Mario returns to space in his magnum opus. Yes, this is his magnum opus.
Well, Shigeru must be stoked. After 25 years, Mario, his most celebrated creation is still the king of video games. In that time, Mario has learnt to fly, traveled through time, survived volcanic mountains, gone on holidays, raced go-karts, and proved himself a capable party animal. But of most importantly, he led the revolution of 3D gaming by pioneering the use of the analogue joystick which is now a standard for not just platformers, but just about every video game on the console market.
Mario's quest for world domination, hasn't gone entirely unchallenged. Since the early 90's he has faced fierce competition from Sonic,the Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon. While these characters boasted a rebellious teenage attitude over Marios shyness, they have never managed to conquer him. Sonic peaked too early and suffocated as Sega lost sight of its goals, while Crash and Spyro are slowly fading away into obscurity, as they continue to make desperate attempts to appeal to mainstream audiences. The answer to their fate lies in the inability of their core gameplay to adapt new concepts. The basic concept of Mario has always been to run, jump and explore. With such basic gameplay serving as the core functions, Mario has an expansive repertoire of ideas available to access.
So, more than 25 years after the famous “dodo do bah do da ” introduced us to the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario has never ceased to amaze, and if Super Mario Galaxy 2 has any indications, he wont for a very long time. And after finishing it I asked myself “Can Nintendo make a game that's better than this?”
Super Mario Galaxy 2 starts with the beginning that we all know. Bowser has kidnapped Peach and its up to Mario to save her. During the kidnapping, a luma falls from the sky and is adopted by Mario.
Mario soon encounters the aid of a group of lumas led by the colourful Loopa. The lumas help Mario by building a starship with a design inspired by of all beings,the man himself.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 retains much of the same game play featured in its predecessor. Mario still jumps across minor planets, just big enough to pull him into orbit. Yes this is following the old “if it aint broke, don't fix it” formula, just don't let that fool you into thinking that this is the same game with new levels. Oh no, this one is the same game gone epic!
There are many significant additions. The most heavily promoted being the inclusion of Yoshi as a companion. Yoshi is able swallow fruits and his reaction varies on the categorization. I now understand that eating chilli could even make Yoshi run at speed that would allow him to out race Captain Falcon, and in the puzzle levels, such speeds are particularly terrifying.
Yes, the puzzle levels have returned, and retain the style of difficulty found in Super Mario Sunshine. One of these levels is a lot more than just a homage to one of Sunshine’s puzzles. Towards the end of the game, there is another surprise. I wont spoil it, but you will recognize it and laugh at Nintendo's ingenuity.
Mario is also joined by Luigi as a playable character which is a first in the 3D adventures (No, Super Mario 64 DS does not count.) Luigi brings all his attributes to table and proves himself a worthy hero, even if he lives in the shadow of his pudgy brother.
Mario adventures as usual, require him to an equip an eclectic range of items. We're not just talking fireflowers here. Mario can transform himself into an iceman who can freeze enemies, (Yep no puns, Batman and Robin haters can stay cool), make himself into a boulder that can destroy all that stands before, and even has the ability to produce clouds to cushion his falls and use as platforms when needed.
Typically, Mario games feature a total of 120 stars to collect. Super Mario Galaxy 2 bats this number out of the park and hands us a whopping 240 stars. If the task sounds daunting to you, don't worry, the games clever design assures us that failure is only caused by error and not bad design. Several of the challenges involve trying to beat a record set by a character who calls himself, The Chimp. As hard as The Chimps challenges are, failing them does not result in punishment.
Instead the game takes us back to the start of the challenge. This eases the frustration and
maximizes the joy of completing the challenge.
The games graphics shows what a powerhouse the Wii can be. Many have argued about the Wii's technical capabilities. But technical power is only useful for producing a realistic art style. Super Mario Galaxy 2 does not aim for realism, its aims for the sky with imaginative cartoon characters who spring to life with deep rich colours. We can only dream what Nintendo will do when they go HD.
As with most Mario games, the soundtrack is beautiful, and carrying on from its predecessor, is also orchestrated which along with voice acting, seems to be an area that Nintendo is keen to explore.
If there's one disappointment I had with this game, it was that it constantly stayed epic. It felt like it was constantly climaxing which left the actual climax feeling a little flat. But the ending does not deviate from the rest of the experience.
The Bottom Line
It's incredible to think, that after all this time Mario is still raising the bar for video games. Can Nintendo make a game that's better than this? I asked that same question when I finished Super Mario Galaxy 1. An absolute must buy for people of all ages. Thank you Mario!