Game (Not) Over 03- Super Mario Galaxy 2

RS 03- Super Mario Galaxy 2
Publisher- Nintendo
Developer- Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Platform- Nintendo Wii

In 2007, Nintendo released Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii. Following in the footsteps of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, Mario Galaxy served as a showcase of the console’s capabilities. It impressed critics and fans alike with its stunning graphics, innovative level design, solid use of the motion controls, and a mix of old and new characters. Till date, it is one of the best games out for the Nintendo Wii.

So while in previous generations a sequel to a Mario game never happened, the success of the Wii and a demand for more games for “hardcore” gamers allowed for Nintendo to release Super Mario Galaxy 2.

At first, it was surprising to play a game that in most ways was identical to its predecessor. The story has a similar beginning as the first one, with Mario visiting Princess Peach’s castle to witness the Star Festival. The visit is prematurely interrupted by Bowser who, surprise, kidnaps the princess, and proclaims his need for cake.

Once Mario was catapulted into his very own star-ship he travels to planet after planet, collecting stars until he can move onto the next galaxy.

The game begins to take on its own image with the introduction of Yoshi, with levels designed specifically for use with Mario’s little pet/sidekick. Playing with Yoshi allows the user to approach the planet more offensively. The inclusion of Yoshi also adds a faster pace to some levels, and helps create new planets

Unlike Mario, Yoshi has range in his attacks and it lets the player focus on the platforming elements in the game. It was good to see that Yoshi was not shoehorned into the game just for the sake of it, and does serve as a great complement to Mario.

Luigi’s early introduction in the game sets up the inclusion of speed runs for certain planets, but does little more than give the player a different image to look at for a few minutes in the game. While it was great to see Luigi play a good role in this game, I was hoping for a different style of game play with his introduction.

This could have been done with levels which use to Spring Mushroom, where the lanky figure of one such as Luigi could have created an interesting dynamic in the level. It has historically been a fact that Luigi had the same moves as Mario, but with the constant evolution in technology and audience, it would be a welcome touch.

The supporting cast truly take on a life of their own. You meet different creatures throughout the game, some of whom will join you on Starship Mario and give you tips on certain moves. The Lumas return with the same adorable features that made them so loved in the first game. Even Princess Peach, despite being kidnapped and possibly baking a cake for a gigantic Bowser, helps you out by sending you 1-Up mushrooms.

The different planets in this game range from classic levels out of Mario games past, to returning levels requiring the use of different mushroom power-ups. The design of many of these levels is simply brilliant in its execution and design. Each level has a fair level of difficulty, but gives the player a fair shot at finishing it. As I mentioned before, a lot of the platforming elements are influenced by what sort of power up, or character in the case of Yoshi, a player is using. Some of my personal favourite levels were the ones with a constant flow to the level, forcing the player to move along without and breaks.

Some of the levels did truly seem like they were from the first Mario Galaxy, with a new colour palette, but still worked well. The colours were really vibrant and were in good contrast in each level. It added to the presentation and altered the mood accordingly.

The best part of Super Mario Galaxy 2 was the music. Mario games do not have any sort of voice acting aside of a few cheers and sound effects, so the music was that much more evident. Composed for a symphony orchestra, the music was designed according to the levels. Returning composer Mahito Yokota does a phenomenal job of mixing the music and sound effects to interweave it into the world to create one solid product. The composition of the music during the boss battles created an intense atmosphere, elevating the scale of the game to new heights.

There are a few minor flaws with the game. There were many occasions when the controls were over sensitive, resulting in a death or putting a halt to a speed run. Others could try changing the sensitivity on the Wii Remote, and hopefully it helps them, but the issue was with specific moments in the game and not as a whole.

As with the first Mario Galaxy, when a player restarts the game, their total lives are reset to four. It isn’t a major issue as a player can get at least 3 more lives on Starship Mario, but is an issue when a player is stuck on a certain level without enough lives.

The biggest issue I had was with the overall presentation. The first Mario Galaxy did a great job of introducing the players to new characters like Rosalina and providing her with a back story; a rare inclusion in Mario games. It added a bit of depth to Mario’s universe and allowed the player to take in the world fully. In Super Mario Galaxy 2, the player jumps right into the game, with a few minutes worth of story to work with.

The graphics, despite being spectacular, do not show much of an improvement of the first game. There are better shading effects and the colours stand out a bit more, but otherwise looks virtually identical to the first game.

The decision to focus on the game play alone was made during development. During the process, several figures from Nintendo mentioned this along with and increased level of difficulty. It can be refreshing to just play a game without having to worry about a complex story, the overall presentation is lacking. Even for a Mario game, it leaves the player with questions about some of the plot holes. It also does not have the luxury of showcasing an innovative game for the first time, as its predecessor did, making a few of these issues a bit more glaring.

None of these, however, are issues that break or even hurt the game. One of the most enduring aspects of a great game is its ability to overcome its issues to still deliver a satisfying experience, and there hasn’t been a game more satisfying for me this year than Super Mario Galaxy 2 has. I have yet to collect all the stars in the game, and I will do so some day, but for now the story has reminded me once again, why Mario and his supporting cast have been consistently good for over twenty years.