Super Mario Galaxy 2 has been bringing on the surprises this year for me. First was the announcement that it would be released 6 months earlier than anybody expected, then was the fact that I would be able to play it for a lucky short time yesterday afternoon. The demo was closely guarded to make sure no secrets would get out, but I was able to play three levels, hear about two others, and also take a look at the unique blend of old and new hubworlds.
This is more Super Mario Galaxy. It’s the first time a 3D Mario game has had a direct sequel on the same console, and even the Nintendo rep admitted that it is largely more of the same. This, of course, is no surprise and not really a downer either because all I wanted at the end of Galaxy was more Galaxy, and that’s more than I can say for 64 or Sunshine. Also, while I didn’t play them, the names “Haunty Halls Galaxy” and “Honeybloom Galaxy” were released to me, and that spells Boo Mario and Bee Mario to me. Fun stuff, yes, but new Mario games are exciting for the new power ups. Still, the worlds look to have the same creative, and varied design as last time, although the environments seem to be more detailed and the backgrounds more interesting. The Galaxy games are truly the best Wii games will ever look. We played Sin and Punishment 2 for a short time after Galaxy 2 and it was like we changed systems even though the former isn’t a bad looking game. SMG2 is obviously in SD, but it’s one of the few games that really don’t make me feel like it’s missing much graphically.
The world map. This has been exposed on other sites, but it’s still a surprise to me. It appears to be a bizarre hybrid of the typical 3D hub worlds introduced in Super Mario 64 and the classic style hubs exemplified in New Super Mario Bros Wii. You can run around on a giant grassy Mario face that has a steering wheel on it – yes, it’s also a spaceship – which takes you to a Super Mario World-style overworld that actually feels a bit like the original Kingdom Hearts. I say that because there seems to be more going on than just the typical New Super Mario Bros progression. The Nintendo rep told me that this decision was made to make the organization of the galaxies more clear, but it seems more convoluted to me if anything. They also wanted to make sure I saw that Mario was able to leave the giant grassy Mario spaceship head, although they wouldn’t let me see to where, so there’s a possibility that there will be multiple spaceships. We’ll see. I was also surprised to see that the difficulty appeared to be ramped up. I know Miyamoto mentioned it, but I wasn’t going to believe it until I saw it. Finally, things really seem to just be more streamlined in this sequel. I guess this came as a surprise because Nintendo isn’t typically good at improving things since it would imply that their earlier formula was wrong. Still, there are now Lumas that accept coins instead of star bits (finally a solid use for collecting coins), skating makes a return but no longer requires ice Mario, and just a general feeling that Nintendo had fun making a 3D Mario sequel for once.
Yoshi. I’m only hesitant about my childhood favourite character because of how terrible he was in Mario Sunshine. He added nothing to the game and controlled awkwardly. Still, that seems to be remedied in Galaxy 2, and there are cool speed sections that only Yoshi can partake in that are challenging and fun. The pointer controls also help Yoshi feel more natural as the dinosaur’s tongue is controlled with the reticule. Also, I didn’t see any sign of Rosalina, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, or Baby Bowser, and the Nintendo rep wouldn’t say a word when I asked (nor when I asked about Star Fox Wii, Pikmin 3, or any E3 tidbits. I’m trying for you, readers!). I really only care about the first two on that list of missing characters, because Rosalina’s awesome, and I loved the Luigi stuff in the first Galaxy. The missions with him were great, and then playing through the adventure again and actually having him control differently was sweet. I really hope that makes a return. There will also be the return of a semi-multiplayer mode and although I was told it would be modified from the original in some ways, I wasn’t enlightened by details (and yes, I asked for those too).
Anyway, big thanks to Nintendo of Canada for the great event, and I’m definitely incredibly excited for this game. In fact, I haven’t been this excited for a Wii game since the original Galaxy. May 23rd, people. Crap, now I want to play the original.
Oh, and my Sunshine list is coming, so hold your horses. I’m having an off week.