Background and intro
Originally, the game released as Super Mario Galaxy 2 was going to be called More Super Mario Galaxy and would basically be the Wii’s equivalent of the Japan-only 1986 Famicom title, Super Mario Bros. 2 (aka Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels). However, Nintendo decided to pour a couple of years of development into it and make it a new game re-using the “outer space” motif. General producer Shigeru Miyamoto compared it to the Nintendo 64’s The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, which re-used the game engine from the previous title, Ocarina of Time. However, let me assure you that there is way more difference between Oracle and Majora than there is between Galaxy and Galaxy 2. In fact, in spite of the seemingly long development time, it really does come across as a More Super Mario Galaxy type game. Considering the whole space setting was used again, Galaxy 2 was a golden opportunity to shake up some other boring/cliche/haggard Mario elements. MAYBE it would have helped to have a villain other than Bowser this time around, doing something other than kidnapping Peach. During the closing cinematic scene I was thinking how much fun it would have been to play as Peach in all of her floatiness. Wouldn’t that have been a pretty cool reward for beating the game?
Nintendo seems to think there’s a lot of brand new content in this game but I’ve played downloadable expansions for other games that had just as much “new” material involving equipment, setting, characters, etc. Galaxy 2 is basically a gigantic expansion pack for Galaxy 1.
I’ve beaten the main story but that’s only about 30% of the actual content of the game
One thing that Galaxy 2 does not skimp on is content. As in all of the other 3D Mario games there are 120 standard stars for Mario to retrieve. Once you’ve obtained all 120 stars, there are an additional 120 stars that become available. However, out of the 71 stars I’ve earned so far, I kind of wonder how valid those additional stars will be. Several of the missions I’ve beaten were just re-treads of missions I’d beaten earlier. It’s a bit more egregious in this case than in, say, Super Mario 64, because in that game each area had 7 stars, so a re-tread or two within an area isn’t a big deal. In Galaxy 2, most areas only have 2 or 3 stars, 1 of which is often a re-tread. Still, there are many hours of content here. When I beat Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy, I pretty much went straight to work collecting all of the stars. However, this time out I don’t feel as motivated, and will probably give the game a break before I pick it up to do more re-treads.
A really annoying thing about Yoshi and power-ups
Galaxy 2 clearly has a “more is better” philosophy regarding power-ups but many of them are fairly lame or forgettable. Most of them are mission-specific and mandatory, basically the opposite of their usage in the old side-scrolling games. What I mean to say is that many missions require a power-up to complete; they’re not just cool add-on abilities. Additionally, if you lose the power-up they usually reappear where you originally located them, taking away their special spontaneity. I know this approach dates all the way back to SM64 but in that game power-ups occurred sparingly. In this game they’re all over the place.
The most annoying aspect of the power-ups is that they cannot be maintained from one mission to another. Being able to keep power-ups when you avoid taking damage would have made the game a lot crazier and a lot more fun for me. Yoshi makes a return in this game he’s the same way – if you finish a level with Yoshi he does not come with you, just like last years New Super Mario Bros. Wii. That’s just lame and it makes him feel tacked on. Luigi’s in the game, too. Occasionally he can be seen standing around at the beginning of a mission. On these occasions you have the option of switching to him as your playable character. As usual, his footing is slippery but his jumps are impressive.
Lots of references to past games
For some reason, there are many references in visual, audio, and level design that harken back to earlier games. Oddest of all is an area that is a remake of the Whomp Fortress from SM64. Another area is basically a tribute to the overall look and feel of Super Mario Sunshine. Musical themes from old games are used more than in most recent Mario games. Boss levels re-use the boss level music from SM64. I must admit to some hypocrisy as I had previously hoped for this sort of thing but in practice it seems a bit too much like fan-service or a lack of ideas. As I mentioned earlier, considering the very premise of this game is a re-hash it would have been cool have some really simple, easy, but wacky ideas to make the whole thing fresh.
New Mario games are just not the creme de la creme for me anymore
The main Mario series has always been my favorite video game series but I can think of a few console releases of this hardware generation that I enjoyed more than Galaxy 1 & 2, including Metroid Prime 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, BioShock and even the somewhat uninspired New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Galaxy 2 is a really well-made game but the reviews have been ridiculously positive. Please, Nintendo, give the next game a new setting and some much, much more innovative ideas.