By Spencer . November 2, 2007 . 6:20pm
Super Mario Galaxy begins with Mario casually hanging out at a comet celebration. All of the mushrooms are out for the centennial event and Princess Peach is looking on the balcony of her castle. Things are peaceful until Bowser appears with a fleet of airships! He calls forth a giant UFO and the Princess is kidnapped… again. Sounds cliché? Yeah, it is, but I couldn’t care less about the story. Mario games don’t require an epic tale or even character development. A flimsy pretense to save Peach is good enough for me to start chasing Bowser and collecting coins. After Mario is blasted into outer space by Kamek he lands on a tiny planet and the star hunting adventure begins.
Super Mario Galaxy holds your hand through the first stage. You have to chase down rabbits by running with the analog stick and jumping with the A button. Mario retains all of his abilities from Super Mario 64 except he can’t punch. Replacing his fists of fury is a spin attack, which is done by shaking the remote. Compared to other Wii games there isn’t as much unnecessary shaking in Super Mario Galaxy. You shake the remote to attack goombas and to activate star points that blast Mario to another intergalactic island.
So how does Super Mario Galaxy take advantage of the Wii remote? Well, there is a lot of pointing. Star chips are the new coins. When you collect 50 of them you get an extra life. You could run and grab them, but it’s so much easier to point at them with the remote from a distance. When you see a piranha plant you can point at it with the remote and press the B button to make a star piece fly into it. Since Mario doesn’t always have fire power shooting star pieces is the main way of stunning enemies. Once they’re dizzy Mario can run up to them and kick them off the mini-planet.
It wouldn’t be a 3D Mario game if you weren’t collecting something and you collect stars. Getting the first star in Super Mario Galaxy is an easy mission. Nintendo gives new gamers plenty of time to adjust to the controls. You start the stage by running into flowers, which causes star chips to appear. This is your base ammunition for fighting the two octopus enemies that are right in front of you. After sending them into orbit you run vertically up a wall, shake to jump to the next planet and continue until you reach a prehistoric piranha plant. Actually, you can’t tell that it’s a piranha plant right away because its head is covered in a shell. When you use the spin attack on its tail, it breaks the egg off to reveal the enraged monster. In traditional Mario fashion three hits finishes the boss off and the first star is yours.
Similar to Super Mario 64 you need to collect stars to open up new areas with uncollected stars. There is a minor twist in the formula. At the end of every level, Mario’s remaining star chips are added to a cumulative total. These chips can be used to feed Princess Rosalina’s pals, which open up even more levels. The levels that open up from star chips feel more like bonus levels.
One of the earlier ones puts Mario on the back of a motion controlled manta ray. To get the star you have to do a lap in 1:30, but there aren’t any edges holding Mario in. If Mario falls off the floating water trail he loses a life. Nintendo generously placed a 1up mushroom in an easy to reach place. As long as you get it you can afford to fall of because the extra life will appear on your next turn too. Another level has Mario jump through a fantasy cake factory where the frosting underneath him acts like a conveyor belt… a conveyor belt with awkward cookie cutter holes. There is also a Super Monkey Ball like level where the player holds the remote vertically and gently tips it to make Mario spin the ball underneath him. The goal is to guide the ball Mario is walking on to the end of the course. As soon as Mario does this the ball is shattered and he can collect the encapsulated star. Compared to Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy has much more diversity in its level design. In my book this is a huge plus.
More to come…