Launching into space. Rocketing using Slingshot stars. Surfing on manta rays. Soaring with dandelions. Turning into a spring. Fighting for the fate of the universe. This is all what occurs in Super Mario Galaxy. The original title, which released on the Wii back in 2007, is considered by many to be the very best game of this console generation (which consists of Wii/Playstation 3/Xbox 360). With its mind-blowing premise, incredibly fun gameplay, orchestrated soundtrack and superb controls, it is a common contender for one of the greatest games ever forged.
Despite this, it took a while for Super Mario Galaxy to grow on me. For the third 3D title in the Super Mario series, Nintendo opted for a more traditional approach that was reminiscent of the 2D Mario games, instead of the wide, open areas found previously in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. In other words, the game still had third dimensional movement but you were essentially following a direct path.
For some reason, this didn't click with me. I longed for the freedom offered in the previous games and I felt that was necessary for a Mario in 3D to be successful. In other words, I was being an idiot. I forgot about the game quickly and didn't bother too much with the Luigi mode, but nearly a year after it was released, I felt the game calling to me again. I quickly dropped my foolish disappointment and immersed myself in what was easily one of the greatest games ever created.
And hey, it came out on my freaking birthday. What more could I ask for?
So of course it's going to be a big deal to me when a sequel is announced. When the first trailer was shown last year, complete with a playable Yoshi and a remix of the beloved Gusty Garden music, I could feel my mouth dropping to the floor, and I've bristling with anticipation ever since.
And, now that the game has been in my hands for a week now, it's
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is, more then anything, a retelling of the original Super Mario Galaxy. Through a series of events that send Mario blasting off into outer space, the plumber finds himself teaming up with a race of stars known as the Luma to rescue Princess Peach from, who else, Bowser.
No one plays a Mario game for the plot, so let's jump ahead to what matters: the gameplay. All of the 3D Mario games employ the use of what is referred to gamers as a "hub", in which is the main area Mario uses to access the different worlds featured in each game. Due to their recent focus on casual gamers, Nintendo wisely cut back on these wide areas and smooshed it all on a tiny planetoid known as Starship Mario. The Starship is easy to probe around on, thanks to its circular shape and easy access of the World Map, which is designed much like the 2D Marios in which you pick which level to traverse.
The original Galaxy was lauded for its sense of imagination, but what we have here blows it completely out of the water. I don't need to bore you with long explanations of each galaxy, so here's a brief rundown of what I've encountered:
-A drill you can use that can punch you through planetoids in the blink of an eye.
-A floating windmill village that consists of jumping on clouds and drumsets.
-A galaxy in which you have to jump to the beat of the infamous underground theme of Super Mario Bros., or else you fall to your death.
-Another similar galaxy in which you have to use your spin move to "flip" the platforms.
-Outrunning shadow doppelgangers of Mario, in what ranges from completing the level to collecting purple coins.
-A new suit, Rock Mario, in which you roll around as a boulder and crash into walls and bowling pins
-An art inspired galaxy, complete with brushes and canvases, in which you ride a ball containing a precious star. This is hard!
-A galaxy in which everything is "Super Massive.", from the coins to the enemies. A clever nod to Super Mario Bros. 3's Giant World,
-A 'throwback' to Whomp's Fortress, a Super Mario 64 stage, complete with jazz music.
My favorite galaxies are consistently shifting around...I'll have to make a list, soon!
Of course, by far the most advertised feature of the game is the addition of everyone's favorite green dinosaur, Yoshi. The critter, who lets Mario saddle up on his back to eat baddies, had appeared in another 3D Mario game, Super Mario Sunshine, but the implemention failed to impress, thanks to him DISSOLVING whenever he touched water and the ability to shoot juice from his mouth.
None of that here. Just like in his debut title Super Mario World, you can find Yoshi scattered around the various galaxies, just waiting to be hatched from his eggshell prison. The dinosaur is a valuable, often necessary, asset needed to complete the level Instead of barfing, Yoshi can now use special fruits to use new powers, such as inflating into a balloon illuminating secret pathways. My favorite Yoshi moment so far is a galaxy in which you have digest a pepper and run at what is practically light speed over a series of planks. One misstep, and you fall to your doom. Complete with Super Mario World music playing in the background, this is probably one of the best galaxies in the game.
Many felt that Super Mario Galaxy had only one flaw: Its incredible ease. There were hardly any levels that gave you a real challenge, but the game made up for it in pure fun. This has been remedied somewhat, as there is plenty of difficult spots littered around later on in this sequel. That Flipswitch Galaxy I mentioned earlier is a perfect example of this. When you spin, a pivotal technique, the platforms flip in a vertical fashion. I often find myself spinning after a jump, and this habit led to many lost lives.
The most adored aspect of the original Super Mario Galaxy was by far the music score. In a surprising twist, Nintendo went for an orchestrated soundtrack in order to adapt to the outer space theme of the game, and the result was nothing sort of specutacular. It was unbelieveable how well these recorded songs fit onto the stages, and the experience was akin to that of watching a Disney film. It was only natural Nintendo had to go the same route for Super Mario Galaxy 2
Interestingly enough, at first I wasn't too impressed with the soundtrack for this sequel. While the arranged songs were more catchier then the ones featured in the original, The orchestras did not seem to be as prominent this time around and those that poppped up failed to grab me. As I reached the later stages of the game and got a feel for the overall experience, I realised how wrong I was. While I have yet to experience a song that touches Gusty Garden, many of the new orchestral songs have rocketed to the stardom of its previous descendants, some of which even surpass the original arrangements.
Listed below are some of my favorites.
So, does this newcomer surpass the original? If you asked me earlier this week, I'd have to give the nod to the original Galaxy due to its originality and soundtrack. Now, there's no doubt in my mind that this is the superior game. Is it as unique? Perhaps not, but one cannot deny the sincere effort of what this game has to offer. With the charming homages to previous titles in the series, an (honestly) more explosive soundtrack, and the absolutely superior gameplay, it looks like we might already have winner for Game of the Year. Bravo to Nintendo for yet another game that is likely to be heralded as unparalleled in the platforming genre.
So what's the plan from here?
I plan to wrap up Super Mario Bros. soon in another 3-5 entries, and I'm likely to continue my evaluation of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Pokemon Soul Silver over the summer. Kirby's Adventure is likely to follow up soon.