The most famous plumber of them all heads to the Wii the first time in the first true Mario sequel since Sunshine, and this time he's taking his chase beyond the skies and into space.
Little can be said about Mario without waxing nostalgic on the many incarnations we've seen of the Italian plumber over the past twenty plus years. Nor can one talk about the franchise without acknowledging its impact on ever facet of the very industry that it threw over its shoulder in the twilight of the arcade era and carried forward. into what is now modern gaming. So when a series can garner so much praise for its past accomplishments it goes without saying that immense hype precedes every new release, leaving us with one simple question each time. Does it live up to it?
With Flying Colors.
The story doesn't bother to do anything new, and I'm a little disappointed that I always hope they'll get creative with the set up or execution, but they don't. Once again Princess Peach gets snatched by Mr. Bad-Ass himself, Bowser, and it’s your job to find her. Complicating things and driving the narrative is the fact that Bowser has taken control of the stars above, the Power Stars in particular. It's a problem for a number of reasons, most importantly is that Bowser is draining the life out of the planets, including the very one you find yourself on at the beginning of your quest. It’s up to you to get them all back - all 120 of them (you only need 60 to finish). Familiar? You bet. Boring? Not at all.
Mario Galaxy throws plenty of familiar characters and surroundings at you while thrusting you into the most original environments ever in the Mario catalog. It’s hard to pinpoint really, because saying it's like Mario 64 in space does it a disservice even though it’s a pretty accurate description. You’ll see a lot of the same sub-characters you’ve seen before, as well as some new ones, so while the game keeps itself grounded in the Mario Universe, it still keeps it fresh and expands upon it with each passing planet. Planets often hold three stars, so you return three separate times to collect each. The ingenious design of the worlds means you're frequently seeing and flying through parts of space that were previously just the background in the mission priors. It pulls every last ounce out of the planets without them ever getting tired and boring.
Good Implementation of Controls Means Little Need for Them
Being the first Mario installment on the new Nintendo Wii there is an obvious concern; how does it control? What's most impressive is how easy it is to get used to, even if you can't tell a Wii-mote form a remote. The learning curve is so minimal it shouldn’t take long for anyone, new or old to the series, to get the hang of it. Nintendo did a wonderful job incorporating a few slight uses of the motion controller while never overstepping its boundaries or making the user feel bogged down or hassled by it. A second player can even join in and collect star bits during levels. A single player could do it themselves, but it does help let everyone feel involved, and is a great option if you have two kids wanting to play.
The best execution of the control comes from the games racing levels, such as a Ray-race on water. My only complaint is that these sections don't last long enough. That pain is somewhat eased by the fact that you’d be pretty damn hard-pressed to find any other game that matches this amount of variety on one disc. This is the linchpin for the game, its greatest highlight and achievement. Every single time you enter a new galaxy, a different planet or mission within, you never feel like you’re treading over the same ground or retracing your steps. It might feel like some levels are variants on old Mario games, and they actually are at points, but they fit so perfectly that it never ceases to amaze you and keep you involved..
In Space, No One Looks This Good
Graphically, the Wii doesn’t deliver the same goods as the 360 or PS3, but if that stops you from playing this title you should probably give up on gaming. This is still a very pretty game and easily one of the best for the Wii so far, and the best looking Mario game to date. The effects that sporadically pop out as you traverse through space, on ground, ice and air are absolutely terrific, adding elegant touches that we’ve never really experienced from Mario. It looks great on my 50 inch HD plasma, rendering at 60 frames a second and supporting 16:9 widescreen.
The audio is a treat, pulling at your youthful heartstrings with some superb work on all the old themes we know and love and forging ahead with fresh takes and originals. What's crafted here is one of the best orchestrated soundtracks in recent years. Lacking, though, is any real form of voice-over work which we have come to expect at this point. You'll get the Nintendo standard; mumbling characters that speak a type of gibberish that is for some strange reason really easy to understand. It isn’t really an issue that there's no talking, but it makes you wonder what would happen if they risked the change, even if it was just a few words here and there.
It's-a Him, and He's-a Mario
Hype has killed many monster titles since games have been at the forefront of media, but Mario Galaxy doesn’t just embrace what it’s expected to be – it surpasses it in every single way imaginable. The best title in the franchise since its inception and a top three candidate for game of the year. If you own a Wii – this is a must. If you don’t – beg, borrow, or steal one…Mario Galaxy is really worth that much (we don’t endorse illegal procuring of gaming hardware, we simply acknowledge that one of your friends probably wouldn't mind if you came by and took theirs for a few weeks). The only question left is what could Nintendo do to top this?
FINAL SCORE: 100 %
100% "Masterpiece" Nothing is perfect, but this is ground breaking; a game changer. Elevates our expectations of games to come from here on. Leaves a lasting impression that we will remember for as long as we play games. This game is, for lack of a better word, a masterpiece.