- Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Platform: Wii
- Release Date: 12 November 2007
- MSRP: $19.99
Not much needs to be said about the Mario franchise. His legacy is solidified in the annals of gaming history. The Italian plumber is iconic and has been in some of the best games ever made. The concept for Super Mario Galaxy can be traced back to Super Mario 128, a tech demo of the GameCube shown at Nintendo Space World 2000. Shigeru Miyamoto and Yoshiaki Koizumi wanted to make a Mario game with gravity and spherical platforms as a major component. This was the first major release for Mario on the Wii. Mario Galaxy went on to be a commercial and critical success. Super Mario Galaxy has been held in high regard by critics for its creative take on the Mario series. Initially, I was blown away by this game when it came out. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a Wii. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm quickly waned as my attitude towards the Wii soured. The Wii felt weird to play. It went against my gaming instincts and sensibilities. The Wiimote and nunchuck just felt unnatural. My Wii began to gather dust until Super Smash Bros Brawl came out. Galaxy had been sitting on my shelf since 2008. I want to go back and give this game a fair shot. Let’s see if this game is as good as many say it is or if my initial impressions were spot on. Here we go!
Super Mario Galaxy begins in similar style to Super Mario 64. Peach has sent Mario an invitation to the Star Festival to watch a comet fly by. Clearly, Mario thinks he’s getting laid as he airplanes around the castle town. There are Toads everywhere, including some carrying spears (so intimidating). As Mario arrives, Bowser and his fleet of airships appear and proceed to bomb the shit out of the town and castle, no doubt killing many toads. He lifts the castle off the ground. The toads guarding Peach are cowering in fear behind her while she holds a star pillow. No wonder she keeps getting kidnapped. Mario is running to get to the princess and makes it to the castle, but is blown away by a magic koopa. Bowser flies off into space and Mario falls to his death. Bowser now crowns himself ruler of the entire universe.
Actually, Mario falls and lands on a dwarf planet. Bowser seems threatening for once. He ain’t fucking around this time. We now go back to our hero. Mario awakens from his slumber and finds several creatures around him. These adorable little creatures are called Lumas. I really want one as a plushy. They just look so huggable. The Lumas tell Mario that their “Mama” needs help. This is where Rosalina is introduced to the Mario franchise. She explains that Lumas grow up to be planets and galaxies. She also tells you that Bowser has stolen the stars that power her ship and that she knows the location of your “special one.” Once Mario gathers enough power stars, Rosalina will fly to Bowser’s location. It’s up to Mario to stop Bowser from conquering the universe and save Princess Peach.
It’s the usual Mario story but on a much grander scale. I feel like the stakes are much higher, not just saving the princess or the Mushroom Kingdom, but the entire universe. Like most Mario games, the story is secondary. Just there to have an excuse for a game. This works fine for this game. While the story is minimal, you can still feel a sense of urgency. I believe that platformers should try to keep the story simple and not prevalent throughout the whole game.
Rosalina’s backstory is told over the course of the game. These are told by Rosalina as she reads from a book. It’s as she is reading you a bedtime story. Her story is rather melancholic. Rosalina’s backstory adds a surprising amount of emotional depth to a Mario game.
Super Mario Galaxy is in the same vein of Mario 64 and Sunshine. Gather the stars and defeat Bowser. There are 120 stars in total. To fight Bowser, you must get 6 Grand Stars. These Grand Stars power Rosalina’s ship. You get these stars by defeating the final boss of each group of galaxies. The amount of creativity put into these levels are incredible. The spherical platforms and gravity allow the designers to go all out. I found myself admiring the amount variety of platforming challenges.
For the most part, the game isn’t too difficult. It has moments of difficulty spikes. These were usually levels that required the use of motion controls. Levels like rolling a ball and having fans blow Mario around. And the one I hate the most, flinging yourself from sticky web to sticky web. Be a fraction off target and you get sucked into a black hole. I died about 30 times before finally getting the star. The boss fights were better than previous games. The bosses were less repetitive than Mario Sunshine. Difficulty comes from the fact that Mario’s health has been lowered from 8 to 3. There is a mushroom that gives Mario 6 hit points, usually found before boss battles. Unlike previous games, you respawn at certain points if you have enough lives. One ups are somewhat common. Some may find this makes the game too easy. I would not agree with this. I still died a lot in the difficult parts of the game. It saves time that would otherwise be wasted getting back to the same spot. Taking the frustration out of the game is always a good thing.
Along with the main levels, there are “prankster comets” that appear from time to time. These are special stars that have different objectives based on the color. Speedy comets (red) require the player to speedrun previously beaten levels. Dare devil comets (black) give Mario 1 hit point and all coins and 1 ups have been removed, going against previously beaten bosses. Cosmic comets (blue) mean a race against Shadow Mario. Fast foe comet (yellow) speeds up enemies and obstacles in the stage. Purple comets are only available after Bowser has been defeated. Mario must collect 100 purple coins, sometimes with a time limit. Each galaxy has 1 of the previously mentioned comets along with the purple one.
The main collectable in this game is star bits. Every 50 collected gives a 1-up. The star bits can be grabbed by using the wiimote to point at them. I found myself getting distracted by collecting them and taking damage or dying. That’s my problem though. The star bits are to be given to “Hungry” Lumas. They form into new galaxies.
Galaxy controls very well for a Wii game. It uses the Wiimote with nunchuck. This setup may turn off some players. It did for me in my younger (and less wise) days. The controls may take some getting used to. Mario can do his usual jumps he is famous for. No punching or kicking like in Mario 64. The long jump makes its long awaited return. New to Mario Galaxy is jumping and doing a spin to get some extra air. This is performed by shaking the Wiimote. This jump saved me from certain death on a multitude of occasions. The wall jump is better than it’s ever been. It works exactly how it was supposed to. Wall jumping didn’t always work in previous entries, especially in Super Mario 64. The game implements some motions controls. These are somewhat minimal. Since it’s the Wii, motion controls need to be shoehorned in. I found these to be rather underwhelming. Ray surfing and ball rolling levels were really frustrating. Movement was based on how you tilt the Wiimote. I ended up overcompensating trying to turn away from the edge. When I wanted to go left I would go too far left and vice versa. Luckily, these levels were a small part of the game.
This game is just fun to play. It’s less frustrating then Mario 64 and Sunshine. Galaxy is much more linear than previous 3D Mario games. The linearity is both a good and bad thing. You are given much less freedom to explore. Mario Galaxy is one of the most creative games Nintendo has ever produced.
Considering this is a Wii game, Mario Galaxy looks absolutely stunning. Look at some of the garbage that has been released on the Wii. The Wii was a nesting ground for shovelware and shitty motion control games. This makes Mario Galaxy even more of a visual marvel. Miyamoto once again is able to overcome technical limitations and make a visually stunning game. The space setting allows for some truly breathtaking visuals. The designs of the levels are really diverse and pleasing to the eye. Each galaxy is full of color and detail. This helps make Galaxy an atmospheric experience.
The music is spectacular. Galaxy perhaps has the best soundtrack in the history of Mario. That is no small feat. Not only is this one of the best Mario soundtracks, but one of the best in any videogame. The music is composed by legendary videogame composer Koji Kondo (Mario and Zelda fame). Kondo really outdoes himself this time. He always wanted to use a fully orchestrated soundtrack. Technical and time limitations prevented this from happening in previous entries. The orchestral soundtrack fits so well with the space setting. Galaxy is a more atmospheric game than previous Mario games and the soundtrack just adds to it. The score is filled with memorable tracks, the kind I want to purchase. The very first galaxy you visit has the best song in the entire game. It sounds epic and full of yearning. Tears of joyous wonder begin to stream down my face every time I hear it. Mario Galaxy has some of the best music Nintendo has ever produced.
Mario Galaxy is easily one of the best games on the Wii. The stakes and scale are bigger than any previous Mario game. Creative level design and emphasis on gravity make Galaxy a unique gaming experience. It controls really well for the Wii and looks stunning. It’s a real shame that Nintendo never released this game in HD. The music is mind blowingly good. I can see why this is only 3D Mario game to get a direct sequel. So much can be done with this style of game. My younger self was completely wrong about Galaxy. A must have for anyone who owns a Wii/Wii U.