Review by Kimari

"'Galaxy 2' is solid, yet is a microcosm of the Wii's major problem"

I loved Super Mario Galaxy 1. I loved it so much, in fact, that I gave it a review with a perfect score, and I consider it to be one of the best, if not the best, game for the Wii.

It's no surprise that, not too long after one of the biggest Wii success stories, a sequel is revealed and released. The first game did so much in terms of unique game mechanics and changing how we think about a 3D platformer. It was, in my opinion, how a perfect 3D Mario game should be. The big question on everyone's mind was whether or not Galaxy 2 would be more of the same. Would it change the formula even more, or would it be Galaxy 1.5?

I believe the end result was a mix of both. Though some neat little tweaks were made, like the inclusion of Yoshi, I also felt like it was a pretty simple continuation of Galaxy 1. That's not a bad thing though, especially when we're talking about arguably the best Mario platformer of all time.

But no, my main problem with Galaxy 2 has nothing to do with the game, at times, feeling less like a true sequel and more like Galaxy 1.5. Instead, my main problem is that it is, in a way, a perfect embodiment of the main criticism of the Nintendo Wii itself. What criticism is that, you ask? I'll talk more about that later in the review.

A New Galaxy

I have to tip my imaginary cap to Nintendo for how they started this game. Perhaps it's a method used elsewhere, but it's the first time I've experienced an opener like this. What starts as a 2D platformer much like New Super Mario Bros. Wii turns into a giant Bowser destroying the Mushroom Kingdom, which turns into Mario be able to fully explore a three-dimensional space. I've heard that this was done to ease players into it who are more, or only, familiar with New Super Mario Bros. That's an irrelevant point, in my opinion, as Nintendo should be proud of the opening as it's a very solid standalone way of starting the game.

Soon enough, you make your way to a ship shaped like Mario's head, which acts as the hub world in Galaxy 2. I must say that I was kind of disappointed by this. Not so much by this area itself, per say, but more by the fact that it is the only hub area of the game. Galaxy 2 opts for a level select screen, much like in New Super Mario Bros. Personally, I'm a sucker for a hub world. They add a lot to a game, at least for me. Even though Galaxy 1's hub world was small compared to, say, Banjo-Kazooie or even Super Mario 64, it was still fun to run around in and get little rewards every now and then.

Like the original, there are plenty of unique galaxies to play through. I don't want to spoil my favorites, especially since some of them come later in the game. Of course, you'll have some that feel like retreads of galaxies from Galaxy 1, which is a fair observation, even though I never really felt like I was playing a complete rehash. Early on, you'll also get to play with Yoshi, who is further enhanced by eating a number of different berries which give him unique abilities, such as being able to quickly run through a level or lighting a dark area. There are also a few new fun items for you to use, including a pretty addicting drill tool that you can use in very creative ways throughout some levels.

Something I also think is a big plus are the boss battles. Sometimes they are at the end of certain galaxies, but you'll always face a big one at the end of each of the six galaxy maps throughout the game, culminating in - you guessed it - an epic encounter with Bowser. But the other giant fights leading up to that final battle are great fun as well, and it's rare that you'll be able to finish off two bosses in the exact same way.

The Big Problem

So far, I've highlighted what I enjoyed in Galaxy 2. Some of the level designs, boss battles, and items you get to use make the game really fun and separate it from the original Galaxy. I'm about to get to what I didn't like about Galaxy 2, and really, it's not a bunch of small things I didn't like. It's one big thing, one big "feeling" that I had about it that makes it lose some major points. It's what causes the Nintendo Wii, as a video game system, draw so many criticisms.

Much has been said about the way Galaxy 2's levels are designed. There is much to say in how unique they are from each other, and each galaxy introduces brand new gameplay mechanics and methods to obtaining those extremely valuable Stars so you can progress through the game. No two levels play exactly the same, some say. While I mostly agree with this, I do not agree that this is a positive all the time.

To me, Galaxy 2 felt like a collection of mini-games far too often for its own good, and I know it's something that many people criticize the Nintendo Wii for. The term "shovelware" have never been more appropriate for a system than the Wii, as many developers create a lame game using motion controls in order to sell copies and make their money, often getting the rights to some kind of large franchise name to make sure they sell even more copies.

Now, I'm not saying that's what Galaxy 2 is going. Nintendo isn't using the Mario brand to throw a bunch of mini-games together, call it Galaxy 2, and make some dough. There are, obviously, many more people who prefer how this game was put together that don't.

But I just never got that feeling of cohesiveness from Galaxy 2 that I did from the first game. Some Stars are just far too easy, and above all quick, to obtain. For example, I remember one Star fairly early on requires you to use Yoshi to eat a red pepper, which gives him incredible speed, to run up and down some vertical platforms to the end. Unfortunately, this is all that the level requires. You don't have to fight through a bunch of enemies to get to the starting point, or even really use Mario at all. It's just a very quick, almost painless Star, and the end result makes it feel more like a little mini-game that Nintendo threw in than an actual level in a Mario game.

This is, of course, not the only level of the game that has that dreaded mini-game feel. There's another Star at another point in the game featured in a very fun level where you have to lead a chain chomp ball along a track, using devices to make sure it doesn't stall and/or fall in the lava, causing you to start over. It's very good level design, and at first, it appears challenging. However, very quickly I realized how very simple it was. I didn't realize that everything I saw when I began the level, which was all on the screen at once, was the entire level itself. I led one ball to the end of the track, and that was it. There was nothing else to do but claim the Star then. Was that an actual level of the game, or was it a cleverly hidden Nintendo mini-game?

How much does this feeling, which I know not everyone shares, detract from the game? Quite a bit, unfortunately. With the first Mario Galaxy, I collected all 120 Stars, and then played through a good portion of the game again as Luigi. I was quite addicted. However, with this second game in the series, I stopped once I beat the game. Bowser was defeated at the end, and I felt no need to continue playing. It wasn't that I didn't have fun, because I did, but I just couldn't shake that feeling of playing in a bunch of Nintendo mini-games with some classic Mario Galaxy bits sprinkled in. If I had to equate it to another Nintendo experience, it felt like I was playing in just the mini-games of a Mario Party game, and every now and then I'd be rewarded with the opportunity to do some platforming action with Mario.

Just what exactly were the rules here? Was everything we knew about Mario just thrown out the window, giving Nintendo the chance to do whatever they wanted creatively? Don't get me wrong, I surely appreciate creative freedom, especially in video games. And some of these levels, requiring different ways of playing, did feel right. But too often they felt wrong. Too often they felt too easy, too quick, and not quite satisfying enough. Yes, I am very aware than I am in the vast minority for those who feel this way. I've read the praises of Galaxy 2's game design. I just don't share them all.

The Last Galaxy?

The first Mario Galaxy was so incredibly revolutionary, and I will admit, Galaxy 2 did try to take a step forward. They were determined to make sure it wasn't a simple rehash, and it definitely wasn't. I just felt as if they took some missteps, but those missteps didn't stop the game from being a critical and commercial success. However, this is my review, and it's how I felt about the game.

I like Galaxy 2 and I'm glad I bought it and beat it. I just wanted it to be so much better, like the original was. With Galaxy 1, Nintendo really found their platforming groove. Will there be other Galaxy games on the Wii U? I have no idea. I imagine not. I imagine they'll want to branch out, leaving the Galaxy series to the Wii. I can't wait to see what they come up with next. As for Galaxy 2 though, it is an enjoyable game and you're sure to like it, if not love it. It's just that, for me, that inconsistent feeling throughout the game docked it some points, holding it back from being as outstanding as the original.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/29/11

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

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