Thursday, June 10, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii, Nintendo, 2010)

In 2007, a little game called Super Mario Galaxy released to Wii owners and won over gamers of all kinds due to it's amazing graphics, dead-on control, and incredibly innovative gameplay: comfortably familiar and yet so strangely and awesomely different platforming action. In my opinion, it was the best Super Mario title, and the best video game that I have ever played. It was basically like the revolutionary Super Mario 64, but with strange gravity-based gameplay that had a trippy feel to it, and was just as (actually even more so) fun. It was and still is a must-own title that is worth buying a Wii console for.

It's hard to imagine Super Mario Galaxy as being a game that could be topped, even by Nintendo themselves.
About half a year ago, a sequel was announced. This was notable for being the first true sequel to a 3D Super Mario game, not to mention that it would also be the first time that two 3D Super Mario games were on one console, the Wii. Anyway, gamers were defiantly excited to hear about it: It was to have Yoshi, new power-ups, higher difficulty, improved co-star play, the list goes on.

Gamers thought Miyamoto's greatest game was created, and that Nintendo couldn't top The almighty Super Mario Galaxy. And guess what?

That's exactly what Nintendo did.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a special video game. It makes gamers appreciate why we play games in the first place. It makes people see video games as something other than child's toys, instead as works of art. In short, it's exactly what video games should be in the first place. A work of art.

The game's storyline has been streamlined from the original: Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach for the millionth time, and as usual, Mario sets out to saver her. Kingdom Hearts it ain't, but when do you play Mario for storylines? The core gameplay has been untouched, which isn't a bad thing at all. If it's not broken, why fix it? You play though stages, or "galaxies", to acquire a golden Power Star. Get enough of them and you can advance further into the game. The way you get to the galaxies is different from the first one: Instead of exploring a hubworld like the Comet Observatory, it goes the Super Mario Bros. 3 route and uses a map screen navigated from your personal spaceship, Starship Mario (which, incidentally looks like Mario's head).

The Original's main strength was it's near-perfect level design. And of course the sequel improves this level design ten fold. Every galaxy in this game is a unique and masterfully designed playground. Every stage introduces a new concept, whether massive or small, making the game always seem fresh and intresting.
The challenge has also been stepped up. While the original was a near perfect game, it had a rather tame difficulty level, even with the optional challenges which are usually very hard to complete. This issue has certainly been addressed with the sequel. The main quest which is cleared after getting 70 stars is more difficult than the first one, but still maintains a relatively easy difficulty. However the mostly optional "Comet challenges" will give even the most seasoned platformer master a run for his/her money. Thankfully for beginners there is a feature called the "Cosmic Guide" that is askin to the Super Guide in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
But if you use the guide, you get a bronze colored star instead of a gold one, showing you took the easy way out. This is another example of Mario Galaxy 2's masterful design: Giving a stiff challenge to veterans while maintaining a easy option for beginning players.

The Cooperative mode in the original has also been improved by letting the 2nd player control a orange Luma, which can grab out-of-reach objects with ease and defeat/stun enemies, while still allowing you to pick up Star Bits and slow down environmental dangers and enemies.

Mario Galaxy 2 also introduces new Power-ups. The biggest new power-up is defiantly Yoshi. Unlike Yoshi in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, he makes a more prominent role in the game. Yoshi's most useful feature is his famous chameleon-like tongue. Yoshi's tongue is a absolute blast to use thanks to the rather innovative implementation of the IR sensor, allowing precise control over devouring of enemies, coins, or whatever might be standing in your way. Yoshi can also use his tongue as a grappling hook and swing from notches that look like flowers. Yoshi can also transform into three different forms using different kinds of fruit. The Dash pepper makes Yoshi move as Sonic-fast speeds and can run up walls and across water. The Blimp fruit causes Yoshi to inflate and float upwards to reach high platforms. And the Bulb Berry makes Yoshi light up and reveal hidden passageways. Mario himself has a few new forms too, he can acquire a Cloud flower and be able to create temporary platforms. He can also get a Rock mushroom and turn into a fast moving boulder to plow over enemies. Mario can also get a drill for traveling through entire planetoids. The Bee suit returns too. All of the powerups are used in unique and innovative ways throughout the stages, again showing Galaxy 2's masterful design.

The graphics are quite similar to the original game, meaning that Galaxy 2 looks like a living piece of art. The graphics are actually comparable to graphics from a Playstation 3 or a Xbox 360. Galaxy 2's simple art style allows it to use smoother textures to make the game seem like a work of art. Basically, Galaxy 2 has the best graphics on the Wii.

The music in nothing short of incredible. The original's soundtrack is no different (listen to Gusty Garden galaxy on YouTube and you'll be amazed) Unlike most Mario games, the music was actually orchestrated, making the music seem epic and majestic. Galaxy 2's soundtrack is better than the first, although the music seems to revolve around one general theme (Sky Station). In my opinion, Galaxy 2 has the best soundtrack of any game I've ever played or heard.

Luigi is also back in the sequel, and he's almost playable right from the start. He's only in certain galaxies, however. If you complete a stage with Luigi, you can try your hand at a Developer Speedrun, a cool feature.
Luigi becomes fully playable if you complete the main game, just like the first game.

There are no glaring flaws in Galaxy 2, however just like the first game, there two minor gripes. The first one is the difficulty of the bosses. In the first Mario Galaxy, bosses were frequent but very, very easy to defeat. The sequel is no exception to this, in fact they are is some cases easier to defeat. The second gripe can be a bit of an annoyance to beginners, there are some cases where you have no choice but to complete some of the Comet challenges, which can be devilishly difficult. This only happens twice in the game, but you can't use the Cosmic guide for these challenges, which can get certain players stuck.

I couldn't possibly give Super Mario Galaxy 2 anything less than a perfect 10 out of 10. It is nearly flawless in every way. The graphics are Top-notch, Wii or otherwise, the music is perfect, the challenge is stiff yet accessible, the new power-ups are masterfully designed, and the best part, the flawless level design and perfect control all make a return and blow the original Mario Galaxy completely out of the water. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is nothing short of a work of art.

Take a bow, Mr. Miyamoto. You've made the closest thing any video game developer has come to pure gaming perfection. In my opinion, this is one of the best video games ever made.

Because for gamers, Casual or Hardcore, it doesn't get much better than this.

*****10 out of 10*****

This is Vicviper, signing off. ;)

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