Super Mario Galaxy

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It shouldn't be shocking to find out that Super Mario Galaxy is a blast. Sure, Super Mario Sunshine was disappointing, and it's understandable to be a little wary of the Wii's unorthodox controls, but there's more going on here than Mario In Space. Galaxy is something special, the kind of game that kept us indoors on sunny days as children. That it's a fun game is no surprise. That it's one of the best games in the series is absolutely wonderful.

Galaxy begins with a storybook montage describing the Mushroom Kingdom's traditional Star Festival, when a comet flies overhead and showers the land with Star Bits. Princess Peach sends a personal invitation for the event to the hero of the land, Mario. Just before he makes it to the castle, however, a fleet of Bowser's airships attack in what is probably the most epic scene in the series. The fleet kidnaps not only Peach but her entire castle, stealing them away into the far reaches of space. Mario has to collect Power Stars from the far reaches of the galaxy to power a spaceship to Bowser's galaxy. So once again, Mario finds himself on the mother of all fetch-quests so he can go beat up the big bad and save the girl. A tubby hero's job is never done.

There are three types of galaxies Mario can explore. The most common are galaxies consisting of small planetoids that Mario will fling himself between using slingshot stars. These planetoids are self-contained areas, typically with some goal Mario has to accomplish to unlock the path to the next area. The tiny planets have their own gravity, which means you typically can't jump off of them unless they're close enough to another landmass. It also means that you can run completely around most of the areas, which is both incredibly fun and vertigo-inducing. Navigating between these land masses and flinging Mario through the cosmos is a blast, as is hearing his glee while being thrown to the next piece of space debris.

Other galaxies are more self-contained worlds like in previous Mario games, such as the bee-themed Honeyhive Galaxy or the water filled Beach Bowl Galaxy. These feel like levels from Mario 64, standard platformer stuff. Some are pretty ingenious -- the giant tower in Buoy Base Galaxy is visually stunning -- but the rest aren't as engaging as the space levels. There are also galaxies with various minigames, such as surfing on a manta ray through rapids floating in the sky (which is even tougher than it sounds), or rolling a ball with a Power Star inside through an obstacle course.

The ball rolling minigame is particularly fun. Holding the Wiimote upright, you tilt the controller in various directions to make Mario roll. The tempo of the background music changes with your speed, so inching your way around a hole in the track makes the music sound like it's playing on a dying turntable, while flinging yourself down a hill cranks the music up to manic speeds. It's this feeling of using the Wiimote and affecting so many gameplay elements that makes the entire experience gel, and it happens throughout the game.

Controlling Mario is as easy as moving the Nunchuk's thumbstick and jumping with the Wiimote's A button. Pointing the Wiimote at the screen moves a star cursor, used to pick up faraway star bits and fire them at enemies and the environment with the B button. Waggling the Wiimote gives Mario a spin attack to stun enemies with or flip switches, as well as activating the slingshots used to toss the plumber between planetoids. That description might make the controls sound complex, but they feel very intuitive, more so than using the horrible N64 controller for Mario 64. Even your grandmother will have the basics down after a few minutes.

The only complaints to be leveled at Mario Galaxy are about its difficulty and its cooperative mode. The first is easy to dismiss: If you came to a Mario game expecting a challenge, you're bound to be sorely disappointed. The second is more valid, however. The co-op mode essentially involves finding someone to point a second Wiimote at the screen so they can collect Star Bits, fire them at enemies, or slow down obstacles. It looks on paper to be the perfect multiplayer mode for parents to play with their kids, but since I don't have children -- hide your daughters! -- I had to enlist my friends, who quickly got bored and demanded we play more Guitar Hero. I've read that both players pressing their respective A buttons will make Mario jump higher, but I can't get anyone interested long enough to try it.

If you're using those complaints to talk yourself out of playing Super Mario Galaxy, get over it. Quickly. This is a game built with the Wii in mind, and employs each of its unique features brilliantly. Galaxy's levels and gameplay are complex without being intimidating, accessible enough to play for half an hour but engaging enough to lose a day with. It's a well-made Mario game, maybe the best since the series was on the NES, and you've been looking for a reason to eject Wii Sports anyway.

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Comments

I got this last week, currently on 40 stars, best game I've played for ages.

Quick question about the difficulty - how much more difficult can I expect it to get? Sunshine was a pretty hard game in places. Galaxy seems easier than 64 so far, although part of that might be due to the way you only go back to the start of the current planet when you die, so the death penalty is much less.

I was planning on getting as close to 120 stars as I can and was hoping for some of it to at least be near-Sunshine difficulty.

The comets should add some challenge, and the levels which you unlock by feeding star bits to a Lumos seem more hardcore.

I'm considering getting a Wii for the family this Christmas. This is one of the games that's got my eye. Looking forward to checking it out.

I hope my copy that I ordered from Amazon will get here today. Maybe I'll finally get to play after work today.

So many games, so little time...

This one sounds even better than I had expected it to be, so I'll be looking forward to finding the time to play it. I wonder if I could design a little gaming area under my desk, like George Costanza's desk bed setup...

I'm up around 60 stars (just past the point where you gain access to the final battle) and the game stays brilliant throughout. As for the difficulty, though, I would guess that just like Mario 64, the final sets of levels will be plenty challenging; the game is considerate, though, in that it allows you to attack the final boss without having completed those later, tougher levels (although personally, I'm going to attempt them before I chase after the final boss).

This game is absolutely brilliant! my only little issue with the difficulty is, unlike mario 64, galaxy pretty much sets out a clear path to the star in each mission. In mario 64, I often found myself stuck figuring out where the star was in a given level. This seems to make Galaxy a little more spoon-fed in my opinion.

This in no way reflects my love for this game - Definitely one of the best games I've ever played and the best Mario to date.

Absolutly fantastic game. I am in the second world, around 10 starts. I has been a very long time since I have been so into a game. My wife will suffer through playing as the second player, which is more than she does for most other games. The retro backgrounds and music is also a great touch. Feel like I am back in Super Mario Brothers 3.

In terms of level and puzzle design, SMG probably outshines every platformer I've every played. Brilliant.

Nyles wrote:

The comets should add some challenge, and the levels which you unlock by feeding star bits to a Lumos seem more hardcore.

Seriously. I was ready to complain about the difficulty until I encountered my first comet. I had to revisit one of the levels I had completed and do a speed run. If you want something more difficult, the comets provide great challenges. Also, if it's anything like Super Mario 64, collecting all of the stars won't be so easy. You can complete the game by obtaining a set number of stars and the ones you didn't get are usually harder to gain. After defeating Bowser, I can think of a few levels in SM64 where I just died... and died... and died...

I wrote:

I'm up around 60 stars (just past the point where you gain access to the final battle) and the game stays brilliant throughout. As for the difficulty, though, I would guess that just like Mario 64, the final sets of levels will be plenty challenging; the game is considerate, though, in that it allows you to attack the final boss without having completed those later, tougher levels (although personally, I'm going to attempt them before I chase after the final boss).

I read. You don't know either. That's why we're guessing.

For all I know, when you defeat Bowser the remaining stars shoot out of his corpse.

Mystic Violet wrote:

I read. You don't know either. That's why we're guessing.

For all I know, when you defeat Bowser the remaining stars shoot out of his corpse. :lol:

These Mario games really are getting more graphic, aren't they?

I hate timed levels and racing, but the comet levels are a blast. I ran into some snags the first time I played the speed-run of the Space Junk galaxy, and I ended up grabbing the star with literally three seconds left on the clock. The super-grandiose music they employ on the comet levels really made the footrace to the finish a dramatic experience. I totally love the game.

I've gotten through all the basic stars and final boss. Afterwards they reopen up a bunch of the levels with a new 'collect 100 coins in the level' comet which is pretty hardcore on some levels.

The level design is just amazing, but I'm starting to realize I can only do platformers as I'm doing it right now. Enjoy it hardcore for one large moment, and then move on.

I'm up around 35 stars. Loving it.

Can someone give me details on why Sunshine has such a bad rap? I thought it was great. Played through it several times, but I keep reading about people that were "disappointed" with it.

@Orphu

I'm not sure why Sunshine got such a bad reputation either, I really enjoyed it.

I'm currently on 58 stars and it's got much harder.

Orphu wrote:

Can someone give me details on why Sunshine has such a bad rap? I thought it was great. Played through it several times, but I keep reading about people that were "disappointed" with it.

I dunno. I like it, even though I've never finished it. But, then, I never finished Mario 64 either (need to get back to my DS copy eventually, once I clear out my backlog of games I'm currently working on).

I think the main complaint most people have is this whole F.L.U.D.D. thing. I don't know why, though, as I thought it was a rather interesting mechanic to add to the puzzles and gameplay in general. Meh, to each their own though, I guess.

Picked this up a few days ago. Really a fantastic game, one of the best I have played in some time. I, like many other, am slightly dissapointed in the difficulty so far (35 stars along). And also slightly dissapointed in the length of some of the levels ... some are just plain short.

These are really mixed feeilngs though. The easier difficulty means my wife can play with me, and the shorter levels fit better into my "gamer with job" lifestyle.

One thing that suprised me - my wife enjoys playing Mario if I'm on the 2nd wiimote. As second player, I can 1) collect the star bits so she doesn't have to worry about it, 2) Freeze/hold the enemies for her (I don't know how many times I've saved her from getting run over by rolling boulders), and 3) shoot the baddies with the star bits so she can bump into them instead of jump on them. These 3 things make the game easy enough for my wife to enjoy playing as Mario. (She does, however, think playing 2nd player is quite boring).

I find the tinting given to the screen during a comet star run very annoying. Why did you decide to tint your beautiful worlds purple (and yellow, and green), Nintendo?

Orphu wrote:

Can someone give me details on why Sunshine has such a bad rap? I thought it was great. Played through it several times, but I keep reading about people that were "disappointed" with it.

My beef was the blue coin mechanic. It felt like a very cheap way to hand out stars, particularly after I enjoyed hunting down each and every star in Mario 64.

Staats wrote:
Orphu wrote:

Can someone give me details on why Sunshine has such a bad rap? I thought it was great. Played through it several times, but I keep reading about people that were "disappointed" with it.

My beef was the blue coin mechanic. It felt like a very cheap way to hand out stars, particularly after I enjoyed hunting down each and every star in Mario 64.

I enjoyed Sunshine, but that is my biggest problem with it as well. Talk about getting lazy. Should have thrown in a couple of extra levels for those stars instead of the damn blue coins.

I wanted to like this game. I tried to like this game. I still want to like this game. I am fairly early into it and I'm having wiimote control issues. Maybe I just need new batteries. For example, when riding the stingray, I die profoundly quickly. Also, the cube galaxy seems especially tiresome. Platformers are not my favorites, but I expected this game to be captivating. It's not, to me anyway.