Giant Bomb Review

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Super Mario Galaxy 2 Review

5
  • Wii

Super Mario Galaxy 2 sees both Nintendo and Mario himself in top form, delivering an adventure that's as consistently exciting and inventive as ever.


 I imagine this is the photo Mario gets taken at Sears.
If you look at the history of the core Mario games, it's actually rare to see as direct a sequel as Super Mario Galaxy 2, particularly over the past decade. While the game's development history--which saw it start its life as Super Mario Galaxy 1.5--might paint it as an also-ran, the finished product is about as polished and propulsive as any Mario adventure before it. A number of appreciable new gameplay concepts have been introduced here, including that infernal dinosaur Yoshi and a whole new wardrobe of clever suits, and the levels are even more ambitious with the crazy ways in which they play with the relative laws of gravity. So it doesn't have quite the same New Mario smell as the original Galaxy, but there are far worse games to draw favorable comparisons to. Maybe it's been just long enough since the first one came out for my memory to fade, but I still found the style of action as fun and fresh as I did two and a half years ago.

If there's any consistency between most Mario games, it's the jumping-off point, and Galaxy 2 stays true to the rich tradition of Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach and Mario giving chase. This time Mister Mustache teams up with a ragtag crew of lumas, those weird little raw-chicken-shaped star people from the first Galaxy, on a planetoid spaceship that looks like a topiary version of Mario's head. Cruising across the universe in this spaceship--or should I say, faceship--Mario follows a mostly linear, Super-Mario-Bros.-3-style map system from one level to the next. Though there are still star bits, coins, and a few other trinkets to collect and cash in for various power-ups and unlockables, your main concern is collecting stars, which is what throttles your progression from one level to the next. In a structure that can be traced all the way back to Super Mario 64, most levels also feature secret stars and secondary stars for you to go back and collect.

Traditionally, a lot of those bonus stars are optional, but the star requirements in Galaxy 2 are pretty high, and other than the deliberately crazy-hard and brutal bonus world you unlock after you finish the game, I didn't fee like I had left very many stars on the table by the time the credits rolled. I don't think Galaxy 2 is actually that much more difficult than the first, it's just that a lot of the harder stuff ends up being part of the critical path. I definitely engaged in my fair share of one-sided yelling matches with my TV playing the game, but it almost always seemed fair, and there was only one occasion I can recall where I felt like it was the game's fault and not my own. It's tough, but it provides you with more than enough tools to get the job done.

 Suit up!
Personally, as a big-time Super Mario Bros. 3 fan, I love seeing Mario in crazy-ass suits, and this game represents the single largest influx of new suits since then. The fire suit, the bee suit, and the spring suit all return, and the game also introduces a cloud suit that lets Mario conjure up a series of floating platforms; a rock suit that lets him turn into a rolling boulder to smash through enemies and obstacles; and a boo suit that turns him into an officious-looking, mustachioed ghost that can float around and pass right through certain obstacles. The powers they imbue you with are unique, and the game consistently explores their impact on the gameplay in interesting ways.

Galaxy 2 also marks the return of Yoshi. Now, I'm historically not so fond of that cutesy, inexplicably boot-wearing dinosaur, but his abilities make him a smart addition here. Yoshi can gobble up enemies, turning specific types--like those nihilistic Bullet Bills--into deadly projectiles. You'll find special swing points that only Yoshi can use, as well as highly reactive fruit that can turn Yoshi into a leaky balloon, a land-rocket, or a walking lantern. For as many new tricks as Galaxy 2 introduces, I never felt overwhelmed by the options, and the game does some smart handholding, providing entirely optional tutorials whenever a significant new gameplay concept is introduced. It's a touch that helps keep the game accessible to those not already familiar with the odd nuances of the original Galaxy. At the same time, the vast array of abilities you have at your disposal helps keep things feeling fresh throughout. This isn't a short game, and it took me a good thirteen hours to make my way to my final encounter with Bowser, but it was never overly reliant on one specific ability, and I always felt like I was seeing something new.

Much of that credit, though, has to go to the level design, which seem much bolder than before, and more willing to take some weird risks with the planetoids and abstract platforming that set the tone in the original Galaxy. The relative virtues of gravity are far more contentious, levels will fold in on themselves in a way that's reminiscent of what you might get if MC Escher did origami, and there are entire levels that hinge on the rhythmic fluctuations of physical law. Yet these heady concepts are executed so deftly that I never found myself confused or uncertain about that behavior. The only real downside is that some of the gravity play might be too intense for certain players, and if games like Portal trigger your sense of vertigo, you may have some problems staying right-side-up here.

 There are plenty of big, crazy boss fights, too.
The Mario name represents one of the most potent payloads of nostalgia in video games, something that Galaxy 2 certainly taps into, but it does so with a fairly surprising amount of restraint, and in ways that ultimately benefit the finished product. In full throwback fashion, the game will fluidly switch between full 3D movement and pseudo-side-scrolling action as the levels demand it. There are Boo houses, there is a giant world, and there are full-level homages to Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, the latter of which is (arguably) better than anything that was actually in Super Mario Sunshine. 

Of course there's the music, which trades both in remixed classics and some jaunty new tunes. And unlike the first Galaxy, you don't have to collect every last star in order to play as Luigi, who will pop up in random levels and offer to take over for Mario for a little bit. I didn't feel like he changed the action much, but it's fun to see the lesser Mario brother getting some play. If there's one Mario trope that gets revisited here that I could've done without, it's the repeating Bowser encounters, simply because they end up diminishing the game's final encounter. After some of the challenges I had to fight through to get to that point, it felt just a little underwhelming.

For all the meaningful changes and additions that have been made, this is still more Super Mario Galaxy--which is to say that it looks and sounds about as good as a game for the Wii ever has, with consistently inventive level design, and exceptionally responsive gameplay. We all like to give Nintendo a hard time for pandering to casual and nostalgic audiences, but when it brings its A-game, it's still able to deliver a fun, accessible game experience that's second to none.
163 Comments
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Posted by max3000

Looks awesome. Probably getting it.

Posted by Andrela

May get me to play my wii again

Edited by Legend

I knew this game is a masterpiece. Sadly, there is only one review that matters and it's not this one. :P

Posted by JJOR64

2 more days.     :)

Posted by SuperfluousMoniker

Awesome. Can't wait until Sunday...

Posted by Jayzilla

everyone loves it. it must be a classic.

Posted by Hamz

BOOM!....Ryan's starry eyed review hits home that yet again Mario games are still a threat.
 
Great read.

Posted by dbz1995

Great read indeed.

Posted by Nyro

Sweet

Posted by Oni

I never played SMG 1, having bought a Wii a few months ago. Should I skip that and go straight into this?

Posted by get2sammyb

The first Super Mario Galaxy is game of the generation so far for me. Eager to see if this one can top it.

Posted by NoXious

The only review that matters!

Posted by fragilenin
@Oni: 
Get the first one just because it's an awesome Mario game and an awesome game in general.
 
Just wanted to point out that the boo suit is not new to SMG 2, the boo suit is in SMG 1.  Being nit-picky is all.
Posted by supermike6

Great review. 
 
Except, the Boo suit was in the first game too.

Posted by Ammut
@Oni: Play both... Doesn't matter if you play SMG2 first they are both great games.
Posted by Kayrack

SWEEEEEET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by wolf_blitzer85

Whoohoo!

Posted by copycatzen

wish I had a wii
Edited by Trilogy

A reason to dust off the Wii. Can't wait to play it.

Posted by Marz

This week really had alot of blockbuster games.  I figure Super Mario Galaxy 2 will be remembered by the end of the year though.  Just my prediction.

Posted by VoshiNova

Nice review Ryan, gonna pick this one up soon.

Posted by Sweep
5 stars? I am shocked and deeply offended by this controversial review.
Moderator
Posted by KuwabaraTheMan

Man, I'm so pumped for this game. I'm going to have to wait to play it, though, because of money issues.
 
This review just makes it sound all the better. The first Galaxy was one of the best games of all time, and it seems like they've made the whole concept even better.

Posted by RobotHamster

I wish I had my wii.

Posted by CyleMoore

Can't wait for this.

Posted by AlwaysAngry

I can't remember last time Ryan gave something 5 stars...

Posted by McSmunions

yep i'm sure pumped as well, but with RDR and Alan Wake, man i could wait, haha. still gonna pick it up on sunday though...
 
but about yoshi, my first gaming experience was with Super Mario World so me and yoshi go way back. pumped to finally see him in a mario game proper again.

Posted by Willy105

Fantastic.

Posted by Meowayne
@Trilogy said:
" A reason to dust off the Wii. Can't wait to play it. "
No love for Trauma Team and S&P2?
Posted by Milkman

Nintendo fanboys in 3...2.---
 
Oh wait...
 
In all seriousness, I'm stoked for this. The original is still, to me, one of the top 3 games of this generation.

Online
Posted by Peacemaker

Insane week for games, Red Dead, Split/Second, Alan Wake, and now this.  If only I had the money to buy all of them right now.  It's good to space things out though since these releases aren't going to keep up for the whole summer. 

Posted by Keeng

Sounds like you'll like it if you liked Super Mario Galaxy. I didn't so I guess I'll steer clear. I'm happy this doesn't seem to be letting fans down, though.

Posted by jos1ah

That review is an excellent read, Ryan. Thanks for that. 
Side note for the Plebs: I logged onto GB way before I got any text msg alert sayin this review was posted, yet there were already 27 comments.  Now, not that I bother trying for that "first" quest, but this just confirms it shall never be. 
And on a much more crude note for everyone: I'm ready to give this game all 10 inches of my nerd boner. Jus tellin it like it is.

Posted by DukeTogo

I don't doubt that it's a stellar game, I just have no desire to play platformers any more.  After the dozens from the previous era, I just don't feel compelled to jump on platforms again.
 
I don't mind platforming elements in games like Uncharted or others, but a game that's all about platforming just feels like a relic from a bygone time - no matter the quality.

Posted by Rasgueado

Less than 10 pages! Woo hoo!

Edited by Blair

I'll see you on Sunday, Mario Galaxy 2!
 
Thanks for your excellent insight, Ryan.

Posted by monster9999

Great review Ryan,  ill be picking this up Sunday i guess

Posted by glitznglam_style

Glad to see Mario is still alive and kickin' in grand form. He's one that rarely, if ever, disappoints. 
 
Super Mario Galaxy is one of the finest titles this generation. Seeing that Super Mario World is one of my most beloved titles, I can't wait to have Yoshi in Super Mario Galaxy 2. 
 
Platformers still offer the most fun when they bring their A game, and ladies and gentleman, Mario brought that and more. 
 
*waits for Sunday*
Posted by AllanIceman

Wow, when Nintendo brings it's A game. They are still untouchable. I should get a Wii.

Posted by Willy105
@Meowayne said:
" @Trilogy said:
" A reason to dust off the Wii. Can't wait to play it. "
No love for Trauma Team and S&P2? "
Or any other game released in the past 4 years?
Posted by Marzy

I'm bursting with excitement to play it. Looks and sounds fantastic.

Posted by Trilogy
@Meowayne said:
" @Trilogy said:
" A reason to dust off the Wii. Can't wait to play it. "
No love for Trauma Team and S&P2? "
Trauma team looked cool but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I've never seen S&P in action until now when I looked it up on youtube. S&P isn't really what I'm into but it seems like it could be oddly satisfying to play.
Posted by metalsnakezero

Nintendo, you did it again.

Edited by Claude

I bought Red Dead Redemption instead and I call myself a fan of the Wii. I should be ashamed. I'm happy with my decision, Super Mario Galaxy 2 will still be there when I have the funds to play. 
 
I love your Yoshi hate, makes me laugh. Solid review, enjoyed reading it.

Posted by MisterSamMan

Nintendo knows how to make a great game even better a second time.

Edited by TooWalrus

Hey, how about that? I just bout a Wii. TODAY. Like, an hour ago. A black one. I bought NSMBWii, and will probably pick up Galaxy 1 later today., as well as most of the games in my list. This is a great review Ryan, and I'm looking forward to playing it later this week, but I need to make the obligatory "Fuck you Ryan, Super Mario Sunshine was fucking awesome" comment.

Posted by TaccyP

Cant wait for it to arrive at my pad. Great Review.

Posted by Crono

Great review although I don't think anyone is surprised by the results... which is a good thing of course :)

Posted by Djeffers03

Fuckin' Mario! I seriously don't understand why everyone loves these games, I mean the 3d ones are pretty fun and probably the best games on the wii but I just saw the IGN review and they too gave it a perfect score, 10. So over-rated for what the games really are, we aren't in the 1990's... 
 
*nerd rages away. 

Posted by ToadRunner

who cares, the nintendo power review is the only one that matters

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