Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Super Mario Galaxy 2 | 10

My daughter was 5-years old when we first played the original Super Mario Galaxy. She would constantly corner me every day so that we could play it over and over, and after we beat it, over and over again. In fact, I have beaten the original game a total of 10 times with my daughter as my trusty side-kick at the player 2 spot, grabbing stars, freezing bad guys, or shooting the occasional bad guy or gold dot to get me a much needed coin.

So imagine our delight when we heard on last June that Super Mario Galaxy 2 was available for pre-order...without a confirmed date, of course, but ready for pre-order nonetheless.

Does Super Mario Galaxy 2 hold up? Does it still manage to capture the heart of a 7-year old girl and her father? The answer is a resounding YES.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 completely operates in its own right by being a stand-alone story. The only nod to the previous Galaxy comes in the form of Rosalina who will appear if you have significant difficulty with a level so that she can actually show you how to pass a level (at the cost of getting a bronze, NOT gold star). Back to the story (or the little of it that there is, a la most Mario games), Princess Peach has been kidnapped by a GIGANTIC Bowser (surprise!). Naturally, Mario is going to rescue her with the help of star power from master luma (star-like creatures with the capability to transform).

Who is there to help Mario this time? Well, this time Luigi is a playable character later on, as opposed to the original Galaxy which forced you to take the torturous path of collecting all 120 stars before unlocking him. Yoshi is on board as well, your trusty steed who can eat red-hot peppers to move quickly and cross water no less, or become a blimp full of hot air, or glow to reveal hidden paths.

The biggest change for us as a father-daughter team is that Player 2 has more to do now. Player 2 is actually an orange luma who follows Mario around. Now, Player 2 (in addition to freezing enemies and grabbing stars) can actually spin as well to knock enemies to the ground or grab coins from remote places by flying over to them quickly and then bringing them back to Mario. Also, making Player 2 an actual, tangible entity in the game (as opposed to a mysterious P2 star that has no discernible presence) makes it even more fun for my daughter who gets caught up in the action because the game itself is usually too hard for her as Player 1. She will actually say things like, "Daddy, you get the one on the right, I'll get the one on the left." It's extremely hard to pry her away from it when it's time for a story and bed.

Has the gameplay changed much? Well, no, the same mechanics are there. It's interesting that the game starts off as a 2D sidescrolling event that leads into somewhat a 3D perspective until it's a full-blown 3D adventure. It's a subtle, baby-step transition and, as an IGN reviewer put it, it pays off in getting those unfamiliar with the original to get into the action.

Despite having the same mechanics of jumping and spinning, Mario has some new powerups. Cloud Mario can create little tufts of clouds to hop up. Rock Mario has our hero turning into a solidified boulder to roll around (and even "bowl" to hilarious effect). Drill Mario allows our hero to drill through to inaccessible areas. And, of course, there's Yoshi who is able to eat his enemies and use a couple of funny power-ups of his own as previously mentioned. Bee Mario, Fire Mario, Spring Mario, etc., make their return.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is smooth, polished and shows the time-dedicated love and attention that was bestowed upon it during its 3-year absence. It takes the best parts of the original and makes them better while taking away what didn't work the first time. They have wisely included more for player 2 to do while acknowledging that Mario is still, front and center, the star of the show. The music is even more fully orchestrated than before. The attention to detail is phenomenal and showcases Nintendo's desire to never compromise by releasing a product too quickly without undergoing the rigorous quality control that this game clearly had.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a delight for children and even a delight for me as a 37-year old father. This is my "daughter and me" time, when we share a fun family night (Mommy likes to watch ;D), night-after-night and it is my modern-day Monopoly. Cheers to Nintendo for taking a winning formula, keeping it more than alive, and breathing fresh ideas into this franchise.

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