Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) review
"If anything embodies the simple beauty of videogame entertainment, it is Nintendo’s Super Mario series. For many gamers, its creative level design and instinctive gameplay underline the entirety of their gaming experience as much as the iconic characters are ingrained into their psyche. Super Mario Galaxy follows tradition and is so beautifully and imaginatively constructed it beggars belief. But while Galaxy revels in its old school prowess combined with its innovations, there are times when th..."
If anything embodies the simple beauty of videogame entertainment, it is Nintendo’s Super Mario series. For many gamers, its creative level design and instinctive gameplay underline the entirety of their gaming experience as much as the iconic characters are ingrained into their psyche. Super Mario Galaxy follows tradition and is so beautifully and imaginatively constructed it beggars belief. But while Galaxy revels in its old school prowess combined with its innovations, there are times when the game falters under its own immense weight. There is no doubt that gaming bliss will be experienced as you jump and stomp your way through Galaxy with carefree ease but whether this game will capture (and hold) your imagination as Super Mario 3 or Super Mario 64 did is not as sure.
It is important to consider Galaxy in context. Galaxy’s place in the Super Mario lineage is comparable to that of Super Mario 3 which, in its time, was the shining beacon of Nintendo’s NES console. Similarly, Galaxy is the definitive Wii experience and is not likely to be bettered in the Wii’s lifetime however short or long that life may be. But, unlike Super Mario 3, Galaxy is immediately handicapped by Wii’s technological limitations. While many would argue that to complain about Galaxy’s underwhelming graphics, shallow and well-trodden story and sometimes awkward camera verges on the petty, it is hard not to feel somewhat cheated considering the visceral experiences available on other consoles and the potential wonder of a high-powered Super Mario game in this generation.
But, as is often said, gameplay is king and this holds true in Galaxy. By moving Mario’s Princess Peach-saving-adventure into outer space, Nintendo has indulged in a conceit which has allowed them to design deviously outrageous and self-contained levels, all of which offering varied gameplay styles, for Mario to traverse. As you launch Mario from the space station hub world and find yourself defying gravity, riding manta rays, turning into a bee and skating on ice or fire, you will find it difficult to envision how a cohesive experience can be derived from such a wealth of gameplay styles. Inevitably, some gameplay styles fall short; riding a manta ray is difficult and unforgiving and hovering as a bee is no match to Mario’s old raccoon tail or cape. However, as you move from one novel experience to the next (with the emphasis on novel), any misgivings are sooner or later forgotten.
This is because, at its core, the beauty of Galaxy is as a platformer and as you come across those gravity-bending levels, such as one set atop a gigantic toy robot, filled with moving platforms, dangerous leaps of faith and mischievously placed enemies this becomes clear. Part of its charm is nostalgic but most of it derives from its instinctual and intuitive ease of play. It is difficult to capture in words just how easy it is to slip into the spry plumber’s shoes and navigate difficult jumps other than perhaps to suggest that controlling Mario, even with a Wii-mote, has been somehow written into every gamer’s genetic makeup. Further, the ease of control remains despite the complexity of the 3D space, whether you are moving upside down or right side up though; this is a testament to Nintendo’s control design and wealth of gaming wisdom.
Such ‘gaming bliss’ comes despite of and not because of the Wii motion controls. Mario’s spin attack (and ability to throw turtle shells and fireballs) is mapped onto a waggle gesture which, although functionally competent, feels clumsy and unimaginative. This feeling extends throughout the entire play experience as the solution to defeat many of Galaxy’s bosses involves waiting for their attacks, waggling the Wii-mote and not much else. Accordingly, the boss battles sit incongruously against the imaginative level designs in between. While using the Wii-mote to collect stars is a welcome streamlining of the collection mechanic and the use of motion controls to navigate Monkey Ball-esque levels (or when they are used successfully in general) feels almost as intuitive as Mario’s core platforming controls, Galaxy is not the game that would justify motion control to skeptical gamers.
Ofcourse, it is easy to bypass these gripes and maintain, wholeheartedly, that Nintendo have created the finest platforming experience of the last five years. It is true, the genre has been challenged, finally, and the addition of gravity creates a sense of wonder and complexity that pushes you forward until that last confrontation with Bowser and a surprisingly touching ending. However, it is difficult to explain why this experience does not sit so highly in mind as past Mario games. The sheer number of things to do and galaxies to explore means that some of those activities are, ultimately, forgettable and somewhere along the line Galaxy’s charm is diluted. Yes, the Mario blueprint remains, at its core, in tact but if you find yourself losing the desire to return to find the remaining stars hidden through the game, you will know Galaxy’s magic has worn off all too easily. Only time, or the next Mario game, will tell if this magic is lost for good.
Community review by Carlo84 (January 10, 2008)
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