Super Mario Galaxy Review (Wii)

If there is any gaming franchise that can symbolize the industry as a whole, it would be Nintendoís Super Mario. With over two decades of ups, downs, and amazing things all around, you would be far fetched to find someone who hasnít heard of this cultural icon. And in this yearís November game release extravaganza, Mario proves that itís not yet time to contact his next of kin.

If the ground has gravity all around, take a stroll around. Itís an unusual experience
Once the POV changes, controls turn wonky

Super Mario Galaxy, like every Super Mario game, follows the unsurprisingly bad premise itís had since the original Donkey Kong. The easy-to-kidnap Princess Peach is taken by our favorite giant, evil turtle Bowser. Arriving just in the nick of time, Mario does his best to rescue the Princess, but is put in his place by some of Bowserís intrepid minions.

Eventually Mario is transported to some space station and told that if he helps return all of the Grand stars (sound familiar?) to the ship, they can rescue Peach. As agreeable as Mario is, he accepts and weíre off.

Just like that the game suddenly transforms into Super Mario 64 with spectacular Wii graphics and new moves for the enhanced controls. Shaking the Wii remote to the side quickly unleashes Marioís new spin attack, which weíll get to in a moment. The A button is to jump and no, there is no double jump. In its place is a growing jump, where jumping immediately after landing from a jump will make you jump even higher. This only works if youíre running and only twice in a row. The B button shoots star shards.

Unlike most Mario games, the role of coins isnít simply to collect them for more 1-ups anymore. They function more like the rings from Sonic the Hedgehog, giving back one health point per coin collected. And because Mario has three HP, coins are scarce on nearly every world. Thatís where the aforementioned star shards kick in.

Star shards (not to be confused with gold stars, the prizes for completing levels) play a huge role in SMG. Push the B button and you can shoot them at enemies to stun them. Collect fifty for a 1-up. Then your combined collection can be used to purchase green or red mushrooms, or open paths to bonus levels. Finally, they serve a key role in cooperative play.

Power-ups return as well, with newer ones adding to gameplay and more familiar ones altered to make way for the big changes or, thankfully, kept just the same. Red mushrooms no longer make Mario grow; seems Nintendo finally realized that such was preposterous. Now that mushroom adds three more HP on top of Marioís, giving him six total, but should he lose three, they cannot be regained without another mushroom.

Mario gets shot out of just about everything, so be ready for extravagant flying
Sections like this can become confusing when jumping from planet to planet

Other power-ups include transformations, and there are plenty of them. There is bee Mario, ghost Mario, and frozen Mario to name a few. They each have specific functions suited only for the world they are on, meaning you canít save them for later use. An example of these abilities would be how ghost Mario can go through some walls, or how bee Mario can climb up honeycombs.

Through the course of the game, Mario must travel to different galaxies, as they are called, though in reality they are solar systems. Each holds a set of planets with different worlds, and each of those carry at least three gold stars and every galaxy has one Grand star. Letís not forget the bonus levels, which also give gold stars and are quite plentiful.

The biggest difference between SMG and every other Mario game is the over-emphasized use of gravity. Sure, gravity exists in nearly every game made, but Mario is jumping from planet to planet. Gravity can shift on and off at certain locations. It isnít uncommon to use the pull of one planet to progress further through the game.

This may sound fanciful and exciting, but the feeling subsides quickly. The gravitational gameplay mechanics are nothing special, though they are a good addition. Walking around an entire planet, including upside down (which is still right side up), is faulty do to a lack of camera control which causes Mario to be upside down. This reverses the controls, which wouldnít be an issue if it didnít happen often, but moving to the southern hemisphere of a planet in SMG is very common, and thus this becomes very annoying.

Lack of camera controls is the start of SMGís problems. It wouldnít be an issue were there any significant camera controls. The D-pad turns the view left and right, but that rarely helps enough to fix the actual view. Movement also falters because of the cameraís changing point of view, making it difficult to control where Mario runs whenever the camera turns at all. Swimming too is terrifically difficult to do well because the controls for it are simply poorly done.

Multiplayer in Mario games has consistently been weak, and there isnít much change to SMG, though to its credit it is the best weíve seen. The second player can shoot stars using the first playerís stockpile. They can also make Mario spin-jump at any time by clicking on Mario with the pointer, and finally can pick up stars with the pointer and slow down enemies by clicking on them. This comes in exceptionally handy at times, but is not much fun for player 2 unless their attention span is that of a goldfish. Or they are simply easy to please.

Hole-y planets arenít a problemÖthe black holes in their center are!
At 1 HP left, itís time to find some coins. Or kick it up a notch and do without it

At the end of the day, Super Mario Galaxy is a high marking game with only a few minor setbacks. With numerous worlds to explore, finding all the gameís secrets can take quite some time, and any Mario fan will rejoice at the un-unique gameplay weíve all come to love.

Top Game Moment:
With one HP left, switching gravity to the opposite side of the level and jumping on three baddies, one after the other, to make a comeback and beat the level.

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