Super Mario Galaxy represents one of the biggest problems in running a gaming website. In order to write a review, you have to stop playing the game. While Nintendo released Super Mario Galaxy to the Wii on November 12, and I was one of the first online to get it, I’m just now getting around to writing this article.
Originally, I was cynical. My first experience with Super Mario Galaxy was at a demo Kiosk, in a local retail store. I wasn’t terribly impressed. Mario was running in directions that seemed unnatural. I wasn’t planning on picking up the game, but the hype started to get to me. One doesn’t trek to Nintendo World at midnight, only to leave empty handed.
When I started the game up, “Super Mario Galaxy” echoed through my TV. America’s favorite plumber, with his stereotypical Italian Accent, was in my control. I began to wonder if I wanted to help him… AGAIN! The game hit me with a kiddish feel. Perhaps I’m getting too old for the franchise. Maybe I should be spending my time finding my own girlfriend, rather than rescuing Princess Peach… AGAIN!
Despite my cynicism, the game quickly won me over. The trick is to start from the beginning. The first few “Galaxies” or levels are actually well disguised tutorials. The initial area felt more like a roll-playing game. You can “talk” to the mushroom people. Balloon text will appear on the screen. They also make a cute sound when you jump on their heads. It’s something of a guilty pleasure, giving the mushroom people a bonk.
Princess Peach and her adorable kingdom is quickly usurped by Bowser. The intro cinematic is pretty traumatic. Is Nintendo trying to give little kids nightmares? Bowser is actually scary this time around. For Mario veterans, the storyline is within standard operating procedure. Bowser kidnaps Peach and you have to go rescue her. Mario uses star power to fly from galaxy to galaxy, in search of his special one. Mario meets a new character – Rosalina. She’s the surrogate mother to the Lumas, adorable star-like beings. They’re Mario’s friends on this mission.
At first, I found the 360° orbit-running to be confusing. Super Mario Galaxy takes an unusual perspective on gravity. It’s like playing in an M. C. Escher painting. It might a little difficult to adapt to a new dimension of game play, but it’s exciting once you get used to it. The level design has a good mix overall, with some traditional maps and some bizarre gravity maps. Hopefully you won’t get too dizzy. The ingenious approach to level design gives Super Mario Galaxy a unique feeling. It’s not just a Super Mario 64 clone.
There are some downsides with the new maps. The camera controls are weak, as there many places where you simply cannot change the camera angle. The game just makes a buzzing sound. The limited control over player perspective hurts the feeling of immersion. Also, there is a slight feeling of repetition. While there are 120 stars to collect, it’s mainly running the same galaxies many times over. As for the game controls, it’s similar to playing Super Mario 64. The Wiimote is mainly used to collect star bits and to spin attack enemies. The movement not revolutionary, but it is comfortable. A two-player mode was added, but it’s not as cool as it sounds. The second player merely assists, primarily in the collection of star bits. This is good if you have a younger sibling. They can pretend that they’re helping and you get to play virtually unimpeded.