Super Mario Galaxy! (Nintendo Wii-Try)

Hey! Listen! This is part of an ongoing series called The Nintendo Wii-Try, where I go through my Wii collection and revisit some titles I never got the chance to enjoy. Start here if you’re jumping in.

For the first chapter of my “Nintendo Wii-Try,” I decided the best title to start with would probably be Super Mario Galaxy. I’m a huge fan of everything Mario and despite this, I skipped over several titles from the 3D realm, those being Galaxy, Galaxy 2, and 3D World on the WiiU. The way I saw it, I owed it to myself to try this game out again.

I booted up an old save that I vaguely remember starting (I only had two stars), and got to work. And I have to say, I had an absolute blast with this game. It brought back terrific memories of playing Super Mario 64 at my buddy’s house growing up, but in little microscopic chunks as compared to its predecessor.

File:SMG The Gate Screenshot.png

What I liked most about Super Mario Galaxy was the organization of the levels. All the levels are entered through various rooms in the house, ex. Terrace, Kitchen, Bedroom, etc. Each stage you enter is a galaxy, meaning each level isn’t one single planet like I originally assumed, but an entire area of outer space with moons and space debris and planets and meteorites smashing into the ground, all of which have their own gravitational field. You blast around between planets, solving little micro-problems on each, before blasting off yet again, collecting space bits, and generally partaking in some good ol’ fashioned Mario tomfoolery. And man, is it fun!

One of the more satisfying moments was when you could jump between gravitational fields and find yourself upside down. The downside to this upside was that now the movement controls were all screwy, and the camera started to do whatever it wanted.

Let's Play Super Mario Galaxy: Part 06 Upside Down and Inside Out ...
One of the more interesting sections, where the gravity direction is dependent on the arrows. Much fun was had, along with some mild frustration. It’s mind-bending!

The controls were, in the case of all things Wii, the biggest barrier to entry for me. Putting aside my decades-long aversion to motion controls was by far the hardest thing for me to do, but once I found a comfortable way to play and to position the Wiimote, it started to feel pretty much like second nature. Even in terms of the swinging and flailing around, I started to realize that my bodily animation was not only unnecessary, but detrimental to the precision of the controls. The game controls just fine when you are calm and collected, but it still requires a steady Wiimote hand.

The vast majority of Galaxy‘s Mario moveset is borrowed straight from Super Mario 64 and I found myself “beeyoohoo”ing around (that’s when you are running, and you hold Z and press Jump, and he pelvic-thrusts through time and space, making the sound “beeyoohoo!”) with a big fat smile on my goofy bearded face. What’s even more satisfying is if the planetary body you are standing on is small enough, you can absolutely abuse the gravity, sling-shotting your way across the planet. It’s really quite entertaining!

jumpingSpeaking of entertaining, something that aggravated me when I first saw gameplay of Galaxy was the forced motion control to pick up Star Bits. Star Bits are basically the currency of the game, but you pick them up by pointing the Wiimote at them. This seems aggravating at first (although, you can still run into them with Mario and that also picks them up), but it’s stupid satisfying to wave your Wiimote and see Mario chased down by a flood of these things. To add to the effect, the vibrations in the Wiimote are excellent – they respond arguably better than Super Mario Odyssey and they utilize the little speaker on the controller, making this twinkling sparkle sound every time you pick one up. Not only that, but pushing B on the Wiimote to throw Star Bits at bad guys is so much fun.

What I always saw as one of the defining features of Super Mario 64 is the hidden stars within each level. Playing Odyssey made me realize just how much I missed the “Star select” screen before entering each level, because that removes any real ability to have secret stars. After all, if all stars are secret, then none are actually secret. In Galaxy, Nintendo continued with the “pick which Star you want to go for” approach, but while in the level you could divert from the original plan and find secrets, if you were so inclined.

Much like Mario 64, this is by far one of my favorite parts of this game. You collect the Star Bits in each level, and then find “Hungry Lumas,” feed them their desired bits, and they transform into a planet with some fun mini-game type of thing, before being rewarded with a (hidden) Star.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Walkthrough: Hidden Star -- Cosmic Cove
The Hungry Lumas actually prefer Star Bits, but this is the closest screenshot I could find. Woops!

Another nice modifier that I found really cool was the Prankster Comets. Once in a blue moon (or perhaps triggered by something that I have not yet come to figure out), a “prankster comet” will inhabit a planet. Depending on the type of prankster comet, it will affect the level different, and have you chasing down the Star with some sort of insane modifier. These include the “Speedy Comet,” which sets a short time limit on how fast the player needs to complete the level, the “Fast-Foe Comet,” which speeds up the movement speed of enemies, or my absolute least favorite, “Daredevil Comet,” which lowers Mario’s life to 1 hit.

Yeah, you might imagine I skipped over those.

The levels themselves were really a ton of fun. The whimsy and charm of Mario is ever-present in Super Mario Galaxy, and despite some flaws (that as I understand, were heavily addressed in the sequel), I had a blast running around and exploring Mario “in space.” I don’t even want to spend the time complaining about what I didn’t like about htis game, because all of those moments were quickly overshadowed by something making me smile again. The physics being a little weird and the camera angle being a bit unhelpful at times were common enough for 3D games at the time for me to forget about these issues completely. Fine, maybe I’ll dock a point. But apparently they were fixed in Galaxy 2, and now I can’t wait to try the sequel.

Nintendo has this incredible knack for “inventing” games, and damn-near every single level in this game has some sort of unique twist that’s built upon as the game progresses. Sling Pod Galaxy was a blast that saw you launching Mario between all sorts of obstacles, not unlike the Donkey Kong Country barrel levels. The Dreadnaught Galaxy in the secret Garden is challenging and entertaining from start to finish. The “One and Done” galaxies were fantastic little stamina tests that pushed your command of Mario’s moves, particularly the Sand Spiral Galaxy that killed me about a billion times. Don’t care – had a blast in it regardless.

Super Mario Galaxy: Sand Spiral Galaxy - Choosing a Favorite Snack ...
This section has some of the screw-iest jumping gravity physics. It made me feel like I was jumping through quicksand, during a tornado.

Super Mario Galaxy absolutely deserves the praise it gets, and I deserve to be made fun of for missing out on it for so many years! Despite having motion controls and the fact that motion controls (previously?) made me break out in hives, I enjoyed collecting the vast majority of the 70 Stars before I called it quits. If you’ve got a Wii (alternate question, if you breathe oxygen and walk upright, since practically everyone still has one of these things somewhere, if you’re not sure just check the cupboard), and you’ve foolishly skipped over this title, definitely pop it in and go abuse some gravity.

Thanks for reading my thoughts about this 13 year old game. Coming up next in The Nintendo Wii-Try is something completely different – both in tone, gameplay, and critical reception. Stay tuned!

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