Mario makes his true debut on the Wii with an adventure that none will soon forget. Princess Peach has managed to get kidnapped by Bowser, but this time his usual plans to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom have expanded to include the entire universe! Mario must venture to where no plumber has gone before; ditching the platforming genre of old to usher in new methods of getting one’s running and jumping fix. If the Princess – and the whole universe for that matter – is to be saved from Bowsers’ clutches, Mario will have to traverse multiple planets and celestial formations in order to bring his lady home once again.
To say that the expectations for Super Mario Galaxy were high would be quite an understatement. After Super Mario Sunshine, many fans were wondering if Nintendo had run out of ways to innovate with their flagship mascot. Gamers around the world can rest assured that Super Mario Galaxy is the finest platforming experience ever created for any console, and that anyone who questioned if our man still had what it takes to lead a new generation of gamers on a path of fun and memorable moments, have no need to worry. Super Mario Galaxy is a prime example of how gameplay truly exceeds the importance of any other component of a game. While the jump from 2D to 3D may have left some asking what would come next, the answer lays in Galaxies’ approach to making every aspect of a level playable from any position imaginable.
As with any Mario game, it’s up to Bowser to cause a ruckus by stealing the Princess away from her castle in order to fulfill a maniacal scheme of evil. All this occurs during a celebration – the Star Festival to be exact – where a comet passes near the Mushroom Kingdom and showers its inhabitants with star bits. Bowser and his minions swoop down on the party just as Mario arrives; using a fleet of airships – a nod to Super Mario Bros. 3 – to scoop away the Princess and her castle to the centre of the universe. Mario gets caught up in the chaos and he gets rocketed to a lone planet by a no-good magikoopa.
Here is where we meet princess Rosalina and her luma children. Rosalina is in charge of the cosmos observatory. This is where you end up spending quite some time since it acts as a nexus to travel to different galaxies. The observatory has been drained of its star power due to Bowsers’ doings, and it is up to Mario to regain control of these stolen stars in order to power up the observatory, which in turn, will lead him to princess Peach.
Before our plumber sets out, Mario is given the power of a luma, which allows him to perform a spin attack, an important addition to completing the adventure at hand.
Super Mario Galaxy uses established controls that were ushered in by Super Mario 64 – the triple jump, wall jumping, long jumping and back flipping. The spin attack, which is performed by a waggle of the remote, allows players to attack or stun certain enemies, while also serving as means to launch from star pads, or to give Mario a little bit more reach at the pinnacle of a jump.
The remote also functions as a star bit grabbing device and as a star bit launcher. Star bits, which are scattered throughout the levels, function as both currency and ammunition. While you will need them to pay-off hungry lumas in order to access new galaxies, they also can be shot by aiming the remote at the screen, which is used to stun enemies or to uncover hidden coins. Pointing the reticule at star bits will bring them to Mario so he doesn’t have to physically touch them. Collecting 50 star bits will grant you an extra life, but only coins will replenish you health.
The levels in Galaxy are a series of planets or other geological formations that serve as the ultimate platforming playground. Most planets are fully accessible, meaning that you can run around the entire surface of the object without falling to your death. Each formation has its own gravitational pull, so you can jump without worrying about floating off into space. Where things get interesting is when formations are close to one another, and players will notice that jumping near the pull of another object will center their gravity on a new surface. You truly get the ultimate experience of freedom because a long jump that may start on the bottom of one planet may end up on the top side of one next to it.
In order to travel to planets that are out of the reach a simple gravitational switcheroo, Mario must launch himself from star pads. Once Mario does his spin maneuver in the star, he is majestically launched across the galaxy to his next platform. Another method of getting around is the use of pull stars. By pointing the remote and grabbing them, Mario is encapsulated in a bubble and he his pulled or pushed from one star to another, until he is close enough to the pull of the next planet. This is basically how each level works – you work your way across a series of planets/formations that offer a unique challenge that requires completion before your next destination’s path is granted, with the end destination being your coveted power star.
There are six observatories, each with its own respective galaxies. Each observatory usually has 3 main galaxies with a couple bonus galaxies. Each sector also has a boss galaxy in which you fight Bowser or Bowser Jr. There are also hungry lumas scattered throughout which, after being fed star bits, grant you access to other bonus galaxies. You must collect enough stars to advance to further galaxies. In total there is 121 power stars to collect, so there is a decent adventure at hand for Mario.
While challenges come in the form of catch the bunnies, stomp the stumps, or collect the star pieces, there are many new puzzles that really push the use of gravity. Certain areas contain arrows which direct the flow of gravity, so players will have to be attentive to such details when leaping from ledge to ledge. Mario also gets plenty of opportunity to jump on goombas, avoid lava pits, traverse disappearing platforms, float on wind currents using seedlings, and swim in enemy infested waters.
Items play a more important role that we’ve seen in recent Mario games. There is the chance to take flight as bee Mario, which allows players temporary flight and the ability to cling to honey comb walls; ice Mario lets the plumber walk on water by freezing it; boo Mario turns into him into a ghost and allows ease of passage through solid objects; and even old items such as the fire flower and power star make a welcomed return. There is a great mixture of new and old activities and that keep the experience familiar yet fresh. While there is a main emphasis on the platforming aspect, the pacing is broken up by the are chance to surf in a water course on a manta rays’ back, the task of steering Mario in a bubble through a gauntlet of hazards, or to navigate a oversized marble – which contains a trapped star – through treacherous paths by tilting the remote side to side.
Super Mario Galaxy is very fun to play. It takes only a few minutes to get the hang of understanding how the gravity push/pull works in the game, and once that concept has been established, the enjoyment of roaming through space never ends. While the challenge of Galaxy may not be overbearing to veteran players, it doesn’t really matter because everything you do in the game is entertaining and never gets dull. This is especially true because there is no other game like Galaxy that pulls together the concept of platforming in true 3D while keeping things familiar with what we have experienced in the past with other games of the genre.
Super Mario Galaxy also features a cooperative mode where one player controls Mario and the other can help him out by shooting star bits at enemies. Overall, it’s more like a way to get a parent involved in their kids’ game as opposed to a true cooperative experience, since anyone controlling the star bits gets very bored, very quickly.
Super Mario Galaxy is a graphical knockout, and is the front runner in proving what the Wii is capable of. There is never any slowdown as Mario soars past the multitude of floating objects throughout each galaxy. At times, it is quite obvious that the team at Nintendo purposely placed environmental effects, such as exploding volcanoes or swirling cosmic dust, within an arms reach of Mario, only to impress the eyes and nothing more.
The environments are so diverse: from lush green planets, to molten lava rock chunks, to cool blue ocean worlds; all of which are stunning to look at up close and from a distance. Textures are crisp and vibrant, with beautiful touches of lighting that give everything that perfect hue of brilliance. Other notable additions include fur shading on the bee and mole characters, and heat distortion from spouts of lava and steam vents. At times, you have to wonder if a game this beautiful is actually being played on a Wii. Super Mario Galaxy sets a new bar that probably, won’t be reached by many others.
The feeling that this game has that ‘epic’ quality is only emphasized by the musical score. There is a nice mixture of orchestrated pieces that give you that feeling that you are taking part in something historic. The music is powerful and calming at times, depending on whether you’re hanging out with the lumas on the observatory deck, or if you’re dodging bullet bills on a space station. There are also new renditions of the airship and overworld themes from Super Mario Bros. 3, and even the dark world theme from Super Mario 64. The music in this game gets you pumped and immediately plants you back in those familiar overalls that we’ve grown accustomed to over the years.
One thing that would have been nice to see is fully voice acted characters. We do get the occasional one liner from Mario, Peach, and Rosalina, and a series of grunts from Bowser, but there is still a reliance on text to convey messages in the cut scenes. It is a minor gripe, but it adds to the overall presentation of such a game.
Super Mario Galaxy will go down as one of the greatest games of all time. It brings innovation to the table, while keeping true to the roots of what makes a platforming experience fun. Many gamers expected this time that we would see a true successor to Super Mario 64, but I don’t think anyone anticipated such a leap forward for the Mario franchise. What is really important is that it feels like a Mario game. Galaxy, as with most Mario games, breaks the established rules of level design and gameplay mechanics, while keeping everything profoundly simple. Anyone can play this game and have a blast, and that is really what Mario is all about. Creator Shigeru Miyamoto has given gamers of all ages once again the chance to really see what good video games are all about: fun, innovation, and simplicity.
Gameplay: 10, Graphics:10, Sound: 9.5, Innovation: 10, Mojo:10. Final: 9.9 / 10
Extreme Gamer's Wii GOTY 2007 / Best Platform Game 2007 / Best Follow-Up 2007