So yes, it’s more than a little similar to first game, at least on the surface. But spend only a few minutes with Galaxy 2 (which is hard, given how addicting it can be), and you’ll see enough new ideas and concepts to easily lay to rest any concerns that it’s too stylistically similar. Perhaps the developers felt they needed to prove their critics wrong by overloading the game with so many new things (but never so many that it overwhelms the player).
Let’s start with the power-ups. We’ve detailed them pretty heavily already, but here’s a refresher: New power-ups like Cloud, Drill and Rock Mario all add incredibly inventive new approaches to standard level setups, whether it’s in making new cloud platforms to climb higher, or knocking down enemies as you barrel at them inside a giant rock. All are taken full advantage of throughout the many levels they appear in, along with all the previous power-ups that return, but are often used in new ways (such as Fire Mario’s assaults on snow sculptures of Bowser). But the new powers get much more time devoted to them, and deservedly so.
Yoshi is also well utilized, which we really appreciated after his half-hearted appearance in NSMBW. He’s integral to enjoying the numerous galaxies he appears in, and his role has expanded with the introduction of power-ups, such as Light and Blimp Yoshi. And just as Mario’s abilities get used in expansive and varied ways that still feel natural, the same can be said for Yoshi, as he finally returns to deserved prominence in a core Mario title.
Above: And Luigi is playable basically from the start
But those are just the most obvious examples. Seemingly every level has some new trick to it, with only a few old, familiar dynamics returning, like balancing on top of a sphere containing a star. These ideas are normally just exclusive to just one or two levels, like Mario hurling himself from bar to bar like a gymnast, rolling giant snowballs or gliding with a bird that looks fairly similar to the Pokemon Ho-oh. Same goes for the boss fights, which (outside of the first one) are totally new and are all fun. We don’t want to go into too much detail, as Nintendo and others have already given away too much about what makes this title special, but even without the immediate surprise of seeing some new aspect of SMG2, you’ll still be shocked by how well so many new ideas can work.
Seriously, this game looks amazing. Just like Galaxy 1, much of this game looks great even when compared to the average 360 title, only they’ve improved the graphics even more. Sure, if you were actively and exhaustively searching for some flaw you could point at and whine, “this texture doesn’t look next-gen,” then fine, you win. But Galaxy 2 so fully understands how to get the most out of aging technology that nearly all graphical flaws are smoothed over or covered up, leaving you with Wii’s best-looking title to date.
The soundtrack also ramps up from the previous game’s excellence. Not only is the music all orchestral, giving a real epic and grandiose feel to new and returning tracks alike, but when it remixes classic melodies from Super Mario 64 or Sunshine, they’re given new impact and gravitas. Like all game soundtracks should, this further enhanced a superb experience, even for a reviewer who normally doesn’t notice background music all that much.