Super Mario Galaxy Reader Review
Maybe some people will remember Super Mario 64 with the same love and affection that I do. Super Mario 64 wasn't just the start of the analog stick, or lay a framework that has been followed, tweaked and perfected over the many years since. No, Mario 64 was altogether more than the sum of its parts - with forgivable but challenging level design, quirky imagination oozing from its every pore, an amazingly tight control mechanism and a heck of a lot to do. Simply put, I think Mario 64 is one of those titles that deserves - no, has earned - it's status as a monolith of the gaming industry.
The first problem Galaxy has isn't that it's competing against Mario 64, but that it follows Super Mario Sunshine, a game that quite frankly made me wonder if Nintendo really still cared about it's flagship mascot. It was pretty, don't get me wrong, but then a lot of Gamecube games were pretty. And a million miles more enjoyable. Thankfully, getting this out of the way - it's definitely more Mario 64. Which is a very good thing.
The concept of Mario Galaxy is as simple as ever. Mario goes to a party by Peach lured by the temptation of cake (It's a lie! A LIE I TELLS YA!). Bowser has found some all-powerful means of kidnapping the hapless Peach (Which I am reliably informed is Peach's job description, and Bowser's), blasting Mario away, and Mario has to go around collecting stars to garner enough power to travel to Bowser, thwack him about a bit and save the dozy Princess. Who once again fails to get the message that Mario will do just about anything for cake (or perhaps Mario wants more. Who knows. Peach would fail to get the hint either way, typical blonde). Whilst I admit this paragraph has spoilers, if you haven't realised this is the standard formula and Nintendo really have a habit of not straying too far from the things that work. Which is perfectly fine because if you're coming into Galaxy for the storytelling you have issues.
No, what Galaxy does, and does best, is in the execution of gameplay. And it's right up there with Mario 64, forgiving for the most and you will get enough stars for the first ending quite easily. Yet at times it is also painfully challenging, but not enough that you could describe them as "impossible". Every single mission, every star you seek, every detail of this game feels lovingly crafted. It really is hard to fault it - yes, some missions and some of the bonus missions are a little bit silly and hard, but generally overall it's above expectation and then some.
Music and graphics are pretty good. The visuals are perfectly okay scaled up, and look perfectly acceptible to my eye, though HD Die-hards will probably dispute this and tell me I'm not telling the truth. Look, to me the visuals are fine. They're never going to be the shiny plastic glossy stuff of the PS3 and 360, but to be fair - it's pretty and the game sucks you in plenty far enough that the slight discrepencies are like finding a few £20 notes in a swimmping pool of £50 notes. Simply - who cares when it's this good?
The real problem I find with Galaxy is the control mechanism. The Wii Remote is a great tool and it handles the game beautifully, waving the hand around to collect the tonnes of Star Bits around the place, and giving some wonderful control quirks like pulling things back to slingshot Mario around empty space. It just doesn't feel quite as natural as, say, Metroid Prime 3 (Please forget I made this reference). It's hard to imagine that this game was built from the start as a Wii game, but feels like it's barely moved on from the control pad feel. It's a small quibble. As is the awkward positioning of the camera mechanism - okay, the camera isn't as terrible in Mario Galaxy as it is in other games of the genre, but sometimes you will want to move it around and I just think it's not quite as good as it could have been.
Small quibbles aside though, the main crux is this: It's not as good as Mario 64. A lot of it, the jokes, the levels, the bosses, we've done them before and the material is beginning to get a little old, even despite it still being brilliant. It seems a bizarre complaint since the game still executes it so amazingly, but aside the obvious uses of the interface and the remarkable gravity system that really never once seemed too strong or too weak to really dent enjoyment, some new material would have been nice to see.
But when all is considered, Galaxy is remarkably good fun to play - in short bursts or for a few hours at a time. The game is totally inoffensive, quirky at times, and yes it treads a lot of already well-trodden ground but it never seems to suffer from that too heavily.
What Galaxy lacks is innovation. Which is a shame since that was the one thing Nintendo have set out to do with the Wii. But for what it lacks, it more than makes up for in being one of the best-designed and most enjoyable games in recent memory. It's never going to have the same impact on the market that Mario 64 had - and yes it has it's issues. But when a game is as polished and as fun as this, you have to be clinically insane to think that really matters.
I still can't give it a .5. So take the Nine below, stick a .5 on the end of it and you'll have my score. Yeah, I'm punishing it for it's little flaws. But 9.5 certainly isn't me saying they're gamebreakers. It's just something worth remembering.
Oh, and Nintendo... more of this please!
9 / 10