Review by lilithdarkstorm

"Like discovering a secret level in your favourite game; familiar but also a welcomed return"

It's safe to say that Super Mario Galaxy is one of the best games on the Wii, and arguably one of the best Mario games of all time. With its stunning visuals, enchanting orchestral music, old school story telling with modern and inventive game play mechanics; Super Mario Galaxy showed the world that Nintendo still had the spark to capture the hearts of hardcore and casual gamers alike. However, Super Mario Galaxy 2 did raise a few questions when it was first announced from the cynical. A Mario sequel that looks pretty much like the game before it? Surely it's a recipe for disaster. Have Nintendo lost the plot?

To call Super Mario Galaxy 2 a ‘sequel' would technically be incorrect as the game starts off like the previous game never existed; Mario gets a letter from Peach to come to the castle and share some cake with her at the Star Festival. On the way a gigantic Bowser steals the princess with an evil plan in tow to take over the galaxy. With his new friend, Luma, Mario sets off to explore the universe and rescue his special one. The only thing the separates this opening to the first Galaxy game is the style it's told in; Super Mario Galaxy 2 is told like a storybook, with fuzzy images, pages turning and a 2D view.

So if it's not a sequel then what IS Super Mario Galaxy 2? In short, it's a creative dump. It's everything that the original designers of the first game were unable to finish, ideas only thought of till late in development and anything that inspired them after the release of the original. You could argue that Super Mario Galaxy 2 could've been released as an expansion pack; yes it contains many same elements and designs from the first game, but there are also plenty of new ideas in here that will keep you smiling from start till finish.

Let's get out of the way what's old so we can focus on the new.
As I already pointed out, the story is old and classic as sliced bread. The marvellous idea of giving the ‘up yours' to gravity, being dragged across the galaxy and running up and down the planets as you see fit is no longer new. Side characters such as the bunnies and hungry Lumas make a return. Some level designs and mission objectives remain the same (crawling on the giant queen bee's back and collecting 5 silver stars for example). Some bosses and enemies are given a palette swap but still remain the same at heart (bored of the giant baby Piranha-dinosaur hybrid yet?) Power ups such as Fire Mario return, and the controls work the same; A button to jump, shake remote to spin Mario around and so on.

With all that said, what's exactly new? Well, Super Mario Galaxy 2's true colours don't come from the big ‘wow' moments that came aplenty in the previous title, Galaxy 2's expertise are within the levels themselves, the small things you notice that expand the original idea to greater lengths, or new twists on old levels that will make you love Mario all over again. There are fewer stars to find in each galaxy but this allows Nintendo to create more vast new worlds and allow the few stars in each galaxy the more fascinating. For example; the first star for Rightside Galaxy has moving platforms that contain their own gravity field, so you have to navigate and jump at the correct intervals from one gravity pull to another. Hightail Falls Galaxy will make you run at top speeds on vertical walls, dodging hazards along the way. Supermassive Galaxy will echo back to your Super Mario 64 days as you rival against enemies 10 times the size of you. Space Storm Galaxy requires you to lead a bob-omb through a maze to form a pathway for Mario. I could go on but half the fun of Galaxy 2 is discovering all the new weird and wonderful levels Nintendo has created, and the surprises continue all the way until the end (and there's 240 stars in total, just like the first Galaxy game). The introduction of Yoshi furthermore adds a new dynamic to the game play; he's as cute as ever and with his own power ups. He'll send you floating as a blimp, light up unseen platforms and even swallow bullet bills to throw right back at your enemy. If that's not enough; Luigi makes his return and lends a hand in levels if you so desire. And just when you think you've seen it all, you'll be given new power ups such as Cloud Mario (create your own clouds with smiles to travel), Rock Mario (become an unstoppable boulder and squash anything in your path) and the Spin Drill (grab a giant drill and go through any earthy surface).

Game difficulty has been altered too; this won't be too noticeable if you play just to get enough stars to face off with Bowser, but the challenge is there for the veteran players. Think the purple coin challenges were too easy in the first Super Mario Galaxy? Wait till you attempt Clockwork Ruins Galaxy in this game, then you won't be so cocky! There's also much more challenges outside of the comets; including the Chimps Challenge, who stretches your skills to the limits; bird races across jungles and space ships; and capturing Bowser's monsters for your robotic friends. Bosses are also given a look over so they're not as much of a walk in the park as previously. If you're a rookie gamer however the game will kindly provide ‘ghosts' for you if you die enough times within a level; the ghost will provide a visual demonstration so you're able to see for yourself how it's done and win a bronze star on your behalf.

Other the other hand we have the same content from the first game but rehashed with a new lick of paint.
First we'll take a look at the Prankster Comets, which are back but are no longer controlled by story developments. Instead, in each level there's a hidden ‘comet coin', if you complete the level with the coin in tow you can activate the comet for any galaxy in the game. Some coins are harder than others to find but not all Galaxies have comets hovering over them; the coin gathering aspect actually makes the comet challenges much more spread out within the game, unlike in the first Galaxy where most of the comets were saved until the end and with most of the purple coin challenges back to back.

Getting around the universe is also structured differently. Instead of controlling a huge spaceship and entering domes to access relevant galaxies; your mode of transportation is now a Mario shaped planet and when picking a galaxy to enter, you zoom into a map mode where galaxies are connected via yellow lines that are unlocked as you collect stars – similar to the map system found in New Super Mario Brothers Wii and Super Mario World. This map system is arguably better for navigating around the game; it lays out all the galaxies in clear view and easy to reach so you won't get instances where you had to walk across a huge ship to find the right luma or dome that contained the galaxy you wanted to visit. And although there's no eye candy (a.k.a Rosalina) to guide your way through the game or a storybook to engross in, you'll instead get a huge purple Luma as your guide and the ship has more to offer in regards to game play. Including a Toad bank (to store and exchange star bits with other save files within the game), you can now receive letters from other characters in the game to win further stars (not just Peach who still provides lives every now and then) and other mini games on deck to win lives and coins to aid in your adventure.

In addition there's more emphasis on 2nd player action too; not just content with collecting star bits, your partner can now collect coins, power ups and attack nearby enemies.

Despite changing so little and using the same engine now over 3 years old, graphics are still a highlight of the title. Everything is bright and cartoony like it should be in the world of Mario with fantastic details gone into the little things to make it all magical and stretching the Wii's engine to the limit. Music is also delightful with the return of the highly talented Koji Kondo and the symphony orchestra that proved popular in the previous instalment. Although the score does feature simple rearrangements of tracks from the previous Super Mario Galaxy game, it also contains more throwbacks to the past Mario soundtracks, counting the very welcomed return of the Slide jingle from Super Mario 64.

With Galaxy 2 it seems that all the good and bad from the first adventure have been polished and made better, aside from 2 minor issues that could've easily been fixed but sadly weren't. One of them being the controls; not game breaking but you will still get instances where the gravity shifts and your control stick will send Mario running in the wrong direction. The Spring power up is still iffy to control, Yoshi's stiff movements take a while to get used to and the new bird races can cause some hair pulling moments at the best of times. The last problem is the lives system; Nintendo, I know you love to keep it ‘old school' and not stray too far away from your classic roots, but the lives have been redundant since you made consoles powerful enough to contain saved game data, so ditch the lives for good next time, please!

Like discovering a secret level in your favourite game; Super Mario Galaxy 2 is familiar but also a welcomed return to your gaming schedule. It's existence proves that not only are Nintendo still on the mark on how to create a fun game but you don't need to create a new title from the ground up every time to please your audience. Yes some of it is more of the same but it's shout outs to previous titles as well as shaking up enough on the smaller details of the previous Super Mario Galaxy will keep long term fans happy for a good week or so. If you loved the first Super Mario Galaxy, or any of Mario's previous endeavours, Galaxy 2 is not to pass on. Congratulations to Nintendo for their efforts, but we don't need a Super Mario Galaxy 3 any time soon!

The Good:
+ New galaxies, new challenges, new power ups, new stretches of the imagination
+ Clear, crisps visuals with some nice new character designs
+ Music is still a delight with more emphasis on older tunes
+ Plenty to accomplish, caters to a wide range of fans

The Bad:
- Some of it is more of the same with a palette swap
- Minor control niggles remain from the previous title
- Redundant lives system

In a sentence: Like discovering a secret level in your favourite game; familiar but also a welcomed return

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/22/10

Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy 2 (EU, 06/11/10)

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