Game Review: Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo Wii)

Nintendo’s most anticipated game of the year, Super Mario Galaxy, has finally arrived in stores. Does it live up to the enormous hype surrounding it? Read on and find out.

Does it live up to the hype? In a word, Yes. Super Mario Galaxy is good. In fact, Super Mario Galaxy is Very Good. To be perfectly honest, Super Mario Galaxy in one of the most satisfying game playing experiences I have had all year. Super Mario Galaxy feels familiar as soon as you start playing and, after a few levels, the new moves added to take advantage of the Wiimote’s unique controls feel like a natural part of the experience and quickly become second nature. Nintendo has done an incredible job of translating, augmenting and adding to Mario’s repertoire of moves. In doing so, they have kept the motions necessary to perform the moves simple and the moves themselves spectacular. The basic controls are fairly simple. Mario moves via the Nunchuk’s Ananlog Stick. You press the A Button on the Wiimote to jump. Pressing the Nunchuk’s Z Button after jumping performs Mario’s Ground Pound. Pressing Z then A performs a back flip. The new moves added fit into the control scheme very well. In particular, Mario’s new spin move, accomplished by shaking the Wiimote, is a move that I hope will appear in future entries in the series. The move is versatile, with a variety of applications, and looks great.

The story is exactly what should be expected for Mario’s first Wii outing. The story is introduced via an incredible cut-scene that is rendered by the game engine, after which you immediately take control of Mario. Of course, as expected, Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach again, but this time, he has done so in grander fashion than ever before. His fleet of airships arrives, accompanied by flying saucers, and he proceeds to lift the Princess’ castle into outer space. Mario manages to make it to the castle as the entire structure is lifted into outer space, but a Magikoopa keeping guard spots him and casts a spell that sets Mario adrift in space. He awakens on a planetoid, and after a short bunny chasing tutorial, featuring the return of Mips from Super Mario 64, you will have been introduced to new gravity system the game incorporates. You will also meet the new character Rosalina and her companions, star beings called Luma. You are given, in addition to your spin move, the ability to use Launch Stars, which allow you to break gravity and rocket between planets. This is accomplished by shaking the Wiimote when you are near them. You will find that your spin move is used most often to stun enemies after which you can either stomp on them, to earn a coin to replenish lost health, or run up and kick them off the planetoid. Kicking an enemy that is stunned releases star bits. These bits are the currency of the realm in the game and will be used for a variety of purposes, from buying power-ups to unlocking hidden stars and new galaxies by feeding different amounts of them to hungry Luma. Star bits are found all over the levels and are picked up by either walking into them or using the Wiimote to pick them up by running an onscreen cursor over them. Once you find your first star, you are introduced to the “hub world” of Mario Galaxy, Rosalina’s spaceship, the Cosmic Observatory. It seems that Bowser has stolen the stars that power the ship, and so much of it is in darkness, the ultimate goal is to visit the different galaxies accessible from the different domes on the Cosmic Observatory and recover enough stars for Rosalina to fly the Cosmic Observatory to the center of the Universe for the Final Showdown with Bowser. There are two types of stars, Regular and Grand. Regular stars open up new galaxies, Grand stars open up new domes by restoring power to the Observatory.

It takes 60 stars to unlock the final showdown with Bowser, but there are 120 total stars to be found in the game. Some of these will be found with the help of Mario’s brother, Luigi. You will have to rescue Luigi at one point in the game, and after doing so, he will locate new stars in galaxies you have previously visited. There is a very cool reward for those that beat the game with all 120 stars, one the coolest Nintendo has ever come up with. I’m not going to tell you what it is, but you should definitely make an effort to achieve it.

Yet, though Mario has got plenty of offensive moves, sometimes the situation calls for more than his standard stomp and kick. In those cases he turns to power-ups. There are several in this game, some old, most new. With the new Bee Mushroom, he becomes Bee Mario, capable of flying short distances and sticking to honeycombs. Picking up the new Boo Mushroom turns him into Boo Mario, capable of disappearing and walking through walls. Making it’s debut in a 3-D Mario game, the Fire Flower returns! The power-up, as anyone who has played a Mario game will tell you, gives Mario the ability to shoot fireballs. In Galaxy, however, it is a timed power-up whose effects wear off. The fireballs look great and seem more destructive then ever. Of course, the logical counterpart to the Fire Flower is the new Ice Flower. This power-up allows Mario to walk across water of solid temporary ice platforms. It also allows him to freeze waterfalls. Finally, the new Spring Mushroom transforms Mario into Spring Mario, which gives an amazing vaulting ability. Each one of these abilities will be utilized at some point.

Level design and variety is one of the hallmarks of the Mario series and this game continues that pedigree. The levels are as varied and spectacular as ever, with each new galaxy a chance for the developers to show what they and the Wii can really do. Some of the highlights include the Honeyhive Kingdom, where Mario first dons the Bee Suit, the Loopdeloop Galaxy, where you surf on the back of Manta Rays using the Wiimote to steer, the Sweet Sweet Galaxy, where the entire level is made out of candy and cake and the Rolling Green Galaxy, where Mario must ride a ball with a star inside through a level designed to mimic a golf course. That’s just 4, there’s over 30 more! The best part about this game is that it eases you in. You will collect at least the first 10 stars with little or no difficulty, and even when it gets difficult or frustrating, it is so much fun to play, you will not notice. There aren’t many games I can say that about.

The graphics are incredible. This is the best looking game in the series and the best looking game on Wii right now without question. Mario, Peach, Bowser and all the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom have never looked better. The colors are sharp and vibrant and each level is a visual feast. One of the standout graphical effects in this game is the water. It looks so clear and well textured that I was in awe when I first saw it. The sound is also incredible with familiar Mario sounds and music re-imagined and supplemented by new music that perfectly fits. Mario’s familiar vocal clips are here as well as voice for Peach and Bowser.

Mario has finally made to the Wii after a long development cycle, but it was absolutely worth the wait. This is the best game I have played recently and one of the best I have played all year. The familiar and the new blend together to create something truly magical. I take my hat off to Shigeru Miyamoto, who has proved that again he is a true master of game design. I highly recommend that everyone who has a Wii buy this game. This is the game that really shows what the Wii can do. Mario is back in a big way. This game receives my highest recommendation.

Super Mario Galaxy scores a 5 out of 5.