sunnuntai 7. elokuuta 2016

REVIEW - Super Mario Galaxy 2

GENRE(S): Platformer
AVAILABLE ON: Wii, Wii U (Virtual Console)
DEVELOPER(S): Nintendo
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo
RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy, as we all know, spread like wildfire in the Wii community. Not only was it named one of the greatest video games of all time upon arrival, it also served as Nintendo's one defining underdog asset at the peak of the last great console war. After its release, Mario creator and developmental manager Shigeru Miyamoto quickly commissioned an updated version of the game to capitalize on its success, and gave the team a year to complete Super Mario Galaxy More. Its updates largely consisted of material that was cut from the original game due to time restraints and gameplay issues. As the game began to take shape, and as the creative designers seemed to come up with completely new ideas by the hour, the deadline of the game expanded by over a year, and it was decided that the game was to be a true sequel to Super Mario Galaxy instead of the intended re-release of the original. Upon its arrival - in the twilight of the original Wii - Super Mario Galaxy 2 was hailed as yet another masterpiece in the exact vein of its predecessor. This one, I missed completely, as even none of my friends were active Wii gamers at that point of time. Super Mario Galaxy proved to be a positive surprise after a lousy first impression from years back, let's see how this one fares now that I've got all the bases covered. It was an update, sure, but were all the black spots that plagued the original truly harvested?

Dinosaurs in outer space

Effectively retconning the events of Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2 begins with the Princess once again inviting her favourite plumber for cake (yup) during the Star Festival, a time when comets fill the skies of Mushroom Kingdom, raining down Star Bits. On his way, Mario finds a stray Luma, who immediately takes a liking to Mario and tags along as Bowser, having grown to enormous size after munching on Grand Stars, attacks the castle and snatches the Princess. Afterwards, the villain escapes to the center of the universe. Mario takes to outer space, and finds a stranded planet, which turns out to be mobilized and serving as a starship. The ship's owner, Luma mechanic Lubba asks Mario's help in rescuing his crew along with the usual Grand Stars and the Princess, and in return, he offers his ship.

I hadn't even started with Super Mario Galaxy for the second and definitive time, when not one but two of my friends were already telling me that Super Mario Galaxy 2 was so much better. Well, I'm a completist, I didn't really care all that much, but granted, these sudden praises, as well as the surprisingly good taste Super Mario Galaxy left me with, got me all pumped up about Super Mario Galaxy 2. Firstly, what we've got here is one gigantic game - there are over 240 DIFFERENT Power Stars to collect in Super Mario Galaxy 2 (with 70 once again being the minimum to beat the game), 49 galaxies to explore, a serious multiplayer mode for those who care (whereas Super Mario Galaxy only had the daddy's little helper mode available for a second player), and a hell of a lot of secrets to unravel. Though, once again, most of these secrets are pretty much shoved in your face. Be that as it may, beating Super Mario Galaxy 2 will take a good while. Completing it... will not happen for casual players. I'll surely get back to the game's enormous difficulty level.

Here we gooooooo...
The game definitely looks and sounds the part of what is essentially an update - fucking fantastic. I always thought that design-wise, the original Super Mario Galaxy looked kinda odd. It had occasionally strange enemy and level design, it didn't really feel like a Mario game from time to time. Well, some of the aforementioned designs are up for reprisal in "Part Deux", but to compensate, we have nostalgic, innovative, mostly fabulous designs heavily inspired by some of our all-time favourite games in this franchise. Exploring new, recently unlocked galaxy belts is always a party; there's sure to be at least one galaxy in each world designed to blow your mind if you're a long-time fan. My absolute favourite level in the game spills it all by its name alone: Throwback Galaxy. A throwback to what? That's for you to find out. The music is even better than before. Koji Kondo and Mahito Yokota are joined by Wii Sports, New Super Mario Bros. and Mario Kart composer Ryo Nagamatsu, to work on a massive soundtrack filled with rehashed Super Mario Galaxy jive - those epic outer space adventure tunes we so kindly adored - new tunes, and a whole truckload of remixed stuff from days past, mostly from the original Super Mario World. Just one proper level into the game, we can see why.

He's green, he's lean, he's a digesting machine

Yoshi's back in the supporting role he's most famous and acclaimed for, and as the one key element that really separates this game from its predecessor. He's also a good key to start talking about the power-ups, since he's kind of like a power-up in himself; like all power-ups in the world of Super Mario Galaxy, he's only required for certain, occasionally optional, tasks to be completed. I was kinda frightened how Yoshi's core features would work using the Wiimote controls - the 3D setting, not that much, since I already had experience playing as him in the Super Mario 64 remake. You use the Wiimote to point at stuff to eat and press the B trigger; it's a solution worth tipping your hat for in most situations, in the most precise ones it's a bitch. When you're crossing a raging lava pit using Yoshi's tongue to swing from one connecting point to another, you'll wish you'd had a larger TV - it feels that not even 48" is enough to constantly register a connection to the remote.

Gee. It's Bowser. Oh my God.
Adding to the previous game's list of gimmicky power-ups, we have three more gimmicky power-ups which are only required in few choice situations in few choice levels - and of course, two of them in the final boss level (the final boss level for casual players, that is). First up is Cloud Mario, probably the most useful and easiest to use out of the three. This allows Mario to jump somewhat further by default, and also, to create up to three cloud platforms from thin air to stand on; the energy needed to create those platforms is refreshed each time Mario picks up another cloud. It's utilized quite neatly, and works like a charm. The Spin Drill allows Mario to drill through certain types of soil with his spin attack, to the opposite side of whatever rock he's standing on; to find secret items, solve puzzles or even fight bosses. Finally, the Rock Mushroom turns Mario into a devastatingly fast and destructive rolling rock. It's initially quite cool, as you can smash through all kinds of backgrounds and most enemies in the game - excluding Chomp - but just wait 'til you get to parts where you must actually steer the rock. There's no way to avoid witnessing these situations - time and luck will tell if you actually have to deal with them to boot. We're just a snap away from discussing that difficulty level of the game.

Yoshi has his own short set of gimmicky power-ups, and man, will you rupture a vein or two. The Blimp Fruit allows Yoshi to float upwards for a short spell. The Bulb Berry's a strange one, as it illuminates and "creates" platforms that otherwise aren't really there. The Dash Pepper makes Yoshi run straight forward like crazy, and he's even more of a bitch to control than Rock Mario, not that much if you're going for level completion, but God forbid if you're trying to actually do something in particular, like collect coins or a Comet Medal or something. Which finally brings us to that enormous level of difficulty critics have sometimes blasted the game for - as will I.

Yup. The bosses are huge.
In Super Mario 64, I never had any trouble of finding the 70 Power Stars I actually needed to complete the game. Of course, every time I went for the kill and set on a trip to find all 120 of them, I ended up crying my guts out. Finding the mandated amount of 70 Power Stars in Super Mario Galaxy was almost automatic for the any-player, as long as you had the will to explore, and unlock those secret galaxies. Well, if you're a casual player, you might just reach 50 Power Stars in Super Mario Galaxy 2. You'll really have to fight for the remaining 20. Let's start with the Comet Medals; each galaxy in the game holds one, and by finding a certain amount of these unlocks a Comet Challenge in some random galaxy of the game. The challenges are pretty much the same as in the first game: speedrun challenges and such. In this game, you simply MUST take part in them if you're going for the minimum amount of Power Stars to merely beat the game. You also MUST take part in other challenges that were made for not only 3D platformer veterans, but grand masters of the Wii control scheme, and hope for the best. You will think to yourself, that hey, maybe I can just collect enough coins and Star Bits to feed those Lumas, birth me a couple of new galaxies to explore, and collect the easiest Stars from those levels for compensation. Yeah, that's not gonna work. First of all, the secret galaxies in the game very often just have one easy Power Star - that's not enough to raise the total to the warranted amount. Secondly, the amount of coins and Star Bits those Lumas ask of you are preposterous. The ones that ask for coins, are almost without exception hidden in levels where it's either hard as fuck to collect coins altogether, or waiting at the end of very hard levels, where you'll have probably died a few times on the way, losing all of your coins. The ones that ask for Star Bits to chew on ask for such amounts, that you'll basically be forced to replay levels, preferrably the easiest levels in the game, to come up with such sums. That's not hard - that's boring. Even as an explorer by nature, I ended up having 60-something Power Stars when I reached the final threshold to Bowser's keep, having conquered about 99% of the "normal" challenges the game has in store, plus already a few "optional" challenges. Yeah, the game is hard. If I were a gambling man, I'd say it's even outright unreasonable at a whole bunch of occasions. As per usual in the Super Mario Bros. (and World) series, an extra world is unlocked after the initial ass-kicking is done; why not just give us one extra world to begin with... we could really use one.

Further adding to the difficulty are the controls, which are still not perfect, and make us fear all the new stuff this game has in store. Surprisingly it's the Nunchuk that seems to break more often than the 'Mote; Mario seems to either slow down, or stop altogether whenever you suddenly change direction in the middle of the most urgent run, and both Rock Mario and Dash Pepper-powered Yoshi are almost impossible to keep in some modest form of control. I've lost hundreds of lives in this game just because of the glitchy analog control and that alone. That's not an angry gamers' view, that's a fact which I've had other people see for themselves - people that would be happy to point out that I'm just a bitter, frustrated old gamer, and that there's nothing wrong with the controls. Since the quality of the controls at the very least is a flaw that the player can't do zilch about, "unreasonable" is pretty much the one word to describe Super Mario Galaxy 2...


...But, if only it were that simple. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is also, at its core, a very good and entertaining game, and slightly better than the first one. Hell, let's just say it: one of the best Mario platformers there is, at the very least of the few most recent generations. Whereas New Super Mario Bros. goes for the faithful recreation of the most classic 2D Mario set-up, Super Mario Galaxy does the same to the 3D schtick of Super Mario 64 (adding in the gravity mechanics, of course). Neither one of these arcs never hit the prime of their respective concepts, in my opinion; it was the actual cross (not just an occasional mash-up) between the 2D and 3D realms of the Mario franchise that hit the ultimate jackpot of these times. I guess that one's up next.

< 8.9 >

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