Nintendo's fat Italian wows us once again.
Ever since the days of the NES, Nintendo’s fat Italian plumber has ruled the platforming genre. Not one iconic figure has ever taken a genre into a stranglehold as much as Mario has done. But for good reason: no one has ever been able to create the same staggering amount of intuitive level designs and clever gameplay mechanics like the Big-N. Guess what? Nintendo has once again blown me away with Super Mario Galaxy 2 as if I never pondered the fact that they could do it again.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is sort of a rarity when you look at the uniform way Nintendo has released Mario games since the days of the Nintendo 64. We’re accustomed to seeing only a single 3D platforming Mario game per system, but the original Galaxy had so much untapped potential that it seems like a given that we’d see Super Mario Galaxy 2 today. And if that wasn’t enough, Nintendo has singlehandedly made one of the most engaging, inventive, and simply incredible platformers they’ve ever made.
I’m not trying to exaggerate the phenomenal level design of Galaxy 2, but it can’t be understated. Every galaxy in Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a portrait of Nintendo’s thinking process; it’s like they put a chalkboard up on the wall and every Nintendo employee wrote down the most absurd levels they could possible think of, then threw them into the game. The result is simply bananas—not that the original Galaxy wasn’t. It’s just that I found myself having a more engaging time that I never felt during my first trip to outer-space in the original Galaxy.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a sequel—it uses the same fundamental engine as the original Galaxy: you collect star bits and shoot them at enemies, you use the exact same precise platforming mechanics, you will still be amazed by the gravity, and it’s all sewn together with gorgeous visual elegance. But Nintendo has done-away with the basic narrative and went with a “you know what to do” sort of mentality. Bowser comes to the Mushroom Kingdom, steals Princess Peach, and you must save her. Even the HUB world is gone and is replaced with a simple-yet-effective world map seen in Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World.
But when you figure out how much attention went into Galaxy 2, you won’t care about anything other than actually playing the game. I never found myself concerned about saving Peach—really, has anyone? Ever? I just wanted to earn more and more stars to ultimately get to next ingenious level. And Nintendo would surprise me every step of the way. I never found myself loathing through a galaxy; I loved every single moment of each and every one. That’s a tough emotion to please with any sort of platformer; everything left me in utter bewilderment.
Nintendo decided to implement other elements into Galaxy 2 that seem almost too basic, like they should’ve been in the original game to begin with. But once you actually figure out that the old power-ups, like the fire flower and Bee/Ghost Mario are all back, you won’t mind. New power-ups include a new Rock Mario that turns him into a heavy-hitting wrecking ball. There’s also a new Cloud Mario that turns Mario into a walking, well, cloud, which can spawn clouds beneath Mario if you shake the Wii remote. But the most appreciative addition is the green skinned, brown shoed licking machine: Yoshi.
Yoshi has a big impact in Galaxy 2’s imaginative level designs: pointing the Wii remote at an enemy and pressing the B trigger will make Yoshi pick up the enemy and devour them. You may even come into contact with bullet bills or spikey-shelled enemies that can be spat back at specific targets, like other enemies. This comes into play with some of the new Yoshi power-ups.
If you eat a blue fruit for example, Yoshi will blimp up into the air like a balloon. This can get you to tall areas that are otherwise unreachable. Yoshi can also eat a red fruit that makes him dash quickly, and a yellow fruit that turns everything invisible around you visible again. This makes for some really clever and fun levels. Some of which I simply played over again because they were so much fun.
Yoshi was surprisingly useful in nearly any situation you find him in. If you point at multiple targets at once Yoshi can devour each of them in a split-second. It made some of the more difficult parts a little easier. But that doesn’t mean Galaxy 2 is an easy game, it’s quite the contrary.
The biggest blemish on what still stands as one of Nintendo best platformers—the original Super Mario Galaxy—was that it was way too easy. This is absolutely not the case with Super Mario Galaxy 2. You won’t have an easy time with some of the more devious level designs. Even some of the beginning Bowser Castle’s could easily cause you some trouble. But I found I was never running out of lives or getting stuck. You find plenty of 1-Ups, and Nintendo has a clever way of putting a 1-Up near every checkpoint to make sure you can keep trying no matter what, and the checkpoints are always in the perfect place.
Nintendo also introduces a video player that lets you see how to get past tough areas. It’s not a hand-holding type of thing, it just shows you the best way to get to the next area without dying. This is incredibly useful for minors or children that just can’t get the hang of everything. It’s a simple instructional video that becomes appreciable when the goings get tough. You can also have a Rosalina-like character lead you through areas if you die too many times. Or, you can out-right ignore it; it’s up to you.
It’s difficult to sum up Super Mario Galaxy 2’s visuals because the game looks extremely similar to its predecessor. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still unbelievable tech on the Wii that is nearly three years old. It easily stands out as the systems best looking game all running at a silky smooth frame rate with barely any hitches. Super Mario Galaxy 2 also features a completely orchestrated score that is some of the best music I’ve heard while playing a video game. Nintendo had me worried a bit when I watched and listened to the first trailer entirely in MIDI. But Nintendo has once again outdone themselves and created a completely phenomenal soundtrack worthy of top 10 all-time consideration—yeah, it’s that damn good.
It’s almost impossible to give an honest review of Super Mario Galaxy 2 without too much one-sidedness, but the game gave me the same feeling of amazement that Super Mario 64 did when I was 7 years old. It gave me the sense of complete astonishment. Not because of the self-aware tributes to past Mario games. Not because of the magnificent amount of detail that went into each and every galaxy. No, it’s because of the incredible blend of remarkable level design, production value, and overall enjoyment that’s all strung together in one of the best packages I’ve simply ever played. And you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. It’s waiting for you, and it’s simply brilliant.