Review by The Nine
"From failing hands, we throw the torch, be yours to lift it high..." - SM64 to Galaxy
We know the deal; The supposed true successor to Mario 64.
Lets ditch the fancy introduction, and get right into what matters.
As stated in many previews, and as shown on video, Galaxy is a spectacular looking game. Though many will have you believe that it's Marios trademark vibrant use of colors that contribute most to the games visual appeal, I believe otherwise. In many ways the game isn't as vibrant as sunshine for example, lending it's look more to suit the space theme of the game - but there are areas that are just as lush and as vibrant as you'd expect. Jaw dropping gardens and beaches are still around, but they're not drenched in sunlight this time. Instead the vibrant look stems more from the color palette itself.
What's really impressive about the game is the instances where you're soaring through space. At times there's so much on screen - distant planets that have been visited are littered across the background in the utmost detail, while Marios current location stands out against the blackness of space and is often bursting with many particle effects that go off like well timed fireworks. And the game NEVER hiccups. Ever. My particular favorite sight is when the planet is backed by a solar horizon that looks like it's taken out of 2001 a space odyssey.
Though planets and exterior levels are beautiful, there's occasionally that dull retro looking room that pops up here and there with nothing more than a brick texture. Usually accessed by warp pipe, these are more secret areas that usually contain a 1up mushroom that can be obtained in less than 20 seconds. These rooms don't look bad, and go along with the retro look, but when compared to the rest of the game they fall on the dull side of things.
Absolutely incredible. Fully orchestrated themes that include reworked tunes and new masterpieces alike. At times the music actually seems to build with what's happening on screen - often going from more subdued during more careful moments to a bursting rousing theme as Mario leaps and soars is way across planets. In one galaxy in particular the music just moves along under the radar for a minute before running into a chilling violin solo that often makes me return just to hear it again. Truly spectacular stuff.
Would love to balance this one out, but there hasn't been a better soundtrack in recent memory. Maybe the menu could have used a better tune...?
Some may call me crazy, but instances of the gameplay feel just as fresh as the first time I booted up Mario 64 years ago. When Galaxy was first shown, the concept of platforming on floating spherical platforms seemed cool, but it's not fully understood until it's tried. The sense of freedom is unreal as you leap from planet to planet knowing that its gravity will draw you in like a magnet. This is where the game shines. I know we were all worried about the lack of bigger levels when the game was first shown and though there are plenty of them, they don't compare to levels that are compromised of small floating masses that can be leaped across or blasted to within seconds and with the utmost of ease.
One thing in particular I enjoy doing are long jumps on smaller planets, and seeing Mario fall off the surface only to orbit around it several times before finding his feet again. It's like the rush that shell surfing gave you in 64, only more exhilarating. In fact the game is packed with gameplay mechanics that lend themselves to that same rush. Shell surfing itself now takes place in water, while on land examples include riding streams of sand and skating across frozen ponds.
The game just throws so much variety at you both in actual mechanics and in level diversity. It all lends itself to the pacing of the game which never seems to falter. It's incredibly addictive, and you'll always want to know what the next galaxy holds before putting the controller down. Another great addition is found in the pointer functionality of the wiimote which is used to shoot tiny star pieces at enemies. In one example you can be riding along a moving platform towards an armada of ships that fire bullet bills towards you as you jump to avoid obstacles while shooting down incoming bullets with the pointer. Really cool stuff that adds another dimension to the platforming.
Another great addition are booster stars, that act as launch pads that propel Mario across levels. They're a blast in larger areas. By simply jumping into one and shaking the wiimote they launch you around cliffs, up walls and through waterfalls to areas that are otherwise inaccessible. It's just a joy to watch Mario fly towards the screen, as the level rotates to reveal its other side. Really cool stuff.
Then there are the bosses that are all very unique, and well balanced. I like the fact that in some cases the game requires you to beat a boss without getting hit in order to obtain your star. It ramps up the difficulty considerably and is optional for those aiming towards a 120 star run. Other optional stuff includes speed runs and levels where enemies do twice the damage, all adding to the diversity and replay value of the title.
Which leads me to difficulty. Unlike other games, this time Mario can only take three hits before dying, which does in turn lead to more lives lost.. However, this is balanced out by 1up mushrooms that can be obtained pretty easily, resulting in more deaths with less game overs. In fact get prepared to lose many lives, but if youre a seasoned Mario veteran, dont expect to see the game over screen all too often if at all the game is very generous with its extra lives. As for the gameplay itself, the meat of the game is rather easy though it does increase nicely as you go along, but there are some stars that can border unforgiving. Which I love.
Very minor gripes.
-the central hub isnt as interesting as Mario 64s castle, or sunshines delfino plaza. It lends itself to the game though, as levels can be accessed very quickly, and its layout is very organized. Still would have liked a tad more here though.
-Very rarely I wanted full control of the camera in instances where it wouldn't center behind me as quickly as Id have liked. More noticeable while shell surfing in water.
-The powerups are all so awesome, but a couple of the best ones are timed forcing you to find another one, or to go back to where you first obtained it. I wish the game had a feature like SMB3 where found items can be stored for later use.
13-15 hours to beat.
18-20+ for 120 stars.
Unlockables and massive replay value
Every once and a while, that rare title comes along that has the ability to paint a smile on your face, no matter what type of gamer you are. Today, we refer to past games that have managed to do this as undeniable classics. Galaxy, in every way shape and form has all the earmarks of a modern masterpiece a future classic that is destined to be a game thatll be referred to for many years to come.
There are some minor gripes that Ive mentioned that would technically go against the notion of giving this game a perfect score. But in the end, I just cant find it in myself to deduct any marks from a game thats just bursting at its seams with so much heart and unsurpassed enjoyment. Its the adrenaline shot that the genre needed, its a throwback for the fans, its accessible to anyone, but most importantly its a stark reminder of WHY WE GAME.
Quite possibly the best in the series.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Super Mario Galaxy (JP, 11/01/07)
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