Review: Super Mario Galaxy

 To the stars and beyond!

Console: Nintendo Wii

When I did my review of Super Mario 3D All-Stars, I made it clear that it a review on the collection itself, not an in-depth review of each game in the collection. Well, with said collection now delisted by Nintendo I finally got a review on one of the games in the collection ready. Timing!

Super Mario Galaxy was is the only game in the collection that I already owned. I bought the original Wii version that over a year ago, but never got around to which is why I chose to start with it. So with that out of the way, let's dive into this already decade-old classic! Does it still hold up today?

Let's dive in.

The Mushroom Kingdom is celebrating the star festival, a special festival in honour of a comet that passes the planet. Mario, invited by Princess Peach, is on his way to the festival when (naturally) Bowser attacks. Using airships and a giant UFO, Bowser rips the Castle out of the ground and flies into space with it. Mario goes into pursuit but is left adrift in space. The star-like creature that Princess Peach was holing, a Luma, swoops in last minute and saves Mario. Eventually, Mario comes across the mysterious Rosalina and her star ship, the Comet Observatory. The Observatory is capable of flying through space and catch up with Bowser at the centre of the Universe, but only if Mario brings back the Power Stars that Bowser stole. Thus, Mario sets off on a journey across the Universe to reclaim the Power Stars, restore power to Rosalina's Observatory, stop Bowser and save Princess Peach.

The story of Galaxy is the typical Mario story. Bowser kidnaps Peach, Mario sets of the save her. While it's nothing fancy, Galaxy does do a few things that makes it stand out. The entire atmosphere, the UFO the castle flying into space, leads to a very distinct and dare I say epic atmosphere. Then there's Rosalina's storybook. At certain points throughout the adventure, you unlock more chapters in the storybook that Rosalina reads to the Luma. It's a bed-time story that chronicles Rosalina's past and it’s just lovely. If there was a physical book of that bed-time story, I would buy it.

Let's get to the real meat of the game now, shall we? Super Mario Galaxy is a 3D platformer in which you run and jump across all kinds of terrain and platformes while stomping on enemies and collecting collectables. What makes Galaxy stand out is the gravity mechanic. Each object in a galaxy has its own gravitational force, allowing Mario to completely circumnavigate each planet. You can walk upside down, sideways and jump from one free-floating object to another. While such anti-gravity mechanics can become very confusing for the player, it never does in Galaxy. It's a wonderfully implemented mechanic that is very easy for the player to understand and works hand in hand with the level design, which I'll get into later.

As this is a Wii game, Galaxy includes some light motion controls. Light in that, outside from certain mini-games, you really only need them for two things. New in Mario's moveset is a spin, performed when shaking the Wii remote. This spin allows Mario to hit and stun enemies, increase his air-time and reach new heights. While Mario's spin was triggered a few times when I didn't intend it, overall, it works out rather well. The flick motion is not at all complicated which makes the ever-useful spin easy to perform. The controls in Super Mario Galaxy are implemented very well. It's what you can expect from a Nintendo game. Tight, easy to grasp and intuitive when it needs to be. The only real complaints I can throw at it is that I do feel they are a bit too stiff and my arms did grow tired during long play sessions.

Flying across a galaxy, you can really get a good sense of the scope of each level as well as how beautifully they are built up.

This same flicking motion for the spin is also used to activate the power-ups. Super Mario Galaxy has only a handful of power-ups, including Bee Mario and the Fire Flower. The power-ups are a bit of a let-down. They are once again very situational and don't appear often. There are entire galaxies where power-ups are nowhere in sight. They are also on a rather strict timer this time around, restricting their use even more. Even the fire flower, Mario's oldest and most versatile power-up, suffers from these problems. I wouldn't say the power-ups in the game are outright bad, but they do leave something to be desired.

The game also makes use of the Wii remote's pointer. Mario Galaxy introduces a new type of collectable to the game, one that you can find in practically every nook and cranny. Star bits. While running about or while being launched to a new planetoid, you can collect these star bits by using the pointer. What's the point in collecting so many all of these star bits? Well, for starters, you can shoot star bits at enemies to stun them or certain spot in the world for a coin to refill your heart meter. More importantly, star bits can be fed to hungry Luma's. Scattered throughout certain galaxies and the comet observatory are Lumas that request you to feed them a certain amount of star bits. When done so, these Luma will then unlock either a new section of or just an entirely new galaxy for you to explore.

There are six different star systems aka worlds in total, each with around 5 different galaxies aka levels for you to explore. These different star systems are all accessible through the Observatory, the game's hub world. There are six different domes in the Observatory which each lead to one of the star systems. There are also, as stated earlier, Luma's floating about as well as a bunch of Toad, Rosalina etc. The observatory is a decently sized hub world. There might not be that much for you to do in it, but it serves its purpose and is pleasant to walk around in.

The galaxies themselves are absolutely stunning. They are all very well designed, with multiple levels twists and turns. The anti-gravity mechanic means that, on paper, every single surface of the world can be walked upon and explored. In one moment, you're running around a giant beehive. In the next, you're walking upside down on a giant robot in outer space. The variety in the levels is large, so there's almost always something new to find.

Aside from the standard levels you have boss fights and mini-games and also comet levels. The mini-games are just OK. They require much more heavy use of the Wii's motion controls making them much less responsive, even troublesome at times. Luckily, these mini-games don't come around often and after a little practice, you'll be able to finish them and nap those stars.

Grab those 120 power-stars if you want to unlock Galaxy's completion bonus!

The boss fights are much better, if a little inconsistent. What I mean by inconsistent is not the quality of the fights but their appearance rate. They are sometimes the last star in a Galaxy, other times they are the first and then they are times they get a Galaxy all to their own. Small nit-pick, I know, but one that did stick out to me.

The last method in which the game brings some variety to its levels are the comets. A comet can randomly come into the orbit of a galaxy, altering how a level plays. A comet, depending on the colour, can either give the level a strict time limit, amongst others. While irregular, the comets add a nice bit of 'spice' to a level.

Conclusion

Super Mario Galaxy is an amazing game. From the game design to the graphics, to the soundtrack. It's all top-notch and on the level that you would expect from the big N. Super Mario Galaxy is a game that'll give you an experience that you won't be able to quite find anywhere else. (except for its sequel, that is). All in all, a game that's worth a place in your collection.

If you're playing the game on the Switch, you'll mostly get the same experience. The game's graphic got updated to HD, the motion controls are handled by the joy-cons and you can now spin by pressing the Y-button as well. When in handheld mode, the game does require you to make use of the touchscreen, which is a bit cumbersome. By no means a deal-breaker though. All in all both versions are equally good and worth playing.

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