'm sad to say that its crown has only recieved a very slight nudge by its anticipated sequel.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 originally started as an expansion pack, for loss of a better term, for the original Galaxy. To be called 'More Super Mario Galaxy', it would have given new twists on the original levels of Galaxy. As more and more content and new ideas were added, Miyamoto and pals decided to make it into a full-blown sequel. Thank the gaming gods they did, because whilst Galaxy is excellent, simple rehashes of old levels wouldn't quite cut it as the brand of Nintendo genius we've been used to for so long.
So, here is Super Mario Galaxy 2. Visually the game is identical to the first, in graphics and mostly in art style, and that's by no means a bad thing. Miyamoto's imagining of space is as vivid as ever, with primary colours abound, visual nods to classic Mario, and some very nice visual effects that really push the Wii to its limits. Admittedly this mostly involves adding glare and shine and realistic light refraction to things, but it's nevertheless a lovely effect.
Galaxy was noted for its very ambitious orchestrated soundtrack that ultimately produced one of the best, most artistic soundtracks ever implemented into a game. Galaxy 2 doesn't disappoint on that front, and whilst there are less original tracks in this game than in the first, the quality on display is still outstanding. Fluffy Bluff Galaxy's sweeping orchestrated masterpiece might even top the breathtaking Gusty Garden from the original, but that's open to debate. Galaxy 2's soundtrack also seems to 'fit' the surroundings a little more than the original's did. Koji Kondo takes a break from the full orchestra pieces to provide happy, bubbly tracks for galaxies that need them, and sombre pieces for galaxies that don't.
Gameplay is possibly the area where Galaxy 2 differs from its predecessor most. The level design is of the same high quality as ever, but Miyamoto has perhaps made it his mission this time around to make us do something different in every single galaxy. One moment you'll be in an ordinary platform level, the next gliding on a bird through the trees, the next carefully timing your jumps as platforms appear and disappear to the beat of the music. The more unique moments where you aren't just jumping around are more frequent than they were in Galaxy, and it's up to you whether that's a good thing or not.
This leads on to perhaps my biggest complaint about the game. In Galaxy 1, there were 15 galaxies with 6 stars (Including Dusty Dune, with 7.) Three ordinary stars, a comet, a purple coin and a hidden. Then liberally scattered between them were many 1-star galaxies (Again, with the exception of Buoy Base.) This worked well because the larger galaxies could be more open in their level design and be physically much larger, whilst the one-star galaxies could be smaller and feature a unique gameplay element, like ray surfing.
In Galaxy 2 this is different. Each Galaxy has 2 or 3 stars. 2-star galaxies have one normal mission and one comet, and 3-star galaxies either have 2 missions and a comet, or one mission, a hidden star and a comet. Because there are at max 2 ordinary Stars to be had in each Galaxy, and more usually one, this results in them being much much shorter than the larger galaxies in Galaxy 1. This is where Galaxy 2 most suffers, as smaller galaxies are being milked for more stars than they were in Galaxy, and the little surprise once you complete the game can actually become fairly tedious to perform.
However, that's not to say Galaxy isn't a whole load of fun, because it is. The new power-ups, Cloud and Rock Mario, work very well, although I'm grateful that Rock wasn't featured too heavily as Cloud is a much better mechanic. The challenge of Galaxy 2 has also been ramped up considerably, with some levels towards the end becoming difficult even for a seasoned Mario player. Instead of Comets appearing at random, you have to find a Comet Medal in each level. Whilst these are rarely difficult to get and are only a small bit out of your way, they do add a little more challenge to the process of getting a Comet Star.
Overall, whilst Mario Galaxy 2 does enough things different to be a worthy sequel to the original, and provides a lot more of a challenge too, it changes a few things that just didn't need changing, and this is what holds it back from being superior to the original. However, the standard of Galaxy was so high that to say that galaxy 2 comes close to topping it is to say that it is a phenomenal game.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Super Mario Galaxy 2 (EU, 06/11/10)
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