Super Mario Galaxy Review

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo

# of Players: 1-2

Category: Action

Release Dates

N Amer - 11/12/2007

Official Game Website

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Super Mario Galaxy Review

In the first week of September, 1996, an unfamiliar controller caught my attention. It was attached to a new kiosk at Blockbuster and, after staring at it for a few seconds, I realized what I was looking at: Nintendo 64, the long-awaited SNES follow-up that was not yet available for purchase. The game inside was Mario 64, and for the next hour I was transported to a groundbreaking, genre-defining universe that to this day has not been outdone.

I had a similar experience nearly 10 years later in the middle of May, 2006. But I wasn’t in a Blockbuster, I was in the overcrowded LA Convention Center at what would become the last true E3. Nintendo Wii was making its North American debut, and along with that showing came the first playable demo of Super Mario Galaxy. Featuring the most unique worlds of any action/adventure, Mario Galaxy’s innovations were instantly apparent. The game continued to impress at the following year’s E3 summit, as well as the consumer game show E for All.

 

As amazing as those few levels were, they did not reveal the secrets that Nintendo had planned for Galaxy. They did not hint that the finished game would be somewhat of a swan song for Mario – a reunion of the plumber’s greatest moments re-created in his largest and longest – and as far the levels are concerned, most innovative – adventure yet. It is not in the least bit a rehash, and it will not be the final Mario game, you can count on that.

But if it were the final chapter, we could exit knowing that the series had a perfect conclusion. Every villain, collectible, and power-up has a meaningful role in Galaxy. What players are about to experience is a game that will stay with them for as long as the first Mario – one that you will want to play through an infinite number of times, and one that will inspire other developers to re-think the way action/adventures are made.

If you want the surprises to come from the game, read no further. There is no way to continue this review without spoiling most of Mario Galaxy’s greatest moments. But if you’re too anxious to wait any longer, or have yet to be sold on the game’s groundbreaking world designs, then stay with me as I take you through a universe you most certainly have never seen before.

 

Planetary Illusions

For those who may not know the concept behind Mario Galaxy, here’s a quick recap. Each world (level) within the game is called a galaxy, and each galaxy is comprised of several planets. These planets are often spherical but can come in any shape or size. The amazing thing about them is that, through the use of an incredible engine, Mario can walk around these planets from any angle. When the plumber reaches a ledge, he doesn’t fall off – he walks around the planet, causing the camera to adjust for gameplay that’s more than three-dimensional.

Now that you’ve been brought up to speed, it’s time to look past the content of trade show demos, starting with the new and returning power-ups. As previously revealed, Mario has new bee and Boo (ghost) transformations. As Bee Mario, players will be able to hover and grip honeycombs to climb certain planets. Ghost Mario has the power to walk through thin barriers.

Spring Mario is wrapped in a spring that allows him to jump several times higher than normal. It also stiffens the controls. Mario has a hard time walking while wearing this suit, causing him to hop forward like a Slinky rolling down the stairs. Ice Mario turns lakes, fountains and other water sources into solid platforms, while the dark-suited Mario can fly over and around planets with greater control than his winged hat allowed in Mario 64.

These power-ups are wonderful, but the biggest surprise came from an old upgrade I feared would never appear in 3D form: Fire Mario. He’s finally back and, with a flick of the Wii remote, can throw fireballs at his opponents.


Ghost Mario can become transparent and walk through certain obstacles, but he'll lose that ability if caught by the light.

To Infinity and Beyond

With these power-ups – as well as the standard, Goomba-stomping Mario – the Mushroom Kingdom hero will transcend worlds that are nowhere near Peach’s castle. Starting in the observatory, a hub for world navigation, players can visit the first of six domes, each of which contains numerous galaxies. Galaxies are unlocked with Star Power (from collected stars), and domes are unlocked by retrieving grand stars from the boss at the end of each dome. Star bites, the colored crystals dispersed in each world, can be used to unlock bonus galaxies with bonus stars hidden inside.

This setup gives players the option to go through the game in several different orders. The only restriction is that you need a certain number of stars to continue progressing, which means you won’t be able to finish the last battle first. Mario 64 created and popularized this style of world progression, and it works well to regulate Mario Galaxy without taking away our freedom.

 

Galaxy designs aren’t just innovative – they are also extremely cool. Only Mario can make a beehive interesting. And only Mario would even think about having an entire bonus stage that’s shaped like a cake. Ice and fire worlds return, each of which offer a unique take on Galaxy’s gravity-defying gameplay system. Players will also revisit the airships of Mario 3, and battle enemies from every game except Sunshine (the only Mario game with enemies that aren’t worth remembering).

Some planets feel more like traditional Mario 64 worlds. The beach bowl level is a giant half-sphere that’s overflowing with water. Swim to the edge to watch the water pour off the sides. Inside the bowl you’ll see penguins, Koopa shells, and other elements that make this planet feel grounded. But it’s not – you are still trapped in space. Hop on one of the star transporters (used to soar across planets) and you’ll be launched to other, less stable areas of the galaxy.

Every level within this game is unique. However, there are a few recurring sections within some of the galaxies – accessed by entering a pipe – that will remind players of the recurring underground areas from the first Mario. The most common is a small, brick-covered room that gives you the chance to get used to controlling Mario sideways and upside down. Arrowed ramps connect each wall; run up any of the ramps and Mario will cling to that wall as if he were standing on solid ground. He can jump as normal and perform the same moves.

The camera, however, does not change, and the controls are now different because of the adjusted gameplay perspective. Cross the ceiling ramp to walk upside down. It feels weird at first – you won’t be sure where to push the thumbstick. But it won’t take more than a couple of hours for these and other gravity-changing elements to become second nature. Before long, the controls will feel as natural as Mario 64.

Additionally, Mario Galaxy also features small chunks of gameplay that are completely two-dimensional. With several gravity effects employed, these areas are as brilliant as they are challenging.

 
This toy robot constitutes just one large planet within a galaxy.

The Hardest of Hardcore

As a self-proclaimed master of Mario 64, I may not be the best person to judge Mario Galaxy’s difficulty. To me, the majority of the tasks are very simple. Nintendo must have known that some gamers would feel this way, because they included special challenges that intensify the difficulty to an immeasurable level.

The most notable dares you to play through an entire galaxy with just one life point. I thought it’d be easy – after all, I think I’m a master. But I didn’t realize that, no matter how well I play the game, I always get hit at least once. This made it very difficult to overcome the challenge, which sends you back to the beginning of the level every time you die.

Lights, Camera, Music

More than 20 years ago, the first Mario debuted with one of the greatest theme songs ever composed for an entertainment medium. From that point on the series’ composer, Koji Kondo, added new masterpieces to each sequel. Mario 64’s orchestral score was the most prominent. Its main theme and underwater tunes were infused with something far deeper than any of Mario’s previous adventures. For the first time ever, his score had reached an emotional level that had nothing to do with nostalgia. The music, which had not been heard until that game, was truly moving.

Super Mario Galaxy is another step forward in video game music. You’ll hear the classic jingles and music from his first and third games, Mario World, and Mario 64. These re-mastered recordings sound amazing, but it’s the new music that is breathtaking. There is a light, hallow sound that flows through the galaxy whenever classic tunes aren’t playing, along with battle and star retrieval themes that deliver a distinctive sense of joy and wonder.

The graphics are, as you can see from every screenshot, fully rendered and gorgeous. Gone are the blocky characters of past Mario games. This time the leading plumber brother, as well as his leading villains (Goombas, Bullet Bill, Bob-ombs, Koopa Troopas, Bowser, Wigglers, etc.), look next-gen.

Planet designs are just as beautiful, though you are likely to spot a few imperfections. When approaching larger planets, the detail isn’t as defined as when you land. Everything else, however, is pure eye candy. The lighting and shadow effects are outstanding, and the animation work and frame rate are top-notch.

Even more impressive is the camera, which never falters while traversing planets. In fact, the only time it fails is when exploring stationary levels that resemble the world structure of Mario 64. It’s somewhat ironic – Nintendo nailed the spherical, sideways, and upside down camera perspective and corresponding gameplay mechanics on the first try. You will be blown away by every gravity-influenced area, and stare in total amazement when the game unveils its stunning illusions. But the Mario 64 camera, which has appeared at least partially in three Mario games (64, Sunshine, and now Galaxy), still suffers from the occasional awkward moment.

 

Super Replay Value

Super Mario Galaxy won’t take you more than 12 hours to reach the end. But it will take most players much longer than that to obtain every star and uncover every secret. If you were to exclude every bonus, the game’s replay value would be a 10 out of 10 – the kind of masterpiece you’ll want to play through two or three times before allowing any other game to go near your Wii. Throw in the bonuses and the replay value goes to 11.

Clear your schedules gamers, this is it – the kind of masterpiece, showpiece, and trophy game that we wait years to obtain. I know how I’ll be spending my Thanksgiving weekend, and I can’t wait.

Review Scoring Details for Super Mario Galaxy

Gameplay: 10
Running from Bullet Bills, striking Bowser from behind, using Bob-ombs to destroy barriers – it’s just what you’d hope for in a Mario game. The worlds, however, have taken on a life all their own. Instead of one large island floating in the clouds (as in Mario 64), Galaxy introduces the concept of planets. Each has its own area of gravity, causing Mario to cling to its exterior (and in some cases, its interior) in ways you have never imagined.

If I push Mario to walk off a ledge, he should fall to his death, right? Not anymore. You will encounter a few clever challenges – while walking upside down, no less – where gravity isn’t too kind. But in all other circumstances, Mario clings to each planet as if he were an astronaut walking across the moon. It’s ingenious, not only the idea but also the execution.

Graphics: 9.0
Simply breathtaking. This Mario’s the most beautiful video game since 1996.

Sound: 9.5
The best thing about Mario scores – especially this one – is that they take us to another place just as effectively as the games themselves. Galaxy’s score isn’t better than Mario 64. But it lives up to its legacy.

Difficulty: Easy/Hard
There are moderate challenges in the game, but the majority will stand out as either simplistic or excruciating. The latter type may be skipped (mostly), allowing newbies to finish Galaxy without overcoming the game’s most difficult levels or bonus challenges.

Concept: 10
Impeccable isn’t a strong enough word to describe what this game has done for the action/adventure genre. Groundbreaking doesn’t cut it either. The controls and world designs are as close to perfection as a game can get.

Multiplayer: N/A
It’s not much of a multiplayer feature, but a second player can use an extra remote to help collect star bites.

Overall: 9.8
The can’t-miss Wii game of the year. Super Mario Galaxy is a pure, unimaginable joy. I have never walked away from a Mario game feeling satisfied. I always wanted more. Yeah, I still do – how could I not want another Galaxy? Still, I’m satisfied. And I don’t want another Mario game, no matter how long it takes, until this one can be topped.

GameZone Reviews

9.8

GZ Rating

Gameplay10
Graphics9
Sound9.5
DifficultyEasy/Hard
Concept10
Overall9.8

The can’t-miss Wii game of the year

Reviewer: Louis Bedigian

Review Date: 11/12/2007


Avg. Web Rating

9.8

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