Shortly after the Nintendo Wii launched and I had exhausted Zelda and Wii Sports, my interest in the console had waned tremendously. To demonstrate this, Super Mario Galaxy was the first time I had even turned on my Wii in six months. Coupled with their lackluster games up to that point, as well as a terrible E3 presentation, I had all but given up on ever feeling that the Wii would ever justify its purchase. Well, Super Mario Galaxy came along and changed all that.
It’s fitting that the franchise I grew up playing so many times on the NES, SNES and Nintendo 64 would end up defining the Wii console, much like all the other entries in the series did for their respective consoles. (Well, maybe not Sunshine) Galaxy warps you back to when you were a child, charming you with its simple, imaginative gameplay, amazing level design and tremendous amount of variety—all the while sticking to the core Mario formula that we all know and love.
The story in Galaxy is just like any other Mario game—Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser, and you’ve got to get your girl back. Before you get her, you’ll have to go through a smorgasbord of different galaxies that will present you with different challenges and gameplay mechanics along the way. In one level you’ll be flying around in a bee suit, and the next, you’ll be in a bubble traversing a dangerous molten terrain. (There are tons of more examples, but for time and “spoiler” sake, I’ll leave it at those two) What’s more impressive than the sheer variety of the levels and gameplay mechanics is how intuitive they all are to learn. Rarely is there ever any question as to what you have to do, as somehow Galaxy’s mechanics are easy to understand. If you’re ever stuck or don’t know how to get past an obstacle, the game is there to point you in the right direction.
Each level is broken down into small planetoids that have their own little quirks about them. You hop to each of these different sub-sections of the levels, pouncing on goombas, koopas and all the rest of the familiar Mario foes. Breaking up the levels in this way liberates the game from conventional structure, putting you in situations that you’ve never been in before. Most of those situations involve the game’s loose use of gravity, allowing you walk upside down on top of a wall, or having both a topside and backside to all the planets. Those new situations may come at a price, though, because wrapping your mind around how to actually navigate those areas can be quite difficult. It’s not a fault of the game, but it is an issue. Thankfully it doesn’t crop up too often, and the game is forgiving enough on giving you plenty of time to navigate these areas properly.
Much has been made about Nintendo’s casual appeal, but Mario is the perfect example of a game bridging the divide between “casual” and “hardcore” gamers. You only need 60 stars to beat the game proper, but there are 120 stars in total for you to collect. So, say you might not be as good at Mario as you used to be, or you don’t like a certain galaxy, or one is particularly challenging to you—that’s fine. The game doesn’t force you into having to collect all the stars to move forward. Instead, you have the choice to collect enough to be able to open up new galaxies for you to explore, and there are more than enough for you to do so. Then, for the people that choose to do so, they have the option of going through and collecting all the stars. It is a tremendous idea that eliminates any possibility of frustration within the game; you never have to worry about not being able to complete the game or force yourself through an area you might dislike.
In addition to collecting Stars, you can also collect “star bits” within each of the level. Usually, you’re not going to care about collecting little trinkets in games, but it’s oddly addicting in Galaxy. This is mostly due to how they made collecting them so easy. While roaming the levels, if you point to one of these star bits with your Wii Remote cursor, it is automatically given to you. This is just one of the great (and thankfully, restrained) uses of the Wii Remote in Galaxy. Other motions, for example, will have you flicking your wrist to bust open crates or ice capsules; another will have you positioning where you want to blow a bubble to navigate an area. Leave it to Nintendo to show all the rest of Wii developers how you make motion controls.
Along the way, you’ll have to face off against a number of boss characters, ranging from a lava-octopus creature all the way up to Bowser. Each of the boss encounters aren’t too challenging, relying on simple mechanics, (all of them take three blows until they’re goners) but it’s all fun in the same. Each of the bosses look imposing, but still have that trademark charm that is associated with the franchise.
Graphically, Galaxy is easily the most polished and impressive looking game on the system. It’s obviously not got anything on any of the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 games, but regardless, this is still a well-crafted game just from an artistic standpoint. The colors are vibrant and crisp, with worlds that are well-imagined. Great art design can always cover up some of the technical deficiencies of a system, and Mario is a game that does that. Galaxy also features some top-notch music throughout, using both old and new tunes that will have you humming them as you go about your day. Overall, given what the Wii is capable of, the audio and visual presentation that Galaxy provides is unmatched on the Wii.
You might be one of those people that doubt the Wii as a console for “the casuals”, (you could probably have said that about me, before I played Galaxy) but Nintendo has proved me wrong. You might think that the Wii just “isn’t for you”—I challenge you to play Mario for 15 minutes and not join the throngs of crazy people still lining up for their chance to buy the system. If you are looking for a reason to buy a Nintendo Wii, this is it. Super Mario Galaxy is simply a stunning achievement and should be experienced by anyone that calls themselves a gamer.
Originally Written By: Art Green