Saturday, August 9, 2008

Super Mario Galaxy: Captured Again?

When Nintendo birthed the Mario franchise two decades ago they had no idea what was in store. Not only has Mario served as an effective mascot, but he's proven he's good at so many different things! Unfortunately, our Italian friend has been so busy "exploring his boundaries" that he's forgotten who he is. All us poor gamers haven't seen a Mario platformer since Super Mario Sunshine, and we all know that game pales in comparison to Super Mario 64. And the most versatile plumber in the 'verse is back in full force with Super Mario Galaxy.

Our story opens in the Mushroom Kingdom during the celebration of the Star Festival. This centennial event is cause for wild parties and everyone is living it up. Amidst all the joy and revelry Bowser appears and kidnaps Princess Peach (surprise), castle and all. Mario gives chase, but is quickly thrown into the harsh blackness of space, presumably left to drift forever.

As luck would have it though (he abounds in luck), Mario lands on a passing space station, where he is befriended by Rosalina and her children, the Luma. The Luma are small star children, and it is Rosalina's charge to take care of them until they are grown up and ready to become full-fledged stars. Honestly, if Mario were a smart man, the game would have ended right here. Rosalina is far more self-reliant than Peach will ever be. Of course, you can't just fly off and take down Bowser, the space station is broken, and only the strength of the power stars can fix it. How typical. Can’t anyone keep up their stuff these days?

Of course, in order for Mario to track down the missing little sparklers he's going to have to trek far and wide, this time all the way across the great cosmos (Star Trek theme anyone?). You can access new levels by traveling to various observatories on the space station and using them to view galaxies you want to explore. Once you've selected a galaxy and our hero touches down on a planet, you'll quickly find that most levels are composed not of one large planet, but several small ones, connected by a series of "star launchers." It is one of the most inventive level designs in recent memory, and the folks at Nintendo should be commended for stepping out on a limb to try something new.

Obviously Mario isn't the only one cavorting about these worlds, and baddies will constantly beset you in order to ruin your day. So, Mario's brought all his traditional jumps and stomps with him to battle, and he's added a nifty spin move and a projectile attack as well. Occasionally, Mario will don a costume that grants him special powers. It works pretty good usually.

I say "usually" because there are times when the game tries to mix things up and throw in some "unique" mechanics. On a few missions, the game tries to utilize the Wii's motion sensors by requiring you to tilt the remote in order to control movement. While there's nothing inherently wrong with this control scheme, the levels in which it is implemented are some of the game's most difficult, leading to many deaths and very high blood pressure.

Soon after firing up the game it becomes very apparent that a lot of work went into the presentation. The galaxies you'll explore are all very vibrant and colorful, and the characters and environments are all exceptionally well-rendered. It's often been said that due to the Wii's lack of hardware it will never be able to produce eye-popping graphics, but you wouldn't know it to play Galaxy.

Also, Mario has found his voice.

Unfortunately, his voice is grating and stereotypical, and the worst part of the game by far is firing it up and hearing the famous plumber yell "SUPER MARIO GALAXY!!!!" I think the reason Mario and Peach have not yet wed is because they fear the kids will have her propensity for being kidnapped and his awful voice. The merciful thing to do (for us more than him) would be to return Mario to being the strong, silent type. Please.


alex-ness said...

If my wife Beth or son Jonathan read this I am going to have to buy Wii, so THANKS A LOT! (That is sarcasm of course, a great review that will lead me to paying out 300 dollars for a game system we do not yet have ... hmmph)

Brynna said...

The system is especially worth it: I'll be reviewing some more games for it later on, so you'll only have to buy the best.

And the system only costs 250 :D. Better than some out there.

Derek Handley said...

I actually played this! It's unusual for me to be able to say anything about a game, because I don't own a platform and rarely play. I never had the co-ordination...
Anyway, great review. I really agree with all of your points. The game makes great use of the Wii's unique features, although as you said, there are times when the game play becomes infuriating!