Games of the Past REVIEW: Super Mario Galaxy

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

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Mario has been a staple of Nintendo systems for many generations.  His first outing rocked the arcade market.  When he made his debut appearance on the console scene, he almost single-handedly led Nintendo, and, indeed, the entire video game industry, through the Video Game Crash of 1983.  When the Nintendo 64 was released, Mario was one of the brands that led the way into the third dimension.  Recently, for his first outing on the 3DS, he proved that the system’s auto-stereoscopic visuals were more than just a fancy gimmick.

When it came time for Mario to step onto Nintendo’s current home console, the Wii, one might wonder what was left for this prolific plumber to do; where could he go that he hasn’t already been?  The answer: outer space.  Thus, Super Mario Galaxy was born, sending Mario and company through the atmosphere and into the stars.

To boldly go where no plumber has gone before!

Just like any good Super Mario game, Galaxy starts off with Princess Peach being expectedly kidnapped by Bowser.  Mario tries to rescue his traditional damsel-in-distress, but the attempt ends in failure when our intrepid hero is knocked into the vacuum of space.  All seems lost until Mario is rescued by a mysterious woman who has long dwelt in the celestial plane.  This stellar explorer, Rosalina, tasks Mario with finding the Power Stars that were stolen from her space observatory by Bowser and scattered across the Galaxy.

Unlike most Mario games, Galaxy actually features a comparatively in-depth plot.  It is nowhere near Fire Emblem standards, but it is present nonetheless.  It mostly revolves around Rosalina, and explains the origins of this mysterious space-farer.  The ending is especially poignant.  I would not want to spoil it for those who have yet to see it.  Let it suffice to say that no one would have expected something of this caliber from a series so simplistic as Mario.

Behind that vacant expression is probably what is the deepest character to grace a Super Mario game.

Galaxy‘s graphics look absolutely stunning.  “It looks good for a Wii game” is a common saying for most Wii experiences.  While several Wii games look very good, they still pale in comparison to their parallels on the PS3 and Xbox 360.  This expression in no way applies to Galaxy, making it one of the few Wii games that would not undergo a remarkable upgrade if it were ported to an HD platform.  Everything is very crisp and clean, from the models to the animation.  The colors are vibrant and vivid.  There are loads of impressive environmental effects, from shimmering water, to frigid ice, to boiling lava.  The game looks stellar in every sense of the word.

Super Mario Galaxy is a pretty game.

Complimenting the surprisingly touching story and exquisite graphics comes an incredible score that sets the bar high for future Mario games.  For the first time in a Super Mario game, the music is orchestrated and the bounds made from MIDI are noticeable.  The expertly composed soundtrack adeptly captures the grand vastness and childlike wonder of being in space.  It is a truly moving piece of work, one that captures the imagination and immerses the players in a way never before accomplished by any Mario game before or since.  Galaxy still has its share of re-mixed tracks kept in MIDI format, but these only add to the whimsicality of the game and do not occur often enough to mar sense of wonderment created by the orchestrated pieces.

Though the plot and aesthetics are drastically improved, Galaxy is still a Mario game at its core, and that means players can expect some fine-tuned gameplay.  The controls are tight and the game offers quite the challenge, making for a balanced experience all the way through.  Galaxy‘s hub world is also something to behold.  It is not overly complicated, but is simply a pleasure to walk around in, listening the ballroom waltz music playing in the background.

As can be expected of a game titled Galaxy, the gameplay has a lot to do with space.  Planet-hopping, warp-speed flying, and dizzying gravity shifts are all standard fare for Mario’s interstellar adventure.  Even better, all these elements fit together extremely well.  Every planetoid has a unique feel and offers a new challenge to be overcome.  Whether players are skating over an ice ring, climbing on walls of sticky honey as a bee, or scurrying across a planet shaped like Yoshi’s head, nothing feels out of place and fits together perfectly with the rest of the game.

3…2…1…blast off!

A multiplayer element is also employed in Galaxy, although it does not add much to the experience aside from the opportunity to share it with another person.  The second player does not do very much, being regulated to picking up star bits and freezing smaller enemies in their tracks.  It is a nice touch, but the game is by no means ruined by its absence.

Super Mario Galaxy is one of the Wii’s finest games, if not one of the finest games ever made, period.  It has all the makings of a classic: a touching story, timeless visuals, engrossing music, and perfectly balanced gameplay.  It is a paragon of 3D platforming, once again setting the standard for the genre.  Unfortunately, Super Mario Galaxy set a standard for its own series that has yet to be matched.  Aside from Super Mario Galaxy 2, which is far too close to its predecessor to be considered separate, no Mario game since has come close to matching this game’s caliber.  No game since has made such a serious effort in storytelling or used orchestrated music as poignantly.  To be fair, these subsequent games have leant more towards being nostalgic throwbacks than innovative masterpieces, but Super Mario Wii U certainly has lofty shoes to fill if ever Super Mario Galaxy is to be dethroned.  That said, Super Mario Galaxy is a must-have game; a work of art that should be experienced by everyone.

Get ready for an intergalactic adventure of epic proportions.

Review Score

About James Best

James Best is a recent addition to the oprainfall staff, joining just before E3 2012. Primarily a video game critic, he also reports on news occasionally. He hopes to become a professional critic sometime in the future. While he does enjoy a good RPG, he can appreciate a wide variety of genres from platformers to shooters.

  • It’s a fine review, save for the end that tries to draw a comparison between Galaxy and the NSMB series.  Both aim for different things; one is an evolution of 3D platforming that does a lot to also evolve Mario’s presentation and traditionally sparse narrative elements.  The other games are more or less nostalgia pieces meant to evolve and iterate on the old 2D gameplay of yore.  The dev teams of SMG and NSMB had different goals in mind.

    Also, despite whatever the results of the poll running in the sidebar are, do not move to a ten-point system.  The ten-point systems used by other gaming sites have become horribly skewed to the point that a 7 out of 10 is widely considered the bare minimum for acceptable quality.  There’s nothing that distinguishes a 2 from a 4, or for that matter, a 5 from a 6.  The five-star system works just fine for a site like Giant Bomb (which doesn’t even use half-stars in their staff reviews), so there’s no reason that such a scale can’t work here.

    • Richard Ross

      If we were to move to a 10 point system, we would make sure to use the whole scale.  I too don’t like how 7 seems to be the new lowest score, I often see reviews detailing how much of a dissappointment the game is and then it’s given a 7.0.  Last time I checked 7 is 2 more than a mediocre score and 3 more than a “bad” score.  Anyway, I don’t think we’re going to switch anytime soon, the poll is just sort of something to make us think about.

    • That’s cool.  Thanks for the response on that.

      Also, thanks to you or whoever it was that upgraded the comments section here.  The old system was kind of busted.  (Though I feel as though I’m partially responsible for that after getting into those lengthy threads with James.)

    • We actually downgraded the comments section.  We were using a newer version of Disqus but it wasn’t working properly so we switched back.

      By the way, I agree about the review scores, and I think we are going to stick with the 5 point system for now.

    • TrueWiiMaster

      The way I see it, game reviews are like grades in school.  A 7 is usually the highest passing whole number grade, so it’s the lowest most people consider to be decent.  It follows that 6 and below are considered failures, just as they would be in school.  To game reviewers, however, it would seem that only games scoring under 5/10 are failures, with 5-7 being unimpressive but playable, and possibly enjoyable.

    • Except game reviews aren’t on the same scale of school grades.  At least, they aren’t supposed to be.  A school grade is something that is made up of smaller scores that were also grades, and points were taken off for specific errors.  On a game review, it’s more of a ‘guess of judgement.’  

      You also have to take into account the opinion of the reviewer- a game that might get scored low may be highly enjoyable to someone else.  Because a game gets a 5 out of 10, for example, doesn’t mean that it ‘fails.’  There’s nothing it really has to pass except for a player’s opinion.  The same game might be scored an 8 or even a 9 by someone else.
      I’m going to use  The Last Story as an example.  Jim Sterling rated it a 4 out of 10.  Now, he explains very much why he gave it that score.  I can’t say that I agree with him at all on that.  But then you look at another reviewer, say, Nintendo Power, and they gave the game a 9 out of 10.  There is a HUGE difference between those scores.  Because of that reason, you can’t weigh the numerical score of a game the same as a school grade.  It’s like apples and oranges.

    • The only thing I’m weary about when using the whole 1-10 scale is gamer rage. We all know much flack Sterling gets when he goes under the 6. I’m sure hes happy hes so thick skinned. I’m not afraid to use the whole scale though as I’d pick honesty every time over lying to avoid the unbridled fury. My reviews are always honest even if few agree with me.

  • Contrary to what other people might think, given my often bitching at Nintendo for various reasons, I really like Super Mario Galaxy. It both saddens and angers me that Nintendo has done nothing but rest on their laurels for this since.

    • Super Mario Galaxy 2, despite being a same-generation sequel, is not what I’d call a product of resting on their laurels.

    • Kyle doesn’t understand how good Super Mario Galaxy 2 really is. But don’t worry–I’m willing to make more than enough noise in his stead, good sir. 😛

      I’m not sure if I prefer SMG1 to SMG2, but…both are superior games. No question.

    • Oh, I’ve played Super Mario Galaxy 2. I’ll admit that it’s really fun, but it feels like an expansion pack. I still prefer the original Super Mario Galaxy over it.

    • That’s probably because Nintendo fully admitted that SMG2 began life as a remixed edition of the original Galaxy and was turned into a full sequel early in development.  They felt that they still had enough new tricks with the gravity-defying gameplay to create a new game.  That still doesn’t mean resting on their laurels is what occurred.

    • Yeah, I feel as though Super Mario Galaxy 2 would have been DLC for the first one if Nintendo had done DLC this generation.

    • TrueWiiMaster

       “Rest on their laurels”?  You do realize that Nintendo has NEVER made two 3D Marios in one generation before Galaxy 2, right?  If we hadn’t gotten Galaxy 2, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t have gotten anything.

  • James Beatty

    I never was a huge Mario fan myself even though mario 64 was the first game i ever got (I was more of a Zelda fan) but…there was something about this game. I don’t know, i went into it not expecting anything and about 23 hours of play time later it became the best game i have ever played. It cemented Nintendo as my favorite developer and made me fully respect the Wii as a gaming platform. 

  • Super Mario Galaxy is the best game ever!! o/