Super Mario Galaxy

Sam Hart

2007-11-14 21:12:39

One of the biggest problems I have with Nintendo is how formulaic most of their first party games can be. Take a look at the Zelda series, it's a fine series with many memorable and excellent titles. However, most Zelda games can be reduced to the same basic formula: Green clad boy works to save the Kingdom of Hyrule and the Princess Zelda from some evil (usually some variation of Ganandorf). Over the course of the game, Link will hit all of the following: a Lava area (usually accompanied by the Goron), a Water area (usually accompanied by the Zora), a Forest area, an area where he will need to use "heavy boots" to avoid being blown or knocked away, and every dungeon will have keys that unlock doors in them. He will also obtain the following weapons and items: One boomerang, one bow, one bomb bag, and tons of crystals. In the end, most Zelda games can become boring simply because once you've played one, you've played them all.

The Mario games also can become formulaic. Sometimes this is a good thing (like "New Super Mario Brothers" for the DS, which perfected the formula so well you can easily look past the lack of new concepts in it), other times it can be a bad thing. However, generally speaking, I'm someone who loves to see new things tried in tired series (like Windwaker in the Zelda series, or Metroid Prime in the Metroid series). Which is part of the reason I love Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii so much.

Super Mario Nights Into Dreams

The first thing you'll likely notice about Super Mario Galaxy if you've ever played Nights for the Sega Saturn is how much Mario Galaxy reminds you of Nights. You've got the same abstract and starry visuals with loopy, gravity-defying levels. This might frighten away the hardcore Mario-ite, but it shouldn't because, underneath this glossy, abstract veneer beats the heart of a Mario puzzle-platformer. You will be running, jumping on enemies, hitting blocks, and leaping from platform to platform as if it were any of the other Mario games. The big mind-shift is the twisting gravity and tiny, bulbous worlds.

This twist on the classic 3D platformer is both revolutionary and nauseating. It's very easy to get disorientated in the fluid 3D worlds and even get a little sick as you run around them. It certainly takes some getting used to as you'll likely spend the first 30 minutes or so of the game trying to make the camera align itself with more sane views. However, soon you'll reach that Zen moment where you just let go and trust that the camera is showing you what you need to see. In all honesty, this semi-wonky camera setup is nearly identical to the classic Mario 64 (in fact, I'd even say the camera in Super Mario Sunshine was better than this one is).

The camera isn't the only thing reminiscent of Mario 64, there are many elements of the N64 classic that you'll find here. For one, the story and level design is more abstract centering around themes rather than trying to make each level fit into some larger area (which is what we saw in Sunshine as every area was some section of the larger Delphino island chain). This means that the game is more wild and bizarre, and more alike to the classic Mario games than Sunshine was.

For another, you have a similar Star-collection-to-unlock-new-areas flow to the game, which again, is different from what we saw in Sunshine. Instead of doors that would open when you obtain a certain number of stars (as you had in Mario 64), here you have new galaxies that become available.

Beyond the Mario 64 similarities, Galaxy will blow you away with the original level design and mind-twisting layouts. Concepts like up and down are very quickly dispensed of and you are immersed in a world where no location is off limits. This takes some getting used to as many of the classic Mario-isms (like, "Don't leap off the platforms you're on unless you can see ledges below") are no longer valid.

But perhaps the most amazing thing about Galaxy is how incredible it looks. Remember, the Wii can only do 480p, and it can't compete as far as resolution and number of polygons on screen with its contemporaries like the 360 and PS3. However, in spite of its shortcomings, Galaxy looks absolutely incredible on the Wii. In fact, it easily looks as good as some of the best offerings on competitor systems. The frame rate is high and the animation is fluid. It's simply a gorgeous game to look at.

In the end, I highly recommend this game. Sure, the gravity-defying gameplay may make you sick after a while, and the resolution doesn't quite do the game justice, but these are minor nitpicks when you realize just how original and revolutionary this title is in spite of how formulaic most first party Nintendo games are.

If you own a Wii, you must own this game. If you don't own a Wii, then this may very well be the first true killer app for the system.