Video Game Review
Super Mario Galaxy
Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
During the 80s and 90s, annual games featuring the world’s most famous gaming mascots was a tradition, albeit lackluster. Sonic and Mega Man games became such a regular occurrence and the gameplay so watered down that Sega (makers of Sonic) withdrew from the console market and is struggling financially while Capcom (makers of Mega Man) have sort of seen the error of the ways and have stayed on top by using their top teams for more original projects while the new Mega Man games are published for secondary systems; with the exception being the retro Mega Man 9 released for all next-gen systems for a low price through Internet distribution. Nintendo, on the other hand, rarely releases a new bonafide Mario adventure. Sure they release Mario games where his cuddly gang performs some sport or ridiculous activity, but a real Mario game is an event. Super Mario Galaxy may in fact be the event of the decade.
The story is simple as with every other Mario game. Bowser (a giant reptile on nuclear steroids) kidnaps the Princess during a meteor shower by ripping her castle from the foundation and fleeing with it and her to space. Mario attempts to keep hot pursuit but is thrown away like unwanted garbage between the planet and the second star on the right. Mario lands on a nearby planetoid by a Luma, who can best be described as a cute, cuddly talking star (because everything in the Mario universe is designed to make your teeth rot from sweetness). The Luma takes Mario to the Observatory; a giant floating promenade overlooking the universe. From there, Mario meets Rosalina, who is the spiritual mother of all the Lumas. She knows about the problem with the Princess and offers to help but Bowser has stolen all the stars to make the Observatory run. Mario needs to find all the stars to return power to the Observatory so they can intercept Bowser’s flying castle.
On the Observatory, you are able to enter one room at first. From there, you can visit planets that the room has access to. The planets can contrast in variety quite a bit. They can be very large and can take up quite a bit of time to explore or they can be so small that they aren’t really planets at all but actually something similar to an asteroid field. Each planet contains a varying number of stars. Finding stars opens up more planets within the room. Once you defeat the boss planet in the room, you collect a Grand Star which will open up more rooms. Sometimes, some of the stars will require that you redo a task that you’ve already completed but under a new set of parameters. An example of this is to redo the level but within a time limit or defeat the mini-boss again but without taking any damage. It’s an interesting concept that can cause a couple of white-knuckle moments as even the smallest mistake can cause you a life and force you to restart from the beginning of the level.
Unlike the other Mario games, the levels in this game are linear for the most part. This means that you have to get Mario from point A to point B and there is little in the way for exploration. This doesn’t mean that you’re stuck to a 2D plane but rather that you are forced to proceed from planetoid to planetoid in a certain order. So you can do whatever you want in whatever you want on the sphere landmass that you want but when it’s time to proceed to the next area, there’s usually only one way to do it. There are few secret passages and fewer shortcuts. Even on the stages where the level is just one giant landmass, there is only a couple of things to do before going to the next area. Some might feel as if this makes the game feel unnatural to the 3D adventure genre but it still feels good. There’s less wondering about where to go next because there is usually only one direction to go. It causes less camera problems than most other 3D platformers (although it is still far from perfect). There are still a few secrets here or there but the way it’s done is that it encourages exploration without much risk; meaning that casual gamers who are not accustomed to making blind jumps to find secrets that only the obsessed would find do not lose out. Casual gamers are happy and even the hardcore gamers are happy because even though the game feels like it’s on rails at times, there is still so much that you can do that the journey to the end goal is still plenty of fun.
If there has been one thing that has been talked about with this game is that it has created a new type of 3D adventure game with it’s gravity effects. It is indeed very impressive. Control around these environments is very comfortable and, more importantly, very fun. One of the more interesting parts of the game is to do a long jump off a planetoid and spin around it due to the gravitational pull, almost as if Mario was in orbit. If comparing this to the other two Mario 3D titles out there, the game is a bit easier to control because of this. There are still pits for Mario to fall through to his death but it only happens if you’re not being careful or taking a big risk. There isn’t that many leaps of faith where were synonymous with some of the later levels in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. Some advanced gamers may feel slighted at this but you don’t really think about it that much because the game is so good on so many levels that it is an easy thing to forget to care about.
Controls are really simple. The Wii Remote’s motion-capabilities are used sparingly to only do simple gestures that will cause Mario to spin which can do various amount of things (like do a spin jump). It doesn’t feel tedious like other games which make you shake the remote for no reason. The pointer is used to collect star bits that will open up other levels in the game and to sometimes move Mario from place to place. Again, it doesn’t feel gimmicky and works well in the context that it is used. The controller is also sometimes used in ways that change the pace of the game such as to hold it as if it were a joystick to control Mario when he’s stuck in a ball. Like all the other Mario games, any action that you have Mario do feels natural and is not complex. Even complicated-looking moves such as the triple jump and the multiple-wall jump are very easy to pull off.Mario’s power-ups are here as well with some new additions and some notable omissions (cough, Hammer Bros. suit, cough). The suits sometimes rely on motions controls like shaking the remote to throw a fireball as Fire Mario. They might feel a little gimmicky at times (like the Bee Suit) but they generally feel natural to control and natural within the Mario universe.
Graphically, the game is impressive. Mario has never looked better. Unlike many of the games on other systems like the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, this game is very colourful. While this generation of games seems satisfied to only use a billion shades of brown, Galaxy seems to use every colour on the spectrum. It is very visually appealing to the eye. The gravity effects also add to the graphical aspect and some really interesting things are done in the game. There is one part of the game where Mario is standing on a giant sphere that is half metal and half water. Mario can run around the metal part sphere and all the rules of gravity take place but the second he runs into the water, it’s as if he dives into an ocean. It’s just one of the many things in the game that make you stare at the screen at awe. While the Wii doesn’t have the graphical horsepower as it’s competitors, Galaxy is a game that makes you forget that fact.
The music has some good and bad things about it. The good is that it sounds great to their ears with it’s orchestrated melodies performed by an entire symphony. Never has there been such elaborate music in a Mario game. The bad comes from that as quite a bit of the music seems out of place in a Mario game. True, as technology changes so should the production values of the music but it just doesn’t have the Mario feel to it. Mario music has always felt like it was made for a kids TV cartoon but some of the stuff to come through the speakers in Galaxy sound like they would be on the soundtrack of the latest blockbuster Disney animated film. Despite this, it still sounds good and the game does have a couple of reworked tracks from previous games. The usually Mario sound effects are there too and sound just as vibrant as ever.
There are some issues with the game that do hurt it a bit. It is very easy and the game literally gives you extra lives if you ask it nicely. Without even trying that much, you can get at least seven extra lives before entering a level every time you resume your game. Granted, you lose all your extra lives when you turn off the game but it makes it way too easy to reaccumulate them. While this would encourage you to take risks, there are not that many in the game and even the most novice of players would have no trouble finishing the game.
Finishing the game is also a bit of frustration. You only have to find 60 of the 120 stars missing to complete the game. That’s ok and is sort of the status quo in the Mario series (although it is usually 70 stars). The problem is that even if you wanted to get all the stars first before you have your final fight with Bowser, you can’t because it is impossible. The game only opens up the final missions for you to complete after you beat the game once. Then you have to beat the game again once you get 120 stars to be able to play the game as Luigi. This is great since Luigi handles differently from Mario and adds a bit of difficulty to a game that is a bit too easy. However, you have to do the exact same thing all over again plus find the extra star afterwards to unlock the true ending of the game. It’s seems like a cheap way to add replay value to the game but the game’s level design is so well done that this is only a very minor gripe. It may seem unfair to give the game to give a free pass in regards to this but this game is fun to over and over again while a good chunk of games are fun while they last but are then only good for their trade-in value at the video game store.
Since multiplayer feel like an afterthought in this game, it only feels natural that I stick it towards the end of the review. A second player can play too, sort of. Basically, the second player can play the game by being a second pointer to collect star bits as well. The only difference is that the second player can hold enemies in place for the first player to take care of or hold Mario in place in case he misses a jump or the platform he’s on gives way. It feels tacked on last minute and does nothing to add to the game although it certainly doesn’t hurt it. Some people seem to really enjoy it as it lets people who find games to complex to play get in on the fun. Since the 3D Mario’s in their essence are a single-player experience, the multiplayer portion of the game will not move units nor will it influence this review much.
Super Mario Galaxy is a fun game and one of the best experiences on the Wii. If you have played either Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine and enjoyed those games, you will no doubt love Super Mario Galaxy. The game itself is an experience and you will find yourself refusing to turn off the game until you find just one more star and then another and another. The game is great for all ages from those who Mario’s cutesiness is aimed towards to those who grew up on the fireball-wielding plumber. If you haven’t played this game already, you’ve already wasted time you could have used to play the game.