There are many persistent franchises out there, maybe too many; Sonic, Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Pokemon and Fifa, to name but a few. Of all the game franchises, Mario has been the most successful in terms of sales and I believe this is because of Nintendo’s ability to evolve and take their work in bold new directions.
I heard your reaction even from here: “NINTENDO!? EVOLVE!? BOLD NEW DIRECTIONS?! WHHAAAAHHH?!”
It’s a bit of a controversial statement to suggest that Nintendo are a progressive developer, with all of the negativity surrounding the Wii, from hardcore gamers. People say that the Wii is so far behind, so how can I possibly defend Nintendo as a progressive developer? Well, that’s a discussion for a different article; this is the Mario Galaxy review, so you’ll have to wait for that one.
Nintendo have taken the main Mario game franchise from an up the screen level by level platformer to a linear 2D side-scroller, to a world map based 2D side-scroller, to leading the way for full 3D platformers (3D environments, not popping out the screen 3D), to one of the most creative games ever made; Mario Galaxy.
It was a very bold move when Nintendo took the leap to Mario 64. This kind of move is what allows a franchise to stay alive for as long as Mario; do something really ground breaking, extend the limits of this concept with sequels and then before it becomes stale, come up with a new ground breaking concept. Like Madonna.
Mario Galaxy brought us mind bending gameplay and a universe with very few rules outside of Nintendo’s safe zone. The platforming is so tightly tuned that they can even cope with constantly shifting gravity and level designs that no other game would attempt. Mario Galaxy 2 extends the brave concept to whole new heights and also addresses some of the issues that were found with the first game.
Levels in Mario Galaxy 2 generally consist of 2 types of planets. Some, you are able to move all the way around (such as a sphere) with no worrying about falling to your doom. Also, there are planets that you climb or move across and have to stay on surfaces, or else fall and be sucked into a black hole of doom with thousands of Mario’s past lives. You get between these planets using special stars, which shoot you to another part of the Galaxy, and the perspective and gravity rules are reset. One minute you may be jumping into orbit around a small planetoid of snow and brick and the next moment you may be side scrolling where your movement is restricted to a 2D plane.
A slight warning though; to some this change in perspective and rules of gravity may induce occasional projectile vomit. Once you get used to it, I’m sure you will be fine, but it’s definitely a stomach churner and will put some people off. It’s like when I used to jump off the highest buildings in Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and I would feel my stomach drop and tell me firmly “Stop It! Fool”. The changing gravity and unique feel of the controls is also difficult for some people to get used to and I have friends who are put off the game instantly because they don’t like how the game feels. But please don’t let that put you off, because if you put a little time in you will most likely learn that this is the peak of accuracy in controls.
It’s the continual mix of gameplay that keeps the game fresh and surprising. The variation is taken even further with levels where you may have to ice skate, glide with a bird or use motion control to guide a sphere around planetoids without falling and more. In fact, there are so many different kinds of things to do that it makes almost any other game look like a one trick pony. I was playing Alan Wake recently and I got exceedingly bored by the lack of variation, but I kept questioning myself, thinking maybe I was being too demanding. This is what the game does, why should I ask for more? Mario Galaxy 2 reminds me how a single theme is not enough to make a great game, ideas must be implemented in as many ways as the designers can think of and pushed to the limits of the imagination. If a more serious minded Shigeru Miyamoto had made Alan Wake, it would have been very different.
I love to imagine the design process at Nintendo for this game. I would have loved to be there at the brainstorming meeting where dozens of attendees threw ideas into the pot. Pretty much every one of those ideas got into the game. Somebody said, “Make Mario’s head into a space ship”, so they did. A window cleaner, looking in through an open window shouts “Yoshi eats a blue fruit, gets gas and flies up into the air”, and BANG it’s in the game.
That brings me, not so swiftly, on to Yoshi. He’s a funny little dinosaur with a ferocious appetite and a wicked tongue. Able to swallow up most enemies, jump that little bit higher with a flutter of his legs and run that little bit faster than Mario, he is a great addition to the Galaxy cast. Yoshi also has 3 power-ups; the Dash Pepper, which sends him into a fiery, fast stampede, the gas inducing, blue Blimp Fruit, which sends Yoshi floating into the sky and the yellow Bulb Berry, which irradiates Yoshi making him luminous and revealing hidden surfaces. Yoshi is not under or over used in the game and his presence actually adds a lot.
You can also choose to become Luigi on certain levels, where he will be waiting to tag in at the beginning of a stage. When you complete the “story” you will also be able to change to him between levels. He’s pretty much the same as Mario but he can jump a little higher and he has much less grip on his shoes. It feels a little like he’s always running on ice so he’s a little more difficult to control.
The win button has returned! Like in New Super Mario Bros, after attempting a level and failing (Loser ) too many times, a shadow “Momma” will turn up and offer to do the level for you. I hate it. It reminds me of playing games with my brother. “It’s my turn and I don’t care how many times I die, I don’t need your help!” However, it’s a little ignorant to say the feature shouldn’t be in there as it’s not for people like me; it’s there for the casual gamers and young kids. And you may not think it but it actually really benefits us hardcore gamers, because it allows Nintendo to design a game that isn’t dumbed down, it allows the designers to make the game really hard. And parts of the game will tax even the most experienced Mario gamers.
The repetitiveness of first Mario Galaxy game has pretty much gone completely, with no going back to a modified purple version of the first level. The only place where repetition rears its ugly head is in the Bowser Boss fights. The player is made to kick Bowser’s ass multiple times, of course, and these fights are all exactly the same except a little extension to the formula in the last battle, thankfully. But don’t worry about that because there is so many different things to do and see in this game that it’s a bit of a feeble complaint.
In summary, if you have a Wii, you should have Mario Galaxy and/or Mario Galaxy 2, no matter what kind of a gamer you are. There’s a significant improvement in this sequel, especially in the level variation. There may be one more game out of the Galaxy theme and I look forward to it.
Review Round Up
Graphics: 5/5 – The best on the Wii. It shows how lazy some developers really are. Brilliant design, detailed models and textures, colourful and great lighting make this Mario Galaxy 2 head and shoulders above any other Wii game, graphically.
Sound: 4/5 – A great soundtrack performed by the Mario Galaxy Orchestra. The sounds in Mario are as distinctive and yet as simple as ever. Old school sound effects allow anyone to know you are playing a game without looking.
Gameplay: 5/5 – Mario has platforming down to a tee. There’s so much to do and it’s all ridiculously fun. The difficulty level makes it challenging and rewarding. What else is there to say, it’s Mario.
Longevity: 5/5 – Although it only takes 80 stars to get the princess back, there are 120 stars to get in total and it’s not an easy task. You’ll have to collect all the comet medals to unlock the special comet levels, there’re loads of secret stars and some levels are just good old fashioned hard. You may lose some hair getting those 120 stars.
Overall: 5 Shiny Power Stars out of 5 – One of the best, if not the best game on the Wii. Nintendo have created such a masterpiece that I, again, begin to worry; where do they go next? I can’t imagine a better platformer.
- Joe Finn