Super Mario Galaxy
Distributed by: Nintendo
Reviewed by Frank L. Ocasio
After a long time, some of our favorite games, some of our favorite heroes, fall from grace. The protagonists we love and adventures that soak up so much of our devotion age just like we do. Immortal characters grow old all the same, even with countless facelifts. Sonic is an example of one such titan; after a string of failing 3D adventures, the former king of the video game world is now a crumbling statue quickly losing its majesty. Megaman, despite seemingly constant reinventions, is sadly following the same suite.
However, what game publishers don't realize is that a character's decline in popularity isn't just attached to looks--it's attached to gameplay. Sure, Megaman looks shinier, but he's more or less the same Megaman he has been for the past decade or so (especially in the case of Megaman.EXE). The general COA seems to adhere to the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" motto, or at least to the idea that new gamers will be impressed by old gameplay. Because of this, many of us have forgotten our mascots, or have learned to ignore them, trading them for new faces--new game experiences.
But one among the rabble has risen to remind us just why we love our video game mascots. At their most dire moment, one has returned to show us that mascots don't have to fade away into obscurity. One has reemerged in his element to show us that game protagonists can come back and remind us why they were kings.
And really, who better for the task than the king himself?f?f?
Ladies and gentlemen, Mario is back, and he's ready to kick some serious ass.
After the disappointment of Mario Sunshine, everyone's favorite plumber has returned with the newest installment of his series, Super Mario Galaxy. And what a return it is. Seriously, we're not talking "triumphant" here. No, Mario's return is a lot more like "revolutionary" and "awe inspiring." Maybe you've been in doubt about Mario's newest adventure, but I can't tell you enough just how amazing Mario Galaxy really is. I'll have to do this in sections:
Mario games have never been known for great story lines. It's literally always the same thing: Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser (or, in Mario's worst moments, Bowser, Jr.) and Mario has to save her. I can't say Super Mario Galaxy is truly different, but as is the motif of this game, the story is much grander. How? Well, for starters, Bowser plans to create his own Galaxy and rule the universe now. Way to think bigger, eh?
During the epic beginning cinema, the King of the Koopas makes his entrance amidst cannon fire and flying debris. His fleet attacks the Mushroom Kingdom during the Star Festival, an event held every 100 years, during which everyone gazes at shooting stars. Naturally, Bowser goes right for Peach and Mario runs interference. However, when Bowser's fleet hoists Peach's castle into space, Mario is attacked by a Magikoopa and blasted off into the great beyond.
When Mario awakens, he meets Rosalina, a newcomer to the franchise. Referred to as "Mama" by the "Luma"--the little star people that live with her on their comet/starship--Rosalina explains that she travels the reaches of space. She and the Luma were attacked on their journey, however, and as a result, the power supply for her starship--Grand Stars and Power Stars--were stolen by Bowser. After granting Mario the ability to fly through space, Rosalina asks him to help her recover Stars in turn for her help finding Peach.
Again, not really cheek slapping. However, throughout the game, you can unlock chapters in a story book that show you Rosalina's past. Although these snippets won't redefine game storylines, they are pretty damn touching, and are at least a lot more than Mario games have offered in the e past.
Okay, believe it or not, the music for this game is incredible. Gone are the days of three regurgitated tracks for the entire duration of a Mario adventure. In Galaxy, nearly every single level has its own tune, and if it isn't pleasant video game music at the least, it's music composed by a real live orchestra; think the best of the music from Smash Bros. Melee, but better. It's music so good that it can make a grown man cry. Seriously. I did not see it coming, and although you may wonder how well chamber music works with a Mario game, just rest assured that somehow, it feels so natural that you'll wonder how you ever survived without it.
Contrary to the constant graphical disappointments the Wii has been plagued by, Super Mario Galaxy is a truly beautiful, next-gen masterpiece. Not only are the graphics incredible, but it doesn't feel like better graphics could help this game at all. If you nit pick, you will find moments where the graphics are a little lack luster, but you'd have to really nit pick. And seeing as you'll find more complex effects like bump mapping in Galaxy, effects that usually don't make it into Wii titles at all, nit picking becomes a serious effort.
For the most part, the controls for this game are exactly like those in Mario 64 (excluding, sadly, Mario's kicking, punching, and diving abilities). The additions are Mario's ability to Spin by flicking the Wii Remote to one side and the ability to collect and fire Star Bits by running your cursor over them, aiming your Wii Remote, and then pressing B. Aside from these controls, this game makes a decent amount of use of your Wii Remote during gameplay. But if you've seen any visuals for Galaxy, you know that you'll be running upside down, vertically, horizontally, and any which way from any which angle Nintendo throws at you. The result: the controls can be a little awkward at first. Oddly enough, however, the controls are their faultiest when Mario goes for a swim; the fundamental controls for swimming have not changed at all from the 64 days, and when you play Galaxy, you'll realize how that's a bad thing. Still though, you'll get used to running around on small planets, and swimming will only be as tedious as it always has been in 3D Mario titles. In the long run, these--my biggest gripes with the game--pale considerably before its pros.
And by far, this game's biggest pro is its gameplay. As I said earlier, Mario has returned to show the mascots of old that they don't have to fade away. And Mario does this by completely changing the way we think of platformers. Gone are the days of only running around on flat surfaces to collect coins, keys, or defeat bosses to beat games. I mean, sure, there are bosses (a great many actually) in Galaxy and there are "keys" to collect that create stars that launch you to new planets, but the difference is that Galaxy gives you these traditional elements of gameplay along with tons and tons of new ones. There is an amazing amount of others things to do, places to explore, and challenges to conquer. Seriously, you can play this game all the way through (getting only 60 Stars and then beating the final boss) and not at all get tired of what you're doing because you will not have to solve the same kind of puzzle or beat the same kind of level twice. On top of that, the fact that you'll be running around on planets that have their own gravity affords more opportunities for creativity and fun than you can possibly imagine; and despite your inability to imagine them all, trust me when I say that Nintendo found and used every last one of the opportunities for innovation that the gravity/planetoid set up could allow. The sheer magnitude of innovation and craftsmanship that went into this game is so massive and incredible that you really will not ever get tired of playing it.
That's also because the course of the game is tweaked with ADD in mind; you can get 60 Power Stars and beat the game without even getting the initial three Stars in every level. What that means is, you can play the first level (or galaxy) twice, open a new galaxy, play on that galaxy once, open a new one, play that galaxy once, open a challenge galaxy, complete that, thus unveiling a Trickster Comet, defeat that, thus opening a boss battle, complete that, thus opening a new constellation of stages, and so on and so on. Even when you push yourself to collect all 120 Stars, you still will not get tired with the remaining 60 star challenges.
That's not to say this game is a walk in the park though. Sure, there are star challenges that are just about as easy as walking up to someone and taking the Power Star out of their hands--someone who's like, standing in a pool and holding the Star out for you, asking to exchange it for water. While this didn't happen, it's a pretty good metaphor. Normally, challenges are either easy or just hard enough. However, to balance things out completely, there are some star challenges that will make you pull your hair out. Seriously, Luigi's Purple Coins. That's all I have to say. But if you enjoy that kind of thing, or at least didn't want to know that this game was a complete push over, there ya go.
Finally, the last thing I need to say about gameplay is that although you may have heard ill about the two player mode in Galaxy, don't believe everything you hear. Seriously, chances are most reviewers around the net haven't actually tried the two player mode, and so, they have no idea how well done it actually is; most of them claim that the second player just collects and fires Star Bits, but it's actually more than that. While player two does, of course, collect and fire Star Bits, he/she can also create a shield around his/her cursor that can be used to whack certain objects, stun enemies, and even make Mario jump, spin in the air, or super jump (if both players time things properly). This feature is absolutely perfect for playing Galaxy with a non-gamer; my girlfriend, who is definitely not a hardcore gamer by any stretch of the imagination, loves playing Galaxy with me because I make it a lot easier, and on the flip side, I definitely enjoy the task of keeping her alive. And although I haven't tried it yet, I also think this mode would be great for making the game more challenging while playing with another gamer; I can and have accidentally knocked stuff into my girlfriend and did a terrible job helping her jump over pits (I did a great job of helping her jump into plenty though). I have to imagine it being a lot of fun to ruin player one's timing on jumps, make him/her spin over platforms and items, and knock objects into him/her.
If you have a Wii, there's absolutely no reason why you should not own this game. And if you're planning to get a Wii for Brawl, or if you've been debating possibly getting one, trust me--this game is easily worth the $350 price tag for a copy and a new Wii.
Seriously, it's not common for a game to be called a masterpiece and really live up to its title. In a day and age where even games with recycled gameplay, like Assassin's Creed, are called great and innovative, people throw words like "masterpiece" around a lot. However, Mario Galaxy is a great example of what a true masterpiece is, and really, what a perfect game should be. Yes, there are tiny, tiny flaws, but they're really so small that it seems extremely stupid to even point them out; the rest of the game is so amazing that in comparison, the issues it has are absolutely infinitesimal. In fact, I am convinced that there needs to be a whole new word to define just how tiny the quirks in this game are in comparison to its grandeur. Until that word gets here, a simile should do: the infinitely tiny quirks in Super Mario Galaxy are like a single, slightly dimmer star hiding somewhere in the expanse of the night sky. You can stare at it for hours, but why bother when there are millions of bright stars to gaze at?
And maybe you're thinking now that I'm blowing this out of proportion or that I'm being a fanboy, but seriously, I love Halo 3. I play it every Thursday with my friends. Also, the demo for Uncharted finally made me want to own a PS3 (on top of how badly MGS4 makes me want one). But I know one thing for sure--neither Halo 3 nor Uncharted, nor any other game for any other system will ever take me back to my childhood the way this game did. I'm almost certain that no game will ever make me feel like a kid again the way that Super Mario Galaxy has. And really, I have to say I'd trade anything--shooting Covenant for hours or shooting treasure hunters on an island for hours or shooting anything for hours--to feel young again. After all, isn't that what games are supposed to do?
One more thing before I quit: Don't you hate working your ass off to collect every last item there is to collect in Nintendo games only so that you'll get no reward whatsoever? I know I do. I especially hated it in Mario Sunshine; I don't know how many of those damn Blue Coins I collected, but the memory of spending hours hunting each one down haunts me to this very day. Don't worry though. There won't be any night terrors after Galaxy; not only is getting all 120 Power Stars fun from start to finish, but you get a truly awesome prize for doing so. I refuse to tell you what it is, but I will say that it's something I'd been hoping for since the days of Mario 64.
Grading: On a Scale From 1-10, 10 Being the Best
Overall Gameplay: 10