Mario. He’s single most recognizable multimedia figure out there. Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber got nothin’ on this Italian plumber from Brooklyn. He’s such an iconic figure that even Mickey Mouse trails behind our mushroom eating pal in terms of recognition. With the exception of Super Mario Sunshine, every single Super Mario console release has been a success from top to bottom, from the ingenious imagination provided by the illustrious world of Super Mario Bros. 3, right on through to one half of the focus of this Comparison Series, Super Mario Galaxy. With the release of Super Mario Galaxy 2, we’re going to take a look at both Super Mario Galaxy, as well as Super Mario Galaxy 2 in this edition of the Comparison Series. As always, on the final day of the Comparison Series, a winner will be selected for Visuals, Audio, Gameplay and Replay Value, as well as the scores for each title, with an overall winner selected.
Today’s game will be Super Mario Galaxy.
If there was a single omission from my Top 25 of This Decade list at the end of last year, that I truly wish wasn’t omitted, it was Super Mario Galaxy. Although I wanted to only include one title from an iconic series of games within each genre in that list, it was physically hurting me that I didn’t decide to put Galaxy on the list. While New Super Mario Bros. was the true to form return of Mario in the 2D plane, Super Mario Galaxy was an encompassment of the Mario franchise in the third dimension. Galaxy also meshed together several key elements from the franchise as a whole, and crafted one of the single greatest 3D platform titles ever.
The universal appeal and recognition of the audio bits provided by the series as a whole does not disappoint with Galaxy. With some revised tracks and some charming new ones, the tradition of a stellar and memorable list of songs continues. The Mario franchise manages to some how capture the essence of your journey and perfectly capture every single moment, from retrieving a Star, right on through to the Game Over screen. The opening pieces are absolutely amazing, providing some of the best tunes this generation. The overly charming score never becomes too whimsical, but engrosses you so deeply into the adventure that you can feel the galaxy Mario is traversing through, all around you. While the evolution of the sound effects are not as apparent (coins, pipe entrances, etc all sound reminiscent of the pipe-loads of other Mario titles), they always fit the environment they are in, with no real need to shake things up.
With the big hook of the Nintendo Wii revolving around motion controls, there were some concerns as to how traditional franchises would transfer over to a brand new way of moving. Thankfully, Nintendo did not push these motion controls on us in a manner that would disrespect not only gamers looking to enjoy the latest masterpiece by Nintendo, but the franchise as a whole. You still control Mario with your analog stick, though the act of travel isn’t as simple as going from left to right.
In Galaxy, you’ll essentially be traveling 360 degrees, depending on the formation you are walking on. If its a spherical piece, you will run completely around said piece, witnessing Mario walking upside down when on the bottom. This can prove to be quite disorienting for a while, though after enough playtime is invested, it’ll feel a bit more natural to you. This also means that your view will sometimes shift to some really peculiar positions. Unfortunately for you, when you really need to reposition the camera to your liking, you’ll encounter some snags. The game does its best to keep things within a reasonable perspective, trying to eliminate any micro management with camera work. When you do need to manage the camera, it is a bit of a chore. Probably the only real thing going against Galaxy, other than the new power-ups.
Understandably so, there are certain power-ups for certain stages, though these new ones are pretty silly. Bee Mario enables you to “fly” and “hover” for a short period of time, as well as cling to clearly established blocks. The “power” its self is mediocre, and really doesn’t broaden anything to the Super Mario Bros. universe. Same can be said about Boo Mario, which is the ghostly “boo” figure of Mario, which enables you to pass through certain blockades you’ll encounter in certain stages. Again, a situational power-up that doesn’t expand the gameplay much as a whole. The one positive addition though, comes in the form of a new flower Mario can nab. Ice Mario is a temporary power-up that enables you to literally ice skate across bodies of water, thanks to the inherit ability to freeze sections of water below your feet. Once again, it’s situational, however it does feel like a cohesive power, as well as hold just enough use to make it worthwhile.
The real star in this galaxy of Super Mario is shared between the gorgeous visual direction, as well as the gratifying gameplay. Although there are camera issues here and there, the Mario formula transfers over so well, especially with he full 360 degrees around various bit of each stage. Many have compared Galaxy’s gameplay to that of the watermark of the series, Super Mario Bros. 3. Both featured bite sized stages, creative and imaginative worlds, as well as the cohesive feeling to it all. Thanks to the stage layouts, level designs and artistic direction, as well as little things, such as the return of the Koopa Kids, Galaxy feels like the natural evolution of Super Mario Bros. 3, which is now of the biggest compliments a 3D platform title could ever receive. Each stage, from the smallest formation, to the largest cluster, is filled to the brim with a charm and life like never seen previously.
As mentioned several times previously, the visual design and artistic direction help convey the world that Mario inhabits, in a way that’s never been seen before. The most minute details are noticeable, from the fuzz on the bee up top, to the texture work throughout each level. There are never any animation snags, as everything always comes across with a rock-steady frame rate. Shadows, character models, everything about Super Mario Galaxy is nothing but pleasant viewing. Easily the best looking Wii title to date, and decisively more impressive than some of the 360 and PS3 titles that have come out so far.
Other than manual camera work and mostly uninspiring power-ups, the only other problem with Super Mario Galaxy is the combination of its difficulty level, as well as the extra lives present. Simply put, it’s way too lenient with extra lives. You can literally wave around your Wiimote and gain extra lives with zero effort. This puts trial and error on the back-burner, as everything turns into a trial, with the errors not even registering as a blemish. Even if the wealth of extra lives were sent to the poor house, you’re never really pushed to your limits at any point. Camera manipulation is the only thing that will get you to sweat. Although the game does tip the scales towards the harder difficulty at the end, it doesn’t make up for the mostly challenge-lacking trek through this galaxy.
What does make up for the lack of difficulty and abundance of extra lives is a video game that challenges you in a whole other manner. The challenge to put the Wiimote and Nunchuk down for the day is one that will almost always see you go down in defeat. Super Mario Galaxy is the purest form of magic, infused into a DVD. Whatever shortcomings you’ll encounter will quickly be pushed aside, thanks to the production quality across the board. This is a trip to another world that you’ll never forget, and never wish would end. In fact, starting a new game after some time away from Galaxy, it feels even more impressionable, artistic and gripping than the first time through. For those that complain about the direction of the Nintendo Wii, all the shovelware flooding in and the gimmicky feeling of the motion controls, Super Mario Galaxy negates every single one of those complaints, and dares you to go on a journey you’ll never forget.
Check back here tomorrow as we’ll be taking a look at the final review in this Comparison Series, Super Mario Galaxy 2, as well as who won in the Visual, Audio, Gameplay and Replay Value aspects, as well as the overall score for each game.