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 Gregomasta

Nintendo @ their best is what I'm getting from you Ryan.  Great video review, explained alot of what's going on in SMG 2.  I can't wait to play this at a friends house.

Posted by crusader8463

Dang these Mario games look like fun. Too bad they came so late in the Wii's life cycle that I had already sold off my paper weight by the time they came out. If i had of waited another year or so I would probably have kept it just to play these games when they come out every 2-3 years,

Posted by TheProHero

Picked it up the day after it came out.  Love it just as much as the first SMG.  I heard you can do co-op if you've got an extra wiimote/nunchuck and a friend but I haven't tried it out yet.

Posted by robbob88

Ryan Davis has always been my favorite. Always has awesome reviews :D

Posted by gogobomb
@Oni: you dont 
really need to play the first one first
Edited by Skwidman

 Haha, he says "Projec-tulls" instead of "Projec-tiles". :P

Posted by Cold_Wolven

I do hope SMG2 is better then the first one. It's unlike Nintendo to ever make 2 3d mario platformers for one console so given this fact I do hope Nintendo gave it all they got to make this one even greater then the first. My hopes are high though seeing as this game is getting 10/10 across the board on major sites.
Posted by KingX

nice review!
 
Can't wait to lay my hands upon this game

Posted by Willy105
@crusader8463 said:
" Dang these Mario games look like fun. Too bad they came so late in the Wii's life cycle that I had already sold off my paper weight by the time they came out. If i had of waited another year or so I would probably have kept it just to play these games when they come out every 2-3 years, "
You shouldn't have bought a console for just one franchise. Imagine if someone just bought a 360 to play Halo, or a PS3 to play MGS4. It would have been a waste of money.
Posted by crusader8463
@Willy105 said:
" @crusader8463 said:
" Dang these Mario games look like fun. Too bad they came so late in the Wii's life cycle that I had already sold off my paper weight by the time they came out. If i had of waited another year or so I would probably have kept it just to play these games when they come out every 2-3 years, "
You shouldn't have bought a console for just one franchise. Imagine if someone just bought a 360 to play Halo, or a PS3 to play MGS4. It would have been a waste of money. "
I didn't, the government of Canada bought me a Wii when I got my tax check in the mail a week before the system launched. It was literally just enough to buy the system and a game. I realized this after I had just cashed it, and went to buy a game, when I discovered that the EB games I was standing in was the last place in the city to have a pre-order left and that I was at the head of the line. I figured it must have been a sign and went for it. Two years later and I had not seen a single game worth playing, nor any coming up. So I sold the thing for around a $100-$150 loss, and just spent the rest on a bunch of games for my PC. Like I should have the first time around.
 
I was just saying that if I still had the paper weight their might actually be three or four games out at this point that would have been fun to play. Oh well, hind sight and all that. Maybe when the Wii 2 comes out I will pick one up for $100 and buy the two or three decent games the system has.
Posted by Willy105
@crusader8463 said:
" @Willy105 said:
" @crusader8463 said:
" Dang these Mario games look like fun. Too bad they came so late in the Wii's life cycle that I had already sold off my paper weight by the time they came out. If i had of waited another year or so I would probably have kept it just to play these games when they come out every 2-3 years, "
You shouldn't have bought a console for just one franchise. Imagine if someone just bought a 360 to play Halo, or a PS3 to play MGS4. It would have been a waste of money. "
I didn't, the government of Canada bought me a Wii when I got my tax check in the mail a week before the system launched. It was literally just enough to buy the system and a game. I realized this after I had just cashed it, and went to buy a game, when I discovered that the EB games I was standing in was the last place in the city to have a pre-order left and that I was at the head of the line. I figured it must have been a sign and went for it. Two years later and I had not seen a single game worth playing, nor any coming up. So I sold the thing for around a $100-$150 loss, and just spent the rest on a bunch of games for my PC. Like I should have the first time around.  I was just saying that if I still had the paper weight their might actually be three or four games out at this point that would have been fun to play. Oh well, hind sight and all that. Maybe when the Wii 2 comes out I will pick one up for $100 and buy the two or three decent games the system has. "
Yikes. That must have suck. Reminds me of what happened to me with the first Playstation.
Posted by GameGuy27

I think I might pick this up.

Posted by bethw

Looks fun