It's an impressive feat when a developer manages to not only best a game, which was truly awe-inspiring, in both concept and execution, but also best a franchise. The follow up to 2007's Super Mario Galaxy is simply that. Every aspect of it concerning level design, graphics, even music is masterfully crafted to the point of perfection. You thought it couldn't get any better? It just has.
Part of what makes Super Mario Galaxy so good, is it's sheer creativity. There is an outstanding variety of level design here, and no idea overstays it's welcome. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but one of the earlier galaxies, has you using the spin attack to turn over hinged platforms, allowing you to progress through the environment. It's a simple concept, but like every idea in the game, is expanded in new ways to make it fresh and more challenging. And believe me, the game does not shy away from challenging you. Some levels manage to test your gaming skills to breaking point, but never to the point of frustration.
Talking about frustration, if you remember back to 2007, completing the Comet challenges was somewhat arduous. The comets would change randomly from galaxy to galaxy, making it frustrating if you wanted to do one specific challenge. This idea has been condensed into one Comet Coin to find in each level, and while this may feel lacking, the challenges have been improved drastically. In particular, the purple coin challenges, previously irritating, unforgiving slogs around levels, are now much more fast paced, and you don't have to collect all of them. If I had one criticism, it would be that these challenges can sometimes feel unbalanced, but it isn't nearly enough to detract from the experience.
I am happy to say the control scheme returns from original Galaxy, and it feels as tight as ever. Triple jumping is still as much fun as it was 15 years ago, which is always a good sign. However it's not perfect. I found that the long jump and backflip can quite easily be confused, and it would be nice if they mapped it to different buttons. Still it doesn't detract much once you get used to it. The camera is also much more intelligent, and captures the action perfectly. There are manual controls but they are rarely needed.
When it comes to presentation and graphics, it delivers on so many levels. There are few cinematic cut scenes, and (spoiler alert) the story is minimalistic, to say the least. But it doesn't need to be. Stories in Mario games tend to rarely challenge the intelligence of those above the age of 3, but this shifts the focus to what the players really want to do: play the game. Its the interface which has been streamlined, combining elements of the map and a hub world, allowing players to leap about in a sandbox, and cut out irritating journeys from the last game. The same intuition extends to introducing new gameplay mechanics, even in the beginning where you start off in a side-scrolling perspective, or when using the super guide, whom can effectively do a level for you at the expense of a tarnished star at the end. Everything is polished and feels very slick.
Like the last galaxy, the graphical element is superb, with a bright palette of colour and fantastic character models and textures. It's bright and colourful, and really makes a change from the greys and browns, which have become increasingly popular. Seriously, you're in for a visual treat here. The sound effects are what you'd expect from a Mario game, but itís the music, which really stands out. Everything is orchestrated, and it all sounds amazing. Let's just say it's the only gaming soundtrack I would actively seek out to listen to.
In conclusion, this is it, the best Mario game to date. This masterpiece of a game is the best sequel since The Empire Strikes Back, and improves upon the original in so many ways. Nintendo really put their heart and soul into to this title, and it's insane polish in all criteria shows this. Want a game that gives you the ultimate, definitive Mario with no compromises? Why are you reading this! Go and pick it up!