The game has been out for more than a year, but I’m finally getting around to playing it. Given the stature and importance of this title, I wanted to register my enthusiastic endorsement. I’m gonna keep my thoughts brief and to the point, given my tendency to run on and on and on and on………
Super Mario Galaxy 2:
If, by now, you haven’t played Galaxy 1 OR 2, I can say with confidence, deny your inner OCD completist, and just skip ahead to Galaxy 2. Galaxy 1 is legendary, awesome, everything we could have ever wanted in a 3D Mario title. That said, Galaxy 2 is even better. Really. One gets the impression that the design team for G1 just had a billion ideas left over–I imagine the team begging management for a chance to release a nearly-identical Mario title on the same platform. Having finished 99.9% of Galaxy 1 (no, I did NOT bother to replay the whole game to collect star #121), I didn’t expect to be blown away by Galaxy 2. I thought I’d seen most of what the universe had to offer. And within minutes of booting up G2, I knew I’d been completely wrong.
It’s almost hard to pin down what makes G2 so refreshing. The redesign of the world map (a much simpler, top down navigation similar to those used in SMB3 and elsewhere) makes for quicker movement from area to area. Gone is the childish bedtime storybook of G1, ousted in favor of a stripped down, Bowser-stole-the-Princess plotline. You’ll navigate the universe in Mario’s “faceship” (yuk yuk), and the NPC chatter is kept to a minimum. In a major change from G1, Luigi enters the game relatively early, allowing a player to opt for the added challenge of the green brother’s slip&slide high-jumping action. By using Luigi, you’ll unlock another new G2 feature–player ghosts, ala Mariokart, are now recorded and placed in Luigi-complete levels, allowing a player to speed-run against their own best efforts. It’s a super-cool addition that feels natural and welcome–it almost makes you wonder why this feature wasn’t in a Mario title before now.
Otherwise, the game mostly feels like an upgraded, supersized version of Galaxy 1. You’ll thill again at the tight controls and intuitive gameplay, and you’ll re-experience full-tilt amazement at the sheer creativity and cleverness incorporated into each level. As someone at IGN put it, almost every board could be the basis for an entire self-c0ntaned video game. This is not an overstatement. Galaxy 2 has more greatness in it’s shortest worlds than you’ll find in whole other games. Often, you’ll be having so much fun just messing around and seeing the sights, you’ll complete the entire level and still be yearning for more challenges, if only so that you could hang out in that area a little longer. I may not be putting it very eloquently, but this must be one of the hallmarks of a perfect video game–you care less about objectives and more about the unadulterated entertainment of stomping enemies or exploring for hidden rooms.
In trademark-Nintendo perfection, they balance the primary gameplay with optional added challenges that call for you to revisit areas you’d previously completed. Prankster comets appear at random, turning familiar realms upside-down, adding speed challenges to a difficult world, or even opening whole new areas with new enemies and goals. A player is free to decide if the hardest tests are their cup of tea, or if they’d simply prefer to push forward toward the inevitable World 8 and the final confrontation with his eternal turtle-dragon nemesis.
This game is not particularly easy. Galaxy 2 is for the lifelong Nintendo loyalist, to the player who’s already faced the challenges of Mario 64 and Galaxy 1 and who is prepared for something a little more difficult (the very first world includes the Flip-Swap galaxy, a nod to one of the most difficult(!) bonus levels in Galaxy 1). Rethinking my comments above, I’m tempted to say that Galaxy 1 might be a better place to start if you don’t consider yourself an adept Mario gamer. But regardless of your skill level, Super Mario Galaxy 2 deserves all of the accolades heaped upon it, and is certainly worthy of IGN’s decision to list it as the 4th-greatest game on any current platform.
Do yourself a favor, if you haven’t already. The galaxy is waiting.
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