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• Super Mario Galaxy

developed & published by Nintendo/2007.11.12
1-2 Players/1 DVD-ROM/Nintendo Wii

Super Mario 64 ushered the platforming game play of old into the 3d realm, setting a very high standard for the Mario series and video games in general. When Super Mario Sunshine failed to recapture that special Mario magic, it was with cautious optimism that we awaited Super Mario Galaxy. New Super Mario Bros for the DS proved to be an enjoyable romp down memory lane, so perhaps Galaxy was worth getting excited about. Little did we know just how great it was…

In the game’s spectacular intro, Bowser’s fleet of airships blitzes the Mushroom Kingdom to the menacing tune we last heard in Mario 3. Before Mario can do much of anything, a UFO captures the castle (Princess Peach included) in its tractor beam and takes off into the starry sky. And so begins Mario’s latest and greatest adventure!

Controls

The controls are spot on, and this is especially important in a game where you will often be moving upside down and inside-out. While the Wii remote’s unique functionality does come into play for certain levels, for the most part Galaxy controls like previous 3d Mario titles, and that’s a good thing. Simple but surprisingly versatile controls, before long you’ll be running around small planets stomping goombas like you used to.

Meanwhile, you’ll use the Wii remote as a pointer to collect starbits (used as currency throughout the world of the Lumas). You’ll shake it to perform a Crash Bandicoot-style whirlwind attack (useful for stunning enemies or shattering blocks), and in some stages the motion-sensing functions are used to surf on the back of a manta ray or balance atop a rolling ball. Some of my favorite levels involve using the Wii remote as a kind of fan to blow Mario around in a floating bubble, ala cult-classic Bubble Ghost.

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One small step for a plumber, one giant leap for Nintendo

Galaxy is an interesting departure for the series. Mario hops from planet to planet (many of them rather small but some as large as an entire level), each with their own gravity. Unless there’s a black hole nearby, Mario can jump or fall off one side of the level and end up on the other! In 2.5D stages reminiscent of the classics, Mario jumps between switching gravity fields which push and pull him in all directions. Like Mario 64 and Sunshine, Galaxy provides countless hours of enjoyment with some 120 stars to rescue, and unlike previous installments there’s very little filler and plenty of new ground to be covered in each stage.

The level design is nothing short of perfection. There’s an incredible variety (too much to mention in one review), filled with tons of secrets and lovable characters, and the execution is spotless. Bosses are no exception either, and there’s plenty of them – from a furry mole digging up a garden to a giant octopus bathing in lava. Players must demonstrate pattern memorization as well as all of Mario’s skills in order to beat them.

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Some levels allow Mario to take on special abilities, which have been sorely missed since Super Mario World. Bee Mario will have you buzzing about like a busy bee, Ice Mario freezes water for use as impromptu platforms, and Spring Mario will have you jumping around like a slinky. These fun extra powers add to the already incredible mix of game play on offer.

Presentation

Galaxy’s presentation is colorful and brimming with light. The characters and world appear soft and velvety to the touch, and the game runs at a silky-smooth 60 frames per second. Despite the Wii being underpowered compared to its competition, there’s no denying that Galaxy is one of the best looking titles of 2007, and it looks remarkably better than Sunshine.

There’s such a diverse range of locales to explore, from icy mountains to fiery volcanoes (some of which may sound cliche but are anything but), and the characters and enemies who populate them are just as varied. Not to mention the soundtrack, which is fully orchestrated for the first time ever in a Mario title, and includes remixes of classic Super Mario Bros themes as well as all new ones.

Closing Thoughts

Super Mario Galaxy brings back the charm the Mario series was once known for, and wraps it up in a whole new package.  If you own a Wii, this game belongs in your collection.  And with E3 2009’s announcement of a sequel to Mario Galaxy coming in 2010, it looks like we’ll have much more planet-hopping fun to look forward to.

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Quick Run-Down

PROS:

  • Imaginative level design renews the platforming genre
  • Great production values (symphonic score)
  • Many levels and bosses
  • New power-ups!

CONS:

  • Not as many secrets as one might imagine for a Mario title
  • A little bit too easy
  • Some challenges may be too frustrating for casual players

One Sentence Review: A brand new Mario experience that everyone can enjoy.

One Word Review: Magical!

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