Review: Why stop at just one castle when you have an entire galaxy to explore?
For gamers growing up during the 90s, Nintendo was the platform of choice. We grew up alongside everyone's favorite plumber, Mario, and his many adventures as he jumped through different stages in order to rescue the Princess from the dastardly Bowser. From his first appearance in Donkey Kong to the all-time classic Super Mario Bros. 3, gamers everywhere reveled in collecting coins and searching for elusive 1UP mushrooms. How many of us can remember staying up past our allocated bedtimes trying to access the Star World in Super Mario World or the first time we entered the land of the giants in Super Mario 3? As Nintendo began to create new platforms, not only has Mario became an iconic legend and a source of consistent quality gameplay, but the memories we have of him seem to bring out the inner child in all of us. His latest iteration, Super Mario Galaxy isn't any different.
Following the series tradition of having to rescue Peach, Super Mario Galaxy doesn't just stop at a single world this time around. Rather, Bowser has expanded his horizons and realized that one planet simply won't do anymore... now the entire galaxy is in danger; and as gamers, we couldn't be any happier.
Similar to Super Mario 3, this lengthy fifteen hour plus adventure has just enough appeal to attract casual players and the super veteran ?hardcore' crowd as well. Each of the levels in the game are huge in scope, consisting of individual mini-planets that have their own unique challenges.
As players go through the various levels in the game, one of the first things they'll notice is that power-ups are few and far between. Most of the time the power-ups are conveniently placed in areas where you'll either need them to navigate through a level or solve a puzzle. Unlike previous games however, power-ups usually only spawn in one area and most of the really useful ones are time-based so you'll be running back and forth between locations in order to solve a puzzle. Although this can easily become redundant at times, you won't need them for the most part; and when you do, they're there. With that said only the classical fire Mario remains in the game, as there's an entirely new helping of power-ups to help the player in the game. From Spring Mario to his new Bumble Bee outfit, each of them have been specifically placed in the game not as an offensive weapon, but to help Mario complete the levels.
For the most part, each ?galaxy' is broken down into three or more different missions where the goal is to reach the golden star. Each of the worlds are impressively varied and unique, presenting players with one of the most ambitious level-designs to date. In any given level there are numerous planets, each with its own challenges that brings each level onto an epic scale.
While the missions in the game are typically limited to going through the level in order to reach a star, there are also several other planets which feature mini-games. Complete a course or a task within a specific amount of time and get a star. Although it's a very minor problem in an otherwise fantastic game, after you clear the mini-game one time there isn't any other reason to go back and complete it again; unless you're just aiming to break your own record. There aren't any extra courses for the game's Sting Ray Surfing or Ball Balancing and it's disappointing to see them restricted to just a single course.
With that said however, the mini-game planets present players with just enough variety to let them take a break from platforming. In addition, there's other ways of gathering golden stars which includes challenges such as beating a boss with only one life or completing a stage within a specific amount of time. Perfectionists beware, the game can easily suck the life out of your free time as you try to complete each level in the game in order to unlock the ?other world.'
For players who were worried about how the game would control, you can put your fears to rest. Mario Galaxy has one of the best control schemes of any game on the Wii. Utilizing the Wiimote and Nunchuk, jumping is done with a simple press of the A button while shaking either one allows Mario to spin. As expected, movement is done through the use of the Nunchuk's analog stick while the d-pad is used to control the camera in first-person perspective. Although its an interesting feature, I personally found it useless. Nonetheless, it's there for any player who needs help with the game's camera. Where the game's controls shine is through the way you're able to gather crystals, targeting them on screen via the Wiimote while you navigate with the Nunchuk. This new feature adds an extremely fun way to gather crystals which you can then use to stun enemies or shoot endlessly into the distance. Another cool feature-- the fact that you can connect another player to the game and compete with them to see who can gather the most crystals at any given time.
With all of the positives in the gameplay, there is only one thing that is really worth mentioning as a negative. Almost. Since the game relies on the illusion of all the planets having their own unique gravity, the camera takes a bit of time to get oriented to in the beginning as the levels are not linear. Instead, they're round and the camera doesn't change to help orient the viewer. One second you'll be running on a level surface where pressing up on the Nunchuk allows Mario to go straight, the next second you'll be having to press down to go straight as you'll be upside down. While this may prove to be annoying, even trying at times, it all adds to the experience as it makes completing each level that much more satisfying.
Graphically, Mario Galaxy is the most impressive Wii game to date. In fact, it's almost on par with anything you'd expect out of a ?true' next-gen title. Pushing the Wii's visual capabilities to its max, this is the game to show your Xbox 360 or PS3 friends to get them jealous about the ?little white box that could.' Although it may not be a true HD game, the game still looks spectacular in 480p widescreen thanks in large part to the game's fantastic and imaginative artistic design team. Every character model and level has its own unique and individual flavor that helps to breathe life into the game. The most impressive visual, you ask? The fact that you could see every planet as you transverse each galaxy in the game. Third-party developers should take note; this is how your games should look on the Wii.
Not to be pushed aside, the game's fully orchestrated soundtrack is quietly amazing. With the Super Mario Orchestra performing full scores of classic Mario tunes, this is one video game soundtrack that you'll definitely want to track down no matter what the cost. Each of the songs in the game suit each level to a tee and you'll be hearing the music in your head even after you power down your Wii.