Both Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine share the distinction of being the sole vanguard Mario titles, and the only 3d platformers, on their respective consoles. Super Mario Galaxy is the first to get a direct sequel on its own console. In this new game, Nintendo seeks to replicate and expand on the experience of the first. Galaxy was well known for its beautiful music, stunning graphics, and somber plot.
Originally, the company had intended for this to be a ‘1.5’ version of the original. It would use the same engine and just have expanded levels and content. Instead, they decided to reuse only the basic premise and mechanics but to redesign the game from the ground up.
A Galaxy of Music
The first game was noted for the incredibly high production value of its soundtrack. Rather than catchy synth, this game also receives the play of a full symphony orchestra. Koji Kondo and his staff added 10 more instruments to the orchestra this time than for the last game. Rather than creating a more grand collection of pieces, this served to create a series of iconic songs that add an incredible amount of depth and fun to each stage.
Excellent music has been a staple of Mario games since the very first ones over two decades ago. This game furthers that tradition. Rather than simply writing setting-appropriate songs, like a Middle Eastern themed piece for a desert stage, the composers take it a step further by virtually choreographing the game to the music. That’s easy when talking about film– every frame is tightly controlled by the director and editor. In video games, where the action is often directly controlled by the player, this is an amazing feat.
The players in many stages bounce forward almost in unison with the music. They are prodded on as much by the joy of leaping into the air and by the colorful surroundings as they are by the beautiful music that accompanies them.
An Alternate Story (Spoilers)
While this game is a sequel to the original, the story does not follow the previous game. Rather, this game takes place in an alternate universe, where the events of the first game never happened and vice versa. It isn’t unusual for this type of irony to occur in modern serial media. It isn’t uncommon in Japanese storytelling, it isn’t even uncommon within Mario games themselves. What is interesting, is that the supporting characters, locales, and some of the same antagonists and situations are recycled or repositioned within this story to convey a different tale.
The first game told the somber tale of Rosalina, a mysterious figure who was orphaned to the stars but who forged a new family with her small star-shaped Lumas. When it came time to finally undo Bowser’s plans, those same creatures sacrificed themselves to save their “mama” and to assist Mario in rescuing Princess Peach. It was a remarkably sad end to a Mario game, one that helped set this game aside from its lofty bretheren. It took shades of The Little Prince and told a story of loneliness, the vastness of the universe, and of the purity of love and friendship.
In this game, Rosalina is a distant figure who plays only a limited role in the events that unfold. In one of the game’s possible end sequences, Rosalina is sitting in her library, a location in the previous game, in which she is bade by her Lumas to tell them the story of how Mario and Luigi stopped Bowser. She recounts for them the tale, and adds a part that hadn’t happened yet. This unlocks a new area in the game. It is an interesting use of story and exposition to reveal otherwise hidden aspects of a game.
Game Play at its Finest
This game is about Mario. It is about his quest to stop Bowser and rescue Peach, a situation not alien to these characters. This makes way for some of the game’s focus to change. While the first Galaxy was so different from its predecessors that it stands apart as a wonder of game play mechanics, the sequel takes this to another level.
This game features some of the most purely fun, challenging, and inventive bits of platform gaming that has ever been attempted. Each level is perfectly proportioned for difficulty, use of available devices and skills, and for the opportunity for secrets, puzzles, and humor to interweave the environments.
The world of this game comes alive in a monumentally superior to others. Certain actions trigger explosions, prop movements, or music changes that make the world more interactive than simply a platform filled with enemy non-playable characters for you to squish. For example, when Yoshi is injured in Super Mario World or New Super Mario Bros. Wii, he simply shrieks and bolts. In this game, both Mario and Yoshi yelp and tumble to the ground. Yoshi stands up, shakes himself off, and starts running around panicked. He isn’t difficult to catch and remount, but at first his reaction is so comical that I personally found it difficult to catch him just from laughing.
This game has arguably the most finessed design I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. It is exquisitely polished, with supremely high production values, an amazing experience, and a subtle, clever and often humorous story. Whether you are denying Bowser a slice of his big delicious cake, chasing around a scared Yoshi, or saving a Luma, you’re always having fun.
For four years now, this website has been dedicated to bringing out the hidden stories and art in the games we review. Here is a game that makes that both easy and difficult at once. This game has the peanut butter and jelly sandwich of plots– basic, easy, fun, but not complicated or intriguing in the slightest. It also has some of the most simple fun that anything has provided us thus far.