Mario games may be a dime a dozen for Nintendo systems, but it is a rarity when the Italian plumber dons the true platforming hat. Using gameplay elements from both Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy is the definition on how fun video games should be.
In terms of Mario’s platforming games, story has never really been a huge focus and Galaxy continues this tradition. Instead of creating an edge of your seat story, all Mario platformers have always focused on one important element: gameplay. Actually, Mario Galaxy does not really do anything extraordinarily new, but what it does do is so finely polished, all other platformers take a backseat to its fun factor.
As the castle was to Mario 64, Galaxy’s observatory acts as the game’s central hub that connects all levels. Why is Mario running around throughout outer space? Well instead of just kidnapping Princess Peach, Bowser has literally ripped her castle from the ground, taking her along with it. In order to put a stop to Bowser’s villainy, Mario must one again collect a bunch of stars. With each collected star, Mario gains access to new areas in which he has the opportunity to collect more stars.
Mario 64 essentially had the player replaying each level several times, with only minor changes in-between. But while Mario may fly to the same galaxy repeatedly, each visit is a new experience. Because each area is broken up into smaller areas, each stage is like its own level, which constantly keeps the game experience fresh and exciting. Once 60 stars have been collected, the player can then travel to the final stage and face Bowser once and for all. But the game does not end there, not by a long shot. The game has a total of 120 stars, which means that the fun will continue long after you beat the final boss. And there is a nice unlockable surprise after you collect all 120 stars as well.
Once Bowser has been beaten, the game unlocks new galaxies and most importantly, comets. From time to time, a comet will be on path to a galaxy and will provide a unique experience. For example, if a purple comet hits a galaxy, Mario will be tasked to collect 100 coins to gain an additional power star. Similarly, other comets give each stage different parameters such as race Shadow Mario to the finish or beat the stage without taking a single point of damage. The comets add the largest amount of difficulty to the game, especially the purple coin challenge. In fact, collecting 100 coins on these purple coin challenges actually become tedious and frustrating by the third galaxy and is probably the game’s biggest downfall.
Galaxy, just like Mario platformers, provides some of the best play control mechanics in gaming. Unlike other Wii titles that go over board using all motion control, Mario Galaxy keeps the motion control simple, at a minimum, but still impacts the game in a great way. Mario still collects coins in this title, he will spend most of his time collecting star bits. These chunks of stars are scattered throughout each level, but collecting them all by running into them would be way too much work. Instead, the player uses the Wii-mote to point at the screen and simply swipes over each star bit with the on-screen cursor, just like how the hand icon works on the Wii’s home screen. But while the Wii-mote is used to suck up these star bits, it also works in reverse. The Wii-mote’s trigger button is used to shoot collected star bits, just like any FPS. Shooting star bits has a number of different effects, but it is mostly used to stun enemies.
Wagging the Wii-mote sends Mario into a violent spin. This spin technique has a number of different uses including knocking out enemies, breaking objects, and rocketing Mario through the air. Every aspect of the Wii-mote control works at near perfection and really gives this game an extra entertaining edge. The player does have the option to center the camera by tapping a button on the nunchuk, but this option will rarely be used as the game automatically provides the best camera angle. On rare occasion, the camera will swing into a funky position and the player can lose track of Mario, but that is when the camera centering button comes into play. If you played God of War, you will understand how the preset camera angles work.
What would a Mario platformer be without the use of Power Suits? Although Galaxy uses each power suit only on rare occasion, they are quite fun nonetheless. Bee Mario is perhaps the best new addition to it title as it allows Mario to stick to honey drenched walls and hover for short amounts of time. Like a real bee, be aware of water when dressed in the Bee outfit. Spring Mario is probably the worse new Mario suit as simply moving around becomes a little jumpy, literally. Although it is cool to jump very high, bouncing instead of running could lead to many accidental deaths. The third suit, Boo Mario, lets Mario fly and pass right through walls. And while I do not want to give any spoilers away, Mario will unlock some new abilities more towards the end of the game.
When you really analyze Mario Galaxy, you will find that it is a very simple game. Just like the early days on NES, the main gameplay mechanics have not changed: run and jump. After jumping on the heads of enemies for over 20 years, why are we still playing Mario games? Because the developers at Nintendo have polished the simple technique of jumping to the brightest shine, gamers can become blinded by it. Galaxy has some of the most interesting platforming level design out of any Mario game. But this is due to the fun and new gravity system that Galaxy has introduced. In any normal platformer, if you walk off the edge you will fall into the never ending black abyss and die. While these traps are present in Galaxy, many stages eliminate this death trap altogether. Instead of falling to your doom, Mario simply just wraps around to the other side. Because each section of the galaxy is essentially a sphere, Mario can walk, run, or jump to the other side without any consequence. In fact, this concept is so new but yet so simple, I encourage every player of this game to just long jump off the side of the first level. When you land of the other side of the galaxy, I guarantee a smile will be plastered on your face.
Standing next to Metroid Prime 3, this title has some of the best graphics on Wii. Every environment is colorful and full of life. Enemies, like the fluttering beetles, will become scared as Mario comes close while other enemies like the goombas will rush towards him. Working hand in hand with the elite play control, all the game’s animations help emphasize how the game is controlled. And Mario Galaxy has the highest presentation values out of any previous Mario platformer. The opening scene sets the stage as to what the player will expect throughout the entire adventure.
Many of the series’ classic tunes have made its way back into Galaxy and some have even been given a modern make-over. Galaxy, while still not fully voiced, uses the most voice work in a Mario game to date. All Toads will whelp when you walk by, Mario grunts and screams more often than not, and the main female lead even speaks whole sentences. For the most part, the voice work is a welcomed edition…that is until the game’s ending sequence. During the final moments of the game’s ending, players will wish that they turned down the volume as the voice acting seems like it is trying a little too much. But as a whole, the audio qualities of this title are outstanding. Sound effects even sound pretty good coming from the Wii-mote speaker.
For the first time, Mario Galaxy offers a unique style of co-op gameplay. Player 1 controls Mario just as if he is adventuring solo, but Player 2 operates another Wii-mote. This allows Player 2 to help Player 1 by shooting star bits at enemies and giving Mario and added boost to his jump. This type of co-op play is perfectly suited for a boyfriend and girlfriend to play together or for a son that wants to play with his father. Instead of just watching Mario collect a bunch of star, why not help out?
I only really have a few small gripes with this game. First, there really is no point in collecting extra lives. 1-Up mushrooms are scattered in just about every level in the game, but does not add any value because once you shut off the system, all your stored lives are lost. The player will always start with the same number of lives every time the game loads. And even if you run out of lives, there is no penalty in seeing the Game Over screen other than you have to take the extra 15 seconds to reload your game from the main menu. Also as previously mentioned, the 100-Purple Coin challenges are a little more tedious than they need to be and on a rare occasion, the camera does pivot in awkward angles. Unfortunately, many of the secret stars in this game will require Mario to run to an underside of a galaxy, using the technique listed in the beginning of this review. Because some stages encourage you to run off the side of the stage while other instances will kill you, it can be confusing as to which platforms you can run all the way around because there is not a clear indicator. But these are hardly considered flaws because they add challenge and user interactivity to the game.
Mario Galaxy is great game. If you own a Wii, you must put this game disc into your system. Using simple gameplay elements, not overly using the Wii-mote, and introducing a new two-player mode, Galaxy will stand as one of the elite platformers of all time. This may not be Mario’s first Wii game, but it is definitely his best. Everything you would expect a Mario platformer to have is in this title and then some. Mario has had many occupations over the years, but he is still the father of platforming. Buy this game now.