You may not know it yet, but this is the reason you bought a Wii.
Review written by
I'm going to cut right to the chase: Super Mario Galaxy is the best video game I have ever had the pleasure of playing. As a form of entertainment, Super Mario Galaxy is a product that can appeal to pretty much anyone. Mario is as household a character nowadays as Charlie Brown or Kermit the Frog. His adventures are the ones that you can get your Dad or girlfriend to play with you. And as a video game, Super Mario Galaxy is in a league of its own.
There's some kind of undeniable charm surrounding the world of Mario, a stellar mold of raise-the-bar gameplay and brilliant presentation that no other company (except maybe SEGA with Sonic) has ever been able to match. With Super Mario Galaxy, Nintendo has managed to outdo all previous Mario games that have come before.
The storyline of Mario games has always been a cookie-cutter element, and Mario Galaxy is no different. The Mushroom Kingdom is hosting a shooting star festival that happens only once every 100 years. Predictably, Bowser and his crew of misfits show up to ruin everything, and in the process manage to kidnap Princess Peach. This time though, Bowser has some new firepower in the form of a shiny UFO. This thing cuts the ground out from underneath the Princess' castle, while Bowser's pirate-influenced airships hoist the entire structure into space. Mario, who desperately tries to stop the rising castle, is knocked unconscious. He is soon woken by a group of Lumas, who are star-like creatures operating a space station under the control of a Princess Peach lookalike named Rosalina. Rosalina asks Mario to help find the Power Stars that Bowser took so that she may again have control over her space station. In return, she is willing to help Mario find Princess Peach.
And so you are off on your quest. Rosalina's space station serves as the Hub of the game, much like Peach's castle in Super Mario 64, or Delfino Island in Super Mario Sunshine. As you gain more stars, you will get the ability to play Bowser/Bowser Jr galaxies. Completing these galaxies yields Grand Stars, which power up the station and allow access to more galaxies. Much like Mario 64, the game can be beaten with 60 stars, at which point you may save and return to collect the next 60 hidden in the game for a grand total of 120 stars. That's the basic structure. It's classic Mario, it works well, and it doesn't really break any new ground or impress all that much. The true appeal of any Mario game however, lies in the presentation and gameplay.
And, oh my, what a presentation. I wish I could axe the paragraph where I described the intro and just show you all video footage instead. This game needs to be seen to be believed. The crisp textures, lush colors, shadow effects, high frame rate and stellar artwork all set a new graphical standard for the Nintendo Wii. Old character favorites return in grand fashion here, while charming new characters will surely have a solid place in future Mario endeavors.
The aural part of the package is just as engaging and spectacular as the visuals. Mario's voice is dead on, sound effects are appropriate and fitting, and the music is soundtrack-worthy. I'm not going to spend much time praising the graphical and auditory achievements of this game. If you don't believe me, look up videos online and see for yourself. But believe me when I say that this is the most HD-worthy effort on Wii yet.
The gameplay elements of Mario Galaxy are the legs that this whole package stands on. Super Mario 64 revolutionized the series because it made a silky-smooth transition from 2D to 3D, taking advantage of the (at the time) powerful graphical processor of the N64. It was a benchmark for both the series and the system as well. Super Mario Galaxy is no different, as it so successfully incorporates the Wii's unique controller into gameplay that you will wonder if the producers had the remote in mind since the days of the 64. The Wii remote is neither overused nor thrown aside. You move Mario with the nunchuck joystick, crouch with Z, and jump with A. The Wii remote is pointed normally at the TV, and you have an on-screen cursor in the form of a small star. You use your pointer to collect star bits; shiny little star-like objects that reward you with a 1-UP for every 50 collected. You can also point the cursor at enemies and press B, which will shoot a star bit at them for a stun attack. Mario's classic punch/kick combo is thrown away for a much more intuitive spin attack. The attack is accomplished by simply shaking the remote. There are other levels that incorporate the Wii remote even further, like a stingray surfing level in which you turn your remote-wrist like a key to move left and right. Everything feels just right, and all movements are responsive and simple.
A big part of Super Mario Galaxy is that it takes place in outer space, and with outer space comes unique planetary gravity. The gravity system of Super Mario galaxy is unlike most anything you've ever played. Imagine Mario standing on a floating platform. Now, Mario jumps unexpectedly off the edge. In previous games, this resulted in a lost life. Galaxy however, is different, and it's because of the gravity. In Galaxy, after Mario jumps off of said platform, the gravity pulls him back in to swing around to the bottom, at which point he lands safely and the camera smoothly follows without so much as a hiccup. The gravity is so unique, you will most likely find yourself screwing around levels and trying out different jumps just to see what happens. The camera is beautiful, as it rarely (and I mean RARELY) gives you a poor view of the action, even when moving between the gravities of different objects.
Everything is done so right in Super Mario Galaxy that its flaws are pretty much dismissible. Every now and then, you may find a bad camera angle pop up, but it's such a rare occurrence that only the most critical of gamers will notice or care. The frame rate sputters so infrequently, I only observed it drop one time in my first playthrough (and it was a processor-taxing underwater level). The difficulty is also a bit on the easy side, as lives are far too easy to come by that you would have to be a totally inept and terrible gamer to reach a Game Over screen.
But other than those minor quips, Super Mario Galaxy is perfect. 60 stars to beat doesn't take much time, but 120 is a much more daunting and rewarding task. The ultimate unlockable (if you get all the stars, you can play through again as Luigi) gives Super Mario Galaxy the replay value it needs to have long legs. Even without it, you'll still want to beat this one over and over again just based on how good it is. My roommate isn't into video games, but he calls Super Mario Galaxy "video crack" and I would have to agree. Free up your schedule before picking it up. I got this game Tuesday, beat it on Monday, and now I'm right back into the thick of it with no slowing down. It's been tough to pull myself away from this product to write-up this little piece here, so thank you for taking the time to read it. Now go and get it, and have fun playing the best game on Nintendo Wii.
Classic Mario gameplay seamlessly combined with outer-space physics and Wii remote functionality. This is platforming at its best, period.
120 stars take a long time to get. Know that you're going to do it at least twice since you can unlock Luigi and play through as him. Don't be surprised if you go ahead and beat it a third time.
Sets the new standard for Wii. I highly recommend playing on an HDTV. You'll scratch your head at how the frame rate holds up as well as it does.
The music is top-notch, and I really hope a soundtrack is eventually released. Sound effects are fantastic and fitting with the environment.
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