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Super Mario Galaxy

Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Genre: Platform

Release Date: 11/12/07

Like many, I found Super Mario Sunshine to be something of a disappointment. Not only did the game fail to "wow" us like Mario’s previous games, but it seemed devoid of much of the imagination that defined the series. I think we can safely say that Super Mario Galaxy is a different story. Sure, it may not have the next-gen glitz and glamour of many of the other games at E3, but it’s fun and imaginative and quite frankly everything a Mario game should be.

The E3 demo we got our hands on had four areas to try out – an introductory area, a piranha plant-themed area, a bee-themed area, and a fourth area called the Beam Star Trail. Unfortunately, it was hard to get a feel from the demo for just how everything is all tied together – the game’s areas seemed somewhat linear and it’s unknown whether the game will incorporate a hub area like Delfino Plaza and Super Mario 64’s castle, or if players will simply progress from one area to the next (although Mario’s still nabbing stars, so safe bet is on the former.

The intro area had Mario chasing bunnies around a spherical world and getting used to the basic controls. Fairly standard Mario stuff here – use the analog stick on the nunchuck to move around, Z button to duck, A on the remote to jump, and players could flick either the remote or nunchuck to make Mario initiate a spinning attack. In addition, players could point the remote at the screen to collect gems (which appear with the same frequency as coins from previous games, while coins are now somewhat uncommon, and are the primary way to refill Mario’s three health slots), and shoot these gems at enemies to stun them.

Running around the area, players get a hint at the inventiveness of the game – jumping in a pipe on one end flings them out of a pipe on the other side in a manner that suggests that Mario just shot right through the planet. You also get a hint at the game’s story, which seems to involve Mario trying to once again save Princess Peach after her disappearance, only to get caught up in a greater struggle involving the galactic Princess Collette and a galaxy being stolen of its stars.

While the game’s first area has Mario on a decent-sized self-contained world, the second and fourth areas have him jumping from planet to planet via something called a Ring Star (a ring shaped like a star, if you really need to be told). These planets all varied in size and shape – some featured a considerable amount of area to explore, some were fairly simple and could be traversed in a matter of seconds, some featured normal rock, dirt and grass terrain, while others looked like random objects or artificial sci-fi creations. The game also gives an answer to an age-old videogame question, “Just what’s the story with all those bottomless pits?” In Super Mario Galaxy, while most planets allow Mario to jump off one end and land on the other side, often players are prevented from doing so by black holes on one side of a planet, or even eating away at its insides. As you can imagine, falling into a black hole’s gravity well isn’t good for Mario’s health.

As Mario jumps from one planetary body to the next, the goal generally seems to be either finding the planet’s Ring Star to move on, or gathering the pieces to make the Ring Star. Sometimes, this can be straightforward, but at times it involves a bit of puzzle solving. In one area, Goombas populating a planet held the keys necessary to proceed, and in another, players needed to step on panels throughout a room to unlock a captive star. The piranha plants in the second area can often be defeated to grow a vine that reaches to another planet nearby. The entire time, players are dealing with the game’s gravity-warping sense of perspective, with Mario often apparently walking on a wall or ceiling, or jumping straight up only to be caught in another planet’s pull.

The game’s third area actually proved to be possibly its most interesting. As most of the game’s worlds seem to revolve around a theme, this particular one has a “bee” theme to it, with all sorts of friendly bees directing you to their queen, giant flowers to use as platforms, flowing honey allowing you to stick to walls, and the latest weapon in Mario’s arsenal – a bee suit. That’s right, like the tanooki and frog suits before it, Mario’s newest power-up, a mushroom encased in a honeycomb, suits him up in a full costume, in this case transforming him into Bee Mario, allowing him to float for long distances, fly upwards for a short amount of time, and just generally look very silly. Mario’s outfit washes off with water, though, so players needed to be wary when traversing the giant sprinkler-filled garden.

The game’s graphics don’t look anything even pretending to look next-gen, but they still manage to impress. The game has beautiful water, incredible light-warping effects, and a wonderful atmosphere that makes it a pleasure to explore. With the odd contraptions and inventive themes in place in the game’s disparate worlds, players are constantly compelled to see more, and that’s about where the demo leaves us – salivating to see more. Needless to say, we eagerly await the game’s release later this year.

If the game isn't done yet it's pretty close. This is one Wii owners have been waiting for, and it looks like they won't have to wait much longer.

By Jake Mcneill - 07/13/07
ESRB Details: Mild Cartoon Violence

Screenshots for Super Mario Galaxy

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