Super Mario GalaxyESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer – Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher - Nintendo
Wii remote and Nunchuk Compatible
Although Mario has been around for ages my first big ‘wow’ experience with the red-hatted plumber was on the N64 playing Super Mario 64. It was the first time that Mario was brought into the world of 3D and the level design, control and overall gameplay was beyond description. I played that game to death and I made sure that I found all 120 stars, that is how much I loved it. Fast forward to the present, and Nintendo once again releases Mario to the masses. This latest adventure, appropriately titled Super Mario Galaxy, is a game that has me experiencing many of the same emotions that I did when I played Super Mario 64. It is my opinion that Galaxy is a true sequel to Mario 64, and that Mario Sunshine on the GameCube was just a diversion until they released this latest masterpiece.
Having had the chance to play quite a few Wii games to date I would venture to say that Mario Galaxy is one of, if not the best looking game to date on Nintendo’s next-generation system. Everything just screams Nintendo quality. If you think that I am just saying this to be a fanboy then you haven’t had the chance to play this game yet. Technically speaking, the game runs in 480p and supports 16x9 widescreen. I cannot remember any slowdown on the screen what-so-ever even when there was a lot going on at the same time. There is some minor pop in now and then, but this is very minor considering how involved and creative the levels really are.
I reviewed Galaxy on a 42 inch Sharp Aquos LCD TV and I have to say that it looked great. The colors really did jump off the screen as everything is so bright and vibrant. They definitely used the full color palate when making this game. Although the Wii is the weaker machine in terms of horsepower when considering Sony and Microsoft’s consoles, its power really does shine with Galaxy. This is not only due to the technical side of the graphics engine, but it also has to do with the creative juices at EAD Tokyo. They took the available hardware and were able create some truly beautiful levels, characters and whole galaxies. It is very evident from the visuals in Galaxy that they know the how to use the Wii’s innards as they were able to get a lot out of this little machine. Animations are silky smooth, levels are well thought out and full of life (e.g. waterfalls, frozen water, fire, sand, etc.) and special effects are abound everywhere (e.g. particle and lighting). All in all I have to give EAD Tokyo some huge props for the job they did as this game really does shine in the visual department. You’d be hard pressed to really complain about anything in this area.
Audio is another area that this game manages excel right from the get-go. The music in Mario Galaxy is not only typical Nintendo fanfare, but it is pure out and out classic Mario brought onto a new generation of hardware. You will recognize a lot of the music from Mario games of past, but they have been somewhat modernized to seem like they are very recent creations. That being said, if you are a true Mario fan then you will recognize a lot of the tracks in this game. This was very evident in my game playing experience as fellow reviewer Frank N was sitting and watching me play, when all of a sudden he noted how a specific track of music brought him back to his own original Mario gaming days.
There is very little voice work in Mario Galaxy and in many ways I am glad that EAD Tokyo went this route instead of trying to add some sort of voice acting. This really keeps the experience personal, so when one reads the text that is in place of voice chat it lets them maintain some sort of idea in their head on how the conversation between Mario and whoever (e.g. Bowser Jr.) may actually sound. This adds further charm to the game as it is you that imagines how the specific voices may sound.
As for the rest of the sound effects, they are bang on, from missles flying, to water spashing to Mario butt-stomping. Everything that you will hear has a simple but yet bang on sound for each level you play. As with the graphics, there is pretty much nothing to complain about in the audio department.
The story in Mario Galaxy is nothing new. Princess Peach has requested Mario’s attendance at her castle to receive a special “gift” from her. As he arrives he walks right into a chaotic scene where Bowser and his son (editors note: big surprise!) arrive in a fleet of airships (actually floating pirate ships). They utilize a giant UFO to pull the Princess’ castle right out of the ground. Of course Mario gives chase but his efforts to catch up and stay with Peach are thwarted at the last second. Anyone who knows anything about Mario games knows that this plot is par for the course; however there is a bit more going on to spice it up ever so slightly. Mario eventually comes across a creature known as a luma whose life has also been affected by Bowser and company. The race of luma’s has their own led by a woman known as Rosalina, and all of them live on a spaceship that is branded as the comet observatory. Mario learns that Bowser has taken a bunch of power stars, which are used to power the observatory, for personal gain and to reach Bowser’s hideout he must travel to all the galaxies in the game and collect as many power stars as he can in order to get the ship back up and running, which in turn will allow him to fly to the center of the universe, rescue the princess and all will be back to normal once again...or at least until the next chapter of this long running series.
Mario Galaxy is all about galaxies, planets, gravity and that crazy law of physics you learn about in high school. As one would surmise from the title, you will find yourself venturing through many different galaxies in this latest version of the Mario franchise. Within each galaxy are planets, which are basically the levels that you must conquer. Within these levels are various challenges that you must face, like puzzles and enemies. You will find that you can walk almost anywhere in each level including the top, bottom, inside and outside of where you are exploring. For example, one level has you going from the top to bottom of floating spheres in order to avoid electric gates and rockets that are being launched at you. The laws of physics are the added feature to the levels as well. You will find that when you jump of the edge of most of the planets that you will land in the most strangest of places. It will take a little bit of time to get used to the new ‘go anywhere’ feel, but once you get accustomed to it you will find that it is very natural and quite innovative. During many of the levels you will also have to hunt down launch stars, where you will shake the Wii remote in order launch yourself to a new area of the level you are on. This further adds to the scope and design of the levels you traverse.
As I played through each galaxy and each level I found myself somewhat giddy. Each level is so well designed, and although they start off rather basic and easy to solve, they get more complex and more impressive as you go deeper into the game. Mario Galaxy has a very unique knack of ramping up the difficulty in a manner that is just right as the game gets harder as you get further into the it, but it is not unbeatable. That being said, the game can get somewhat frustrating and the challenges are quite difficult in the later stages, but practice does make perfect. Once you finish each level don’t be surprised if you want to come back later and explore them further. You will try to find better and more innovative ways to finish previous levels while collecting more coins and star bits then when you went through it the first time.
That being said, you will find that you will have to go back to some of your previous levels to play them again as you will have to beat it under dedicated conditions. What happens is that there will be special comets that enter the orbit of some of the galaxies that actually change the way you will have to play some of the levels in that galaxy. You will find that you have to complete a level in a certain time or with just one bar of health left. You will even find yourself racing against a “doppelganger” Mario. Each time you beat a level that is affected by one of these comets you collect another star.
Mario Galaxy offers up something new, and a homeage to 2D Mario games of past, as it offers up the ability for Mario to don different costumes that give him new found abilities. The first one you come across is a bee outfit, which allows you to fly around while being able to wall-climb on honeycombed areas of the level. You will find other suits later one that allow you to do such things as walk on water by freezing it, launch fireballs, turn yourself into a boo ghost to pass through solid walls and even turn yourself into a spring to jump to great heights. These suits can be paramount to solve some of the levels you will come across, and it is really cool to not only use these suits, but watch them as you do so. Trust me, the first time you see boo-Mario you will know what I mean.
Contolling Mario has never been easer this time around as well. Using the Wii remote and nunchuk makes for some pretty great moves. Many of these are reminiscent of Mario 64, from the triple jump to the backward super jump. I found that I was able to pull off some of the original moves of Mario 64 even before I hit any of the areas that explained such. Developers EAD Tokyo has also utilized the Wii remote in some great ways. First off, by simply pointing on the screen you will collect star bits, and you can also fire these star bits by pointing and pressing B. You will also use the Wii remote to control Mario as he rides a Manta Ray as well as when he rolls on a clear ball, a la Super Monkey Ball, but he is on top of it, not in it. If I have any complaints about the control it would have to be during the swimming levels. Here you control Mario using the nunchuk and where my problem lies in these stages is that the analog control is inverted, so pressing up makes Mario go down and vice-a-versa. I am not an inverted control guy, and for the life of me I could not find any way to change this. It made for some very frustrating times during these stages. That being said, should you not mind inverted control then this shouldn’t be a problem for you but if you don’t like this style, then be prepared for a little frustration. Overall, even given my minor complaint, you will smile with glee as you run Mario through his paces, and it just takes a bit of practice to learn all you need to do in order to take him through his newest adventure.
In terms of gameplay Mario Galaxy takes around 15 hours or so if you race through the levels and pick up the minimum number of stars necessary to get to the end level. However, should you want to collect all the stars in the game (120) then you will find the length of play much longer. Of course as mentioned previously, the deeper into the game you get the harder the game gets, so if you want to finish this game at 100% then prepare yourself for some long and grueling nights.
Mario Galaxy does offer a multiplayer component to it, although it is a limited one. A second player can pick up a second Wii remote and collect star bits, shoot star bits and even help find items hidden in the flower beds and shrubs on each level. You can even have your co-op partner stop some of the enemies by placing their pointer on the enemy you wish to have stopped. Overall it is not a deep and engrossing multiplayer experience, but it can be a lot of fun. I brought my review copy home and my wife and I played a lot of it together, with me controlling Mario and her collecting and shooting stuff. She was also able to give input on how to reach some areas we thought might be unreachable. So although the multiplayer experience is limited it is a definite great addition to the game.
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