Once in a blue moon, there is a game in a genre that raises the bar so high for its peers that few will be able to reach it, let alone a spin-jump over it. When Super Mario Galaxy released in 2007, players and critics alike thought it would be that standard setting game for platformers in this generation of consoles. Bright visuals, innovative gameplay mechanics, and stellar level design made it the definitive title everyone hoped it would be. Most assumed that a sequel would be a mere rehash of old ideas, and that another entry in the Galaxy series would be pointless. Fortunately for us, Nintendo took great efforts to prove everybody wrong by releasing Super Mario Galaxy 2. There are as many reasons as there are stars in the sky why it is the most amazing Wii game of 2010, but here I’ve tried to narrow the list down to the top five.
1. At times, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a lot like “3D Platforming for Dummies”
Super Mario 64 made 3D platforming hot stuff in 1996, these types of games have been the bane of my gaming existence. For some reason they just never clicked with me the way 2D platformers did. Super Mario Galaxy 2 was built for players who are exactly like me. The first thing you will do in the game is play through an introductory level which will gradually transition from 2D to 2.5D to 3D gameplay. This is valuable because it not only eases us newbies into platforming in three dimensions, but also helps train players on the often rapidly changing styles of play that they will come across in the main game. Along with this, there are the Hint TVs and the Cosmic Guide to consider. The Hint TVs are strategically placed TVs that allow you to watch a video walkthrough of an upcoming segment of the level, and the Cosmic Guide appears to players who have died an excessive amount of times in a galaxy. When this happens, the game plays itself and you can choose to resume control at your leisure. There is a downside to this however: the star you grab at the end of the level will be a yucky tarnished one instead of the lustrous golden one you would’ve obtained for playing all the way through on your own.
2. Hot damn, this is a gorgeous game!
Everyone out there playing a PS3 or an Xbox 360 while they sip on their Wii-flavored Haterade have a boat load of complaints, but one I hear pretty often is that Wii games don’t look as good as games on the other systems do. On my old school HDTV with the Wii hooked up via component cables, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is one of the most visually appealing games I’ve seen. Everything is crisp and unpixelated and there is no lag in the frame rate to be seen. The game designers chose a color palette so rich and vibrant it is hard not to be a little awe-struck by the game world you are romping around in. Textures on both enemies and the environment are expertly executed, and the special effects for things like Yoshi’s Dash Pepper and boss attacks are stunning.
3. The soundtrack is a fully orchestrated marvel.
This game has a score rivaling that of a summer blockbuster action movie. The composer, Mahito Yokota, perfectly captured the majestic feeling and adventurous mood a game like this should invoke in its players. However, the music manages to keep a healthy balance with the game’s sound effects and never seems too over-the-top or intrusive. This must have been quite a feat to accomplish considering the game is about a plumber in outer space trying to save a princess from an evil and gigantic turtle dinosaur dragon thingie.
4. Story? What story?
Anyone who has played any Super Mario title already knows the gist of what is happening in Super Mario Galaxy 2. Everyone is minding their own business one day, then BLAM! – Bowser appears out of nowhere and snatches Princess Peach. You control Mario on his quest to save her…again. This time around, what’s great about the story, or lack thereof, is that Nintendo make it clear that they understand most of the game’s players are so familiar with the themes of Mario lore that it is unnecessary to blab on and on about things we’ve already heard. Nintendo set up the beginning of the game so Mario veterans can get right into the action, but players who are new to Super Mario games can get just enough of an introductory story for you to get your feet wet.
This is the music from Super Mario Galaxy 2‘s closing credits.
5. Greatness is Built on the Foundation Laid by Super Mario Galaxy
Go ahead and put the cap on your Haterade, because I’m about to tell you how it is Super Mario Galaxy 2 combines some of the most reality-bending mechanics you’ll ever see with cutting-edge level design to forge an unforgettable and wholly unique gaming experience. Players will be thrust into a vast variety of levels that have Mario drilling through planetoids, flipping colored panels that are suspended over perilous black holes, rolling up into a huge boulder to bowl enemies, and controlling the gravitational laws of the universe to change up into down and back again. There are also unique changes in perspective to add more depth to the game and variation in style of play. There are many levels that switch back and forth between 2D, 2.5D, and 3D seamlessly. Much to my surprise and delight, the camera works flawlessly through these transitions so you never miss a moment of action, or feel like your failure was due to poor game design.
This game will definitely be the toughest act for aspiring developers of platformers to follow. Essentially, if you own a Wii there is absolutely no excuse for you not to pick up Super Mario Galaxy 2, even if you haven’t played the first one. Don’t worry about it being hard, because the game will play itself if that’s what it takes. It looks great, sounds even better, and lets you get right into the action of playing with little to no nonsense. Most importantly, this game handles like none you’ve ever seen before. For players of the first Galaxy game wondering how this one could play any differently, I have three words for you: “Rock Mario bowling”. You have not only new and familiar enemies to contend with, but also the gravitational pull of the celestial bodies you’re trekking through and the puzzling designs of the levels themselves. The development team at Nintendo wrapped all these elements up into a neat and tidy package that makes Super Mario Galaxy 2 the best game for Wii owners in 2010, if not all time.