Super Mario Galaxy is seen by many as the best the Wii has produced since its release back in 2006 delivering a truly well crafted platformer that appealed to long time fans of the franchise as well as those new to the red plumber’s adventures. So it begs the question, how on Earth do you better a game that was so close to being flawless? Simple if you’re Nintendo. You create a sequel that hits perfection. Nintendo have not only demonstrated how creative they are, but how they define and own the platforming genre itself. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is that good.
Mario has taken a stab at many activities over the years; tennis, golf, pinball, football, basketball, go-karting, parties, the list goes on. It’s his real forte (platforming) however that many know him for and Galaxy 2 is perhaps the best adventure yet for so many reasons. The story is kept to a dead minimum with the Princess Peach being kidnapped yet again, Mario taking chase in space and collecting stars along the way. In a nutshell the game is a series of random tasks spread over a good number of different environments that are completed with skilful manoeuvring, good timing, quick reflexes or a mixture of all three. Battling bosses, simply making it from A to B, or completing small mini-games are just some of the fun undertakings you’ll come across in this lengthy thirty odd hour adventure.
As for what the portly plumber can do, the usual assortment of running, jumping and spinning are at your disposal along with a handful of neat power-ups. The first and probably biggest is Yoshi. Every so often the green dinosaur appears in his egg ready to assist you in grabbing the next star. While handling him is fairly similar, he also has a few tricks up his sleeve. He can eat all enemies, run ridiculously fast from eating peppers, inflate and float into the sky, make hidden paths appear and even use his tongue to swing on flower pegs. In Sunshine his presence was pretty pointless and in New Super Mario Bros Wii he never showed up enough, but with Galaxy 2 Nintendo have got it just right. Old power-ups such as the fire flower and bee suit appear too, but thrown into the mix are drills (that allow you to bore into planets), the adorable cloud suit (which lets you produce a series of clouds to stand on when you shake the remote) and the rock mushroom (which turns Mario into a human bowling ball) and each not only make for a great time, but also bring with them amazingly unique and interesting gameplay mechanics. The two player co-op has also been expanded with the second player now being able to collect coins, lives, attack enemies and stop obstacles in their tracks. It’s definitely a step up, but the game still feels like it’s made for a lone player.
The game is split into a little under fifty galaxies (or levels if you prefer) with a small handful of missions to complete in each. In the original, you would find yourself revisiting galaxies up to seven times which could grew a little tiring. However in a nice change here, the stars are spread out a lot better with galaxies either consisting of two or three stars. Whatsmore some levels even have alternate paths to venture with each star mission, so if you’ve played through for example the Sky Station Galaxy the once, then you haven’t seen it all. Bottom line is, the game is much better paced and laid out then the original which is no easy feat considering how much of a blast that was.
Like the original the game also wonderfully blends both 2D and 3D elements together seamlessly. In one of Bowser’s stages you’ll start off navigating lava filled pits before switching to a sideways perspective for a while and then back to 3D again. The galaxies themselves are fairly linear and more often than not only have one solution or path to take much like the 2D adventures. Launch stars shoot you from one area to the next and it’s this focused approach that provides a much faster paced game. There are moments of exploration in certain bigger galaxies, but the rule of thumb here is sticking to a strict path with little side stuff to do which is fine.
The sheer amount of ideas that is thrown into this game is absolutely incredible. One minute you’ll be drilling through planets, the next using clouds to ride through the sky and that is just in the first world alone! Of course it would ruin the surprises in store if I were to mention any more obstacles you’ll face (world three onwards the game really steps it up a gear), but rest assured that the game continues to impress and excite getting better and better the further you progress. It’s also worth noting that it is challenging. One complaint that constantly arose with the original game, was that it was too easy. That isn’t the case here with levels getting increasingly tougher earlier on and some stars taking up countless lives. Amazingly though the game never feels unfair, and if you end up falling to your death, it’s because of you and not the controls or poor level design.
The game borrows the linear 2D map layout of the original Mario titles which may upset some gamers since 3D Mario has always had some sort of hub involved to explore at your will. Remembering back to Galaxy, the original hub didn’t really stand out so well compared to Peach’s castle or even Delfino Plaza due to a lack of secrets. This new map system however is a great addition and allows you to jump right into the action from the get go. It’s nice to be able to access any galaxy you want at a few presses of the button. That isn’t to say though that you can’t just hang around and practice your moves between galaxies though as a small Mario-shaped planet is at your disposal offering extra lives, starbits and characters to talk to if you ever want to just take it easy.
Like New Super Mario Bros Wii features have been implemented to help out the lesser skilled players. Nintendo has done this in three ways this time the first being the DVD that comes packaged with the game. I’m sure it will likely help those new to the series but having it on a disc that can’t be used on the console itself is just awkward. The next feature is TV monitors that appear if you’re having trouble on a certain area. For example if you can’t make it past some tough platforming areas then a monitor pops up showing you how to complete said area. The final (and perhaps most useful) addition is the guide system. Much like New Super Mario Bros Wii the game literally takes over and guides you to the star should you continue to die. The catch? You only get a bronze star and not a gold one. I never really used them as I love the challenge the game offers, but if these help features allow Nintendo to make their games tougher while catering for newcomers at the same time then I say more titles need to include this to help bridge this gap.
And that’s what it comes down to. The game is far more streamlined and tailored for each individual which not only benefits the casual gamer but also the more hardcore. For the casual newcomer everything is made far more accessible, whether it is the world map, super guide or the introductory DVD while the more accustomed gamer can tackle the now tougher challenges that await them and easily jump right into the good stuff without having to wonder around going back and forth. Super Mario Galaxy 2 cuts off the fat and leaves the real meat of the game and that’s great news for all.
I don’t think I need to tell you that the game looks incredible especially for a Wii title. Sure it hasn’t evolved hardly at all since the original, but who cares when that looked so good in the first place. The range of environments is also impressive including the usual deserts, ice stages and grass banks you’d expect while also throwing in some random ones you wouldn’t expect. The music too is outstanding mixing both fully orchestrated melodies with older Mario remixed tunes. Standouts for me included the Sky Station Galaxy or the remixed Super Mario World athletic music played on one of the Yoshi stages. Truly breathtaking.
Normally I’d try to come up with a catchy, clever way of closing my review but with Super Mario Galaxy 2 it seems the best and only way to sum it up is by saying that it’s pretty much perfect and in my opinion the best title we’ve seen this generation. The ideas used could fill fifty games, the polish is dazzling, Yoshi makes his triumphant return and it feels like Nintendo have done everything possible to make gamers happy.
The Wii is now in it’s twilight years and when you take a look back at all it had to offer, Mario Galaxy 2 stands tall as it’s crowning achievement truly delivering an unforgettable adventure for anyone who picked up the controller.