Many of you may remember our Call of Duty: World at War review, which was written by a friend (and GS user) named Sean. Sean has stepped up to the plate again and offered to write us a guest review for Super Mario Galaxy 2! Enjoy!
After Super Mario 64 came out, to me the Super Mario series has never had the same fun-factor as it did with that groundbreaking and stunning game. From Paper Mario to Sunshine, nothing really could compare in the level complexity and 3D world fun. Well, out came a new line of Mario games titled “Galaxy” with motion control and a new spin on the Mario 64 levels. After Super Mario Galaxy, we are given a whole new experience with Super Mario Galaxy 2, but what exactly does this game have to offer?
Here you are, it’s the 100 year festival in the mushroom kingdom, starbits are raining from the sky, Toads are everywhere, disaster has struck and King Bowser has stolen the princess from the castle and taken her deep into space! As the hero, Mario, it is up to you to take off after your beloved Peach and battle to the center of the universe to rescue your princess! Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s pretty much the exact same opening as it was in the first installment, Super Mario Galaxy.
With an opening sequence that mirrors the one in the first and re-enforced throughout the game, it becomes easy to realize that the events of the first game are swept under the carpet and treated as if they never happened. There is really no mention of Luna or the Lumas and the grand space ship from the first installment. So no real credit to story for Galaxy 2, but then again almost every Mario game has held the same storyline so it’s not really that big of a deal.
Let’s continue on. The premise is, as mentioned, the exact same thing as the first game. Mario this time gets the help of a fat Luma mechanic named “Lubba” who gives him the ability to control a planetoid ‘face-ship’ in the likeness of our hero. Mario must travel to the center of the universe collecting stars and grand stars to help him in defeating the almighty Bowser and rescuing Peach. So let’s get on to gameplay!
I’ll start off with the spaceship, or your home base. This go around you are on a spaceship that looks creepily like our hero, Mario. This is a much better alternative to the maze-like spaceship base from Super Mario Galaxy. No more riding transporters around the base and entering rooms to go to different places in the universe.
This time it’s as simple as the games of old; step on a switch and you’re taken to a world map that unlocks just as you think it would. Complete the levels, earn stars, beat the boss, and move on. Features like the map, which is now a simple list style sign next to the wheel of the ship, have made the aspect of the home base much more enjoyable and manageable.
Other notable features on the ‘face-ship’ are the ever appearing ‘buddies’ (Lumas and other creatures from your travels) who tell you about certain aspects of the game or give you tips. Unfortunately, most of these tips are things you already knew and your space ship becomes populated with friends who really help you in no way at all. Also on the ship, and making his first appearance in the game series, is Yoshi! It sounds like it’s all fun and games until you realize that he is worthless on the spaceship, giving you no real advantage, and he can’t be taken into any world you please; he will simply disappear. Overall, the home location is simplified to a level that’s way more acceptable and manageable.
Gameplay is something that is super important in any game, and Galaxy 2 has its ups and its downs. It largely mirrors the first game; it’s the 3D level style of Super Mario 64 on steroids, with more moving parts and challenges than the N64 game could manage. As some people may have wondered, there is a two-player option that is such a vast improvement over the first game it will get its own section of the review later. You will find yourself driving the overalls-clad hero of the universe through level throwbacks and brand new content as you explore each world and new galaxy.
Speaking of which, the game took an interesting turn on the whole concept of worlds and galaxies. Mario travels to “worlds” much like in the older games; this is what would really be “galaxies” and look just like them. But within these worlds are the “galaxies” which are shaped like various items and places based upon the galaxies’ content. I found it interesting that they would blatantly put galaxies within worlds, but I’m sure that was to keep with the theme most Mario games have taken so we won’t take that nit-picky bit into account.
As mentioned, there are many retro worlds and world themes, bringing back Bee Mario and introducing new powers such as Rock Mario! The worlds feel much more challenging than the older worlds of Super Mario Galaxy. Some worlds are brought back from the previous game, some exactly the same, some with different variations. A complaint about the game was that they seem to recycle a lot, this being one of those cases because worlds were definitely recycled. This doesn’t mean that there is a lack of new material, but seeing several of the old galaxies with almost the same premise was a bit of a let down. Some levels were also very frustrating and only a few gave me a really hard time, but those levels can have you fed up pretty quick when you are repetitively losing lives.
Another aspect of gameplay was the motion control. This came in two forms. Controlling the rolling ball balancing Mario (a la the fist installment) and what was probably the worst add-on, Fluzzard. The ball Mario was again, just as it was in the first, fairly annoying but nothing too bad. Holding the Wii-mote vertically, you had to tilt it to direct a ball around with our mega mustache hero on top. Fluzzard however…this time the control is horizontal and you have to tilt and turn the controller to help “Fluzzard the flightless buzzard” glide down a maze course. Let’s just say I didn’t find those levels fun at all. The Wii motion controls, in my humble opinion, could have been left out all together. Really just a waste of time if you ask me, but then again, isn’t the motion control the point of the Wii?
Lastly in gameplay, the section that I was most pleased with: Multiplayer.
So co-op in Super Mario Galaxy let your buddy control a star icon and shoot starbits. Oh joy! Such an involved role! Well, in Super Mario Galaxy 2 your 2nd player gets a whole new job. They take the form of a friendly Luma who follows the 1st player around and can help with a heck of a lot more than shooting and collecting starbits. Player 2 is now able to stop enemies and objects (such as with moving spikes and platforms where the object will remain as it is until the player lets go), helping Mario defeat the baddies and make it past some nasty obstacles. There is also the ability to grab items such as the super health ‘shroom and the 1-ups everyone is so fond of. Lastly the 2nd player can kill some enemies. Certain enemies can be grabbed and when the controller is shaken, pop! Now, not all enemies can be taken care of this way, the majority can be knocked over spinning while our red hat hero must go and finish the job.
Co-op got a total revamping in this version and I feel that they did a splendid job at turning this into a fun experience for two gamers. I happily went through the game with my girlfriend and we found it to be an enjoyable gaming experience. On the note of co-op, I must say that it adds a level of simplicity to the game, since some levels in the game would be much harder if tackled solo. Overall, co-op was an exciting and fun experience in Galaxy 2, and I would recommend it for anyone out there with a girlfriend or who wants to have some good casual gaming fun.
Moving on from gameplay, some other changes were made in this installment worthy of note. In Galaxy 2, they introduce a new item in every level that is “challenging” to get: Comet Coins. The comet coin is in every galaxy, one per, and is needed to unlock another change in the game: Prankster comets. You may be saying “but wait, weren’t those in the last SMG game as well?” Yes they were, but now it’s different. Comet coins unlock prankster comets for the different galaxies, and with those you only get one comet, the Prankster Comet. In the old Galaxy, there were three different comet types; in this one, for all intents and purposes, there is one. It appears on a level, and you can actually choose to do this comet star or a regular star, unlike in Galaxy, which forced you to do the comet while it was in orbit. The comet this time can be a time trial, a purple coin session, or cosmic clones (oh, I hate those clones). A notable difference with the coins and the time trials is that time does stop this go around once an objective has been reached. Say the goal is 100 coins in 3 minutes; when the coins are collected, the timer is done. In Galaxy, if the timer had time left on it when the star appeared, you had to get to the star in time too. A good change, if I say so myself.
Last but not least, there were some complaints on recycling and re-use by the developers of the game. As mentioned earlier, levels were re-used at times, and as the game progresses you see the blatant recycling of bosses. You fight the first boss almost four times, and I can recall fighting several others at least three times. There may be only one difference in these encounters as well, i.e. he is on fire. Boss recycling doesn’t ruin the game, but it feels very lazy in Super Mario Galaxy 2. Fighting the same boss three times with almost no difference in execution is pretty lame. Combine that with some old level designs straight from the old game and you sort of feel like they were stretching to get what they wanted out of the game. Furthermore, there is the ‘green star’ complaint. After beating the game you are taken to an S world where there are extra levels to help you get your 120 star count. After collecting all 120 stars you are prompted with beating the final Bowser once again and left wondering why there is a blank galaxy spot in world S that you didn’t get to unlock. After finishing the final fight once again, you learn that you now must go back and collect another 120 ‘green stars’, one for each star of each level of every galaxy.
While these stars are harder to get to and hidden in each level, only noticed by sight or by their loud twinkling noise, it’s very disheartening to learn that in order to get to every level, you have to go through the game again. This goes back to recycling. Making someone go through the game again is not replay value, or really fun. Although, the green stars are much more challenging to acquire than normal power stars. After all 120 are collected, you unlock the mysterious Grand Master Galaxy, which is said to be quite a hard level.
All in all, Super Mario Galaxy 2 was the best 3D Mario title since 64 in this gamer’s opinion. The designers cleaned up some of the game aspects and added in a great co-op aspect. Overall, I give Super Mario Galaxy 2 a B on the Gamer Sushi grading scale. While it is a fun game and there is some new content, nothing spectacular is done in terms of gameplay and there feels like there is a lot of recycling on the developer’s part. I will recommend this game to casual gamers and fans of the Mario series. Though it has faults, most should find this to be a fun game.
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Thanks for the review Sean!
Who played this game? What do you guys think?