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RELEASE DATE (NA): November 12, 2007 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Goombaaaaaaaaaaas iiiiiiiiiiiin spaaaaaaaaaaace....

Okay, enough of this. Let's talk about Super Mario Galaxy. Every Nintendo system needs its flagship Mario title, and this one was it, eventually selling over 12 million copies worldwide. Granted, it was later eclipsed in sales by New Super Mario Bros. Wii by about 16 million copies, but as far as ingenuity goes, Super Mario Galaxy takes the cake, relying on new mechanics rather than nostalgia.

When this game was developed, I can imagine the thought processes of the team. "Well, folks, we've already visited every nook and cranny of the Mushroom Kingdom, and we can't just rehash the same places with waggly controls." "We can't?" "No! We must think differently, we must think creatively, we must think... bigger." "Bigger?!" "Yes, bigger! There's a whole world out there waiting to be explored by Mario, and we have barely tapped into it!" "So... you're saying he should go outside the Mushroom Kingdom." "Exactly!" "To where? ...Like, Seattle?" "No, no, no. Let's not have a repeat of Mario Is Missing." And then, a shy, slightly-muffled voice rears its tones. "What about... in space?" Everyone does a spit-take, someone upends a tea table, and all eyes are on this one designer with the voice of gelatin. "Space?!" Jaws drop to the floor. Heads shake in disbelief. And Miyamoto-san stands up, points directly at the voice, and says, "We shall go to space!"

Okay, that never really happened. Or maybe it did. I wasn't there. Or was I?

Just reading the game's title alone, you know that Mario has gone to space. Instead of running around in very nicely-packed, complete worlds, Mario gets to hop on a star and be instantly blasted across the universe to various galaxies. The majority of these galaxies don't even consist of just one space to gallivant around; many feature a multitude of planets, each with its own charm and hook. What I discovered, however, is that even beyond the Mushroom Kingdom, many of the galaxies out there mirror the themes we've seen in worlds past: obligatory grassy knolls, icy pillars, lava pits, and underwater excursions (the last one being surprisingly well-contained, even in space and without significant barriers to hold all the water in). There's even a giant egg with green spots out there. I like when the occasional galaxy tries something new, such as the Sling Pod Galaxy, that focuses solely on "slingshotting" Mario around by grabbing sling pod stars with the WiiMote cursor.

This is also the first time that Mario gets to move around a little more freely. Because these are planets, Mario often gets to literally run AROUND. If it has a rounded edge, Mario can keep running and won't fall off, even if he's upside-down. But with that freedom comes a bit of a price at the cost of my own facility. Even after collecting 120 Stars and visiting all the galaxies, I still have difficulty maneuvering Mario while upside-down on a sphere. It simply doesn't feel natural; it's disorienting, to say the least. But I like the concept, and in practice, it's pretty neat.

After all that flying in space, Mario's going to need a specialty barf bag.

Mario still has his basic moveset from past 3D games, and although they're a bit different to pull off with the revised Wii control scheme, he's the same limber plumber we know and love. The one new move that Super Mario Galaxy adopts is the spin, performed by waggling the Wiimote. The spin jump can knock enemies out, and it serves other functions throughout the game. Because it uses "Luma power", you can't spin repeatedly at will; you'll have to wait until your Luma recharges, which is a second or two.

Coins have become a less important commodity in Super Mario Galaxy. Previously, collecting 100 in a mission would result in an extra star. Now, they serve more of a secondary role. Collecting them helps refill your health meter (which has also decreased significantly to 3 points), and Mario gains a life when you collect 50 of them. But they really serve no other function than simply being there; you don't earn anything special by collecting a lot of them. As long as I'm on the topic, something that bothers me a bit is how Mario has to collect stars again (yeah, Super Mario Sunshine had "shine sprites", but we know what they really are). Though it makes more sense given that he's in space this time, it does tend to get repetitive. Like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine before it, you're sent off to complete missions in different worlds (in this case, galaxies), the reward being a star. Is there no other way to construct a 3D Mario game, aside from star fetch quests? Or am I just a grumbly old man?

Our plumber pal also collects Star Bits this time around — and a LOT of them. They fall from the skies above. They can pop out of the ground. They can be hiding in question blocks. They fly out of enemies when they are stomped. They're colourful, and they're everywhere. Star Bits serve a greater purpose, such as unlocking additional galaxies, somewhat like currency. But grabbing them all can be a grueling task, as they are literally all over the place, including some spots where Mario can't even walk or jump. Luckily, you can use your Wiimote to bring a cursor on the screen and snatch them up at your leisure. It's a pretty

But with all this good comes the not-so-hot. Super Mario Galaxy isn't a perfect game, and part of this comes from the Wii controls. Some may disagree, but I believe the game suffers from questionable controls at times. Accidentally moving your hand a bit — something that was never really a problem without a motion-themed controller — causes Mario to pull off a spin move you never really intended, and in the heat of the moment, that's a pain. It's to be expected from the Wiimote, but I'd rather this not be an issue. And let's not even talk about controls during the racing stages on top of a manta ray.

Mario's frequent flyer miles from this game have earned him a free trip to Norway.

...Okay, yes, let's talk about that. There are certain places where Mario will race against the clock while riding a manta ray (and don't ask WHY he's on a manta ray, because there's really no explanation for something like this). In order to move, you hold down the A button to accelerate. Fair enough. But to turn, you have to twist the Wiimote sliiiiiightly to the left or the right. If you're an air molecule off, Mario ends up turning too quickly and pretending to be a drunk driver. Oh, Mario. Save flying off the track for Mario Kart. Besides, the track is relatively thin, so you just end up off the edge into whatever is out there in the cosmos (presumably, death). This part is frustrating to no end, and frankly, it dampens the experience. With water.

But at least Mario Galaxy looks and sounds great, even if it wasn't in HD in 2007. Finally, we can make relatively perfect spheres! I like how diverse each separate planet is; even within one galaxy, there can be a significant range in terrains and obstacles to overcome. Mario's as vibrant-looking as ever (he certainly sounds cheerful). The design of the Lumas is... well, it's not very inspired, but I will give them credit for the unique design of the Marioverse's new character, Rosalina. That hair across the face is sassy. I did raise a bit of an eyebrow when I noticed that pretty much every galaxy out there has Toads in it. I guess they're not limited to the Mushroom Kingdom after all. Meanwhile, the music is quite spectacular. The soundtrack actually averts many of the typical tropes and delivers a more symphonic and, at times, melancholy experience to reflect the emptier nature of the cosmos. That's not to say that the "classic" Mario sound is lost entirely; nods to previous Mario games is definitely here, such as the airship theme from Super Mario Bros. 3 when airships (and the insufferable Bowser Jr.) appear.

Yet all in all, though Super Mario Galaxy has some control flaws, its innovation with sphericality and taking things to a grander scale has really paid off to provide another captivating adventure for our red-capped hero. This is the game Wii owners had been waiting on since the system's release, and it's likely that most people were not disappointed. I may have been frustrated at times, I may have said a few words I shouldn't have at the TV, and I may have thrown my Wiimote to the floor a few times in anger, but that's the nature of playing Mario. Sadly, I don't think his future quests will be quite as grandiose: once you conquer the galaxy, where can you go from there?

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