Saturday, December 1, 2007

Game Review: Super Mario Galaxy

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Console: Nintendo Wii
Release Date: November 2007

The Story
Every one hundred years a comet flies over the Mushroom Kingdom and Princess Peach is throwing the biggest festival of the century in order to celebrate the occasion. Just as Mario arrives at the party, Bowser attacks the castle with countless battleships and a giant flying saucer. He takes the whole castle into space, along with Mario, but he is attacked by a Magikoopa and falls off. Mario is rescued by Luma, a magical star being, and is taken to Rosalina, watcher of the cosmos. Bowser stole Power Stars from Rosalina and wants to create his own new galaxy of pure chaos, where he will force Peach to be his sex slave. It’s up to Mario to find the stolen stars, rescue Princess Peach and restore order to the universe.

Space is the final frontier, and although this is not the first time Mario has been to space, it sure is the wildest ride he’s ever been on. Instead of regular levels you play on little planets. Most of them are round and you can walk in any direction without fear of falling off. Others are flat but you can also walk under them and not fall, as long as there are no black holes around. It feels weird and frightening at first, but it becomes perfectly normal by the second galaxy you visit. You travel from planet to planet by either jumping on them or using Launch Stars. These stars are usually hidden and require you to defeat every enemy on the planet or find little star pieces scattered around. Three hits and you’re a goner, but there’s a Super Mushroom power-up that gives you six units of health. Coins fill your life bar, and you can get coins by stomping enemies or breaking boxes and other breakable objects. Shaking the Wii remote makes you do a spin attack that also lets you get a bit higher if performed at the top of a jump. You’ll be using this technique constantly. Spinning into enemies will produce Star Bits. Collect 50 and you get a 1UP. Star Bits can be used to “purchase” access to new planets as well as shooting them at enemies to stun them. There are an infinite number of Star Bits through the game, so don’t be a greedy bastard and use them.

All the jumps you could do on Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine you can do in Galaxy. Triple jumps, backflips, wall jumps, butt stomps, long jumps, etc. You can also climb poles, swing on vines, spring on trampolines, swim, walk while ducking, shimmy across narrow edges, hold on to ledges, grab turtle shells, and go down pipes.

Every new Mario game brings new power-ups, and Galaxy has some of the coolest. First up is the Bee Mushroom that turns Mario into a bee. You can hover around for a limited time and stick to some walls. It’s cute and effective. There’s a Ghost Mushroom that turns Mario into a Boo. You can fly and turn invisible to pass through some walls. There’s a Spring Mushroom that wraps a coil around Mario making him jump incredibly high, but moving around in that bouncy thing is a bitch. There’s the awesome Ice Flower power-up that turns you into Ice Mario, capable of skating on frigid waters that would normally hurt you, but only for a limited time. You can also freeze fountain water to reach higher placer. Finally, there’s a red star you’ll only get near the end of your adventure that lets you fly. It’s pretty useless since by the time you are able to use it you’ll have most Power Stars already, but it’s really fun to fly around and relax.

Returning power ups include the always fun Starman, which temporarily turns you into Rainbow Mario. You’ll be invincible for a while, changing colors and running twice as fast while that familiar music plays. It’s great. And for the first time in a 3D Mario game you can use the Fire Flower. You’ll be able to toss fireballs by shaking the Wii remote, but it only lasts a few seconds.

Bosses are a real treat because they are usually huge and require you to find a weak spot and memorize a pattern to exploit it. It’s a bit lame that some bosses are recycled in later galaxies, but they return tougher and meaner so I guess that’s OK.

From time to time you’ll travel to a galaxy that has a huge comet over it. Those are called Prank Comets, and as the name implies they are tricky motherfuckers. Depending on the color you’ll get a different challenge, like racing an evil doppelganger Mario, finishing a section of a galaxy within a very short time limit, beating a boss without taking damage, or collecting 100 purple coins in a single area. The Purple Comets are some of the most frustrating challenges in any Mario game. Every Prank Comet you complete gives you a Power Star, so as hard as they are you’ll eventually have to clear them all if you want access to every galaxy in the game.

It pisses me off so much that Nintendo didn’t give the Wii next-generation graphics with high definition support. As beautiful as Super Mario Galaxy is it’s a shame it doesn’t look better than anything on the GameCube. But don’t get me wrong, everything about the game looks fantastic. It has true widescreen support, unlike the half-assed Mario Party 8 which tricked us by putting crappy borders at the sides to fill the screen. Mario looks as good as he did in Sunshine. The planets are as detailed as possible, but many textures look blurry, as in every other Wii game. Water looks really nice, Mario leaves footprints on the sand, see-through glass surfaces look and shine realistically, lava areas have that hot wavy effect, and clouds look fluffy enough to take a quick nap on. The greatest graphical update is enjoyed by Bowser, who’s polygon model and facial animation is the best I’ve seen in any Mario game to date.

The music is as bouncy and cheerful as it’s ever been. Some music is familiar, like Starman’s theme, the underground levels from the original Super Mario Bros., and Bowser’s castle from Super Mario 64, but most is brand new and pretty catchy. My favorite is the water galaxies theme. The main hub area has a great, relaxing orchestral track that should return in future installments.

The sound effects are awesome, with familiar sounds for collecting coins, getting 1UPs and going down pipes. Enemies scream and moan when beaten and ambient sounds like wind and water add realism to an otherwise surreal experience. As you’d expect, Mario brings back all his charming woo-hoos and yee-haws.

Replay Value
The game records how many Star Bits and coins you collected on each stage so you can challenge your friends, or yourself, and beat each other’s score. You can beat the game with 60-something stars, but hardcore Mario fans will go hunt for all 241 stars. Yes, you read correctly, 241. After you collect 120 stars and beat Bowser you will unlock Luigi as a playable character. Go through the whole game again with Luigi and get another 120 stars. Then you will unlock the final star if you collect 100 purple coins outside Peach’s castle. Sounds tough? It’s ridiculously tough! That’s because Luigi’s controls are a bitch! He runs way too fast and doesn’t immediately stop running when you let go of the control stick, so you’ll be falling to your doom a lot even on the easier galaxies. He does jump higher than Mario, so that’s good. At least Nintendo didn’t forget about the green Mario Brother.

Final Thoughts
There’s always something to complain about but none of the small nitpicks will prevent you from having a total blast playing this fantastic game. Some of the levels seem to have been designed by the devil and appear impossible to complete, but practice makes perfect. A lengthy adventure with fun power-ups, tough challenges, excellent controls, catchy music, a two-player co-op more where player two helps you gather Star Bits with the Wii remote’s cursor, playing as Luigi, and memorable boss fights. What more could you ask for? Shigeru Miyamoto truly is the best game designer, ever. Buy this game!


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1 Comment:

william said...

This isn't the best Wii game around but will entertain the kids for Nintendo Wii bundles click through!