Super Mario Galaxy

Our article title says it all. Super Mario Galaxy, compelling and beautiful on so many levels, pays tribute to Le Petite Prince, a classic of children’s literature by French author and aviator Antione de Saint-Exupéry. The classic tale describes a little boy who is the sole inhabitant of a tiny planet. His planet has a rose, a few craters, and a tree. His story is famous due his iconic adventures, in which he uses a net to catch shooting stars and traverse the galaxy. He comes upon planet after planet,  trying to comprehend the strange people who live there. Through the Prince’s eyes, we see the failings of man and the illogic of our preoccupation with minutiae.

Enter Mario

It is in the tradition of Le Petite Prince that we get Super Mario Galaxy. The game inherits a lot from this source text, both in theme and in narrative. Galaxy draws on the book’s whimsy, it’s off-beat utilization of stars for transit, and the notion of visiting strange planets to discover who or what might be living there. In Prince, the main character tries to grapple with the cognitive barrier between a naive child and a preoccupied adult. In the same way, Mario must contend with many game mechanics issues on his planets. The player must discover the specifics of that planet’s gravity. This determines whether the planet is little more than a giant platform, or actually a three-dimensional object. Mario must also determine his objective and ascertain how to go about meeting it. Sometimes he must compete in a race, climb a peak, run an obstacle course, or search for a specific item.

Like the Prince, Mario adapts to every environment using his wits. The Prince attempts, often in vain, to aid or befriend those he encounters. Mario too makes this effort. Once the Prince gets all the wisdom he can from each world and discovers what life there is like, he moves on. So too does Mario move on once he finds the “power stars” he needs to power up his space travel devices.

That Which is Invisible – Rosalina

While Mario goes on the actual quest in the game, the most apt plot comparison is made when contrasting the Prince to Princess Roaslina, Mario’s mysterious guide. During the game, a back story is given in snippets in the form of a story book read by Rosalina to her numerous “children”– infantile star creatures called Lumas. Her story tells, presumably, her own tale. She starts off as a small girl on a far off world, which is conjectured to be the same one where Mario and his friends originate. She is one day swept away on an adventure, leaving all behind to traverse the galaxy.

The difference between these is actually a parallel. Rosalina leaves a planet rich with love and warmth to find the same thing in the stars with her Lumas. In contrast, the Prince leaves his desolate world, full only of a self-absorbed rose and a monstrous tree. In space he finds uncaring, cruel, deceitful, or confused people. He continues his eternal search for something he can only dream of– someone to requite the love he has to offer. Similarly, Rosalina, though happy with her Lumas, crosses the galaxy attempting to return to her home and rediscover the life she left behind. When the narrator from Prince and Mario depart these enigmatic characters, it is with the duality of sadness and hope. Both go off to continue their journey, possibly forever, trying to find happiness.

This sense of happiness is what drives this story. It motivates everyone in the game. Even Bowser and his army seek a better life for themselves and happiness through conquest. His goals are misguided and Mario is set against him in order to restore the Mushroom Kingdom and save himself and his friends. This game, and Mario games in general, echo the famous notion from Prince that what truly counts in life is something that is invisible and interior. Mario’s courage, selflessness, and love doom Bowser to defeat. They ensure not only the restoration of Mario and his friends, but hope for the future for Rosalina and her children.

The Game

The 2d and 3d platform game genres both owe their existence to Mario. His games have set the bar for them, and set them very high. Mario games are known for having excellent controls, rich colorful landscapes, unique environments, and fun interactivity. This game is no exception. Super Mario Galaxy does a lot of things completely different than what has been done in the past and does them exceptionally well. One of the most amazing details is the three dimensional level design. Many worlds have variable gravity. Some are orbs which can be traversed all the way around. This creates game play opportunities never before present in a game. Furthermore, it allows for highly unique landscapes to exist without having arbitrary or obtuse borders. The only border is space itself. Mario accesses one level to another usually by using a star to blast from one to the next. The effect is satisfying and never dull.

The controls in this game could have been horrible. They could’ve ruined an otherwise interesting experience. On the contrary, they work exceptionally well. Controlling Mario is simple and intuitive. For the most part, the controls are conventional, however there are a few Wii-specific upgrades. The Wii remote and nunchuck controllers are shaken to use a spin attack, this is much easier than pushing a button and adds a tactile response associated with that action. It becomes second nature and can be performed without interrupting other controller functions. Second, the Wii remote is used as a pointing device. The pointer allows the player to collect certain objects throughout the game from a distance. Additionally, projectiles can be fired from the pointer to assist Mario in his journey. Like the spin attack maneuver, this does not interfere with the other controls in the game, and can be performed at crucial moments without a lot of hassle.

The Music

The music in Super Mario Galaxy has a very high production level. This was a pleasant surprise. Most of the time, music in Mario games is inanely catchy, iconic, and clever, but orchestrated using synth instruments and computers and sounds tinny and cheap. A lot of the music in this game is fully, beautifully orchestrated. The sweeping, epic soundtrack is unusual for a Mario game but lends to the massive scale upon which the game is set. Where other games would use modern sounding music to excite its audience, this game calls on quick tempo classical music to establish a tone of discovery and adventure. Like a film soundtrack, this music engrosses the player without overwhelming. It adds the kind of musical nuance more native to Zelda games, and charts new territory for Mario and his friends.

This entry was posted in Reviews, Video Games, Wii and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

  • About Us

    Novus Literae is an ongoing web publication which reexamines film, television, websites, video games, magazines, comic books, and other forms of 'new media' using the canon of literary criticism.
  • Tags


  • Partner Sites

  • John Varvatos USA Linen Jean Jacket
  • Galaga Battle T-Shirt
  • Alcohol Definition Flask
  • Google Nexus 7
  • The Butler
  • Nintendo 3DS XL
  • Amalfi’s Restaurant
  • H50 Bar & Bistro
  • Breakside Brewery
  • Noho’s Hawaiian Cafe
  • Pizza Fino
  • Casa Naranja