When I first heard the Mario Galaxy 2 announcement, live at E3 2009, I was extremely skeptical. The typical development time on a core series Mario game is around five to six years, so imagine my surprise when Galaxy 2 was announced less than two years after the release of the original Galaxy. The news got even worse as time went on, with Miyamoto stressing the game started out as an expansion, and had a nearly non-existent story.
But as it turns out, all of this worrying was for naught. Simply put, Mario Galaxy 2 is the best platformer of this generation, and possibly of all time. Read on to find out why.
When you think about it, old school Mario games were gaming in its most purest state . You kind of just progressed level by level (or in the case of Mario 3, on a world map), and kept on going until the end. It wasn’t until Mario 64 that any sort of narrative or complex hub world mechanic came into play to evolve the series into more of an adventure title. While many applauded the inclusion of the adventure elements, there were a few problems that popped up over the years.
For instance, the only reason I haven’t reached a 100% completion in Galaxy 1 is because of the convoluted hub world. In order to get anywhere, you have to follow an annoying set of teleporters and stairs to various different levels of your choice, and often, retreat all the way back to the opposite area just because a new comet popped up. It’s not a game breaker, but it does discourage me from popping in the game for a few minutes and just jumping right into the action.
Fortunately, Galaxy 2 streamlines the entire experience with a simple old school world map on top of the fairly non-existent narrative, allowing you to just jump right into the actual gameplay in seconds. Because really, this kind of instant gratification is what the Mario series is really all about, and once you jump in, I guarantee you’ll like what you see.
Somehow, Nintendo has created the single best set of Mario levels ever made. Throughout my entire experience with the game, I don’t remember one time where I wasn’t impressed with a particular galaxy, and the epic, fully orchestral, score also helps evoke strong emotions from the player.
Every area radiates with its own bit of charm, and contains unique gameplay mechanics to keep your session fresh. In fact, there were a few times that I actually had flashbacks to some of the best childhood gaming moments I’ve ever had, sitting in my room with my SNES. In other words, you can tell Galaxy 2 was a labor of love.
In addition to great 3D platforming, just like Galaxy 1, the game will seamlessly shift into a 2D plane on occasion, and gift you with some pretty impressive old school sequences. Long term series’ fans will be pleased at the inclusion of a Mario 64-themed Throwback Galaxy, a Sunshine-themed stage, and various other tidbits like the original Super Mario World ghost house theme, among countless others.
But it’s not just the levels themselves that help make Galaxy 2 great: the new power-ups also add an extra dimension to the game. Cloud Mario’s genius design hearkens back to the old SNES days of Donkey Kong 2, where you could create platforms out of thin air, and climb into the heavens. Drill Mario adds a welcome puzzle element to the game, with an ability that causes you to (what else?) drill in a straight line through a stage’s core, often with the requirement of going back and forth through a lengthy multi-plane labyrinth.
Rock Mario controls a lot like a racing title, and adds a fun sense of speed to the game. Yoshi is also back, and better than ever, with a whole host of abilities and unique power-ups: particularly the red hot pepper pickup that causes Yoshi to manically run non-stop up walls at breakneck speeds. Unlike New Super Mario Brothers Wii, Yoshi’s return actually feels legitimate, and not rushed: so take heed Yoshi fans, the green dino is back!
Of course, the levels may be fun, but there’s that ever-present question for Nintendo games: “are they challenging?” Well, yes and no. Like Galaxy 1, the sequel does have a few levels that are extremely challenging, but overall, I’d say it’s about average, especially if you are only going after the required 70 stars to beat the game.
There are optional hints if you need them scattered throughout levels, and a super guide that is available if you die more than ten times at a particular checkpoint. Due to the greater attention to level design, you won’t find that many problems with the game’s camera. You’ll also find that the camera itself is slightly superior, and tweaked in the sequel.
Complimenting the great level selection, Galaxy 2 is not light on content. In addition to normal stage layouts, there are comet stages, and bonus star worlds (accessible by amassing the game’s currency, star bits). Comet stages are variants of previously played levels, and have certain objectives like “kill the boss with only one bar of life”, or “collect purple coins in a specific time limit”. These stages in particular are where you’re going to find a lot of the game’s challenge, but again, most of them are optional if your only goal is to complete the game.
It will take you ten to twenty hours to finish Galaxy 2‘s story (70 Stars), which nets you a completely new unlockable world. After you conquer that, you can go back and get all 120 stars, and unlock yet another bonus. Without ruining too much, the game manages to give you yet another set of 120 stars to find throughout the pre-existing levels in a very unique way. Also, if you’re a Luigi fan, you’re in luck: Luigi is unlocked pretty much at the start of the game as an optional character.
In a new era jaded by DLC, flashy HD visuals, and big budget voice acting contracts, Mario Galaxy 2 still manages to remind us why we got into gaming in the first place.
Would Mario Galaxy look better in HD? Sure. But the signature Mario style still looks perfect on the Wii, and even outperforms a handful of 360 or PS3 games.
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Galaxy 2's gameplay is as simple, and addicting as you can get. Mario's signature moves are back and better than ever with Galaxy's tight control scheme.
There aren't a lot of new catchy tunes the series is known for, but the sound effects are top notch, and filled with lots of nostalgic, classic bits.
Getting every star should last you over 20 hours, and on top of that, you get Luigi, and a special bonus at the end that more than doubles your replay value.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is quite possibly the best overall game of this generation. It succeeds in topping it's predecessor in every way.