Super Mario Galaxy 2 Review
Since its release, the Wii has received a lot of criticism from the hardcore gaming community for allegedly pandering to the family market and trying to make gaming accessible to everyone. It's hard to argue with this, undeniably the best games on it are the ones meant to be played with others, but my response to this has always been: If you're really a hardcore gamer, then it shouldn't matter because you're on a PC. I consider myself an avid gamer, though I'm not sure I'd apply the hardcore epithet to myself, unless of course you were referring to my prowess with the ladies, but I have found that each console has its niche and serves quite well in those capacities. The PC is ideal for most types of gaming, particularly in the FPS and RTS categories because I enjoy the finely tuned dexterity of a mouse which is not as clumsy or random as an analog stick, or even worse, the press-and-pray auto lock systems. I prefer the PS3 for third-person sandbox games, sports games, and Guitar Hero, and finally the Wii is best for group games that don't require terrific graphics or complicated controls.
One of the few single player exceptions on the Wii was Super Mario Galaxy. I lapsed on the sixth-gen consoles and so missed out on the apparently white rice blandness of Super Mario Sunshine, but I retained fond memories of Mario 64 and was delighted when Galaxy came out for the Wii. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, found the gravity mechanics to be a good element, and the story, while not Oscar-worthy, did at least add something new to the traditional storyline of Bowser's misogyny and attempted regicide and Peach's inability to install deadbolt.
So when Super Mario Galaxy 2 was announced, I was cautiously optimistic (since genuine excitement virtually guarantees a first-class kick to the balls) and could, but would prefer not to, wait for the game. On the day of release, I reservedly purchased the game, went home and began playing. My very first impression was that the intro sequence was virtually identical to the opening of the original Galaxy. While the Super Mario series has never been renowned for compelling stories, it seemed odd that after trying a new storyline which was well-received, they decided to stick to that one rather than attempt to go in a different direction.
Comparing the two games feels a lot like playing photo hunt, spot the differences between these two virtually identical games. Most of what I liked about SMG1 was present in Galaxy 2, but it just felt watered down somehow. It was as though Nintendo released Galaxy 1 with Groucho Marx glasses, called it Galaxy 2, and hope we didn't notice. There are a few differences though; the spaceship is still a spaceship, but it's really a planet, Rosalina has been replaced with an irritatingly large star that bafflingly keeps encouraging me to stop playing every so often, and the galaxy houses have been replaced with an irritatingly retro-style map.
The map screen in Galaxy 2 more or less reverts back to the Super Mario World style of linear movement between worlds, which sounds stupid to complain about, but part of the open world feel of SMG 1 came from having to wander around the spaceship and to get to the different houses and galaxies. In SMG 2, you're still free to wander around ship, but there's no real incentive to do so. Sure you can find the odd extra life and star bits, but those are so plentiful during regular game play that it's unnecessary. And for some unbelievably irritating reason that no one has satisfactorily explained to me, the game STILL does not save the extra lives you've earned during the course of the game. It can save my coins, star bits, and power stars, but is unable to spare an 8-bit unsigned integer to keep track of my extra lives? The only reason I could come up with is that extra lives are so plentiful that players would quickly build up a huge supply causing them to be careless with their game play. THEN DON'T PUT SO MANY DAMN 1-UPS AROUND! When you launch the game, one of the Toads immediately flags you down and gives you so many mushrooms that I'm pretty sure I'm on a DEA watch list somewhere. 1-Ups should be sparse and have to be earned, not packed so closely that you trip over one every time you step out the door.
Yoshi makes an unwelcome appearance in this game too. In a continuing disturbing trend in recent years, Yoshi has become less of an asset and more of a huge fucking liability. In Super Mario World, Yoshi was a welcome ally to help you deal with larger number of enemies and occasionally give you certain powers that were otherwise unobtainable. Since then, he's rapidly become a huge pain in the ass, difficult to control and turns moderately functional movement into crossing the highwire on a unicycle. At least in Super Mario Brothers Wii, you have the option of ditching Yoshi and just continuing on alone. The Nintendo programmers, wise to my defenestrating misdeeds, stick you with Yoshi and make it impossible to complete the level without him. To rub salt in what is an already festering wound, these levels also require the use of what are generously called power-ups, which basically cause Yoshi to behave in irritating ways, like running extremely fast, as though he wasn't hard enough to control already. Couple this with unintuitive button controls and vague understanding of what types of jumps still work while riding Yoshi, and I began meeting the sight of that green and white egg with that same sinking feeling as when you come across an open area with a ton of ammo and health: Oh shit.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 feels less like a standalone game and more like a glorified level pack, which is not terribly bad since the levels themselves are fun to play and still manage to eek out a few fun and new game play mechanics, but we were promised a brand new game. In a bizarre way which contradicts virtually my entire review, I would have preferred it to just bring back Rosalina and the same ship and just give new galaxies, because at least then they would have been honest about their intentions of giving us more of what we wanted with some new things to try out. This just feels like Nintendo wanted to appear original without putting forth the effort, which leads me to wonder if perhaps grandpa is getting senile and is ready to go to a home. Or be set adrift on an ice floe.