You have to give credit where credit is due; the Super Mario Bros. franchise is one of the biggest, oldest and most successful gaming franchises in the existence of video games. It’s simple yet challenging formula has continued to win the hearts of gamers for over twenty years, cementing Mario as one of the faces of Video Games the world over.
2007 saw the release of Super Mario Galaxy; Mario’s first 3D adventure since the lackluster Super Mario Sunshine on the Nintendo Gamecube. A lot was riding on the success of Galaxy and it more than delivered, offering gamers a fantastic world with fun and challenging gameplay. Last year we saw the reboot of 2D design with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, which returned to the series roots providing challenging 2D platforming adventure, complete with multiplayer support. Now Nintendo bring us Super Mario Galaxy 2, a direct sequel to the 2007 title that many have regarded as Mario’s best 3D adventure. Nintendo need to provide something absolutely stunning.
Yes Super Mario Galaxy 2 is based on the foundations of the first title; it uses the same graphics engine, the same controls and the same concept, yet this is the very reason why Galaxy 2 is so successful. The team have learned from the first title, listened to the feedback, and have improved every facet of an already masterful gaming experience. Yes Galaxy 2 is based on the first title, yet it has been improved in so many ways it doesn’t feel like Super Mario Galaxy 1.5, this is a stand alone sequel that offers some of the most fulfilling gaming moments of this generation.
Nintendo have put a lot of focus into accessible gaming for Wii titles, and SMG2 has been structured in such a manner that even someone who has never touched a controller before will be comfortable enough to play. This is evident in the opening sequence of the game as it starts off on a 2D plane as the story unfolds, then the player is forced to moving between the foreground and background before they are let go and given full control. It’s subtle and doesn’t feel like a tutorial at all, yet that’s exactly what it is. It doesn’t detract from the experience, it doesn’t feel forced, and it never feels like the game is holding your hand. Simply put, it is perfect and I wish more games would take a similar approach.
Your progression through the game has also been simplified to offer a more streamlined experience as you traverse the worlds of SMG2. Rather than the overwhelming Observatory Hubworld that we were introduced to in the first title, SMG2 utilizes a simplified world map much similar to the one introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3. Ultimately it makes the game easier to pick up and play, and does away with a mechanic that was unnecessary and overwhelming.
Nintendo have brought back the “play for me” mechanic that was featured in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. If you die too many times you will be asked if you need assistance and the game will help you pass the trouble spot you have been stuck on. While it might sound like a cheats way out it will certainly be a welcome addition to those casual gamers out there, especially in the later levels of the game. Using this feature doesn’t come without a cost though; when collecting the star at the end of the level you will only be given a Bronze for your efforts instead of that Gold. You can go back and play through the level again and get that Gold once you feel a little more confident. Nintendo have also included Hint TV monitors that teach players exactly how a specific task should be completed. Once again a handy feature for new gamers, yet those who have been playing Mario titles for years should be able to work it out on their own. Once again these mechanics are not forced onto a player, so you will only see them if you want or need to.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is just pure fun! The premise is the same as previous titles – run and jump through a huge collection of levels spread across a bevy of different locations, collect power stars along the way, defeat big bad Bowser and rescue the Princess. It’s a formula that has been working for over twenty years and it still works just as well today. The team behind SMG2 has refined Mario’s controls to a point where everything just seems like second nature, making the player feel right at home with the controller in their hands.
Most of the levels in Super Mario Galaxy 2 are based around concepts and designs of the original game. You’ll find yourself flying from planet to planet, being sucked into orbit, gravity making the ceiling of a level into your floor, all ideas that were developed and explored in the first tile. These ideas have all been built upon with exciting twists and capabilities, with each galaxy exploring them in their own unique way. SMG2 constantly steps above and beyond your expectations to continually impress you, whether it be a throwback to nostalgia with a reference to a past Mario title, or just a twist on a basic game mechanic that was unexpected, Nintendo still know how to make a fun title.
Everyones favorite Dinosaur Yoshi is back, and a completely welcome addition to Super Mario Galaxy 2. As soon as players leap onto Yoshi’s back and start running around they will feel right at home. Controlling Yoshi is just a precise as controlling Mario, and using the Wii remote’s pointer to eat enemies or hook onto platforms with Yoshi’s tongue works a treat. It’s a lot of fun and opens up the gameplay to a multitude of new and exciting elements.
Yoshi doesn’t appear in each and every level, his appearances are restricted to specific galaxies, but they are all incredibly creative and some of the best levels in the game. Whether it’s using his ability to jump higher to collect a hard to reach coin, his ability to inflate like a balloon to reach great heights, or to provide a light in complete darkness; these are some of the absolutely stunning moments in Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Where Mario Galaxy 2 truly excels is it truly caters to gamers of all skill levels. Nintendo have included all these features to make the game fun and accessible to casual gamers, yet those hardcore competionists are not forgotten. Each galaxy has a hidden Comet Coin, and if collected, will unlock a series of challenges within that level design. It keeps you coming back for more, and these challenges are in fact rather challenging. Collect all 120 stars and you will unlock another gameplay mode that will give you a fulfilling, yet hardcore challenge.
SMG2 features some impressive production elements that are not only the best for it’s console, but also some of the best across any platform out there today. Level design and variety is simply unparalleled, the visuals are unique and stunning, quite amazing considering the Galaxy engine is 3 years old, and the soundtrack is full of orchestral moments that would rival a Hans Zimmer production.
The only thing that you can fault Super Mario Galaxy 2 on is the story, but let’s face it; who has ever played a Mario game for the story? Mario is all about fun, challenging and addictive gameplay and Super Mario Galaxy 2 has that by the truckload.
The Final Verdict
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is simply more than just “Galaxy 1.5”. It provides some of the most fun, challenging and addictive gameplay that has come out this generation, and yet still manages to be accessible for casual gamers and the hardcore alike. Nintendo implement a series of helpful mechanics for gamers who need assistance finishing the game so smartly, those of you who are skilled enough to collect all 120 stars wont even notice they are there. The graphics, the sound, the level design and the overall charm perfectly encapsulate the spirit of classic gaming while still offering something next, exciting and unique. All backed up by a tight and precise control scheme that simply feels like second nature and is so intuitive you don’t even have to think about it. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is platform gaming at its absolute finest and is one of the greatest games to be released this generation.
I never give a game 10 out of 10, never! Yet I purely cannot see how Super Mario Galaxy 2 could ever be improved upon.