Discussion Review: Super Mario Galaxy

SuperMarioGalaxy.jpg Here at VGBlogger, we never think it’s too late to share our thoughts on a game, even if it’s months or maybe even years old. This past ’07 holiday season was so packed with games, for instance, there were a bunch of titles (too many to count, actually) that we simply missed out on playing/covering at the time but still have every intention of giving a proper dissection. And that includes the subject of our latest discussion review, Super Mario Galaxy.

Matt: This may come as a shock to you (and anyone who reads this), but I really haven’t enjoyed the Super Mario series since it made the jump to 3D. And yes, that includes not liking the beloved Mario 64 all that much. I respect it as a classic simply for birthing the modern 3D platformer genre, but something about it just didn’t play right to me compared to the 2D Marios I grew up loving, a feeling that carried over into Super Mario Sunshine. The camera and controls in that game just frustrated the hell out of me.

But finally, a 3D Mario has captured my heart to no end. Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii in some brilliant way reinvents 3D platforming without really changing all that much. The staple Mario elements are all there: star collecting, question blocks, turtle shells, 1-up Mushrooms, Goomba and Koopa stomping, and so on. And of course it wouldn’t be a Mario game without Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach to set the stage. But by thrusting Mario into outer space and removing the traditional forces of gravity, the game changes into something so brilliantly innovative as you run Mario around in all dimensions and perspectives.

The level designs are simply out of this world. I don’t think I’ve ever seen game worlds so creative and diverse. No two stages ever seem to feel alike. Even when you go back into the same stage multiple times to collect all its stars, there’s always something new to see or do that makes it different than the last visit.

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Zach: I can’t agree with you more. Super Mario Galaxy is the prettiest game I’ve seen on the Wii so far. When I first saw footage of the game, I was afraid that it was going to be a bland “Mario in Space” adventure which would get me sick due to running around tiny spheres. I was surprised to find that this was not the case, as many levels each have a unique theme. For example, there is a level which is very reminiscent of an autumn scene, another that takes place in various gardens, and of course it wouldn’t be a Mario game without the standard ice and lava levels. And while you do run around very small planetoids at times, for the most part you hop from travel between medium to large planets completing a small objective before blasting off to the next planet in search of a star.

When you think of it, the game is fairly simplistic: run around, kill enemies, get stars, repeat. However, there is now the added bonus of star bits to collect. These are tiny, almost candy-like crystals that appear all over each level. Using your Wii remote, you can actually run a cursor around the screen to make them home-in on Mario. With these star bits you can again use the Wii remote to hit and stun enemies on the screen, and also save them to give to other tiny star men to open up hidden areas and levels.

Matt: Yep, Super Mario Galaxy is indeed the prettiest Wii game yet. I don’t think there can be any arguing that. Mario and the other characters are rendered in near-CG like quality and the stages, in addition to being brilliantly designed from a gameplay perspective, as I already mentioned, are simply amazing to behold. So many people outside the videogame industry like to argue that games aren’t a form of art, but this is certainly one game that proves these naysayers wrong. Galaxy is a work of art, plain and simple.

Tying into your comments regarding the new star bits element, I really enjoyed how Nintendo went about implementing the motion controls in Galaxy. Too many platformers and other third-person games in general seem to go too heavy on utilizing the Wii Remote, and suffer because of it. But that’s not the case here. Nintendo showed great restraint in using the motion controls just enough to add an extra layer of interactivity and immersion — point the cursor to collect star bits, flick the remote to spin attack, and that’s about it. The point-and-waggle mechanics feel intuitive and precise, anyone should be able to pick up the controllers and have fun without much of a learning curve.

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One negative thing I do have to point out, though, is the camera. I’ve never been a fan of the camera system in the 3D Mario games, and while Galaxy definitely shows improvement over the previous efforts, there were still numerous times where I’d miss jumps, bump into hazards or get hit by enemies simply because the camera couldn’t keep up with the action — which is somewhat understandable since you’re running Mario upside down and in all sorts of other crazy directions — or was locked into a position that didn’t provide an optimal view of the environment ahead.

Oh, and how about swimming? Did you find yourself struggling to navigate some of the underwater levels? I sure as hell did. Not sure what it was, but I just couldn’t get Mario to swim where I wanted him to go all the time.

Zach: For some reason I could never get Mario to cooperate when he was swimming underwater, either. Whenever I would jump into the water, I would immediately try to find the nearest turtle shell just to gain a bit more control. Fortunately the times in which you need to worry about swimming are few and far between.

I guess my biggest complaint would be the difficulty. Again, this 3D Mario game isn’t all that challenging, at least in the main levels. It seems that once they introduced the whole life concept and refilling the bar by grabbing coins, the Mario series lost that whole “flying by the seat of your pants” aspect. Now I’m more comfortable with just running about with reckless abandon as I know that if I accidentally bump into an enemy or a hazard here or there, I’ll find enough coins to regain my health. I did find that the bonus levels were challenging, though, especially one in particular where you had to collect 100 or so purple coins on an 8-bit version of Mario where the ground would disappear after you touched it.

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After about four or five days, I ended up getting all 120 stars and felt that my reward was worse than back in Mario 64. Instead of being rewarded with a guest appearance from Yoshi and nearly infinite lives, you get the option to start the game all over again with Luigi. Honestly it felt like I was rewarded for all my hard work with more work.

Matt: That’s true, there isn’t much swimming so it’s not a big deal. I was just going back through the game to refresh on a few things for this discussion and the last thing I stopped on was a swimming level, so the frustration was fresh in my mind.

I hear what you’re saying on the difficulty complaint. Galaxy is a very easy game compared to past games in the franchise, but I didn’t find it to be easy to a fault in comparison to most games these days. I thought many of the bosses were a fun challenge, and more than a few bonus levels had me dying and retrying quite a bit. I definitely agree in theory, though. I too miss the difficulty of past generations. The more mainstream gaming gets, the more game difficulty seems to get easier and easier. Just something we have to get used to, and with a platformer like Mario it’s something I can forgive.

All things considered, Super Mario Galaxy is about as good as it gets on the Wii right now. It stands out like a shining star amongst the Wii’s software library that currently consists of way too much casual shovelware and slapped together ports, and in my honest opinion, it’s vast creativity, superb level designs and beautiful graphics make most of Nintendo’s other first-party offerings look lackluster and uninspired in comparison.

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Zach: I’m at odds with this game actually. I really enjoyed the game and suggest that everyone that has a Wii should try it out. Whether or not it deserves a purchase, though, is another matter since I found there to be very little replay value. I rented this game from GameFly, so I had all the time in the world to finish it. In the end it only took me about five days to get all 120 stars, and I didn’t really feel like playing through the game a second time so I just sent it back. In the end though, you definitely need to check out this game.

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Pros:
+ Level designs are masterfully constructed and show unmatched creativity and diversity
+ Absolutely beautiful graphics; puts most other Wii games to shame graphically
+ Intuitive Wii Remote implementation adds an extra dimension to the traditional Mario gameplay
+ It’s Mario in outer space, need we say more?

Cons:
– Camera system sometimes has trouble keeping up with the action
– Not that challenging of a game overall; a bit higher difficulty would’ve been preferred
– Very little replay value after obtaining all 120 stars

Game Info:
Platform: Wii
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 11/12/07
Genre: Action/Platformer
Players: 1-2

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!