Thursday, July 8, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2: The Three Amigos

When we play video games, we often divide the levels we engage in. Some levels pass us by, never making much of an impression and are easily completed. Others induce rage at the television screen, grumbling about how difficult that one part is.

And then we have our favorite levels. The ones that immediately etch into our memory and stay in our hearts forever. The ones that just ooze fun and are almost always the magnum opus of the game.

For my final Super Mario Galaxy 2 impression, I'd like to discuss three of my favorite galaxies in the game.

Bon voyage.

Throwback Galaxy

I love Super Mario 64.

I love that game so much. I'll never forget when I played it, truly played it, for the first time seven years ago. I played that game for over a year, absorbing myself into the worlds the game provided. I ran around. I relaxed. I flew. I even took pride in discovering glitches. It remains the primary Mario moment of my life.

I haven't played it very much in quite a long time. I don't know why. I feel kinda bad about that.

So what happened when I heard they were replicating one of the levels for Galaxy 2, complete with a jazz remix?

I flipped my shit out.

Granted, Whomp's Fortress wasn't one of my favorite levels in 64, but dammit, I didn't care! Here was a level from one of my most beloved games in current gen format, just begging for me to ravish it in all of it's newfound glory.

And you know what? I think I had more fun with it then I did in the original.

I think what I'm surprised with the most is that the main structure of the level is intact, but they removed what was admittedly superfluous to to the new facelift and sparingly added new Galaxy elements wherever necessary. The eight red coins are gone, but there are plenty of Star Bits, not to mention a fun Five Silver Star mission to justify their absence. The cannon is also gone as well, but is now replaced by a Sling Star that can nab you some extra Star Bits, not to mention also providing a great view.

Of course, they had to bring back some of the more memorable aspects. Remember that really tall pole that had a 1-up Mushroom on it? It's still there. How about that one ledge you had to reach by a cannon in order to get a star? It's there, and it holds a vital Comet Medal. Even the Whomp King makes a triumphant comeback!

Of course, nothing can top the return of the friendly Pink Bob-ombs, all of which refer to you as "Stache Man". One even gets a sense of deja vu, wondering if it's seen you before.

And it's just...damn, are you listening to that music? I often found myself just bopping along to the song in-game instead of actually doing anything. It easily makes up for the loss of the infamous Piranha Plant Lullaby.

To be honest, it was kind of surreal to play this level, but it wasn't just the nostalgia factor. Most, if not all, of Galaxy stages tend to focus on just one path, and you're obligated to follow that trail. 64 levels, however, followed a much different philosophy: explore your surroundings and figure out where you're supposed to get the star. It's weird. I can beat most of the galaxies quickly, but here I just sat back and fooled around, just like back then.

I'm not going to start a debate on which is better (yet), but it offers a striking contrast to the other levels found in the game. I mean, here, you have the freedom to go wherever you want. Most of the other galaxies don't allow you to do this, and even if they did, it was still, in a way, obviously tailored for you to finish the level. Not that this is a bad thing, but I can't help but feel this is the reason why I feel Super Mario 64 is better suited for quick sessions of gameplay then the Galaxy games, which are fantastic for annual playthroughs.

Nonetheless, I feel that Throwback Galaxy proves that Super Mario 64 has aged well over the years, and I can't help but think I'm ready to dive back into it within the next year.

And boy, do I have a lot to say about that game.

I'm going to be saying this a lot.

How time flies.

Cloudy Court Galaxy

My favorite galaxy in Super Mario Galaxy was a gorgeous escapade by the name of Gusty Garden Galaxy. As if it popped right out of a Disney film, you flew on dandelions and swung on vines while traversing giant fruits, gardens, and worms. Add in the fact it has one of the greatest music pieces in all of game history (Dad, it's number ten...aka the one you're always humming!), and you have yourself the finest level crafted in this current generation of games.

Admittedly, I don't think there's a level here that can surpass the wonder Gusty Garden provided, but I'd have to say that World 3's Cloudy Court is, by far, the most worthy contender.

Already, I can see the similarities. We start out in a beautiful garden suspended in the air, complete with bush-shaped animals and a Cloud Flower, an item that allows Mario to not only produce clouds, but ride them, as showcased below.

As I was bouncing from planetoid to planetoid, surfing from one cloud to another, an almost immediate grin was plastered on my face. Not that I wasn't already smiling while playing this game, but there was just something about the level that grabbed me. I was unsure of why until I encountered some floating drums.

Yes, floating drums.

Before I knew it, I was bouncing. I was bouncing on drumsets in the sky. And I didn't move on, I just kept bouncing. I was bouncing and I couldn't stop. I made some clouds and pounded through them so I could spring myself even higher. I started to laugh.

When I laugh, I tend to do it very loud, and I'm well known for it. This wasn't that type of laugh. It was more of a genuine laugh, one that's only reserved for when I can be myself, and when I'm experiencing a moment of pure bliss.

This never happens. I wanted this to last forever.

When I finally moved on, I found myself moving along by a wind current propelled by windmills. This element actually made up the rest of this stage's particular objective and I had to maneuver myself carefully with this method.

And there it is.


It's no secret that Mario Galaxy 2's levels are just about the most revolutionary found in all of the platforming genre, but I'd actually have to admit this level is pretty simple compared to the rest.

And yet, it's captured my heart more than any of the others. Why is this?

I wonder if it's the case of the game simply taking a break. I trekked through some incredibly dynamic galaxies prior to this one, all of which involved spinning through planets with a drill, the constant switching of gravity, soaring through the talons of a buzzard, riding a Yoshi hyped up on a spicy pepper OVER A WATERFALL, transforming into a boulder and fighting a giant Bowser.

And yet, here we are. Riding on clouds. Jumping on drums. Going wherever the wind chooses.

As I said before, I love stages like this, and I'd dare to say this is where Cloudy Court triumphs over Gusty Garden, which never really gave much time to stop and smell the roses. It lets you take a break, reflect on what you've gone through up to this point. And at the same time, it manages to be tremendously fun. This is thanks to the Cloud Suit, of which has a lame concept , but it turns out to be the only power up in the game to be used effectively (more on that in the review).

This the funnest level in the game.


Slimy Spring Galaxy

So if, in my opinion, Cloudy Court is the best galaxy in the game, what does that make this?

You start out in a murky underground cavern.

That's certainly a weird setting for a game set in space. Heck, you're not out in the open! What kind of galaxy is this?

And yet, it's pretty soothing. Maybe it's just me, but I found myself getting a Pikmin vibe from this stage. Perhaps it's the ambient music.

Anyway, you set out and find yourself sliding down a slimy slope, and then it's swimming time. Luckily, you have a Koopa Shell to make things faster.

Yikes, watch out! Thankfully, for some reason the Koopa Shell you hold emits light and it scares them away.

One thing that immediately came to my attention was just how long you spend underwater without having time to breath. Usually, your normal Galaxy water level would be chock full of air bubbles, and at first this remains true. But then all of a sudden, they stop coming. And you just keep swimming while your life meter gradually empties.

It was really tense. By the time I reached an air bubble, I had less then a third of my life remaining.

So after that endeavor, you're launched to a well. Now, you can't see him very well, but there's a flying Goomba (who go by the name of Paragoomba) just minding his own business...over the hole. I wasted no time. I immediately long jumped RIGHT over him, then span and performed the ground pound maneuver right on the top of his squishy head. We fell for two seconds thanks to the sudden increase in speed and he was crushed the moment we hit the water.

I love these moments.

Not much after this. You're sailing through hoops, shying away ghosts with your light, avoiding urchins, and then...



Yeah. Paradise.

I slowly walked around. I abandoned my Koopa shell and strolled along the flowers and collected their hidden stash of coins. I attempted to back flip on the tree to get a better view. I stared out into the horizon, the gorgeous orange ocean reminding me of the opening video to Super Smash Bros. Brawl. and at the same time installing nostalgic feelings into me. I recited a short piece from the main theme to that game.

"I’ve heard legends of that person
How he plunged into enemy territory
How he saved his homeland"

Oh, and I also ran around. Just like in Mario 64.

Just like it.

This took my breath away.

Now, I've seen new video games do some amazing things in their time, but this just takes the cake. I have never seen a game take the theme of a level and then suddenly just trash it for something else. I have seen games, mostly ones deeply rooted in story, that surprise with plot twists, but never with the change of scenery.

I do not expect this from a Mario game. I did not expect this from a Mario game. And I am completely bowled over by that. And I'm not the only one on this.

I'm at a loss for words, really.

Well, I guess I can say what's obvious now. Hats off to you, Nintendo. Slimy Spring Galaxy alone proves that you are the greatest guys in the video game business.


All right.

I think it's time for a review.

See you soon.

*credit to IGN, Mario Wiki, and GameFAQS/Gamespot for the screenshots*

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