Super Mario Galaxy | Flashback Review
Super Mario Galaxy, developed and published by Nintendo and released for the Wii in November 2007, is probably the best plat-forming game I have ever played, bar none. With hours of playability, some of the best music found in a game, beautifully designed worlds and many of the elements that made the classic Super Mario 64 so great, it’s hard to argue this game as being anything but awesome. With my recent trend of games scoring within the 75-85% range and the recent release of Super Mario 3d land for the Wii-U, I thought it was a good time to look back at an example of one of the key games, as well as one of my favourites of all time, that still allow Nintendo to survive against competitive giants Microsoft and Playstation.
From the start of the game you’re given the usual predictable Mario story that very few gamers would now be unfamiliar with, Peach gets kidnapped by Bowser and as the local hero plumber Mario it’s your job to save her! However, this time your journey takes you beyond the world primarily populated by the Mushroom Kingdom into the wide reaches of the many nearby systems alongside Rosalina, a Peach look-alike, who helps you in your quest to save “your precious one”. The game then essentially has you go around and collect stars in classic Super Mario 64 style that are required to power the ship that both Rosalina and her crew the Lumes, who are essentially cute little star like people, inhabit to reach the area where Bowser has taken Peach hostage. This ship, or observatory, is basically your hub world for accessing the many levels you are required to venture through and while not as spectacular as Peach’s castle back on the N64, it’s still a pleasant place to run around in.
In order to collect enough stars to face Bowser, you’ll need to become a bee, swim underwater, traverse floors that disappear beneath you and solve a variety of puzzles, just to give you a very small idea of the many varying activities that populate the game. Each system is made up of several galaxies, or levels, that you are required to collect stars on. Stars range from the normal kind, used to unlock galaxies within each system, and the boss kind used for unlocking new systems within the hub area, gained by defeating Bowser in what becomes a very simplistic and predictable encounter, especially as he only tends to add one extra move to his fighting style for each encounter. While entering a galaxy at any one point in time normally involves you tracking down one particular star, it is occasional possible to venture off the beaten track and find yourself collecting a different star entirely rewarding those who explore. Only 70 stars are need to face Bowser, however there are 120 stars to collect for completionists and for those truly committed to the game, you’ll need to do two play-throughs (one as Luigi) to collect that final 121th star (I have… twice!)
The levels in this game are truly incredible. You’ll find yourself in galaxies with one large planet, galaxies with many small planets, galaxies that have a mixture of climates from tropic to desert and all other galaxies in between. The variety in levels is just incredible and, having played the game four times through, I have no memory of any single one of these being unenjoyable to venture through. Larger galaxies tend to have more stars to collect and there are also “prankster comets” which can cause an event, such as attempting to get through the level with only one hit point, to appear on most galaxies at certain times and these provide a great excuse to go back and re-visit these amazing levels (but not overly so) with increasingly challenging conditions. There are many varying enemies to avoid or stomp, from the classic Goomba to newly introduced enemies including some that pretty much resemble spinning tops. There are even mini and major bosses to battle, each with their own style of fighting and weak spots, which certainly make for a much more challenging fight than the easy Bowser battle encounters.
Being released within a year after the Wii’s launch, Super Mario Galaxy was obviously lumped in with the games required to show off what the new gen console could do, including the motion sensitive technology and infrared detection within the controller. However, Nintendo very fortunately resisted the urge to over utilize this and instead incorporated it for minor elements in the game, such as flicking the wii-mote to launch yourself from, what I will call, a star catapult, to pointing at the screen as you soar about to collect little star bits used to open up extra areas or stun enemies. These minor elements are actually quite enjoyable to use and work well within the game while not bringing anything especially revolutionary from the use of the technology, although moments such as holding the wii-mote upwards to balance on top of a large ball provide for a challenge and make up for this. Other than this, the controls are your standard and relatively simple, A to jump and Z to crouch making it especially easy for previous fans of the series to pick up. It may also take some time for people to get used to the gravity on some of the galaxies, such as moments that have you upside down, but this usually doesn’t take to long to adjust to.
The graphics’ use of a more cartoony look allow the game to look beautiful while at the same time keeping it in line with the competition of the much more powerful Xbox 360 and PS3. There is just so much to see and you can tell that the developers have really put a lot of care into the look of the various galaxies you explore. The load times are minimal and the game just overall handles well. The sounds in the game, with the music basically put together by an entire orchestra, not only complement the areas you’re in but serve to really immerse you in the world. The gentle piano that played in the background as I slowly floated through an asteroid field in one galaxy serves as some of my fondest memories of this game.
In summary, there is very little that can actually be considered bad about Super Mario Galaxy, even six years after its initial release. The Bowser boss battles are a bit simple, the story isn’t especially original (although it has some nice elements!) and I have heard of some people having difficulty adjusting to the controls early on in the game. But everything else is just spot on, the sound, the level design, the visual style, the playability, there is just so much to love about this game. Super Mario Galaxy brought with it one of the biggest reasons to own a Wii and has also lead to the ideas that contributed towards the development of the Super Mario 3D land series with elements such as the music, art and level design for the 3DS version. To this day it still remains as one of my favourite games of all time and provides for an experience that every gamer should reward themselves to (even if only briefly) at least once.
Cover picture taken from http://www.dan-dare.org/Dan%20Mario/SuperMarioGalaxyWallpaper1024.htm
Images takes from: http://nintendo.wikia.com/wiki/Super_Mario_Galaxy/gallery