Reviews: Super Mario Galaxy 2
A good game...just not like the first.
The first Galaxy game was a masterpiece. Fun, epic, and with a great deal more heart and depth than the average main-series game, it was a joy to play. This game doesn't exactly live up. Technically, the game is fine. A few of the gameplay issues from last time (Comet missions being the only option when the galaxy has a Prankster Comet, first-person camera now turning 360 degrees, etc.) have been fixed, and the game controls just as smoothly and naturally as before- even when very out-of-practice, it's incredibly easy to slip back into it and master levels like you never stopped playing. But that's not the problem. It's the story and mood. While I like the implication that this world is the reborn universe that resulted from the last game, and the recurrent touches (identical.planets, similar bosses, gameplay mirrors) are a nice way to say "the universe remembered some things from its previous incarnation, but not all of them correctly", but the overall tone is very light. More blue-sky backgrounds than starry nighttime ones. And the story itself is much weaker, going back to the Excuse Plot formula- Bowser wants cake, Mario saves Peach. Overall, it's trying much harder to be a Mario game, with a lighter and wackier aesthetic that's decent for any game but Galaxy's successor. I wanted epic, serious, and heartfelt elements. The other main issue is the postgame. While in the previous game, collecting all of the Stars gave you Luigi to do it again and your reward is a nice easy epilogue level, here, Green Stars are hidden in earlier levels and unlock a Brutal Bonus Level. I don't want that. At least by repeating the game with added challenge you could remember what you loved about it and your sense of accomplishment is fed, but with this? Explore levels again and again. The challenge level is minimal and the harder Green Stars aren't fair tests of skill. I get no satisfaction from collecting them, and I feel no need to finish the game. The first one kept me motivated to get all 242 Power Stars. This one? I couldn't care less. So there are genuinely good and fun parts of this game, but it looks better on its own than in comparison to its predecessor.
Good game, but more of a galaxy-sized level pack than a new experience.
Did ya get my Incredibly Lame Pun there? I hope so. Galaxy 1 was the absolute highest point in the entire series for me. Does the sequel measure up? Well, judging by the length of this review, of course it doesn't. First off, story. Remember the grand-scale, Darker and Edgier story of the first game? Yeah, this one takes all that and throws it out the window. It's more or less the generic Excuse Plot we're all used to, as all Bowser wants is a cake, when he could've just gone to Walmart and got his own cake. Basically rubbing salt into the wound, the game sports a rather traditional, story book-like feel. Again, this is after the first game's epic, grand-scale cinematic cutscenes. Somewhat justified in the end (Get all 120 stars to find out), but still, it's not what I wanted from what's said to be an Even Better Sequel. Miyamoto is seriously letting his emphasis on gameplay get in the way of what the fan base wants. Now, that gameplay Miyamoto wants to emphasize. It's more or less the same gameplay with Yoshi tacked on. Yeah, that's awesome, and the base gameplay isn't bad, but it's not new. Because of this, the game feels more like an expensive level pack than a new game. And the game starts off much easier than the first game. The big Difficulty Spike doesn't happen until the special world. Now, the special world is the very epitome of Nintendo Hard. But what about the artificial version? Yeah, remember the page image for Fake Difficulty? That happens. A lot. The first thing that comes to mind is the Green Stars. You have no clues on how to find them save for a faint twinkle, most are in incredibly cheap spots, and a couple can be rendered Unwinnable by Mistake. The other contributor to the Fake Difficulty is the motion controls. Now, the motion controls were horrible in the first Galaxy, but they weren't a big problem until the Trial Galaxies. This game straight-up weaponizes the Waggle in the controls. Don't believe me? Play the Rolling Coaster's comet level and yell at me later. However, don't let all that discourage you from getting the game. There is plenty of good stuff here. The soundtrack here is amazing, for starters. The linear level design kind of annoys me, but if you're okay with it, you will enjoy it. The feature of Yoshi is also really pleasant. He controls great and is all-around fun to use. Overall, I can't call this an Even Better Sequel, but you'll still have a fun time with it. Just don't expect a big leap.
A good game, yet it's the same kind of good
note: I did include it in my SMG review, but i'm reviewing this one by itself. Mario Galaxy was, and still is the highest point of the Mario series. The platforming worked well, the levels were colorful, and full of variety, and a soundtrack that will make even the prettiest girl cry manly tears. But how was Mario Galaxy 2, the first direct sequel to a console Mario game since Super Mario Bros 4. Mario World? Yes, it was still good. Yes there was still a lot of variety. Yes, it was longer. And yes, the soundtrack was improved. But in the end, Super Mario Galaxy 2 was much lazier than the original Galaxy. Slight gameplay tweaks aside, it was one huge level pack. It had lots of callbacks to the previous games, hell, it even reused some tracks. If you break down the game, you can see the 30 years of Mario history. The most blatant example was the Throwback Galaxy, which was literally a blatant copy of Whomp's Fortress from SM 64. Smaller examples include the Floating blocks level, which has a strong Sunshine vibe, a faster version of a level from Galaxy, a remix of a remix of the main theme, dear lord, i could go on. Mario's strength has always been huge tweaks from game to game. Every game had a substantial improvement from the last. 1 was much better than Donkey Kong and Mario Bros, Doki Doki Mario was strange, and unique for it's time, 3 included more variety, compared to 1, Land and Land 2 had a different setting, World included bonus levels, extra routes, and more secrets, Yoshi's Island had a colorful artstyle, and different mechanics, like the flutter jump, the egg throwing, etc, 64 was it's jump into 3D, Sunshine gave you a gun (Ok, still...), and Galaxy had gravity, more variety, and several gimmicks that actually worked. Galaxy 2, and by extension, New Super Mario Bros and Wii, didn't revolutionize. It just made small improvements, and tweaks. Other than that, it's just a big expansion pack. But don't let that discourage you, Galaxy 2 is still a good game. The new power-ups are pretty interesting, and Yoshi's return was welcome. The level design is amazing, and well varied, and like i said, the soundtrack is substantially improved. Every original piece is catchy and at times, epic. It still retains the charm of the Mario series, and the tweaks, while very small, are still welcome. Galaxy 2 is fun, but don't expect a huge leap
Linear and repetitive
The early part of the game, certainly deserves some of the acclaim heaped over the game. You get a swiss army knife Yoshi who can grapple, spit-out and consume items and enemies using its tongue. Some nifty new items such as the drill bit that offers a new form of travel. Not to mention some great level designs; each with their own unique gameplay features. But there are serious let downs gameplay wise. Most of the power ups are designed mostly to gain altitude i.e. the cloud, spring, bee, boo suits and the blimp fruit. Some of the "power-ups" are such one-trick ponies that at their worse they result in you dying more often (rock suit, spring suit) or they are so "meh" and pedestrian you think they barely constitute as power ups at all; especially the extremely common cloud suit. Other gameplay features are near useless and poorly designed, such as star bits which are both a form of currency and stunning ammunition. Unfortunately these levels are often a one way street. There's no backtracking and mostly one way to progress through. If you are hoping for a 3D platforming Mario game where you have the freedom to explore around then you are going to be disappointed. Not only does the game features a gratuitous amount of 2D side scrolling sections but the ratio of land to bottomless pits means you are forced to toe the line. What really lets this game down, is that the stern A to B structure means that despite the novelties in level design, you don't get the same wow factor as other previous Mario game levels especially with how easy it is to lose lives in the game. The game really takes a nosedive once you start with prankster comets, and green stars. You'll be forced to repeat all those game sections that you already completed just to get a few more stars. Prankster comets offer harder conditions but the worst of them will be perfect runs or timed missions. Green stars are Mario Sunshine's blue coins but much worse. Instead of just saving your progress in-level, your swooped back onto your ship. This game both rewards and punishes you with repetition regardless. If you're expecting a payoff, don't bother. As you'll progress through the game, your boring ship becomes infested with boring NP Cs. The engine room's power-ups purely on display sum up the entire game. "Congrats, stare at these unusable power-ups suckers!"