The Wii is a joke, or at least that’s how it often feels. In the past, we’ve gotten lots of mileage out of mocking the system and its mega-hits, like Wii Play, Game Party and (sigh) Just Dance. We still turn on our Wiis every now and then, mostly just to play the rare “real” games that get put on disc or come to WiiWare, like Cave Story did. But give us more Mario Galaxy and we hurriedly dust off the white wonder, install new batteries and get to waggling, no questions asked, as all the cynicism and bad feelings wash away.
And why not? The first Galaxy has remained the best game for the system in the two-and-a-half years since its release. Once Super Mario Galaxy 2 was announced, we were filled with high hopes that at least something would be coming to the system that could keep up with competition, instead of merely side-stepping it with casual hits and exercise plans. But is Galaxy 2 what we hoped for? Or is it just microwaved leftovers from the brilliant first outing?
This isn’t Mario Galaxy 1.5 (mostly)
After it was announced, some critics condescendingly referred to Galaxy 2 as “Galaxy 1.5,” and it didn’t help when Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto said it was once called it that internally as well
. But even if it was initially
planned as a mere update to the original, it’s become so much more that the 1.5 label no longer fits. But maybe 2 isn’t quite the correct title either. Maybe it should’ve been “Episodes from Mario Galaxy,” as it feels more like a new, alternate take on a near-perfect original than what we’d normally define as a sequel.
We’d start with the story, but it’s of little consequence and you probably guessed the entire plotline the moment Nintendo announced the game. Believe it or not, Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser, and Mario must save her. We’d like to say it has some twist, but no. Although it is pretty interesting that the game doesn’t recognize the events of the first Galaxy; Mario meets the Lumas, Star Bunnies and the rest for the first time, again, while the Lumas’ “Mama,” Rosalina, is nowhere to be seen. That’s mostly due to the elimination of a traditional hub world, which has been replaced with Starship Mario, a smaller environment that traverses the galaxies similarly to how you used the overworld map in Super Mario World or Mario 3. And that’s just the beginning of Galaxy 2’s many fun and familiar additions.
The game begins a little slowly, with an all-2D intro (probably to ease in those more familiar with New Super Mario Bros Wii), but it very quickly finishes the warm-up and starts hitting players with more challenging tasks sooner than the original did. For those pretty well-versed in Galaxy and 3D Mario navigation in general, it will fit like one of Mario’s gloves, but for the unlucky few who are unfamiliar, its devilishly simple controls will still be easy to understand. And if you’re really confused for some strange reason, there are entirely optional video tutorials in many of the early levels, as well as the return of the divisive Super Guide from NSMBW, which can more or less play sections of the game for you if it gets too hard (although it’s equally optional, and appears only sporadically).
Above: But every time you run out of lives, this dick will suggest taking a break. We’ll tell you when we’ve had enough!
The structure of the original is maintained as well, though the sequel comes with some nice updates, too. You still head to a galaxy, decide what star you’re going after and then follow that path over several planetoids, all of which are packed with secrets for you to discover. That’s still marvelously enjoyable, and it happens across more worlds than before, with Galaxy 2 boasting nearly 50, compared to the first game’s near-40.
Its close adherence to the first game’s structure is why the title 1.5 could almost fit, but Galaxy 2 boasts too many new ideas to be given such a backhanded compliment. Even if the core mechanics are all the same (which isn’t completely true), their implementation is different enough to make the experience new, like the alternate take it is. Since Galaxy 1 did so very little wrong, keeping some of the old stuff is to be expected, but the fresh aspects of it work great, too, if not better than what they replace.