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 2.
Shigeru Miyamoto is widely considered one of, if not the most important name in video gaming. For the better part of the last thirty years, Miyamoto-san has provided nothing but brilliance in everything he has touched (minus Wii Music, and to an extent, Super Mario Sunshine). He’s a mind in the world of gaming, with a flair for creativity and an imagination that transcends the minds of hundreds of development teams put together. Simply put — what Shigeru Miyamoto touches, turns to pure gold. More or less.
From the weaker titles, such as Super Mario Sunshine, to the across the board success stories such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Shigeru Miyamoto’s titles always grab front page headlines on websites and print publications around the world. Whenever there is a new Zelda or Mario title announced, or any title in which Miyamoto-san has a part in, gamers salivate for months on end, waiting with baited breath in order to play through what will most likely be a masterpiece. Super Mario Galaxy was one of those hotly anticipated video games that received across the board critical acclaim, not only becoming the single reason to own a Nintendo Wii, but perhaps also the greatest 3D platformer title, as well as arguably the best Mario title ever. These are all nearly impossible odds to surmount, but leave it to the mad genius of Shigeru Miyamoto to find ways of doing so. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is here, and it may be something bigger than just a success over its predecessor.
The one thing that needs to be addressed immediately is the audio. Gaming has advanced and evolved from scrolling text and endless walls of dialog on screen, to more of a vocally focused medium. Final Fantasy for instance, went from a narrative driven solely based on text dialog, to a title with nearly no form of dialog driven through on screen text (Final Fantasy XIII). While the later impedes on the enjoyment of those hard of hearing (it’s always nice to strike a perfect balance between having a dominant presence of text AND vocal performances to please both sides), it really hurts a long standing franchise to forgo any sort of vocal performances past “Dear Mario” and “MARIO!” With the genius behind the helm of these Mario titles, there’s no way a sub-par vocal performance would slip by. Hell, you can have Mario and the gang speak exclusively in Japanese during the opening and closing narratives, and this would add an important, and overdue layer of immersion into the franchise. It’s almost a slap in the face of gamers that have grown up with such cherished icons, and yet have never heard them speak more than one full sentence outside the Super Mario Bros. Super Show or that abhorrent Super Mario Bros. live action movie.
Now that we got that out of the way, the rest of the audio package stays close to the tunes found in the previous installment, with very subtle tweaks here and there. However, the brand new tracks added into Galaxy 2 are the same whimsical, deeply captivating pieces the series has been known for. Just sitting idle on Mario’s floating head starship, listening to the medley playing, with the sounds of seagulls and other residents of the ship, you’ll be blown away with the immense quality and likability of these tunes and the accompanying effects. You have your staple effects from the numerous Mario titles of the past sprinkled throughout, which years later, have yet to come close to growing stale. It’s an absolutely brilliant audio performance, which makes it hard to understand why Nintendo could not parlay a vocal performance to go side by side with the rest of this near immaculate package.
Not much has changed with what you see on screen during gameplay. You’re still surrounded by a rich, colorful galaxy around you, with detail abound. The differences in looks is more subtle than a night and day change, although the areas you visit feel even more fleshed out and to the brim with activity and life. You encounter some sub bosses that you’ll remember from the first game, with mild tweaks to them, so that they don’t look or feel like it’s the same battle again. The animation throughout remains just about perfect, with absolutely no hints of slowdown anywhere, which is an amazing feat on its own, as there can be a lot of activity on screen at any given moment. Nintendo did an amazing job with the lighting as well, illuminating things that you’d expect, but wouldn’t think they’d bother incorporating. Standing next to a Luma will show a light reflection upon Mario. It’s a minor thing, but these little bits really piece together into a larger, more profound impression in the end.
The controls feel a slight bit more refined than Super Mario Galaxy, with a C button that is competent enough to sway the camera directly behind you, no matter the direction you currently face. Everything else feels like there’s just a hint of tweaking for the better. Nothing drastically changed to what was present before. There are minor issues however, which will be reflected upon a little later in this review.
While Super Mario Galaxy 2 has a flimsy storyline that actually comes off as inferior to the first game (of course Princess Peach gets kidnapped in the middle of the whole ordeal), your goal is still to collect stars that are scattered across the galaxy. Most of the linear path stages have at least two stars you can obtain, with special hidden stages that you’ll unlock, unveiling usually a single star. One big deviance from the formula is the fact that you now have double the number of stars you can obtain in total. 240, up from the 120 we’ve been used to for years now. What this means is that there’s a ton more content you can take on, which means nothing but positive things for the player.
Some of the gimmicks you’ll find in Galaxy 2 actually add more depth to each area you visit. The drill top in particular, is basically a drill you can hold over your head. Shaking your Wiimote allows you to dig through the dirt grounded area and pop out either the other side, or somewhere in the middle of the planet formation, where you’ll need to collect certain items, and so on. You’ll even be required to use this drilling mechanic to defeat a mini boss. It seems like such an elementary addition, but for the stages you’re able to use the drill top in, you’ll find a surprising amount of depth added because of this gimmick.
You’ll have your themed stages aplenty in Galaxy 2, with a handful more that take place in a 2D plane, whether it be a complete stage, or a pipe entry that transforms the perspective from a 3D plane to a 2D one, with 3D characters and items sprinkled around. Your stereotypical fire, water and ice areas will make an appearance as well, offering similar, or slightly altered experiences. You’ll even run into the gravity altered stages in which you can hit a switch, bringing the gravity to a 180 and enabling you to walk along the ceilings as if you were still on the bare ground beneath you (or does that turn into “above you”?) You encounter so much diversity in how each stage looks and plays that you’ll never grow tired of visiting, or even revisiting any and every stage you come across. Super Mario Galaxy had a similar feel to it, however Super Mario Galaxy 2 feels flat out more impressive.
One of the biggest additions comes in the form of a familiar name and face — Yoshi. While sorely missing for quite some time, Galaxy 2 brings Yoshi back into the control of the player. As with Mario, his controls are top notch, with no hitches to be found. While riding Yoshi, you will be restricted from firing star bits at enemies, which really isn’t missed all that much to be honest. Instead, you will direct your cursor towards enemies, press the B button and Yoshi will whip his tongue out and devour said enemy whole, producing star bits for you to collect. Some enemies cannot be consumed, such as Spines, which are heaved from a Lakitu. They can, however, be flicked with his tongue and forced into a ball, in which Yoshi can place into his mouth and fire like a projectile. There are also Yoshi context sensitive contraptions in which you can use his tongue to latch onto and then jump off of, reaching a previously unattainable area. As with the drill top, Yoshi adds a layer of depth to the solid Galaxy formula, and ends up stealing the show anytime you venture into a stage that features Yoshi. Unfortunately, they are not as plentiful as one would hope for.
There are a small number of new power ups that Mario will come across throughout Galaxy 2. By far the most versatile is Cloud Mario. Picking up a….cloud flower….enables you to transform into Cloud Mario and grant you the ability to produce three separate cloud platforms for you to jump on, granting you access to areas that are just a bit too high or far for a regular jump. Shaking your Wiimote at the appropriate time will unleash a platform underneath your feet. The only drawback to this powers comes with the inability to produce more platforms unless you pick up another cloud flower to replenish your cloud platform count. The powers its self does lead to higher altitudes and areas in that particular stage that were previously unattainable without the cloud suit. Definitely doesn’t feel as gimmicky as say, Bee Mario. nor do you look as ridiculous when you don the Cloud Mario outfit.
Obtaining a rock mushroom will turn you into Rock Mario, granting you a stone hat and overalls, as well as the ability to turn yourself into a human wrecking ball by shaking our Wiimote. You can plow through your enemies while rolling, with enough control over the roll to prevent most unnecessary falls off the side of a planet or formation. The mass and power of your rolls will even allow you to break some stone formations to reveal star bits, break a barricade that’s erected around the play area to keep you from falling out, or even to knock down standing bridges in order to access more of the stage ahead of you. While Rock Mario doesn’t feel as useless or tacked in as Spring Mario or situational as Bee Mario, it’s the weakest of the new elements to Super Mario Galaxy 2. It does add another method of doling out damage to your adversaries and destroying environmental pieces around you, but it’s nothing so spectacular that it benefits the game in every way possible.
Mario isn’t the only character that can utilize power ups to their advantage, as Yoshi will gain some powers and bonuses as well. Dash Yoshi gains blazing fast run speeds after consuming a red dash pepper, enabling you to run up previously inaccessible incline areas. Other powers include a blimp fruit that turns Yoshi into Blimp Yoshi, an inflated blue companion that is thrusted slowly upward by air spewing from his mouth. Finally the Bulb Berry will unveil Bulb Yoshi, shining a light source from him/her/it and revealing previously unseen platforms you can traverse through. Again, like most of Mario’s powers throughout the last two games, they tend to be situational, but they add quality to the overall production, and changes up what would be a standard platforming segment.
There are a couple of aspects to Super Mario Galaxy 2 that could have been, and should have been tweaked or removed completely. The main one being the gimmicky motion controlled segments of the game. You’ll encounter a few stages in which your Wiimote becomes the sole controller of choice to get through the area. This meas basically means you’ll have to hold the Wiimote in a certain position, and twist your wrist in certain directions in order to get through the stage you’re in. While the motion controls are far and away better than most of the shovelware gimmick titles released on the Wii, they feel a touch out of place in Mario’s galaxy. Contrary to popular belief, these motion controlled stages do not hamper your overall enjoyment, nor are the mechanics so deplorable that they are a source of critical scrutiny. With all of the elements already added into the game, as well as 2D portions mixed into the 3D title, omitting something like this gimmick-laced additive would have only strengthened an already rock solid package.
Then you have the issue that has plagued the last several Mario titles — the wealth of extra lives. Within the first two stages, you can acquire nearly fifteen lives banked away. Sure, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is far and away a more complex and thoroughly difficult (but fair) game when compared to the previous installment, but having an overabundance of extra lives at your disposal, with nearly zero effort in obtaining them, once again kills the risk versus reward aspects. Why take it slow and easy when you can burn through ten lives in one section and barely dent your reserves? Why not experiment with different methods of clearing a certain checkpoint area when there’s a 1up mushroom you can pick up before each death? You will be dying a lot more than the first game, but you won’t be in a panicked state since you’ll be set at any given point. Quitting the game for the day and returning will deplete your 1up count back to the default count of three, however you’ll be rolling in those green mushrooms without even realizing it.
Finally, you’ll be experiencing quite a bit of deja vu throughout Galaxy 2. Booting up the game, you’ll immediately feel like you accidentally placed in the first title into your Nintendo Wii. There’s nothing groundbreaking whatsoever. What you’ll find is a refinement of an establish formula, that could have benefited from a few minor tweaks, which Galaxy 2 does. You’ll encounter plenty of sub bosses, mid bosses and stage bosses that you encountered previously with the most subtle alterations. Normally this would lead to panning, for it may seem like there’s no innovation or improvements added in, however Super Mario Galaxy was basically the new watermark for all 3D platform titles to reach. With Super Mario Galaxy 2 feeling as close to the first as it does, but with a more expansive world, and a handful of additions to add depth in various stages, you really can’t be upset, nor hold it against Nintendo. The are giving fans of Galaxy exactly what they wanted — more Galaxy without compromising a single thing.
When man created the wheel, we didn’t try and outright change the shape or aspects of this wheel; it rolled along and served its purpose by propelling its vehicle forward. We might have tweaked things here and there to help the wheel roll along better, but it served its purpose — it helped to get us to where we needed. Nintendo’s wheel was Super Mario Galaxy. It helped drive the vehicle of success to places that most other video games only aspire to visit. Instead of adding in mostly unnecessary additions to the wheel, Nintendo just reinforced it, tweaking it enough to drive them to success once more. Nintendo has outdone themselves once again, and produced a video game with such charm, warmth and incentives to enjoy Super Mario Galaxy 2, and keep you coming back for years to come. It’s an extremely rare occurance to experience a game that’s as thoroughly memorable, gratifying and successful as Galaxy 2 is. For Mario fans of the past and present, your future will see you playing and enjoying Super Mario Galaxy 2 for as long as Super Mario Bros. 3 has done for you up to this point.
Who Won The Battle of….
Visuals: Super Mario Galaxy 2
While the differences are subtle, the worlds you’ll visit feel even more fleshed out than the first game, offering stages with more to explore, while still delivering similar bite sized areas, all of which look phenomenal. While they are both the best looking Wii games by far, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and its more diverse looks edges out its predecessor.
Audio: Super Mario Galaxy 2
They both share the same line up of sound effects, but the tunes that are slightly remixed from the first title, as well as the brand new pieces added in help tilt the scales towards Galaxy 2’s favor. Some of the tunes you’ll hear a remix of will catch you off-guard, placing a huge smile on your face and unearthing fond memories of your times with that game.
While Super Mario Galaxy 2 doesn’t feel like an evolutionary step and feels more like an expansion of the first game (which, thanks to Super Mario Galaxy being phenomenal across the board, is not a bad thing), there’s no clear cut winner. They both have their hits and misses, and end up being immensely satisfying. It’s a win/win situation for the gamer.
Replay Value: TIE
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a larger, longer game, but both the first and second titles hold an immense amount of replay value. There’s so much to see and do, with the thrill and excitement of it all thrusting you back time after time, even if it’s just to replay stages that have been 100% cleared. Not to mention the overall appeal of a Mario title spans generations, as well as towards those that only stick to certain genres that have nothing to do with platforming.
Super Mario Galaxy Rating: 9.6
….And Your Winner For This Comparison Series Is….
Super Mario Galaxy 2 Rating: 9.7
You really can’t be perplexed with the fact that Nintendo manages to have a near consistent record of stellar titles with each release. While it’s time that we all experience a transition from a predominance of text based narratives to a vocal performance (it can be restricted to just the opening section if needed), that still doesn’t manage to hold down either title from being two of the greatest ever during this generation, as well as gaming as a whole. While the power up additions were mostly situational, and somewhat silly at that, the gameplay, the worlds you entered and galaxy at your disposal remains some of the most engaging in gaming as a whole. You cannot go wrong with either title, and you cannot gain anything other than happiness and lasting memories if you purchase both titles. Nintendo has once again proven that no matter how much shovelware and gimmick based titles flood their Wii unit, you’re guaranteed first party titles that more than warrant the price of admission. If you’re one of the eighty people out there without a Nintendo Wii, here are your incentives to finally taking the plunge. If you already have a Nintendo Wii, I implore you to add Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 to your collection. They are the embodiment of what gaming should be — good times, lasting memories and smiles on your faces when you think about them.