Nintendo defined 3D gaming with Super Mario 64. Released for the N64 back in 1996, this masterpiece did everything right, and did it first. This perfection has been copied by every 3D platformer since then though none have matched its unique feeling. Fans have yearned for a sequel to Super Mario 64; and since then Nintendo has given them Luigi’s Mansion and Super Mario Sunshine. Just the gameplay of these left fans with a taste that said “It’s good, but it’s not what I want.” Beggars can’t be choosers, but Nintendo has a reputation in customer satisfaction which they intend to keep with the release of Super Mario Galaxy, their spiritual sequel to Super Mario 64.
As the term “spiritual sequel” implies, Super Mario Galaxy is not a true sequel, but the feeling of a sequel is there. This time around, instead of going to different worlds, Mario will be hopping from planet to planet; each with their own distinct theme (ice, fire, super sized, etc). The microverse that Mario will be exploring is dictated by gravity, and how you can manipulate it. For example, while on a small spherical planet, Mario will travel on that planet alone which the camera will follow. No matter how high or far he jumps; Mario will fall back onto that same planet. However, if certain star hoops are jumped through Mario will be blasted with enough force to break away from the previous planet’s gravitational pull and into another’s. If Mario’s trajectory is off though, then he will be sucked into a black hole, Galaxy’s equivalent to the series’ bottomless pits. Mario’s “health pie” will return as well, but will only start with 3 portions to be added on to later in the game.
Mario moves very similar to his previous outings, utilizing butt stomps, back flips, and long jumps to get the job done and save the princess (again). Bringing new potential to the table, Galaxy will use the Wii’s motion sensing capabilities to the fullest. The nunchuck’s analog stick is used to control Mario’s locomotive movement while the A button on the Wiimote is used to jump. This is where things get interesting. Whereas in other 3D Mario titles all you needed was the standard “run and jump” buttons, Galaxy’s unique outerspace premise has given more leeway to the developers’ creativity in gameplay and, more importantly, intuitive control. If the B button on the Wiimote is held down during gameplay, then a start pointer will appear which can be used to manipulate certain objects in the game world, from dragging stuff to creating an interstellar bridge for Mario to cross. Other movement related controls include climbing poles, which now require you to shake the Wiimote as if actually shimmying.
Apart from the controls, new gameplay mechanics are also making their way into the Mario universe. Two new suits will appear, granting Mario new abilities and unique new ways to lose them. The bee suit, as shown in an E3 trailer, gives Mario a short distance flying ability but can be lost if Mario touches water. The other suit is the boo suit, which will turn Mario into a boo allowing him to pass through certain barriers and objects but can be lost if he comes in contact with light. These two suits add more gameplay than we could possibly think of at the moment, granted the Mario 64 team is deving it.
A multiplayer portion has been thrown around, but Nintendo analysist and general manager has stated that any multiplayer in Super Mario Galaxy will most likely be cooperative.
And now for impressions, of the prerelease demo. Few got a chance to play this coveted gem, most were only available at E3. Thankfully, some friends of mine happen to live in Santa Monica (close to the E3 site). Luckily, I happened to watch their footage of what they played and their descriptions of the game. And from what I’ve read from E3 attendees (and saw and heard from said friends), I have to agree with them, the game is nearly perfect. Camera movement has always been a hindrance to Mario platformers, but Nintendo has gone the extra mile to make sure this is not the case. The camera is tighter than before, and for the most part fully automatic. If you want to make adjustments yourself then the D-pad on the Wiimote is your base of operations. Mario moves just like before, except with a more “weightless” feel, not sure how to explain that better. Imagine being in space, but having a form of gravity, just not complete gravity. So, in short, believe what they say about Super Mario Galaxy, because the demo, only the demo, is truer than words can describe.
In essence, the impressions are more of a “he said, she said” deal, but its as close as many could have gotten to the game without a major press tag.
So far, Nintendo has created the perfect Mario game and spiritual sequel to the most beloved 3D platformer of all time. Come November 12th myarcadeplanet.com will have a full review, and complete first hand impressions of what is destined to be the Wii’s most impressive title across the board.