Super Mario Galaxy

Reviewed by Kyle Bell, Posted on 2007-12-10


Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 13, 2007 Also On: None

Mario is a lot like the Olympics. It really is no wonder why he teamed up for Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. It comes around every four years (or so), many people get excited about it (and an equally large number don't care at all), and it always brings surprises. Super Mario Galaxy bombs in some areas and it delivers something unexpected, unique and refreshing in the areas that matter most. Yet the Mario games of yore are honored with retro music remixes, reappearing characters and locations, and 2D side-scrolling gameplay.

Super Mario Bros. defined the platforming genre two decades ago. Super Mario Galaxy is redefining it ten years after Mario 64 did the same thing. The great thing is that Nintendo did not leave its roots behind. Boo, Bullet Bill, Chain Chomp, Goombas, turtles and their shells, the penguins from Mario 64, the squids from Super Mario Sunshine. I could go on and on with a list of returning characters all with level appropriate roles (you won't see the penguins in the lava level). Not only are there returning characters 2D Mario platforming is back!

The 2D platforming with 3D rendered backgrounds are the most exciting part of Super Mario Galaxy for me. New Super Mario Bros. was great, this is better. The whole idea about Mario Galaxy is the spherical gameplay (I'll get at that in a second), but mixed in are these wonderful old-school 2D elements. They give Mario the new 3D abilities like wall jump, but add this new idea Mario Galaxy has created in the Mario universe which is you use all of the surface area. In these 2D platforming segments, colored arrows point up, left, right and down. These reflect the direction of gravity within the colored area, so Mario can walk not just upright but upside down, as well as along the side walls. Very cool stuff.

Now to the spherical gameplay. Almost all platformers are 3D these days. Super Mario Galaxy takes it a step further. Instead of having a flat surface and a vertical surface for which you can climb, Nintendo came up with this creative idea of going around. Let me tell you what I mean by that. Think of Earth. You can see the globe in your head, right? Well, since each level is its own planet (the size being comparatively small), Mario is going around the planets rather than across them. The surface that you play on throughout much of the game is spherical. That is to say that if you go straight long enough, you will get back at the same point you started. The gravity of the planet keeps your feet to the ground even when you are faced upside down.

This whole idea of gravity and physics really never played a role in past Mario games. It does in Super Mario Galaxy to a large extent. If you have ever played Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, it had something similar to this but not nearly as fleshed out. While you will find yourself on many of these rounded objects, there are flat surfaces as well to do much of the same Mario platforming that we have been used to for the past ten years.

One of the concerns many people raised to me was how well it controlled. I am pleased to respond that it is the smoothest playing Mario in 3D. I struggled at times controlling Mario in Mario 64, although not so much in Sunshine. The rare circumstances where I have problems is when Mario is walking upside down and it disorients my sense of direction. Other than that, I never had much of a problem.

The control stick moves Mario, the control pad moves the camera but is limited in direction by preset restrictions, A is the requisite Mario jump, while pressing it again will double/triple jump. His butt pound move is done with Z on the nunchuk and a spin attack can be done by flicking the Wii Remote. This spin attack can also be used to save yourself from falling off of levels or into hazardous liquid.

The controls are just as important when it comes to Mario's power-ups. I was pleasantly surprised to see Fire Mario make his first appearance in a 3D Mario game. A simple flick of the wrist and fireballs fly at enemies or anything in your way. Completely new power-ups are Boo Mario where you turn into a ghost and can go through walls, Bee Mario who can obviously fly, and Spring Mario. Spring Mario is a mix between a pogo stick (you jump really high) and a slinky (you tend to roll down stairs). While the red cap from Mario 64 is not back, there is a Red Star which gives you the ability to fly. This ability, which you don't obtain until near the end, actually reminded me of NiGHTS, since you go flying around a town collecting things.

As always, boss fights are a memorable part of every Mario game. One of the boss fights that I found particularly entertaining was the fight against the Bonefin shark skeleton. You swim around in this underwater planet in a fight against this giant shark skeleton. You obviously have a finite amount of oxygen, so you need to find air pockets and as a weapon, you torpedo turtle shells at him. To make things more complicated, after the first hit he unleashes these mini-sharks on you. Most of the boss fights are far too easy, though, such as the spider boss, the Petey Piranha look alike and others. That's not to say they aren't good or fun, they just didn't take much effort or skill. Some of the others I liked were the Bouldergeist, where you swing Boos by their tongue at this possessed boulder creature. I also enjoyed all of the Bowser and Bowser Jr. battles.

As in any 3D Mario game, you collect coins to gain health. A bar in the upper right displays Mario's health. By jumping on an enemy, you can collect one coin. Using your swing attack will release something new to the Mario universe known as star bits. These star bits are collected just as coins and can be obtained in the open simply by pointing the Wii Remote's cursor at them. These then can be accumulated over time to feed these famished star-like characters in the game who open new bonus galaxies for you to explore. Even though these are optional, I would recommend playing them as they are just as well done as the normal galaxies that you have to clear to reach Bowser.

Speaking of the galaxies, there are over 40 to explore, beat and collect all of the 120 stars to be found in this game. Each galaxy is a uniquely themed series of planets connected by star portals that beam Mario from one planet to the next. In most cases you are restricted by what you can see and what you can't depending on what star you are trying to reach, much like Mario 64. So although there is plenty of retracing your steps through the same planets, most of the time you will experience different parts of a planet that you did not the previous time.

Each planet (except for the bonus ones) has three stars to collect, as well as a hidden and speeding comet star. The speeding comet star can do a few things: make you finish a particular mission in a certain amount of time, up the difficulty, make everything faster or give you one hit. Finally, on occasion Luigi will get lost and send you a post card showing a picture of the location he is at. If you recognize it and go there, he will give you a star.

Even though Mario has left the beaches of Isle Delfino, that doesn't mean he has given up on swimming. There are plenty of water levels, as well as one with ice where Mario gets a chance to try out skating for the first time that I know of. You press A to swim in the water, you dive with Z and control your movement with the analog stick. You can spin attack in the water, as well as use turtle shells to speed through the water. Some of the levels require you to swim more than others. This may include underwater races against dark Mario and the penguins, a race atop a Manta Ray where you use your Wiimote to control the movement, as well as plenty of underwater exploration.

Let me quickly say about the graphics that these are the best I have seen yet on Wii, barring perhaps Metroid Prime 3. Super Mario Galaxy is the premier game for Nintendo to contend that Wii's graphics are just as next-gen as PS3 and Xbox 360. If you look at the detail of Mario and other characters, the breadth of the level design and the throwback from past Mario games, you will be utterly impressed. From the fuzzy hair of the Queen Bee or the mole boss to the bright shining stars and crystal clear streams of water.

Super Mario Galaxy will define platformers for the next ten years just as Super Mario 64 did the last ten. The vertical gameplay and manipulation of gravity make for splendid and incredibly unique platforming experiences. Walking up walls, around spherical planets and playing in a 2D side-scrolling environment rendered in 3D are innovations that Galaxy will be remembered for. The only caveat I have is that the developers made Galaxy too easy. Most everything else is perfect, except for the camera. I tip my red cap to Mario. He did it again. Super Mario Galaxy is for this generation of gamers what Super Mario 64 was to my generation and what Super Mario Bros. 3 was to the one before that.

Graphics: 10
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 9.5
Creativity: 10
Replay Value/Game Length: 9.5
Final: 9.7
Written by Kyle Review Guide

Reviewed by Kyle Bell