maanantai 1. elokuuta 2016

REVIEW - Super Mario Galaxy

GENRE(S): Platformer
AVAILABLE ON: Wii, Wii U (Virtual Console)
DEVELOPER(S): Nintendo
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2007

You could say that by finally reviewing Super Mario Galaxy, I've come full circle. In the very beginning of this whole blog, in the very first review I ever published in August of 2010 (Super Mario Bros.), I slipped in a little something to bash this game. I've similarly taken advantage of a few later situations just to tell you how overrated I thought this game always was. Just recently, I've gone back to my Galaxy-bashing mode as if to say "a review of Super Mario Galaxy is coming". Just to assure you I've got nothing severe against this game just for the heck of it - or just because it's a Wii game - it's only fitting that six years after my first review, almost to the exact date, I'll finally come clean with what bothers me about this game. Also, all the stuff there is to love about Super Mario Galaxy. Yes, to be perfectly honest, this essentially direct successor to the almighty Super Mario 64 is a great game. Just not quite as amazing as the Nintendo 64 classic was upon its arrival; it suffers from occasional technical slumps and in my personal opinion, in all of its admittedly fresh appeal it often feels a bit too distant from a vintage Mario set-up.


In perhaps his most insane fit to date - as an epic update to his stunt in the original Paper Mario - Bowser tears Princess Peach's castle right off its foundations, and into outer space. Mario manages to hitch a ride, but is spotted by Kamek and tossed to another planet, which is actually a giant observatory run by a beautiful enchantress named Rosalina. With the help of her and her "children", and the magic of the 120 Power Stars scattered across the near galaxies, Mario attempts to reach the center of the universe where Bowser's keeping his still as lovely, yet still as unwilling bride-to-be.

Oh gravity, thou art a heartless bitch.
First impressions often are the most important ones, especially in the world of video games. An hour into a game - depending on the game, of course - you'll very often know if it's any good, or interesting enough to see through. Many Mario games, actually the most Mario games I've ever played, have left me with an amazing first impression. Sometimes that impression has stuck with me through the whole game, sometimes they've fallen flat towards the end. My first impression of Super Mario Galaxy was just ghastly. It was a brand new game back then; not the first game I ever played on the Wii, but the first to force the Wiimote and Nunchuk combo on me. I originally found them very uncomfortable. I found the game very uncomfortable, as well, and although I knew very well that it was more or less a Super Mario 64 sequel - that is, a sequel to one of the best games ever made - the first 30 minutes weren't any sign of it. Cutscenes after cutscenes, tutorials after tutorials, the gameplay felt all weird due to the gravity mechanics and the round shape of the playfields... there was nothing about it that justified such praise the game got from just about everywhere. Not to mention getting nominated for the fancy title of the greatest Mario game ever. Then I finally got to collecting Power Stars, and at its best moments, the game really felt like a Super Mario 64 revival. Then, I realized how much I missed that game, and that maybe I should go and play Super Mario 64 instead. So I did, and I never touched Super Mario Galaxy again. Until now. The same feelings lingered, but I was determined to suck it all up and not rest until I'd seen the credits. After the very slow passing of, say, two hours, the hours started to tick away like seconds for a fine period of time. I realized I was always wrong about this game. I was right about a notable sum of things, but the truth is that Super Mario Galaxy has its amazing moments. It's not the best Mario game ever made, but had I missed out on it completely due to my thick negativity towards its oddities and the excessive hype that followed in its wake, I would've died as a very sad Mario fan.

Super Mario 128 ( was actually called that first)

After the odd and dare I say, humble beginnings of the game, we are thrust into a gravity-based outer space adventure that indeed plays out almost exactly like Super Mario 64 in its core. Serving as a substitute for the castle, we have the observatory - which, unlike the castle, practically shoves its few secrets in your face. The observatory is kind of like a castle in itself, with a terrace, fountain, bedroom, kitchen, and finally, engine room, all of which serve as hubs for galaxy exploration. There's also a library, in which Rosalina tells her and the observatory's origins in the form of an illustrated fairy tale; the more you advance in the game, the more chapters of this darn cute story are unlocked. The story of the game is uncharacteristically deep, and while you're still basically doing the same stuff you've been doing in these games since Super Mario Bros., there's more to it than just saving that damn damsel in distress from the most stubborn old turtle there is. As to how necessarily we needed more than that age-old core plot to keep us entertained, that's another thing completely.

I'm-a Commander Maaariooo, and this is my favourite store on
the Citadella.
The galaxies are the paintings of the game, and they all have a different amount of Power Stars to collect, from one to five, unlike in Super Mario 64 where each painting held seven Power Stars, and the rest were scattered in secret locations and levels all around the castle and its grounds. This allows the inclusion of a whole truckload of different galaxies and level themes to explore, and like I said, the observatory has its secrets, which are shoved straight into your face assuming you're being at least somewhat of an explorer, and are willing to go for some extra challenges which are outright presented to you - you don't have to look for anything special to unlock these, you'll just have to win. If you're not fully comfortable with the control scheme, you'd better get used to it if you're going for 100% completion in Super Mario Galaxy. I'd say fully conquering Super Mario Galaxy is very challenging, but not as challenging as conquering Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World or Super Mario 64. Once you get used to the controls, some of it's outright child's play. The final boss level isn't as bad as it first seems, you can skip a whole lot of tough levels - you need half of the Power Stars in the game to finish it, even less than in Super Mario 64 - but it's the different Comet challenges, Luigi rescues and secret racing levels which are the shit, assuming you're interested in the game beyond being able to make it to the credits. Super Mario Galaxy ain't over quickly, not even for the most casual of casual players.

With the strange (and somewhat unbelonging) worlds, comes a bunch of new power-ups. Super Mario 64's health points are back, but so are Super Shrooms which were missing from that game - they now double Mario's health until his first defeat. The Fire Flower has been downgraded to a temporary perk, alongside Starman and the new Ice Flower, which serves a different purpose than in the New Super Mario Bros. series. This item allows Mario to walk on water and lava, and jump between adjacent waterfalls as if they were solid walls. The Bee power-up allows you to fly for a limited period of time, and is cancelled out if you hit water. The Boo power-up allows you to pass through mesh walls and windows. The Spring, now that's a shitlist favourite if there ever was one. This turns Mario into a Slinky, which means he moves by springing up from the ground, and if you push the A button at the exact right time, he jumps really high. You can just imagine the comfort of the controls with that one, especially in a level that is wholly built of narrow pathways. Good thing about these disappointing power-ups is that they're very gimmicky, they're basically novelties needed for one or two levels in the whole game each, with the exception of the Bee item that appears numerous times throughout the game. That's OK, it's definitely the most useful one out of all these crap items.

An underwater boss in a 3D Mario game? ...Not quite as bad
as it sounds.
Star Bits somewhat replace the classic coins, which are now essentially health items - but you only have to collect 50 of them to gain an extra life, and ones that are too far for you to reach, you can collect by simply pointing the Wiimote at 'em. Throughout the game, you meet a lot of Lumas (Rosalina's star children) who actually eat those Star Bits, those damn cannibals, and will grant you passage to extra Power Star challenges within levels, and to extra levels from the observatory. They are pretty cool to keep an eye out for. After Luigi is rescued from a certain predicament in a certain galaxy, he sets off looking for Power Stars on his own, and usually gets his ass lost or captured. He's that brother no one wants to have, but can't live without, so of course you'll go look for him, deducing his whereabouts from a photograph you'll get from the observatory's Mail Toad, for another Power Star. Finally, the Comet challenges - these include speedrun versions of previously completed missions, tricky and precise races against your shadow self (that damn thing from Sunshine and one certain game where he totally ravaged my nerves), daredevil challenges which pit you against a boss with only one health point to spare, just to mention a few. These are quite fun, but completing them all is only for completists who are fully at home with the controls.

Before I let this one off the hook and head into Super Mario Galaxy 2 - which I've heard from many reliable sources to be the real thing, suddenly... - I have to commend this game for one special feat. Super Mario Galaxy is possibly the greatest sum of musical score in a Mario game, ever. The epic, yet still somewhat goofy and quirky soundtrack by Mahito Yokota and Nintendo court magician Koji Kondo is like a cross between Star Trek, Star Wars, even The Legend of Zelda (as my friend wanted to add) and classic Mario. One couldn't even imagine a better soundtrack for an adventure among the stars starring Mario. If it's not the best collective ever, then it's right up there with Super Mario World. It's really refreshing after the disappointing and repetitive soundtrack of the New Super Mario Bros. series.


Super Mario Galaxy is a clever, fresh and stellar platformer, which occasionally stumbles on its own unusual being. The controls aren't perfect, the game starts off very slow, but as it starts picking up the pace, it very often reaches the gold standard of its spiritual predecessor. Like I said, it's still not my favourite Mario game, but I have to admit, it's the most refreshing Mario experience I've had in recent months, and it comes from a mighty fine place, with a mighty fine purpose. All about that snotty first impression all those years back hasn't been forgotten, but most of it has.


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