Super Mario Galaxy 2ESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Wii Remote and Nunchuck control
Dolby Pro Logic 2
Just over a week or so ago I had the chance to sit in and play Super Mario Galaxy 2 at Nintendo Canada’s headquarters. I must admit I did not play much of the first game and the new one was not on my radar, that was before playing it of course. After some playtime I quickly remembered the good old days of Mario gaming, there is no timeline, harsh violence, or weaponry, just solid gaming. After my preview at Nintendo I came away thinking this game is going to be big, just how big? Well I have finally played the retail version and I have to say that this game is REALLY big.
I have not used my Wii for any kind of gaming in quite some time. I have been feasting on the other consoles with their high definition outputs and more adult themes. Yes that does sound a bit jaded, but I usually play the Wii’s AAA titles if that puts your mind to rest. To me it seems like only the Nintendo gods have the power to put such incredible polish on a Wii game and Super Mario Galaxy 2 is one such title. The game looks absolutely fantastic in 480p, with bright vivid colors and effects that shine, reflect, and sparkle. The first Mario Galaxy looked great but the sequel betters it by a large margin. The worlds and levels are two to three times bigger and characters are so detailed that you won't find yourself missing any HD looks.
With all this beauty and enhancements you would think the little Wii would begin to show some kind of adverse power issues, but to my amazement it doesn’t even break a sweat. I did find a few anomalies with a wonky camera now and then, which is easy to figure out and there were a couple of frame rate issues. These frame rate problems are very few and quite difficult to spot. They are usually found in high graphic areas and also noticed it sometimes when Mario was running upside down on planets. It is an ever so slight though and if you blink you would probably miss it. I found no other problems including any signs of screen tearing or collision detection issues.
Seriously, this game looks amazing. Much of this game looks great even when compared to the average PS3 or Xbox 360 family title, if I might be so bold to say. The developers of Super Mario Galaxy 2 fully understand how to get the most out of weaker hardware. This results leave you with the Wii’s best-looking title to date and a great looking platform game in general.
From the opening credits the entire game is encoded in Dolby Pro Logic 2, which gives the game a slick sound base from which to work from. The musical flavourings ramp up from the previous games excellence. The music is completely orchestral in nature, giving Mario a real epic and grandiose feel. I noticed new and returning tracks alike, with new remixes for classic melodies from Super Mario 64 or Mario Sunshine. In this latest Mario game they are given new impact and life, with some becoming new old favourites. I particularly loved the underwater level music from Mario 64, and now even more so with its new facelift. Like all game soundtracks should, Super Mario Galaxy 2 evokes emotion further enhancing a superb experience.
This polish continues into the sound effects of the game. There are no voices to speak of, but there are instantly recognizable sound clips of our hero and enemies that permeate the games entire length. Fans of the series will love some of new enemies with their very own grunt or clip of whatever they say. It is all crystal clear, very engaging, and suits the theme with perfect Nintendo flair.
With an orchestrated score and audio excellence that easily tops its predecessor, Super Mario Galaxy 2 will likely remain a platforming game score high-water mark for a long time to come.
Gaming these days is all about online play, quick pace, harsh violence, and statistical achievements. Playing Mario Galaxy 2 opened my eyes once again on what I was missing, the core gaming experience. Not since the days of Super Mario 64 have I enjoyed a core Mario game this much. Mario Sunshine, while brilliant, just didn’t appeal to me and the masses. The original Super Mario Galaxy was incredible, introducing the gravity-based gameplay and a more epic feel to the Mario universe. It was definitely tough but for some reason the gameplay just didn’t hold my attention enough.
I think Super Mario Galaxy 2 has just blown the doors off of the original. I really like that the game has ditched the larger observatory hub in favour of the Starship Mario and a streamlined world map. It is very reminiscent of the New Super Mario Bros series and the original series on the older NES and SNES machines. I still have all the old cartridges they came on. This new streamlined format definitely allows for navigating the levels in a much faster manner. You can also access areas just for playing around and practicing new moves. Speaking of levels, there is a much greater variety of level design. There are some areas which may seem a bit familiar, but overall it is staggering to see how many new areas there are and the incredible handiwork that went into them. The creativity level here is top notch as the level of detail in this games many different worlds is absolutely stunning.
This brings me to the games control factor. For those not used to the combination of the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, the learning curve will be a bit steep. I must admit I have not played my Wii in months, although I have watched my son, who is 5 1/2 years old, excel at using the motion controls. I have never been a huge fan of them and readily look for a single control scheme within any Wii game if it is available. That being said I quickly picked up Super Mario Galaxy 2’s controls. It took me about 30 minutes or so before I felt comfortable. I even attempted things that I normally would not. For example gamers will eventually have the ability to ride Yoshi, and you will need to use both the Wii Remote and Nunchuck to direct him around. In one such level you have to climb up using a series of points to latch on to and swing to the next. I failed quite miserably on first few attempts, but after refocusing I got through it. The game is scattered with areas like this, with some being quite difficult. I found that I did not get frustrated as the control feels smoother and more refined then it has in the past. This of course heightens your gameplay experience and directly results in more fun right across the board.
Just when you thought an already great game could not get any better, Super Mario Galaxy 2 shows it can. It is chock full of so many new levels and incredible features; those of you who fear that this game is exactly like the first I emphatically say no. It is definitely similar in some ways, but yet so much better with the new additions. Super Mario Galaxy 2 has completely new levels with new enemies and plenty of throwbacks to previous games. It also has plenty of new power-ups including three for Mario and three for Yoshi.
Mario does not always need or use Yoshi, in fact he can usually finish levels himself. To do this, Mario gets some new upgrades to his power-up collection. He can use a new Drill Suit in which he can drill right through planets. He needs to drill areas of dirt which are clearly marked. The feature is certainly creative and fun, and being able to access areas on the other side of a planet this way is immensely handy.
Mario also has a Rock Mushroom in which Mario can literally bowl enemies to their death. Once again its fun but timing and aim are crucial to your success and if you are not careful you will bowl yourself right off a planet. There is also the Cloud Flower which allows you to create up to three platforms in the air for Mario to navigate. Once again be aware of your timing while traversing them.
Yoshi has his own sets of fruits he can eat. There is a Blimp Fruit which allows him to fly (or float for lack of a better word) to places he could not reach without, a Dash Pepper which allows him to soar up steep inclines all while traveling at break-neck speeds, and a Bulb Berry which lights up the surroundings to reveal hidden platforms. The Bulb Berry is extremely useful, but the Dash Pepper is probably my favourite as it can get you out of a jam in a hurry. Overall I love the inclusion and integration of Yoshi; I think he adds yet another gaming dimension to an already huge game.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 does not have any online components to speak of so the hope of 2-player online co-op is out of the question. Worry not though as Super Mario Galaxy 2 does have a 2-player single screen mode. Here the second player controls the star Luma. He or she can help Mario in his quest by attacking enemies and collecting coins. This semi-cooperative mode is well implemented although it can be a bit confusing at times with the amount of stuff happening on screen at once. Luma can take a bit of pressure off of Mario by retrieving coins for health, pinning down the enemies, or by tagging up the 'continue' flag pole. This cooperative mode is enjoyable for the second player because they can spot things to do without needing the help of the other player.
The structure of the original game is well maintained throughout this sequel and its roots are never forgotten. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is marvellously enjoyable and it happens across more worlds boasting nearly 50 in total, compared to the first game that had 40. Not to mention there are scads of secrets to discover. I think if you just barrel your way through the game you should be able to finish in less than 20 hours, but for those who like to find everything it can last over 50 hours. That’s a lot of good old school gaming!
For some gamers, Super Mario Galaxy 2's close adherence to the first game’s structure could cause them to call it Super Mario Galaxy 1.5, but this sequel boasts too many new ideas to be given such a backhanded compliment. So even if the core mechanics are the same or similar, their implementation is different enough to make the experience feel brand new.
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