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Super Mario Galaxy

Stage 1 : First Impressions
by Shawn White (2007-11-17)


Stage 1: Impressions

Stage 2: Analysis

Stage 3: Evaluation

Super Mario Galaxy is the first home console Mario platformer in five years, since 2002's Super Mario Sunshine for GameCube. More importantly, Galaxy radiates with the kind of magic that Sunshine, despite its good qualities, lacked. If 'Father of Mario' Shigeru Miyamoto intended to make people smile with this latest game, I find he has already succeeded.

The game's early segments make it evident that Galaxy is a true successor to Super Mario 64, released over a decade ago. Players begin with an introduction that tells of a yearly festival where Power Stars fall from the heavens and the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom lap them up like precious candy; now we have some reason for all of the Power Stars in Princess Peach's castle for Super Mario 64. That time of year has come again, and Princess Peach invites Mario to the castle for "something special". Wandering through the streets of the Mushroom Kingdom, colored with the soft light of the moon and enough Toads to fill a rainbow, is grand and ethereal. Super Mario 64's sunny opening in front of Peach's castle seems remarkably bland by comparison.


Move over, Shine Sprites - the Power Stars are back.

That moment is interrupted by Bowser and a fleet of airships - gone is the lame voice from Sunshine, as is the Koopa King's sense of being a pushover bad guy when he sets the streets aflame with his artillerly guns. The beautifully orchestrated rendition of the airship theme from Super Mario Bros. 3 only adds to this well-presented opening. Anyone who has played a Mario game can probably imagine the rest: Mario runs to Peach's rescue, Bowser uproots her castle into the atmosphere, a magikoopa blows Mario to the Earth below and our adventure begins.

Players move Mario using the Nunchuk's analog stick and make him jump with the A button on the Wii Remote; most other moves use different combinations of these two inputs. Much of Mario's platforming arsenal returns for Galaxy: double jump, triple jump, wall jump, side somersault back flip, long jump, ground pound and the like. Early in the adventure, players will gain the ability to collect and shoot star bits at enemies and obstacles using the Wii Remote's pointer and B button, as well as shake the Wii Remote to initiate a tornado spin. The game provides ample opportunity for players to adjust themselves to Mario's weight and movements, both on flat plains and circular planets, but it won't take long: the pudgy plumber controls as smoothly as he ever has.


Mario is still king of platforming.

Princess Peach isn't the only member of royalty in trouble in Galaxy. A similar-looking woman draped in blue, calling herself Rosalina, requests Mario's assistance in retrieving the Great Power Stars from Bowser in order to return energy to her Comet Observatory. In exchange, she grants Mario the power to soar through space. Rosalina and her star advisor Polari will offer guidance throughout the adventure, and it's nice to have some interaction with a princess who can at least avoid getting kidnapped.

The Comet Observatory acts as the hub world from which players will fly to other galaxies. Each galaxy contains a certain number of power stars -like previous Mario platformers, they are collected in separate missions - and the more stars players obtain, the more galaxies they'll be able to reach. The Observatory is a lovely place, by itself - not very large, but decorated and featuring some incredibly soothing waltz-like music.


Star bits come in handy during many situations.

The music truly is a testament to how well this game seems sewn together that the orchestrated ensembles fit so perfectly with the area and give players the sense that they are flying through the cosmos alongside Mario. The first area, Good Egg Galaxy, proves this unabashedly: jumping around a planet of brass and beating up a twenty-foot Goomba, leaping into a launch star, shaking the Wii Remote and feeling the rumble as Mario rockets across the glittering darkness to another planet shaped like a Yoshi egg, the camera panning as trumpets blare in a triumph of fun.

The variety of scenarios, even in the early parts of the game, verges on luxurious. Every area is a gigantic and colorful playground. Even though some galaxies, like the Loodeeloop Galaxy, contain only one Power Star, one can't help but be impressed that the developers created a floating, twisting race track of water just for that one star. The Sweet Sweet Galaxy is similar - a huge structure of cavity-creating goodness in the sky with only one star; truly the embodiment of short and sweet.


Surfboard? Mario only rides manta rays. He's that awesome.

Don't necessarily mistake the game for easy, however. Galaxy is a respectably approachable game, but those without good depth perception and reflexes will undoubtedly have trouble. Even experienced as I am with Mario games, I've lost a fair share of lives while navigating a manta ray around the Loodeeloop Galaxy and taking the rolling ball for a spin across spiraling rails and perilous ledges. Scenarios like these use more of the Wii Remote's motion sensors in ways that feel intuitive, but make precision that much more necessary. As such, certain challenges seem more difficult than others, but the temptation to keep trying holds strong. Of course, players can also save or return to the observatory at any time.

That said, it's hard to turn away from a game that's so pretty to look at, so pleasing to hear, and so much fun to explore. It's an experience the dedicated game and developing gamer can share, as one person can control Mario while a second person uses another Wii Remote to handle the star pointer, shooting and collecting star bits, stunning enemies and more. If the game didn't have enough variety already, players can just exchange controllers for a different take on the action. Friendly arguments of, "Let me fly around with Mario now!" and "You take care of this guy, he's huge!" wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Can Super Mario Galaxy get any better? Stay tuned for Stage 2 for discussion of the transformations, bosses and more!

Stage 2: Analysis >


Stage 1: Impressions

Stage 2: Analysis

Stage 3: Evaluation