Super Mario Galaxy Review
What gamer hasn't heard of Mario? If you started your gaming off when I did, you played some of the earlier adventures. Maybe you met Mario in Super Mario Bros, or even in Donkey Kong. Maybe your first experience was on the SNES with Super Mario World, or even later with Mario 64 or Mario Sunshine. Needless to say, Mario is a part of nearly every gamer's history, and most would have some sort of fond story to tell about an experience with Mario. Well, red plumber fans, rejoice - Mario has made his triumphant next-gen jump with the new Mario Galaxy.
Mario's last 3D adventure, Super Mario Sunshine, was different. The goal wasn't as much to jump on the heads of baddies, but involved cleaning up an island paradise. The environment was definitely pretty, and the water effects were pretty cool. But to many, the game didn't feel as much like a Mario game was expected to feel.
Well, Mario Galaxy returns to the old 3D Mario game feel. There's just one small, tiny, minor difference - you're in space. See, the game starts off with the Princess sending Mario a letter that, oddly enough, felt a lot like the ones you saw in Super Mario 3. Well, you have to run to the castle to meet her, but something happens! Bowser and an airship brigade appear - yes, to the airship theme from Super Mario 3, albeit with a cleaner, less NES-style sound to it. This was the first time I smiled like a total idiot while playing the game. And, well, it was far from the last.
The absolute first thing you are going to notice when loading up Galaxy are the graphics. This is undeniably the best looking game on the Wii - it could easily be mistaken for an average, run-of-the-mill Xbox 360 game. There is no doubt that a lot of time and energy went into making this game look as good as possible, from the smallest blade of grass to the largest planet cluster you could find yourself bounding across. If you were afraid that the Wii's weaker system hardware would hurt Nintendo's ability to put out top quality looking stuff, Galaxy will shatter those fears.
Once you start playing in this beautiful world, you'll also notice that Mario controls pretty darn well. There are some minor issues with control, but nothing that is the game's fault. You'll have to get used to Mario running along a sphere as opposed to the more traditional flat levels. This'll only take a few minutes, though - and once you're used to it, the controls feel so natural. The A button, as it has for the past two decades, still jumps, a shake of the Wiimote performs a spin attack and hitting B while pointing on screen fires off star bits.
These Star bits play into the game's main story. See, Bowser's trying to create a splinter universe, and has harnessed the power of Lumas, which seem to be distant relatives of the generic Starman you've seen for years. These star bits (yet another collectible, along with the more traditional coins) can grant extra lives, stun enemies, or be used to feed weak Lumas. You don't have to worry too much about them as you'll find gobs upon gobs of them as you play.
As I already mentioned in passing, you're not necessarily running around on flat areas in this Mario go-round. Even without that, though, the formula still feels intact. In these planet-traversing levels, you'll often find yourself having to use stars to rocket yourself off to other planets, or play around with a planet's gravity and jump to get from one gravitational pull to another. It is a neat little mechanic for a series like this, and feels surprisingly natural, despite Mario's lack of NASA training.
Now, anyone that has followed any of my reviews knows that I'm quite the complainer when it comes to ridiculous and tacked on motion controls. Well, folks, I'm happy to say that Mario Galaxy is one of the few games where I found no issue whatsoever with the motion controls. Mario's spin attack is triggered from a quick, small shake, for example. Even better, though, is when you get to hurl fireballs, a power granted by the return of the Fire Flower. It feels fun to finally be able to do something like this, and the game feels as if it were designed with these motions in mind, as opposed to being just tacked on at the last moment (Twilight Princess, I'm looking at you).
Other than the Fire Flower, there are quite a few other powerups. Take the one most people have probably seen, the Bee Suit. This'll grant a few situational powers, such as the ability to stick to honeycombs. Another power, the Boo Suit, lets you move through walls. Really, though, you'll often just be the plain old red-hat-wearing plumber you've grown to love over the years. The suits, though, are fun to use when you get to use them, and are awfully reminiscent of the suits from Mario Bros 3.
Really, on the Mario 3 note, I can't help but wonder how much of this game's design was influenced by the now-classic Mario 3. From the Airships, to the actual airship theme, to the wizard-koopa Kamek making a return, this almost feels like a trip down memory lane. Really, there are nods to the previous games all over the place, be it returned enemies, the idea of Mario wearing suits or the previously mentioned Airship introduction. Really, though, it was fitting of Nintendo to make so many nods to what was the best game in the Mario franchise, since it can't hold that title forever, for one big reason.
That reason? Super Mario Galaxy now holds that title. If there's only one Wii game that you buy this year, make sure that it is Super Mario Galaxy. There is no excuse to not have this game in your library if you own a Wii - especially with the price reduction to 34.99 at Circuit City on Black Friday. If you don't feel like paying full price for the game, it is definitely worth braving the scary Black Friday crowds for. So what if it doesn't change the Mario formula? This formula is something we've grown to love over the past two decades, and shifting it around too much would keep this from being a Mario game.
Buy this as soon as humanly possible. Really.