Super Mario Galaxy 2 – First impressions

Since I already have two preliminary reviews waiting to be finalized I decided to do something a little different and just give my general impression of SMG2, which I started playing today. This game of course is the first direct sequel in the Mario (main) series to be released on the same system since Super Mario Land 2 on the Game Boy (and before that the three SMB sequels on the NES). In that it’s been a little hard to determine what aspects of the game are the result of the game being a direct sequel to SMG and what is the result of simple laziness – but this is Nintendo after all, so let’s assume good faith for now.

Well gameplay and graphics wise the game is very similar to the first in almost every way. In the gameplay front the only new aspects are really the new powers (more on that later) but even on the graphics side of things it’s surprising how similar the game is. Most of the enemies are either the same or at least very same-y as those in SMG but I’ve yet to complete World 1 so let’s not jump to any conclusion.

On the level-side of things the game has made some improvements over the first. I no longer suffered from the disorientation I had with SMG and the camera-angles at least so far have been very good. However, the levels are yet again extremely linear and quite frequently place your perspective into a side-view or behind Mario which sort of made me feel like this game was a sequel to New Super Mario Bros. Wii rather than SMG.

This is something that I really think hasn’t been done right in Mario games since Super Mario 64, level design. In SM64 you could explore the levels freely, they had depth, but even more importantly you could get the power stars in most of them in practically any order you wanted. This is element of freedom which has been lost since Super Mario Sunshine is something I miss continuously. Even more so, most of the levels are about reaching the end where you collect the power-star and occasionally fighting a boss. No, freeing a chained chomp, no risking drowning to follow a giant eel, no taking a lost baby penguin to its mother, no catching pesky monkeys who’ll steal Mario’s hat, no searching for red coins…

The 3D Mario games have been severely lacking in gameplay goals since SM64 and this is why I don’t believe that either of the Super Mario Galaxy games will ever find themselves in the pantheon of classic Mario games. They just plainly lack imagination.

That’s not to say the game’s aren’t fun to play but the emphasis in SMG and SMG2 seems to be increasingly the presentation and messing around with the gameplay mechanics. This is why I’m no longer that excited about the Super Powers that Mario gets, since they are really used to justify the linear level structure. A power-up you find is always going to be integral to completing the level. But the powers don’t carry over to the next level or they have a time-limit, which means that you can’t go back to previous levels and mess around with stuff using different powers.

And as for Yoshi, I love the fact that he’s in SMG2 but I’ve found him to be more or less useless. For one all he’s good for is allowing you to float in the air for a short while (and there already is a Mario power for that) and eat enemies which really isn’t as efficient as just plain jumping on them or hitting them. Really Yoshi is only useful in levels where he’s needed to pass them (such as using Yoshi’s tongue to climb higher) but otherwise he doesn’t really add anything to the game.

But I like the fact that the game now has a map-screen since I hated running around on Rosalina’s space-ship to get from level to level. Though playing the game hasn’t wowed me it has been a decent game so far. I’ll write up the review as soon as I finish the game.