Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Super Mario Galaxy & Super Mario Galaxy 2: From a castle, to an island, to space?

 He wasn't kidding when he said "Once in a lifetime"...

Mario Jumpman Mario. Appearing (in some form) in over 265 games at time of writing (including ports, remakes, compilations, but not virtual console and cameos), its hard to imagine a console generation without a Mario game, as Colonel Roy Campbell also spoke of: he's an icon that barely anyone in this world wouldn't recognize. 17 on that list were for the Wii, but there are two that people still talk about, still praise. Super Mario Galaxy and its direct sequel: Super Mario Galaxy 2. Regarded as two of the best games for the Nintendo Wii by many, but for me, its time to analyze, to critique them. This is my review of Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2.

I'll start with Super Mario Galaxy first. As for the plot: It was the night of the Star Festival, a once in a lifetime event in the Mushroom Kingdom. The night sky is beautiful, small star shaped crystals are floating to the ground... Bowser kidnaps Peach and her castle... If you were expecting something else, then clearly you've never seen the plot of a Mario game. It's always been "Bowser kidnaps thing, go get thing" and I have to say "thing" now as I'm not sure of the gender of the Sprixies...
No, not those Spritzees
Moving on, Mario is launched into space, meets the Mario universe equivalent of God, the newcomer Rosalina, who tasks Mario with obtaining enough Power Stars and Grand Stars to power the hub of the game, the Comet Observatory, to allow it to travel to the center of the universe so that Mario can save his "special one". To do this, we're running, jumping and platforming through 120 levels... I'm not saying all unique levels but I'll get to that later. Its your run of the mill platformer, where the plot isn't important, it focuses on the gameplay.

And the gameplay is amazing in this... I don't think I'm shocking anyone when I say that. In a Platformer, one of things that can make or break your game is control, it has to be perfect for your game. In Galaxy, you use the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, no other control scheme. A to Jump, B to shoot Starbits, which you can use to either stun enemies or feed inhabitants called Luma's to unlock new planets or even new Galaxies. Z to crouch, D pad to manipulate the camera, Analogue stick to move, point the Wii remote and press A to use special devices and shake the Wii Remote to perform specific tricks like spinning (which can help take down enemies), throwing a fire ball (later), ice skating and more. Wall jumps return, Long jumps return, Ground Pound's back and more. While it may sound complicated, its actually quite natural. Its one of the few times I like the Wii's Motion controls for anything other then Mario Kart or the Wii Sports games (yes I did use the Wii Wheel for Mario Kart Wii). The main gameplay change this time is Gravity. in order to navigate the levels, you have to become accustomed to the games gravity. Basically, if the object is round, you can walk all around it, long jump, triple jump ect and not fall out of its gravity unless you enter the gravity of another object. If the surface is flat, then if you jump off and aren't caught by another object's gravity, you're going to loose a life. If there are arrows pointing in a direction, that's the direction of the gravity in that area. Once you become accustomed to the gravity, the platforming in Galaxy becomes a blast to travel through. Its surprisingly satisfying finding two small planetoids (or Toad ships), Long jumping off one and watching Mario revolve around the two, its one of my favorite things to do in the game.

For a Wii game, Galaxy looks gorgeous, with a beautiful soundtrack to back it. Do the aesthetics look simplistic compared to other games of the generation? Yes, but the art style will mean Galaxy lasts longer then any Call of Duty will. Everything stands out in this art style, which I love. If you have a Wii U, put this in and see just how much of an improvement the Wii U gives the game. Combined with a full orchestra backing it, you feel motivated to complete it. There wasn't a single part of the game that didn't bring a smile to my face in some place, even some of the harder levels like the 100 Purple Coin challenges (Looking at you 8- bit Luigi). As for the soundtrack: I genuinly can't describe it, just click this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKTkDsRMw7Y&list=PLhHcMbVmbwCcD8cx1jtim6yn6WacMDGLI and listen to it for yourself.

Before I go into concluding thoughts, I did say I was reviewing both Galaxy 1 and 2, so...
Super Mario Galaxy 2 started out as a expansion to Galaxy 1, featuring new levels, more stars ect. When the Wii couldn't handle that without needing an extra disc, the developers packaged it as a separate game. So what's the plot? It was the night of the Star Festival, a once in a lifetime event in the Mushroom Kingdom. The night sky is beautiful, small star shaped crystals are floating to the ground... Bowser kidnaps Peach... wait, I'm forgetting something. Giant Bowser kidnaps Peach, my mistake.

As it is a expansion, the core gameplay is exactly the same as Galaxy 1, same controls, most of the powerups return (exception being Ice Flower, which would freeze water and lava, allowing the player to cross so long as the timer doesn't expire), new levels with even more stars to get and, as you may be able to tell from the first photo of Galaxy 2, the return of Yoshi... Who is a glorified power up, not often used unless the level is built around him, but there are special Yoshi only power ups. The Blimp fruit which gives Yoshi the power of flight for a period of time, the Bulb berry which lights up an area around Yoshi for a period of time, allowing to see invisible floors, and my most hated power up in the game. The Dash Pepper. One of the reasons why I like the Boost gameplay in Sonic Unleashed, Colours and Generations is because of the Side step, which makes it so much easier to avoid hazzards while maintaining your speed. Dash Yoshi doesn't have that, and when you have to navigate tight corners, it gets really awkward and really infuriating. Yoshi, I love you, but Sonic you ain't.

While there are several new levels, it does come at a cost. A World map feature is used instead of the domes that Galaxy 1 had, which I don't find as entertaining. I like Hub worlds so long as they're not as bland as Soleana was, and I did enjoy messing around in the Comet Observatory. Starship Mario is much smaller and while there is more to do, it also feels like there's less to do at the same time, though that could be because you'll spend most of the time going in a straight line as you'll want to jump back into the stages. Is either system perfect? No, but I think it could have benefited from a mix of both, domes and a larger hub for people who liked the Observatory, and a World map for people who just want to go from point A-B. Galaxy 2 is also harder then Galaxy 1 is, meaning that if you want more of a challenge, Galaxy 2 is the better game, especially in terms of variety and new content.

BUT I still think that Galaxy 1 is the better of the two, for the experience. As I said at the start, Galaxy 2 is a expansion of Galaxy 1, as such I don't think of it as a game, but DLC sold as a full game, which in this case isn't bad as its another 242 stars to collect, doubling the amount of Galaxy 1. For players who want a challenge, get Galaxy 2, you can now get it on the Wii U eshop. But for people who want the experience, get Galaxy 1 first. Its because of the experience, I'm happy to say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Super Mario Galaxy is the best game I've played from the last generation of consoles, and is up there in my favorite games of all time, even after playing it to review it. Easy? Yes, but it is fun to play through easy games sometimes, just to soak in what it has to offer. One last review to go before its start, come back Friday for a review of something short, the Pikmin short films but before that, come back tomorrow for a new opinion piece. But for now, I leave you with this, widely regarded as one of the best tracks in the Galaxy games.

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