Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Super Mario Galaxy

The Mario franchise is by far my favorite of ALL TIME. Mario was the very first video game I ever played at age 5. From then on, I was hooked. Super Mario Galaxy is yet another title that makes me faithful to the franchise. Even though it does contain many starry bits of honey-flavored awesomeness, it is not without its quirks.

Super Mario Galaxy begins very similarly to other Mario games: Princess Peach inviting the plump plumber to the castle after Mushroom Kingdom's creepy Star-worship holiday. Just as Mario is on his way, in comes Bowser to crash the party. It seems that by now, the Lizard King has wisened up and gotten the hook-up with a space ship, which he uses to carry off Peach and her entire castle and jetisons poor Mario into space. Basically, in order to save the Princess, Mario must save Power Stars, which are located in various galaxies around the Universe, protected by race courses, puzzles and Bowser's minions.

Undoubtedly the most noticable quality of this game is the design of the environment. Despite the Wii's lacking graphics as compared with other consoles, Mario Galaxy is designed perfectly to provide a stunning environment and visual feast at every turn. Each planet serves the story and adds a yummy flavor. While gravity is nothing new to the world of video games, Mario Galaxy tweaks Newton's law a bit, giving the oddest shaped planets their own center of gravity, allowing Mario to explore with more freedom and less fear of falling into a bottomless pit (though there are a few exceptions that include freaking huge Black Holes). Along with spiffy gravity tricks and cool planets come the traditional Mario Power-Ups with a few twists. Though I was incredibly disappointed to find that Raccoon Mario was missing yet again, I was more than satisfied with the number of tricks Mario had in store for me. Throughout the game, Nintendo alludes to many previous Mario themes (sadly not Raccoon Mario), which easily delights any fan of this franchise.

I was also very impressed with the simplistic use of the Wii Remote. Unlike so many other laborously repetitive games for the Wii, Mario Galaxy does not demand overly gimmicky use of the remote control. This game serves to remind all that the Wii Remote is a tool. It is not the game itself. While I'm touching on the subject of the Wii Remote, let's mention the co-play function. I doubted this addition at first, but then all those fears were dashed when I actually tried it. Adding in Player 2 makes the life of Mario much easier while providing a bit of relaxed entertainment for P2. Player 2 can collect star bits, just like Player 1, but can also stop most enemies in their tracks, allowing Mario to either kill them or run away (our brave plumber would never flee, would he?).

While the camera angles are quite spectacular and unhindering in most cases, there are just a few spots where I found that the camera just simply did not want to cooperate. This would result in the camera facing a very solid object, leaving Mario to hang out in the shadows. My least favorite part of any mario game is swimming. It takes five minutes just to get your bearings and actually swim in the right direction and then all of a sudden, a camera angle changes and you get to wriggle around for another minute or so to get going in the right direction again, all while running out of air. These are the biggest problems I had playing this game, however after all is said and done, almost anything negative that can be said of this game is pretty nitpicky.

Mario Galaxy definitely deserves a good bit of recognition. It is simple enough for a new gamer (be it a six-year-old or my roommate) to pick up rather quickly, but also manages to provide a good challenge to those familiar with the Mario franchise. Designers also scored some points with me by being able to make this game adorable and awesome at the same time. Kudos, Designers.

I give Super Mario Galaxy a hearty 9.5/10.

Now all we have to worry about is how Nintendo is going to top themselves yet again.

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