Yo, I hear Mario Galaxy 2 is an alright game...
Nintendo’s darling franchise is back, and this time in intergalactic fashion—again. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is essentially a leaner and meaner iteration of its predecessor. Nintendo took every part of the original Mario Galaxy that may have felt like it was slowing the player down, and streamlined it. On top of that, all new gameplay mechanics are thrown into a scary number of ambitiously designed “galaxies”. Collecting power stars has never been this much fun.
Once again, the premise of Mario Galaxy 2 is that Mario has to collect enough power stars to advance to new worlds which each contain around seven galaxies. The terminology can be a bit confusing since each level is called a galaxy, even though there are many “galaxies” contained within a “world”. It doesn’t really make sense but it’s understandable that Nintendo wanted to keep the idea of “worlds” intact since it has been the way almost every previous Mario game has been structured. Nomenclature aside, the goal of the game is to rescue Princess Peach, as to be expected. Right off the bat, things start to break real bad as Bowser does what he does best: Hatch an evil plot that involves kidnapping the princess and ultimately ruling the world—or in this case, the universe. This time Mario doesn’t have to conquer Bowser by himself though. Luigi will show up from time to time seemingly at random to tag in and give Mario a rest. When this happens, you are playing as Luigi. It’s slightly disappointing though as there doesn’t seem to be any real advantage to using Luigi. It’s a nice little extra though for Luigi fans. Mario also employs the help of lumas throughout the game. They give him the tools he needs to complete his mission. Tools such as the all-important spin power, and even a spaceship to travel the universe and explore each unique galaxy.
If there is one common denominator between all Mario games—especially since Mario 64—it’s the absolutely fantastic level design. Every galaxy in Mario Galaxy 2 feels fresh and unique, and with the sheer number of galaxies, that’s no easy feat. The way the game manages perspective, the way the laws of gravity are frequently being rewritten, and the clever thematic elements, all contribute to the feeling of freshness in each galaxy. The way that the music often fits so perfectly also adds to the sense of individuality of each galaxy. Just really top tier level design that’s loads of fun and always engages the player at all times.
Some of the most entertaining and engaging moments come from using the new suits. There are several new suits that each give Mario an interesting power that ultimately needs to be put to use in order to reach those elusive power stars. The Boo suit is one that predictably turns Mario into a Boo, making it possible to float through levels and even briefly turn invisible. The Cloud suit is also new, and it allows Mario to create up to three cloud platforms and reach new heights. Things get a little crazy in the Rock suit, which allows Mario to execute what is essentially the Goron roll maneuver, which is ubiquitous in recent Zelda games. With it, Mario can roll around levels and smash whatever may be standing between Mario and the princess. While not technically a suit, Yoshi is implemented in a pretty big way. Yoshi will show up every few galaxies or so and provide some much needed tongue action as he eats nearly anything without regard. Yoshi is actually able to use a couple exclusive power-ups of his own that allow him to do things like float, run extremely fast, and light up to reveal hidden platforms. Each galaxy is crafted to near perfection to provide copious amounts of challenge, fun, or more commonly both. Even the way Mario travels between galaxies is well designed and is much simpler than the original Mario Galaxy.
Instead of featuring a hub-world in which you run around and jump into different galaxies, things have been streamlined and simplified. After Mario gets a little help from a giant purple, wisecracking luma named “Lubba”, Mario receives a spaceship in the shape of his own head that is able to bring Mario between galaxies with ease. Navigation is reminiscent of the over world system used in Super Mario Bros. 3. In each world, there are paths that lead between galaxies. Some of the paths are blocked until Mario beats a galaxy or deposits enough collected coins or star bits to open up that path. Paths continue to open as power stars are collected and eventually the boss levels at the ends of each world are reached. The system is much more efficient than a hub-world and it lets Mario get into the action with just a point and click of the Wiimote. The Mario head spaceship itself, actually acts as a sort of open world area that can be explored between visits to galaxies. There are always star bits and 1-Ups to collect, as well as some characters to talk to aboard the Mario ship, if you are willing to take some time and explore.
Exploring the diverse environments isn’t a chore either, thanks to the solid controls. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is really good about implementing obstacles that don’t feel impossible to overcome with the tools given, in terms of control. The jumping animations feel great. There are even long and high jumps that fans of Mario should be familiar with, and those are never a problem to execute in a tight situation. There are a couple of pitfalls in the control department that hinder the experience a bit though. The biggest one being camera control. The way the game allows camera control, and then takes that control away in spots, seems clunky. The camera is designed to keep the player looking at the action, which is great most of the time, but is annoying when there are some star bits just off screen that you then can’t collect. So there’re issues with the camera like that, but it does a serviceable job. The other control issue I occasionally ran into was just with the Wiimote’s accelerometers. Some levels require a precisely timed swing of the Wiimote in order to flip panels Mario is jumping to. An unregistered flick, or a single misflick could easily spell Mario’s doom—and it did.
Minor control issues aside, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a very worthy successor to what was already a superb effort back in 2007. It takes the original game and effectively streamlines nearly every aspect, while at the same time dropping two tons of awesome directly onto it. Miyamoto has crafted yet another defining Wii title that definitely should not be missed.