Super Mario Galaxy is usually considered to be the greatest 3D Mario game to date, and is also the spiritual successor to (and much better) than Super Mario 64. And I agree with them for good reasons. It was the first 3D Mario title announced for the Nintendo Wii back in 2007, although they showed parts of it in their E3 trailers for the Wii itself back in 2005 and 2006. This was also the first time that Mario would enter outer space, so who wouldn’t want to get it? And because motion controls was still innovative and “hard-core” at the time, people were also hyped up for what the motion controls offered to enhance the overall gameplay experience.
Unlike other Wii games that I played, I got Super Mario Galaxy only a year after its release (as opposed to purchasing it years later). And unlike last time when I reviewed The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, this is a 3D platformer and doesn’t take 60 hours to beat on your first attempt (unless you aim for 200% completion, LOL). As most Mario fans know by now, Mario games were never plot-heavy and over world-based, but rather focused more on the gameplay instead. This is good for me because then I don’t need to review that much content, which allows me to review the more important aspects and get directly to the point. Because I got this at a young age, my naive impressions then won’t really matter that much now.
The story starts off with a storybookesque slideshow telling the origin of the Star Festival. Every 100 years, star bits fly across the skies of the Earth, brightening it with colors. Many people were amazed at such beauty that the people of the Mushroom Kingdom held this festival on the night of every century to celebrate this event. At the time that Mario and Peach existed, the Toads had gathered so much star bits it transformed into a…Power…Star…? This is when Princess Peach decides to send a letter to Mario to come to her castle to eat cake, watch the fireworks together, and receive a Luma…as the mysterious gift…that she was going to give her…
Mario arrives in Toad Town and reaches the plaza, but then gets stopped by loud explosions. Suddenly, a fleet of air ships come and attack the town; destroying the town, freezing the Toads to death, and wreck havoc. Mario is able to survive it all but is too late to save Princess Peach as Bowser appears in an airship to summon a giant UFO to rip the castle out of the ground with electricity and lasers. He then orders a group of airships to tow it to the center of the universe so Bowser can create his own galaxy inside of the castle itself…somehow. Even though Mario is able to reach the outer castle steps, he is confronted and defeated by Kamek to be sent to certain death within outer space.
All is lost until Mario wakes up on a small planet from three Lumas that transform into Star Bunnies. They eventually tell Mario after a mini-game that he is in Gate-Way Galaxy, which is a “gate” connecting to other galaxies scattered throughout the vast Mario universe. Mario then meets up with a mysterious woman named Rosalina and she asks him to help her find Power Stars in exchange for saving Peach from the clutches of Bowser. With the Luma’s help by going inside Mario’s soul to grant him the spin attack, he proceeds to save a Grand Star from being used up afterwards.
The Grand Star then flies Mario to a powerless space ship later known as the Comet Observatory. By going inside the Star Beacon, it restores power to the ship, opening up the main deck, terrace, and the garage. Rosalina and a black colored Luma by the name of Polari thank Mario for helping them and explains that Power Stars are vital to powering up the observatory, which were stolen from Bowser after he discovered their true potential. Rosalina pleads with Mario to obtain enough Power Stars (only 60 this time) to power up the entire ship, help the Lumas survive, and have the ability to fly through space in order to save Peach from Bowser. She tells him that the seven domes scattered across the ship grant access to galaxies containing such Power Stars.
And then the story dies off here until the very end, with some occasional encounters with Bowser and Bowser JR discussing about their master plan that involves Power Stars, galaxies, and universal imperialism. I won’t go too in depth with the Comet Observatory right now , but you eventually unlock all seven domes plus a library. This secret area contains a chapter book that Rosalina reads to the Lumas and Mario every now and then later in the game. After unlocking and reading the chapters, you’ll realize that it was a sad (but pretty good) story of Rosalina’s autobiography/origin story of how she became a princess of the Mushroom Kingdom; to the queen of the Lumas, ruler of the Comet Observatory, and protector of the universe.
After acquiring 60 Power Stars, Rosalina uses her magic to make the Comet Observatory transform into a space-ship and makes it fly to the center of the universe. Mario then enters Peach’s castle through a portal (where the door is supposed to be), leading to an entirely new galaxy inside. Upon reaching the end of the galaxy, Mario finally reunites with Princess Peach, but the reunion is cut short as Mario confronts Bowser and Bowser JR as well. Bowser talks a bit about ruling the universe, having a galactic empire with Peach by her side, and finally defeating Mario once and for all. The two then duke it out in one of the franchise’s most epic final boss battles, with Mario (of course) becoming victorious.
Bowser falls into the surface of his own gigantic sun as he is defeated, supposedly killing him, and his death apparently frees the final Grand-Star that he imprisoned inside the sun. Mario obtains the last Grand Star, saves Princess Peach from Bowser JR’s clutches, and leaves the galaxy in order to board the Comet Observatory to leave and return back home. However, the sun suddenly starts to enter its last moments of life, and Bowser somehow didn’t die and appears on the surface, crying about his failure to rule the universe and defeating Mario. The sun then enlarges to a red giant, uses its heavy gravity to attract nearby objects before it explodes into a giant supernova, destroying everything in its path.
Meanwhile, Mario and Peach are about to enter the Comet Observatory when they suddenly get sucked into the supernova as well. Everything from the Comet Observatory itself to the airships gets sucked in as the supernova eventually transforms itself into a mega black hole. Out of solutions and desperation, Rosalina orders the Lumas to enter the black hole and combine all of their magical powers to stop and reverse the effects of the black hole from tearing the universe apart. It successfully gets stopped and a new universe is created, but not before Rosalina talking to Mario about Lumas evolving into new planets, galaxies, comets, and even Power-Stars. Mario, Peach, and Bowser wake up to a new day in a new universe with Rosalina saying her farewells.
The game’s setting takes place throughout the galaxies and planets of outer space in the Mario universe. It’s not stated when the game specifically takes place, but it’s safe to assume this game occurs hundreds of years after Rosalina’s departure from Earth and directly after the events of NEW! Super Mario Bros. As explained before, the main characters are Mario, Peach, Bowser, Rosalina, Polari, and Baby Luma, while the secondary characters are Luigi, Captain Toad, Star Bunny, Kamek, and also Bowser JR.
As with any Mario game, the mood and atmosphere are still suitable for children and younger audiences. However, when it comes to the villains and presence of evil, things become more dark and serious to signify their importance to the plot development and story. Speaking of plot, Super Mario Galaxy does tend to be underwhelming and very short, but with the excellent cinematics and being more plot-heavy than other Mario games (not including the Paper Mario and Mario RPG franchises), it’s actually pretty decent. Thankfully, what this game lacks in plot certainly makes up for it in gameplay.
Cinematics in Super Mario Galaxy are great, and do well to showcase the game’s excellent graphics and level design. Most of the better quality cutscenes are in the prologue and epilogue, and at times look worse than the regular looking cutscenes due to the extreme close up of the characters. The good thing though is that everything else looks great, and the blurring effects hides/enhances the speed/smoothness of the cutscenes due to the obvious low frame rate. Other cutscenes that aren’t cinematic are only meant for character interactions, boss introductions, and overview of the galaxy for each new mission. They have better rendered character-models, but aren’t as cinematic as a result.
There isn’t much to say about the animation and the script because it isn’t a plot heavy or plot driven game like Metroid or Zelda. For a game on the Nintendo Wii, it actually has good animation that enhances the game’s cutscenes and allows the game to have an illusion of running at 60 frames per second (which actually runs at a lower FPS). What is a really big let-down this time around is that, unlike Super Mario Sunshine, there is absolutely little to no voice acting. I’m not saying this is bad, but after seeing characters like Princess Peach, Toadsworth, Toad, and Bowser JR speak, it was sad to see such people downgraded, especially since other characters like Rosalina and Polari would have benefited from it.
Being the spiritual successor to Super Mario 64, it’s not weird for Nintendo to implement the controls similar to that game into Super Mario Galaxy. The game is played with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk attached and even a second player can join in as well with the Wii Remote alone. Moving the control stick moves Mario, pressing the C button resets the camera angle or changes it to face Mario’s back (like in Zelda), and pressing the Z button makes Mario crouch, stomp, or dive (when under-water). The pointer is used as a cursor for selecting menu options, collecting Star-Bits on screen, and interacting with on-screen items and gimmicks. Pressing the A button allows many functions to occur and the B button/trigger allows you to shoot out Star-Bits, one of the game’s many new gimmicks.
Just like with many other early titles for the Nintendo Wii, Super Mario Galaxy has motion and pointer-gimmicks implemented into the game. However, they’re only limited to a few basic commands and aren’t gimmicky enough to ruin or interfere with the gaming experience (I’m looking at you, Zelda and Metroid). The pointer can select menu options, collect Star-Bits, interact with on-screen gimmick and objects, and also serve as an on-screen cursor. For the motion controls itself, it’s basically a simple matter of shaking the Wii Remote to make Mario perform the spin attack. First appearing in Super Mario World, later in Super Mario Sunshine,and finally debuting in this game, it allows Mario to spin in a full 360 degree circle to defeat enemies, break certain obstacles, activate switches, and use launch stars.
Pressing the A button has a lot of functions that players should master to become better from the start. Mario is known to be an excellent jumper and can do a variety of jumping moves; the triple jump, backwards somersault, side somersault, long jump, wall jump, and the new and improved spin jump. You can also do other things such as swimming, talking, reading just to name a few. Pressing the Z button allows for crouching, but combining it with the control stick and A button allows for the somersaults and long jump, as well as the ground pound (and diving when underwater). You can sometimes also shake the Wii Remote to skate, spin bolts counter/clock-wise, use shells, or boost from tornadoes. I almost forgot about this, but the d-pad (or the control pad) changes the camera angle and zooms into a first person perspective.
Now, as for the second player, he/she only needs a Wii Remote and only controls a pointer as opposed to a pointer and character. Moving the pointer allows the second player to collect and aim Star-Bits for the first player. Finally, pressing the A button does a variety of things for helping the first player out. This includes freezing enemies and certain hazards to either avoid completely or defeat with ease, making Mario jump higher than as usual, and collecting Star-Bits. Pressing the B button shoots out Star-Bits that can stun enemies. Overall, the controls are great and don’t feel too gimmicky.
Super Mario Galaxy is a fun and simple game that anybody of all ages can easily pick up and play. Just like with any Mario game, your primary goal is to beat each level and defeat the boss of each world, and after beating all the worlds unlock access to the final level and boss. Along the way, you can jump on or use power-ups to defeat enemies, jump over ditches and platforms, and avoid hazards and obstacles. However, what’s new (except for those who have played 64 and Sunshine) is collecting Power-Stars at the end of each mission for each galaxy.
Most of the Power-Stars can be obtained by reaching the end of the level, but some are hidden in a variety of ways. You may have to defeat a boss, race many NPC’s, unlock access (or the container holding it) blocking off the Power-Star, or find them in secret areas. As the game takes place in outer space, Mario travels through many planets and satellites. Because of this, many cool new concepts like rounded areas, gravitational puzzles, anti-gravity, and space themed levels are introduced for the first time and has a big influence other modern 3D platformers use even today.
The hub-world in Super Mario Galaxy is none other than the Comet Observatory itself. Just like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, the hub-world is a huge 3D environment confined within borders and connects all of the game’s levels. There are 7 domes scattered throughout the Comet Observatory and grants access to seven different regions containing the galaxies. Each region i set up to look like a holographic representation of a solar system and consists of two main galaxies, two mini galaxies, and an enemy base (except for the last two domes). A mission select screen will obviously appear upon entering a galaxy.
Not only does the hub-world connect all the galaxies, but it also contains many different areas to hang out, interact, and explore as well. The main dock is where the map, beacon, Grand Star projector, and spawning point are. The Terrace consists of the first dome; the Garage is just a garage for the Star-Shroom and is where Luigi and the Toads hang out; the Fountain consists of the second dome; the Kitchen consists of the third dome; and the Bedroom consists of the fourth dome.
There’s also a library beside the kitchen which has book shelves and a sitting area. On the roof of the Comet Observatory, we have the Engine Room (the fifth dome); the Gateway (the sixth dome); and the Garden (the seventh dome). Upon finding the three Green Power Stars, you can unlock a floating “Y”-shaped planet with with three Green Lumas leading to three galaxies known as the Trial Galaxies (as well as a galaxy unlocked upon 200% completion only). Beside each dome, there will also be a Hungry Luma leading to a new secret galaxy if fed enough Star Bits as you progress throughout the game.
With every Mario game, there are always old and new power-ups that enhance the overall experience. The only returning item is the Fire Flower, which can spawn infinite amount of fire balls but at a very slow rate. There’s the Bee Mushroom that turns Mario into a bee and being able to fly, walk on clouds and flowers, and climb honey-comb walls. There’s the Boo Mushroom, which transforms Mario into a Boo and grants him the ability to float, become intangible to pass through obstacles, turn invisible, and become sexually attractive to the Boos (who must be homo-sexual). Then there’s the Rainbow Star, which is essentially the Star-Man but with a rainbow texture, turns Mario into a rainbow covered entity, increases his running speed, and somehow leaves several after-images of himself.
The Ice Flower turns Mario into a living frozen statue that grants him the ability to create ice platforms to cross over water and (even) lava. The Spring Mushroom transforms Mario into a spring and lets him jump extremely high, automatically wall-jump upon touching a wall or any vertical surface, and perform automatic ground pounds but at the huge cost of terrible controls. The best power-up in the game is most likely the Red Star, which looks like a Grand Star painted in red and shrunken to the size of a Power-Star that allows Mario to fly when performing the spin jump. Unfortunately, this awesome power-up can only be used in the Comet Observatory and in the second mission of Gateway Galaxy.
Other items include Star Bits, Life Mushroom, Surfing Ray, Rolling Ball, Giant Air Bubble, Green Shell, Red Shell, Launch Star, Sling Star, and Pull Stars. Star-Bits are the game’s main gimmicks and are needed to feed the Hungry Lumas and help stun enemies and earn extra lives. Life Mushroom is a health booster that increases your HP from 3 to 6 and usually appears before boss battles and extremely difficult missions. Surfing Ray, Rolling Ball, and Giant Air Bubble are all unique methods of transportation in galaxies that normally can’t be traveled through since it lacks walkability in terrain and/or planets. Launch Stars allows Mario to travel from planet to planet with a simple spin attack; Sling Stars are relatively the same but are less powerful and have a shorter range; and Pull-Stars pull Mario into the air temporarily or as long as the cursor is pointing at the Pull-Star itself.
Due to the increased variety of the level themes, there are so many new and unique enemies that reflect their respective theme for the galaxy they are in. Bosses this time around, while much easier (due to the inclusion of the spin attack and to attract/appeal to the casual audience on the Nintendo Wii), are still very fun, strategic, and challenging because of the diversity of the galaxy themes. There’s Dino Piranha, King Kaliente, Bug-A-Boom, Mega Leg, Kamella, Tarantox, Topmaniac, Bouldergeist, Major Burrows, Baron Brr, Undergrunt Gunner, King-Fin, Fiery Dino Piranha, Bowser JR, and also Bowser himself.
Because Super Mario Galaxy is a platformer and not an adventure game or RPG, side quests aren’t that frequent or important. What we do have though are several different kinds of missions that are only mandatory for 100% completion. There are hidden Power Stars which serve the same purpose as it did back in Super Mario 64 (by being hidden in secret locations but this time within the galaxies themselves rather than the hub-world). Then there are the new Prankster Comets, which are simply old missions but with new and specific objectives; consisting of Speed-Run, Daredevil (1 HP only), Cosmic (racing with evil clone), Fast Foe (faster enemies/hazards), and Purple Comets (100 purple coins). There are also Green Power Stars, which are basically green colored Power Stars that are only hidden in three different galaxies – eventually unlocking the three (extremely difficult) Time Trial Galaxies.
Overall, Super Mario Galaxy does a poor job of balancing the difficulty level, as most regular missions are too easy and other non-mandatory missions are too hard, making it frustrating at times for hardcore and casual gamers alike. That’s something that’s been prominent with the Mario franchise since Super Mario 64. Newer challenges that weren’t seen in past (canon and platform) Mario games include fetch quests, mini bosses, dungeon-like puzzles, and Prankster Comets.
Although Super Mario Galaxy is a single player platformer game, it does have a couple fun game modes to try out. Besides the main quest and side quests, there is also the previously mentioned two player co-op mode, in which the second player uses the Wii Remote alone to help the first player controlling Mario (or Luigi…). Another game mode that can only be unlocked via defeating Bowser in the final galaxy again (only for those that have beaten the game) after getting all 120 Power Stars is Super Luigi Galaxy. It’s essentially playing the whole game over again – but as Luigi – who can run faster, jump higher, and reach longer distances than Mario at the cost of terrible handling and bad acceleration. Unlocking this new game mode won’t erase your first quest though (as opposed to Metroid and Zelda), but will show a hidden cutscene after the credits to notify you.
Even though past 3D Mario games lacked excellent graphics and Nintendo never really attempted to create amazing graphics for a Mario game, it can be ignored and said otherwise for Super Mario Galaxy. As being the first 3D Mario game on the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo does a really great job on showcasing the console’s true hardware capabilities. The graphics for this game looks absolutely amazing , and look just as visually appealing as any game on the PS3 and Xbox 360, despite it only being in 480p SD and the former ones being 720p HD. Everything from the textures to the character models and lighting effects look stunning for the Nintendo Wii and just as realistic and accurate as the game’s CG illustrations shown in artwork and manuals.
With a resolution of 480 progressive scan standard definition, Super Mario Galaxy looks even more clean and smooth than what the graphics were intended to be. It shows the graphics in its true quality, and even makes up for the (not so much) mediocre frame-rate. Unfortunately, due to the technical limitations of the Nintendo Wii, not only were the cinematic cutscenes edited to have a blurry background effect to make up for the terribly rendered character models (when zoomed-in), but the game itself runs at 30 frames per second. Even though it is mainly because of the planetary level design and open ended galactic environments, the weak hardware still partially affects it.
The textures for the graphics looks very realistic and make the game look almost like the CG illustrations and artwork. Although it does have a cartoony graphical art style, Super Mario Galaxy does have a high polygon count and high resolution textures to make up for the lack of detail within the game’s generic and cartoony looking textures. Everything, whether zoomed in or zoomed out, looks very well designed and allows rendered cutscenes to look amazing without showing any visual errors (unless it is completely zoomed in, of course). It truly shows what the game and console is truly capable of and is what made Super Mario Galaxy to be considered as one of the best graphically looking games on the Nintendo Wii.
The models in this game are extremely accurate and spot-on, and as stated previously, are similar to the CG illustrations of the characters. All of the characters look exactly what people imagined them to look like way back with Super Mario Sunshine (though that never actually became a reality until the development of Galaxy) and match the character models of early games and even current games of the PS3 and Xbox 360. Some character look better than others, like how Bowser looks more of an actual monster than in past games while Princess Peach having inaccurate proportions that make her look as distorted as a Teletubby (mainly the head and body matching in size, as well as the eyes and hands).
Other models such as enemy and boss models are top notch and due to their simplicity and larger size, it takes advantage of the high polygon count that renders them. Enemies look exactly like their CGI counterparts, with lighting and shadows being the only difference between them. Bosses and enemies alike have better/accurate models than the characters due to their large size and simplicity. Bosses in Super Mario Galaxy look very realistic and aren’t as cartoony as the enemy and character models to make them more evil and serious.
Finally, the lighting effects are done well and already add to the amazing quality of the graphics. Everything looks bright and cheery, without looking too dark or plastic like. It also changes depending on the time of day, weather conditions, and environmental objects within the galaxies. Shadowing is darker and thicker than past 3D Mario games without standing out too much, and can even enhance the lighting and textures at times. For the coloring itself, it suits the mood, atmosphere, and art style without being too “kiddy”, realistic, or ugly.
Music is present in Super Mario Galaxy but this time is better than ever. To reflect the theme of outer space, Nintendo decided to now include orchestral and instrumental compositions to the mix and is presented well with the galaxies. Many of the musical pieces in the soundtrack are memorable and great to listen to, as well as being catchy and never sounding repetitive or dull. I love the music for Good Egg, Space Junk, Battle Rock, Gusty Garden, Toytime, and even Melty Molten Galaxy. They even included modern remakes of older tunes such as the infamous Airship Theme and the Mushroom Kingdom theme from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario Bros. respectively.
Similar to Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy has a high replayability value that rewards players with added gaming experience and skill, as well as 200% completion (not kidding). Besides trying to collect the regular Power Stars, there are hidden stars, Prankster Comets, Green Power Stars, Time Trial Galaxies, Hungry Lumas, Luigi rescuing missions, and Super Luigi Galaxy. Although only 60 Power Stars are mandatory for beating the main quest, all the other remaining 60 consist of the missions listed above except for the former. Plus, getting all 120 Power Stars with both Mario and Luigi, you unlock a new mission for both character, increasing the total to a whopping 242 Power Stars.
After reviewing the whole game, it’s now time to discuss the good and the bad about Super Mario Galaxy. I personally liked the layout of the missions and the galaxies, with two main galaxies in each dome (they have at least 6 missions, while the secondary ones only have 1). I also love the design and creativity of the galaxies itself, from the planets to the anti-gravity, to even the concept of outer space being used in a 3D platformer. Most importantly, I like how Nintendo was able to innovate with new ideas while still sticking to the old 3D formula used in Super Mario 64.
Now it’s time to discuss the bad parts about this game. First off, the health meter in this game has been lowered from 8 HP in Super Mario 64 and Sunshine to only 3 measly little health points. Why did Nintendo even do that; don’t fix something if it’s not broken. Even though there are now pre-determined checkpoints and an abundant amount of 1-Up Mushrooms, they still shouldn’t have done that in the first place. Another thing I dislike is the controls for swimming and skating. The camera angle also constantly fights with Mario and it interferes controlling him at times – even pressing the C button to reset the camera sometimes won’t work. Speaking of camera angles, the camera does tend to get stuck, become unresponsive, and/or get stuck in certain positions occasionally (which I find annoying).
After trying, playing, beating, and re-visiting this game multiple times throughout my adolescent years, I would have to agree that Super Mario Galaxy is a great 3D platformer for the Nintendo Wii. With its excellent graphics, memorable soundtrack, accurate/tight controls, and fun gameplay, I highly recommend purchasing it as a must-have game that you don’t want to miss out. However, this game does have its fair share of flaws, including a boring plot, imbalance of difficulty, low health, underwhelming multi-player, and occasional bad camera angles. Super Mario Galaxy is an excellent game to pick up and play, is suitable for all demographics and gamers, and deserves a high score of 9.1 out of 10.