Super Mario Galaxy 2

Title: Super Mario Galaxy 2
Platform: Wii, Wii U
MSRP: $60 ($20 in Wii U eshop)

Yes, I’m five years late to the party. But I just finished playing Mario Galaxy 2 for the first time after it was released on the Wii U, and I simply had to write this review. It’s_that_good.

Some background on why I haven’t played this game yet: I pretty much missed most of the Wii generation. I was happy that the Wii was able to attract so many non-gamers into the industry, but the motion controls just weren’t for me. I almost always found them annoying, so I simply didn’t play most Wii games. When this game was brought to the Wii U console, I finally decided to take the plunge. And boy am I glad that I did.

There are so many good things to note about this game that I’m not even sure where to start. First off, there’s at least some semblance of a plot, which is way more than I could say about most Mario games. As someone who appreciates story in video games, this made for a good start to my experience with the Galaxy franchise. I found myself smiling right from the beginning as I saw all the neat innovations from what I’ve come to expect from a Mario game. Much the same way that Mario 64, my favorite game of all time, captivated me with its new concepts and at-the-time unique gameplay, Mario Galaxy 2 completely took my breath away. From the moment I first saw Mario fly through space in all its glory, I knew I was in for something special.

Mario Galaxy 2Let me be clear: I do think there are bad Mario games. There are some Mario games, including the virtually universally applauded most recent 3D World, that I haven’t enjoyed playing. I’ve grown tired of the somewhat stale feeling of most Mario games. But playing this 2010 game brought back all the excitement and joy that I experienced during those special days after just buying Mario 64 back in September of ‘96.

Sure, this game features plenty of conventional Mario attributes. You’re trying to collect stars. Control abilities are similar to other 3D Mario games. You jump on goombas. But the way the game introduces each of these elements is almost breathtaking: watching Mario soar through the sky is truly a sight to behold.

The enemy variety and boss design are interesting and stimulating. An early boss had me running around a circle and pounding a drill through to the other side at just the right moment to hit my target. In the next world, I stomp on a piranha plant that sprouts into a vine that I can climb, melding everything together seemlessly into one magical atmosphere. These imaginative designs and gameplay continue right up until the end – I was constantly amazed that I was still feeling amazed as I played, even deep in the game!

While Mario’s mechanics may be mostly similar to some prior games, this one features no shortage of interesting alterations on the typical Mario character. While I can’t say for certain which of these have been used in past installments since I haven’t played every Mario game, the variety is outstanding. A new innovation waited around every corner. What’s that, a high platform? Cloud Mario to the rescue! Something too tough to break through? Rock Mario’s got you covered! And who hasn’t wanted to be Boo Mario?

The interesting mechanics extend past the new suits to new ways of moving in varying degrees of efficiency. A water level? Meh, I don’t really like thos…wait, no, it’s now an ice skating level! Awesome! Wait, how do I move this big ball, it’s stuc…wait, no, I’ve got to rearrange the wiimote to move! So cool.

Mario Galaxy 2Every level is just so damn unique that it warrants swearing. For literally the first 5 hours, I was amazed at the ingenuity of level design time and time again. From using the bee suit to navigate tricky areas, to clouds allowing for vertical platforming, to the floaty fruit that lets you bob and weave just enough as necessary for that specific level (which ends in a corkscrew corridor that is just so fitting), Mario Galaxy filled me with wonder.Then the next level is a slide which rekindled the exact magic I felt when I first did the ice slide in Mario 64 (I think it may have even used the same music, though I’m not positive on that). Then there’s a level that has you flipping gravity. Then another level that flips gravity in a different way. All of the examples in this paragraph happen within the first three worlds; new innovations kept coming throughout the entire game, but I’d rather not spoil all of the surprises.

One critique is that there was a bunch of cool bosses in the beginning, but such appearances tapered off throughout the game. I’m a big fan of working toward big boss battles and getting to settle the score with the top dog, and it was disappointing to sometimes go longer periods of time without seeing one after being accustomed to frequent bosses early on. Also, some of the latter bosses just rehash earlier bosses, so your strategy remains the same. But that’s ok, there’s just so much going on in this game that a tiny bit of repetition doesn’t break the fun in the slightest.

My only other issue was with motion controls. This is a personal choice; I simply dislike them. I literally skipped most of the Wii generation because I didn’t want to have to deal with them. I avoid the two Wii Zelda games (a franchise that holds five places in my list of my favorite games of all time) simply because I didn’t want to have to deal with them. I usually play games at the end of my work day, and I like to sink into my couch, lay back, and game. I work out regularly and am fit; it’s not that I’m lazy. I just have no desire to wave a remote around when I want to relax at the end of the day. So I have to note that it was occasionally annoying to me to have to use the motion controls. Thankfully, when they are required, the operation is seemless and designed perfectly, so it never broke my enjoyment of the game.

Which continued up until the last minute. Mario 64 was one of the only games that I ever 100% completed, and if I didn’t have a large backlog of other great games that I need to play, I would absolutely continue playing this and collect everything. It’s such a good game that I’ll be adding it to my list of all-time favorite games in the near future. It’s SO good that I might even consider dethroning Mario 64 at my top spot. Well, ok, that’s not going to happen. But that I even thought about it is enough to show that this game is truly something special, and that every single gamer, regardless if you’re a Nintendo fan or hate motion controls, needs to play it. It’s_that_good.

Final score: 10/10