-Challenging, fun, and clever level design.
-Far and away the best-looking Wii game.
-Clever ways to help new players without dumbing down the experience for veterans
-No more contrived missions
-Absolutely beautiful largely-orchestrated music
-Pointer and motion controls are great…
-…but the waggle is not great
-Not enough Rosalina!
-Peach needs to die
Nintendo is a funny beast these days. They’ve quickly forgotten their days of cutting edge software and technology to ride the success of the Wii, 9 year old hardware that they claim is still a showcase of modern technology. They hype and showcase games like Wii Music which turn out to be mind-numbingly shallow, and use E3 to reveal anti-gaming devices like the Wii Vitality Sensor. Still, when it comes to their 3D Mario franchise, they have been nothing but consistent and even excellent. The series has become more reliable than their previous shining gem franchise, Zelda. Mario 64 set the standard for 3D platforming, and Mario Sunshine followed suit with tighter controls, better camera, and better graphics, if not slightly worse level design. Then came the Galaxy series. Ironically when Nintendo seems to be most ignoring the fanbase that made them, they’re creating some of the absolute strongest games they’ve ever made in Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2. So much so that one almost forgets they’re not in HD. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is absolutely the best 3D Mario game, and the best game that Nintendo has released since Ocarina of Time.
This is all that Mario Galaxy 2 is, and so Nintendo nails it. Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi all control so tightly, yet very distinctly. Mario makes quick stops and intuitive acrobatic moves, Luigi skids around while running faster and jumping higher, and Yoshi flutter-jumps with – thankfully – less of that constipation noise while doing so.
The brilliance of the gameplay in this game is how carefully Nintendo implemented difficulty levels without the need for a difficulty setting. If you’re new to games and don’t have 14 years of controlling a 3D Mario under your belt, you can use – otherwise easily ignorable – “hint TVs” that are scattered around the levels. If you still suck really bad, ghost Rosalina will offer you the “win button” and you can just watch Mario get the star by himself. You’ll be marked for being a n00b, however, as you’ll get a bronze star instead of a gold one if you use this cop-out. The reason why all this is good is because it eliminated the need for Nintendo to dumb down the levels or the challenge of the more difficult missions. That’s not all, either. It’s easy to get to the end credits of the game without collecting the comet coin available in every level or discovering the secret stars some levels have to offer. If you do take the extra time – and challenge – however, the reward is far from small. Super Mario Galaxy 2 piles on the options and additional gameplay to an even greater extent than the impressive original.
But forgetting that this game essentially has 240 different stars to collect, the main 120 missions don’t hold back, and it’s extremely satisfying for a veteran gamer. To gain perspective of the additional challenge present in the sequel, let me provide an example: Anybody who played the original Galaxy knows of missions that would require you to collect 100 purple coins within a time limit while platforms disappeared permanently as you stepped on them. Well in Galaxy 2, you have a similar mission, but with the added challenge of shadow Marios – that do damage if they bump into you – chasing you, mimicking your every move. Therefore, if you slow down or retrace your steps, you’re as good as dead.
So the game rewards you with more gameplay the more you play, and challenges you more than ever before, but it somehow doesn’t stop there. It’s also incredibly varied. Whereas the past three games are plagued with varying degrees of dud-missions, Super Mario Galaxy 2 instead decided to make more levels with fewer missions. The result is essentially never getting sick of a level, and every mission feeling fresh. It is extremely surprising and just as impressive how much Nintendo managed to pack into this title
I could go on and on about the gameplay, talking about the new – great – suits, and the new – better – overworld, but I think you all get my point. This is one of the tightest, most fun experiences you can find in a video game. Even the motion-only levels work as Nintendo is well aware of the limitations and doesn’t try to do anything that the Wiimote can’t. However, that doesn’t mean that the waggle attached to the spin move is excusable. The spin move in the Galaxy series is a fantastic addition to Mario’s moveset, but the execution is not. Although the waggle is as precise as anybody could make it, the fact is that it can still be accidentally triggered if I scratch my nose and that a button press would be more precise in tight situations. Maybe the Wiimote doesn’t have enough buttons, but that doesn’t mean the waggle motion to spin is any less stupid.
This is Mario. You save the annoying bitch, Peach from the hilarious idiot, Bowser. If Rosalina kills off Peach, then I’ll care about the story.
No, it’s not in HD, but that’s a fault of the system and not the game itself. Like the original Galaxy before it, Super Mario Galaxy 2 looks beautiful. It’s one of the rare cases that shows that the Wii is more powerful than the Gamecube, and it shows it in style. The game is colourful and varied, with great animations and more interesting backdrops than the original. The game might be cartoony, but there’s something epic about the art style too. Lots of swirling star systems in the background, massive waterfalls, and exploding volcanoes, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the best looking Wii game. It may not have the resolution of the HD systems, but it’s more of a joy to look at than most games, regardless.
Annoying shadow bitches...
Because Galaxy 2 has no story to speak of, it has to draw the player into the world with graphics and music. Luckily the game sounds just as beautiful as it looks. Not everything is orchestrated, but a lot of it is, and the tracks are even more inspired than the original. There is Hollywood-worthy cues mixed with fun-loving throwbacks. Even the MIDI-style stuff works because of the nature of Mario. This series is leaps and bounds ahead of Zelda in terms of production and personality, and the soundtrack is just more proof of that. The sound effects are just as fun and appropriate as the original, but – like mentioned earlier – it’s nice to hear Yoshi’s return absent of constipation noises.
Forget everything you know about the current state and philosophies of Nintendo. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a lavishly produced, all-out production and it’s crammed-packed with top-notch controls and the best level-design available. Some people may still get a little seasick from Mario’s topsy-turvy antics, but a better camera and tight controls obliterated that problem for me. There’s so much to find and enjoy for players of absolutely any level, and even after playing through almost the entirety of both games, I still want more. This is the sole reason to own a Wii. The cut-scenes are still cringe-worthy, and I got annoyed with an unnecessary scene every time I played as Luigi, but the issues are so incredibly minor that I feel weird even mentioning them. Highly recommended.