Super Mario Galaxy 2 is intended as retcon to the story of the original rather than an outright sequel. In this game, the Power Stars are once again stolen by Bowser (grabbing Peach as well naturally) and Mario must take off in hot pursuit across the stars. Early on, Mario rescues a baby Luma who leads his to a special planetoid. Commanded by a large Luma named Lubba, the planetoid is propelled by the Power Stars. Transforming to resemble Mario’s face (though one comments that it actually looks like Luigi) our hero rockets off to save Princess Peach yet again. Oh and save the universe, that’s kind of important too.
The basic visuals are the same as in Mario Galaxy, but given that the stages are all different and possess many new visual elements, the similar graphical outlay can be forgiven. Water and ice effects are especially impressive, with a feeling of serenity and calm that often comes with such world design. There are also worlds of fire, air, and snow that all possess their requisite elements and that affable Mario charm. The worlds in Galaxy 2 are just as fun to look at as they are to run through. Speaking of charm, there is something that is just inherently breathtaking about seeing Mario rocket into each new galaxy looking for a new Power Star, no matter how many times you see it. The best part is how Mario’s approach is different for each world and star, as if the developers knew that a lot of people would find this visual flair amazing.
Mario also has some new powerups in this game that possess some interesting new visuals. Highlights include Cloud Mario’s fluffy platforms that remind me of Juggaman’s Cloud from Super Mario Brothers 3. It’s a fun visual alongside the three clouds that trail Mario’s hat when fully cloud powered. Rock Mario finds the plumber able to turn into a boulder and roll in any pointed direction. It’s always fun to flatten enemies like pancakes.
Yoshi (fresh from Mario Sunshine and a lot more functional) has new fruit powers: the Chile Fruit and the Blimp Fruit. While these names might not be quite right, their visuals are amusing. Yoshi becomes red and will run at high speed with the power of the Chile Fruit, scaling sheer walls and bumping into everything if your control isn’t precise. The Blimp Fruit turns Yoshi blue and allows him to rise straight into the air for a set period of air. It’s amusing to see the design, reminding me of Balloon Mario from Super Mario World. There is also the Golden Fruit, which allows Yoshi to see hidden passages, but stars based around that goal are a rare sight, so it’s a forgettable powerup.
Music in this game is fully orchestrated by a group of 60 members, 10 more than the score for the first Mario Galaxy game. The themes are all epic in nature, which is what comes with performing in such a style of music. Koji Kondo, the veteran Nintendo composer, is also on hand to spin new takes on classic Mario themes as well as some other new stuff. Even classic Mario pieces like the “Hurry Up” tune are larger-than-life and better than ever. I was also ecstatic to see orchestrations of the Cheese Bridge from Super Mario World, the Princess’ Secret Slide from Super Mario 64, and Bowser in the Lava World from Super Mario 64. It is a rare thing to see orchestrations done this well for an in-game score, as they are usually reserved for special CD’s released solely in Japan, like The Legend of Zelda: Sound and Drama or Super Metroid: Sound in Action.
Besides the fanservice present in these retro remixes, Mario Galaxy 2 has a superlative score of original pieces, covering many a genre of music. From the folksy country twang of the “Puzzle Plank Galaxy” to the epicness of the “Melty Monster Galaxy,” Mahito Yokota and Ryo Nagamatsu deserve much credit for these new pieces, sure to take their place alongside other classic Mario music. These are two composers that I’ll definitely be watching now!
The voice of Charles Martinet returns yet again to give voice to Mario and his many classic sound effects. Everything from the “yippie” of the super jump to the amusing nature of accidentally landing in lava is present, but I was wishing for more classic Mario vocals. Death sound effects are ordinary and boring, considering how often you hear them, and I was wishing for the classic “Mama Miaaaa!” as you fall to your doom. Luigi’s voice has been reduced as well, with nothing but a simple exclamation when super jumping, somersaulting, or dying. I actually prefer his extended “Mama Mia” when compared to his rotund brother, so its absence hurts my desire to hunt some stars with the green plumber. At least he plays a bit differently.
Gameplay is the same as the original 3D Mario game, Super Mario 64, in which you must find a certain number of Power Stars in each level. Each star involves several different types of gameplay, including platforming, puzzles, tough terrain navigation and fighting bosses. My favorite stars are the ones that shift the perspective to 2D, as in the older Mario games. These stars are often about precise movement rather than just trying to figure out where a star is. Most of the new powerups are designed with creative ways to hide stars in mind, so you can look forward to some unique challenges.
While the bosses are big and cleverly designed, the drama of fighting them is cut short by simplistic strategy. You’ll fight the same boss several times throughout the game with little change for each encounter. You pretty much just have to hit their projectiles back at them to inflict damage. Things change up a bit on the last required hit, but it still feels like a failure of imagination, especially how the final boss is supposed to be an epic encounter, yet he fights pretty much the same as every other boss. Disappointing.
Initial reaction to Super Mario Galaxy 2 was disapproval over its full price tag for what seemed to be an expansion. The truth of this is that not really much is changed from the original Galaxy. Yoshi isn’t used in that many stages (I miss the ability to use him whenever you want in Super Mario World) and a lot of the goals are similar to the original, making this more of an expansion pack. What you get out of the game will depend on how much you like Mario Galaxy or 3D Mario games in general. I myself always look forward to more of these types of games, even if they aren’t quite as fun as the sidescrolling Mario games. Be aware of the above before you venture off into the galaxy once more.