Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Review
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a game developed by Nintendo EAD Tokyo and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Wii. It was directed by KÅichi Hayashida and produced by some guys not named Shigeru Miyamoto, along with Shigeru Miyamoto.
My original thought was to post a copy of Fern’s review of New Super Mario Brothers Wii, replacing the game’s name with Mario Galaxy 2 and any references to multiplayer with Yoshi, but I decided against it. Because while that’s what I’m going to say, in different words, I wanted to say it in different ways.
However, we want you to know how similar our thoughts are, when we say that Mario Galaxy 2 is a good game that was surgically assembled in a laboratory.
It’s perfect. And that’s why it isn’t great.
But that’s not even the problem. Let’s hit the first, metaphysical problem, new and unique from Galaxy: the weight of the moves. One thing in Mario Galaxy felt as much fun as long jumping in Mario 64: the spin. The spin was weighty, it was a move that gave you a little extra oomph. Everywhere I went, I’d hop and spin, because it felt like a really substantial move. Sure, the rest felt floaty and light, but the spin. The spin.
Not so in Mario Galaxy 2. In 2, the spin feels just as soulless and precise. There’s no weight behind it, and while it’s perfect and precise, I don’t enjoy the move nearly as much. In fact, I don’t enjoy any of them. They feel like moves designed to solve problems and to get to the end of a level, not like punching someone in the face. I wouldn’t do any move in this game unless I was asked to, which is handy, because Mario Galaxy 2 is designed so you always know the specific move to solve the problem. Video games are supposed to be as enthralling as hitting an honest to god man in the honest to god face, and Mario Galaxy feels like looking at a picture of a punch: it’s not the same.
But that’s the set up. That philosophy of precision bleeds over into my second issue with Galaxy 2: the level design.
You heard me. The level design. I’ve never played a game that so coldly and calculatedly relied on nostalgia, and only nostalgia, to keep you playing. New Super Mario Bros. Wii relied on nostalgia, but Mario Galaxy does so perhaps as much, to the exclusion of its own style. Instead of the cool, cosmic levels of galaxy, here we haveâ€¦one that’s a beach. One that’s full of really big enemies like in Mario 3. A fire and ice world. A ghost house. A desert galaxy entirely too reminiscent of 64’s. A big Mario you collect purple coins on. And the coup de grace, a polygon by polygon remake of Whomp’s Fortress.
The only level I remember was the one with the kicking bluegrass music, which is perhaps the most original aspect of the game. Every other level is painfully attempting to remind the player of better days, when they were playing Mario games that had new ideas. At best, new levels are designed exclusively around the new power-ups, the cloud suit and the rolling rock. Not designed so one star uses them to clever effect, they are designed so that *only* that item appears. And when Yoshi appears, he will appear on every star, and won’t appear for a while anywhere else.
It’s surgical, really. It’s what it is. Mario Galaxy 2 is Shigeru Miyamoto, with a scalpel, cutting the most fun parts out of other Mario games and pasting them together shamelessly. Furthermore, it feels like a game created by a level designed, and, coincidentally, KÅichi Hayashida, the game’s director, was lead level designer on Super Mario Galaxy. It feels like Shiggy told him to make another game using the assets he had leftover, and he did. And, I mean, is it fun? Of course it’s fun. It’s like a greatest hits record. All the hits are there. There’s no slow moment.
The problem is, you’ve heard all the songs before. The volume’s been turned up in mix, the equalization’s different, but they’re the same songs. You’ve heard them before. They sound nice now, some even nicer, and they’re all classics, butâ€¦you know them by heart. It’s not a novel experience, it’s a masturbulatory experience, combining nostalgia with age-old ideas into a timeless package of hits.
So it’s fun, but why do you need to play it again?
Instead of engaging with other reviews (which, honestly, is impossible: the lowest review for this game on metacritic is a 90, and even the user reviews are straight 10s), I’m going to posit *why* it scored so well. And I’ll tell you: because it’s aimed at you. Yes, you. The guy who’d go out and read a random video game blog in his spare time, instead of, you know, playing video games. It’s aimed at the guy who cares about video games, and about the culture of play they have created. It’s aimed to make the reviewer think, man, wasn’t Super Mario World awesome? And this game’s awesome, too. It’s success by association. If it didn’t wear a Mario hat, or was played by people who didn’t have Mario engraved in their consciousness, they would see a fun, capable game, but not what the fuss is about.
Of course, it is Mario, and nothing can change that.
I’d like to conclude with a discussion of the 3-D Mario games (all four of them) in history. Super Mario 64 was a game about the 3-D. The 64 was the most important part. It wasn’t really a game about jumping, or platforming; even in the middle of the game, there were levels with remarkably little jumping (The Hazy Maze Cave, the Desert, the second ice level). Super Mario Sunshine took that forward, and was a game about exploration. About looking, and finding, not about jumping. Mario Galaxy was a game about doing really awesome shit. It took all those moments in Super Mario World where you felt like the king of the world, and transmuted them into 3-D. It was a game about epic epicness.
Mario Galaxy 2 is a game about remembering that time you did something awesome.