By Stewart Sutherland
Super Mario Galaxy is the number one game on Nintendo Wii. Case closed. But did you know that when it was released, a lot of ideas were left out of the final product? Initially, the developers decided to gather these extra areas and galaxies and re-release the original as Super Mario Galaxy 1.5, one year later. Yet it turned out the entire production team had their own ideas for galaxies, worlds, items and areas. Eventually, the release date was pushed back a full two and a half years and these ideas gave birth to a brand new title: Super Mario Galaxy 2. Finally, the sequel to the greatest Wii game ever has arrived in 2010. But does it have the same chemistry that made the original game the best on the system?
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a confusing sequel if you paid attention to the first game. The ‘Starbit Festival’ which welcomed players was, and still is, a once in a century event. However, Galaxy 2 starts off with the exact same festival. There’s no mention at all about the previous game – Mario is once again invited to Castle Toadstool where the festivities are once again attacked. Not by a fleet of armed airships, but by a gigantic Bowser. And again, he steals both the castle and Princess Peach.
Quickly teaming up with a baby Luma (just like the previous game, but again treated like a first meeting), Mario chases after the villain. This time however, instead of the impressive Comet Observatory from before, Mario winds up on a smaller, personal starship. The chief (an overweight, purple Luma named Lubba) agrees to help our Italian hero chase after both Bowser and Princess Toadstool. From here, the exploring begins. The domes that housed cluster’s of galaxies in the first game have been replaced with a classic Mario-themed ‘world’ view. The fortress at the end of each world is where you’ll once again face the planet-sized Bowser boss, and even displays a little white flag of surrender when you beat it. It’s a fun addition for fans of the series.
Early on, Mario will meet Yoshi and be able to experiment with the new abilities that come with him. Built directly on top of the previous game’s engine, Mario Galaxy 2 features the dinosaur quite a few times, but not as often as you’d expect. Maybe it’s his status as a fan favourite, but Yoshi is featured a lot in the game’s artwork and titles considering he’s only a moderately-used character. Learning how to ride Yoshi and use his moves effectively is a lot of fun. With many of the original power-ups being recycled here, he’s the most flexible tool available. But he’s not much more than this. Unless Yoshi is absolutely essential to solving a star puzzle, you won’t be seeing hide nor hair of him. Or scale nor shell of him, as it were.
Galaxy-wise, the sequel has some very smooth planets and much more difficult challenges than its predecessor. It has the usual inclusions for 3D platformers: water, fire, ice, desert, spooky and space galaxies are visited a few times. However, the developers have brought back a few classic Mario-themed elements too. One galaxy is full of giant enemies, pipes and boxes. Another is full of spinning gears and makes for a very challenging section, similar to Tick Tock Clock from Super Mario 64.
Speaking of which, one level is actually Mario 64’s second course Whomps Fortress, rendered with the newer graphics and named here as Throwback Galaxy. The classic look, feel and music are all there, but with new items and spin controls. It’s a nice bonus for people who have played through the first few games and might be looking for something more recognisable.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 has a few new features installed to make things more interesting. As players explore and secure stars from galaxies, the starship fills with items and characters, slowly becoming livelier as a result. Another extra is early access to Luigi – the younger twin appears in some courses offering to take over for a run. Luigi retains his old style of control – faster, higher, a little less traction and a bit slower on the recovery. Some challenges will seem impossible until the green brother has a go. Finishing the game once allows players to unlock the power to swap the brothers and take Luigi to any galaxy they want, rather than wait for him to make an appearance. For anyone who could never seem to get Luigi unlocked in the original, they might enjoy this feature the most.
This game was originally (as previously noted) a collection of bonuses and extra worlds that just didn’t fit into the first game, which due to sheer volume eventually branched off and became a sequel. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is an incredible title– familiar but new, with the same smooth designs and full original, orchestral score. But at the same time, it still feels like its original intention – worlds that were left on the cutting room floor or thought up afterwards.
To sit the two titles side by side, they come up close together – they both have an unparalleled standard for 3D platforming. They both have a very touching and energizing soundtrack (again, both feature full orchestral scores) and both games feature fun, spry themes between them. As far as general quality goes however, the original has the lion’s share.
While it may seem more difficult, the levels are much shorter this time around and go out of their way to feel different from the originals. Being a sequel, it’s only fair that they make new content but you can’t deny that there was nothing wrong with the original galaxies. Comparing the first game’s ice themed world to the new Freezy Flake Galaxy, I found myself preferring the original. And while the portly purple character Lubba is a bit more talkative than the previous game’s Rosalina, he isn’t anywhere near as charming either.
*Mild Spoiler* Mercedes Rose’s soft-spoken character appears during the game’s ending, where it’s revealed that Mario Galaxy 2 is actually a retelling of the original story that she is reading in her library. Until you reach the ending however, you’ll be left wondering if the game is set in an alternate universe or is simply a spiritual sequel, rather than an actual follow up. *Spoiler Over*
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is still a good game. It’s full of the themes and elements that make a Mario game great – bright, inviting areas, satisfying challenges and an energetic soundtrack. It works well with the Nintendo Wii – it’s a sharp game to play and has the perfect balance of classic vs. motion controls. It is, in summary, an excellent game. However, it still comes up just short against its predecessor. If you’ve been waiting two and a half years, pick it up now and enjoy some satisfying Mario gaming. If you’re new to the Nintendo Wii and can’t decide, play the original instead.
9.5 OUT OF 10