The hallmark of Mario 3D's evolution seems to be moving it further away from the Mushroom Kingdom setting. It's not as if Princess Peach's magical monarchy is restricted to the 2D X-axis, nor does it need to be endemic to the twisted, bulbous aesthetic that represented the antediluvian era of 3D gaming seen in Super Mario 64. Still, Super Mario Sunshine simply isn't. rendering Mario's visuals more efficiently on the Gamecube's hardware only to make the Mushroom Kingdom appear brighter, as if the player had been given a prescribed pair of contact lenses. Mario's great evolution between his departures from the N64 and the Gamecube was so monumental that the developers felt the need to celebrate, making Super Mario Sunshine a holiday in every context of the word. When Mario's next adventure on Nintendo's subsequent console, the Wii, debuted early in the system's lifespan like previous 3D Marios, Mario didn't return to his homeland as any responsible adult eventually does after their vacation. The plump plumber now imagines himself as a world traveler, expanding the vast parameters beyond the familiar backdrop of the fungus domain that served as the traditional setting for so many Mario titles. The Wii was Nintendo's first case of a radically implemented peripheral paying off, and its flagship franchises needed to reflect the glory of its success after the Gamecube somehow failed to achieve the same sales figures as the N64. Mario's next adventure after Sunshine didn't repeat the premise of a vacation gone awry in another typical frivolous location, like a ski resort or a city in Europe. As Nintendo would likely attest, the guy who originally coined the saying "the sky is the limit" obviously existed long before space travel was feasible. Super Mario Galaxy is the pinnacle of Nintendo's ambition for a Mario setting, as they place the plumber in the limitless confines of the cosmos.
While Super Mario Galaxy is Mario's first foray into the final frontier (in the mainline Super Mario series), Nintendo is no stranger to creating an IP around the quintessential sci-fi setting. Just use the match from the “Space Travelers” event from Super Smash Bros. Melee as a reference to how many franchises Nintendo has oriented around space and its infinite possibilities. However, the general consensus Nintendo seems to convey with its bevy of intergalactic IPS is that flirting with the unexplored vastness of space is a harrowing prospect. Visiting an alien world leaves one in a constant state of danger in Metroid, while the reverse of aliens landing on Earth's soil in Earthbound means a disorienting, reality-warping destruction for the third planet from the sun. The asteroid belts are the center of galactic warfare in Star Fox, and the futuristic racing in F-Zero exceeds the speed capabilities recommended for the general well-being of a human being. Kirby's depiction of outer space is more likeable, but Dreamland's twee Candyland aesthetic is perhaps too far removed from reality to maintain a tangible frontier in the realm of sci-fi. Overall, Nintendo's sentiment regarding the hypothetical peak of humanity's colonialism is that the attempt to tame the spectacle of space should be approached with extreme caution. Nintendo shares the same disdainful attitude towards space that Werner Herzog had towards the dank wasteland of the Amazonian jungles, but that negativity couldn't be conveyed in a Mario title. Making Mario's young and general audience feel pangs of existential dread as they gaze up at the night sky is counterintuitive to Mario's breezy appeal that makes him Nintendo's golden boy. In order to maintain Mario's image, Nintendo has had to reevaluate its perspective of putting its characters where the stars call home. From a more positive perspective, nothing is more impressively magnificent than outer space. The immeasurable parameters of the cosmos attract anyone with a thirst for adventure. Realistically, any mortal man would naturally die in the untamed, empty void of space without a meticulous amount of preparation, and there's only so much area we can cover. Still, the idea of roaming the cosmos tickles man's primal core with exhilaration and makes him feel like a futuristic conqueror. That sense of romance for space travel that we're still chasing can be achieved vicariously through Mario, and the spectacle of it all is what Super Mario Galaxy reveals.
The Festival of Stars isn't a Mushroom Kingdom tradition that any Mario lore from previous titles has elucidated, but it is the important event that sets the scene in Super Mario Galaxy's intro sequence. Mario is invited to the ceremony taking place in the castle square by Peach, who also wants Mario to check out a peculiar creature not seen in the Mushroom Kingdom. This event is obviously interrupted by Bowser and his Koopa army, as part of the course to establish the narrative conflict of a Mario game. Try to guess what Bowser and his air fleet are here to do. If your answer was anything other than kidnapping Peach, you're beyond saving. Not only does Bowser fail to deviate from his usual evil schemes, he goes back into the idea pool of Peach's previous kidnapping runs. Bowser extracts the entirety of Peach's Castle from the earth with the tractor beam of a giant UFO, which should sound familiar to Paper Mario if this series goes canon. Instead of just keeping Peach's royal estate suspended above the clouds, Bowser penetrates the planet's stratosphere to keep Peach at eye level with the stars. One would think that Mario already being on the scene would nip Bowser's newest attempt in the bud, but a particularly skilled Kamek blinds Mario and sends him flying into the night sky. When Mario awakens from his defeated stupor, he finds himself next to the creature Peach wanted him to see: a glowing, star-shaped blob known as a Luma. To Mario's surprise, the floating pillow is more articulated than one might expect, as it brings Mario to a blonde in a silk nightgown named Rosalina. Rosalina is the leader and matriarchal figure of the Lumas, and her space-traveling abilities were thwarted by Bowser snatching the power source that Mario must retrieve. At this point, I can safely say that the overall plot of a core Mario game is superfluous to the overall appeal of the game. As long as the premise behind Bowser's annual kidnapping of princesses is new, Nintendo can get away with setting the same sticking point they've clung to for every Mario iteration.
Before discussing Super Mario Galaxy's strengths in exuding the majestic aura of outer space, I feel like there's a planet-sized elephant in the room that might annoy some of the more Obsessive-Compulsives. While he's obviously a fictional character, Mario is still a human being with the same anatomy as a real person (albeit cartoonishly depicted), so how can he gracefully fly through endless antigravity like he's Peter Pan? Shouldn't your eyeballs be overflowing with blood as your head inflates like a balloon until it bursts from the physical pressure? I've never personally witnessed the effects of space exposure on anyone, but I'll bet that's the most likely scenario. The answer to that question is that Nintendo realized that no one would notice or care about the semantics. Mario has been swimming underwater without needing to come up to the surface to breathe since the first Super Mario Bros., and we've never questioned whether or not Mario has a pair of gills under his hat. While Mario resembles a human, Nintendo's intention for the great champion of video game characters is to act as a mustachioed vehicle for fantasy wonder that abandons all realism. That drugged joke everyone makes about the Mario universe is simply Nintendo trying to present a sense of age-appropriate splendor. Without a doubt, Super Mario Galaxy sets the pinnacle of Mario's ecstasy enterprise, given the overwhelming scope of traveling the universe with nothing but the clothes on your back. The presentation of the game needed to be especially player-friendly to suit this grand spectacle. Super Mario Galaxy's presentation doesn't make quick, biblical leaps in improvement over Sunshine, but the level of refinement it adds is still readily apparent.
Then there's the case of the other elephant in the room that might make people skeptical of Super Mario Galaxy's technical prowess. As one would assume with a Wii title, motion controls are incorporated into Mario's control scheme here. Before this revelation causes enough revulsion to keep you from playing, I can assure you that the idiosyncratic system gimmick does not compromise the significant evolution of 3D Mario that was much needed since Super Mario 64. Naturally, Nintendo seemed to have the greatest understanding. of how to practically implement motion controls for games on the Wii as opposed to the countless amounts of shovelware that littered the system. Surprisingly, the trick to unlocking the functionality of this fantastic piece of hardware is to keep things simple, as seen in Twilight Princess's control scheme at console launch. The analog stick on the nunchuck works as well as any other controller, despite its on-again, off-again relationship with the Wiimote, and every move with Mario feels snappy and responsive. Mario can still execute the same level of acrobatic agility that made him a joy to control in Sunshine, even with the unorthodox Wii controller. The diminished gravitational pull of outer space doesn't affect the grace of Mario's triple jump or backflip, nor does it change its trademark crushing impact. The slide maneuver that Mario performed on Sunshine is no longer available, presumably because constant use of it caused a severe case of groin burn. Instead, Mario reverts to both the jump and the crouch super jump seen in Super Mario 64, with the considerable advantage of the Wii's presentation prowess making for incredibly fluid execution. The point of uncomplicated innovation with motion controls is a new attack. By swiping the Wiimote around like a baton, Mario elegantly does a 360-degree spin that knocks out all enemies around him, with a brief cooldown represented by the small Luma icon that gave Mario this ability. With a new standard frame rate that's as smooth as the wax on a Koopa's shell, the already perky Mario has never felt more adept at his physical capabilities, even with the added aspect of a gravity-defying environment. The only weird thing the player still has to deal with is the camera, as the player is relegated to the nunchuck's Z button, which just centers the camera in front of Mario, rather than offering the all-analog control featured on the Gamecube. .
The intro sequence where Mario makes sense of his surroundings sees him setting a misleading precedent. An open plan juxtaposes the grassy sphere that cushioned Mario's fall with the immense void of space, leaving the player with the impression that Mario is hopelessly lost. While this existential scene might suggest that Nintendo has reverted to its preconceptions, the tone quickly changes during gameplay when Mario arrives at the center of the game. As I've often expressed it, an effective video game hub should serve as a placid core at the center of the more chaotic areas that surround it. Galaxy's predecessor in the N64 was the architect who established the proper design and atmosphere for a hub, and Galaxy delivers on the same standard. When Mario arrives at Rosalina's Comet Observatory, perched high in the starry astral stratum, it's just a hollow, dark shell, thanks to Bowser capturing its power source. While the faded stillness may evoke a sense of eerie tranquility, it is not indicative of the observatory's ultimate effectiveness as a hub. As Mario collects the Grand Star power sources, individual sections of the observatory regain their luminescence. After all areas are restored, the player can fully see the magnificence of the observatory. Essentially, it's Peach's Castle from Super Mario 64 in space. The observatory grounds may exist around the outer frigidity of outer space, but still manage to exude the same aura of coziness. Rosalina and the Lumas built the vital elements around this traveling space palace that would be found in Peach's castle, such as a kitchen, library, bedroom, garden, etc. If Mario accidentally steps into the ether of space here, an undisclosed safety net will encapsulate him in a bubble and bring him back to dry land. This level of security and basic intimacy, especially considering the hostile environment it is in, gives the observatory the status of a space sanctuary. Also, how could a place surrounded by Squishmallow-style Lumas be anything less comforting?
The observatory also simplifies level placements compared to previous Mario 3D games. In both 64 and Sunshine, the player often had to be exceptionally observant to identify where some levels were, such as the interiors of Boos and indiscernible walls in 64 and the tops of glowing towers in Sunshine. Here, Rosalina records the amount of Power Stars Mario has collected at the center of the observatory and how they match progress. About three to four different levels are found in the igloo-shaped rooms that serve as the observatory's homely places of relevance. Guiding Mario to the blue star on the ceiling shows a handful of levels orbiting relatively closely together. Restoring power to the next observatory room is a matter of collecting enough stars to unlock the boss galaxy and take its Grand Star. Unlike Sunshine, which forced the player to earn the most stars from each level in order to progress, Galaxy allows the player to collect any of the stars from any arbitrary source. Thank goodness because this was the biggest detriment that Sunshine implemented that deviated from the good method of progress in 64 that didn't need to be changed. Reverting to each major collectible sharing the same value shows that Nintendo has learned its mistake, and the Galaxy is more accessible as a result.
I stated that outer space was a perfect setting for a 3D platform game while discussing the strengths of the Ratchet & Clank franchise. The immeasurable breadth of what exists beyond Earth is too incomprehensible for our fragile human existences, so ruminating on the possibilities borders on fantasy territory. Ratchet & Clank took full advantage of this by providing the 3D platforming archetype of a wide variety of level themes that took place across the game's myriad of different planets. As clever as it was to sidestep this tired trope, Insomniac's PS2-era IP was still technically copying the template that Super Mario 64 pioneered. Super Mario Galaxy naturally uses the realm of outer space to channel its birthright as a Mario game and provide a diverse range of space levels, just as Ratchet & Clank did. Super Mario Galaxy's various levels span a wide range of classic 3D platformer levels such as the obligatory fire and ice themes, and "Freezeflame Galaxy" combines both as a self-aware nod to how common contrasting elements are in these types of games. . . "Dusty Dune Galaxy" continues the Mario tradition of a desert level, with Dry Bones and the enemy cacti Pokies as the proper inhabitants of the sand. The sunny “Beach Bowl Galaxy” may be the only continuation of Sunshine's tropical vacation theme. Still, Mario couldn't fall off the resort if he swam too deep in the ocean waters, unlike this heavenly beach. “Ghostly Galaxy” manages to emulate that haunted mansion level seen in previous Mario titles, and “Space Junk Galaxy” tackles the subject of space pollution. “Toy Time Galaxy” is one of my favorites because the kid-friendly, Lego-like aesthetic is just darling. While each of these levels is obviously unique from one another, one consistent feature across all of them is the prominent backdrop of the cosmos. The vast reaches of outer space never leave the player's peripheral vision. Whether the background color is light or dark, the infinite scope of space makes the foreground look like an insignificant rock in a universe with billions of others. The space setting complements the empty graphical space that made so many levels in Super Mario 64 feel surreal without that context.
Super Mario Galaxy also reduces the areas of a 3D Mario game with linearity. The game's galaxies boil down to two different design points. Most of the platforming involves jumping onto a series of airborne planetoids placed with the same verticality. Once Mario reaches a farther section of a level, a launch star will blast Mario further with a flick of the Wiimote, guiding his flight with the same level of precision and elegance as his initial arrival. The final objective at the end of the path will be obvious to most, so referring to the objective's title is unnecessary, unlike the previous two games. Over the course of the three or so Star Quests, the level will slightly change its layout to move Mario towards a different objective. This change means that while the level always offers more to discover, the linear trajectory for each Power Star feels more artificial. Even areas with a more freeform plateau design like "Honeyhive" and "Golden Leaf Galaxy" still provide clues formulated to lead the player in the right direction. The indirect collection format that Super Mario 64 implemented was what defined 3D Mario, but it seems Nintendo deviates further from that design philosophy with each subsequent entry. The Galaxy's linear design reminds me more of the classic levels from the 2D Mario games, something Nintendo could now achieve in its third generation 3D that the primitivism of the N64 would have hindered. Furthermore, clearing a restricted objective is still more appropriate for the boot system that Galaxy still carries.
The launch system will now only eject Mario from a level after he completes his quest and collects the star. For the first time in a 3D Mario title, checkpoints were applied to each level, presumably due to how linear each one is. Checkpoints aren't clearly defined by a symbol or icon, but Mario will still be resurrected in a wanton section of the level upon death. Also, Mario probably won't die very often because he's invested in grippy footwear or gravity in space is ironically more exciting than in the Mushroom Kingdom or Isle Delfino. All Mario has to worry about here is sometimes misjudging a jump from one piece of space rock to the next and facing the wrath of the black hole vacuum situated somewhere in every level, the big, physically questionable mediator. of the cosmos. Mario's health bar has been reduced to fractions of three, but coins that regenerate Mario's health will constantly be pouring out of enemies. In addition to Galaxy lowering the danger stakes, the game will also grant the player plenty of extra lives. Star Bits, Galaxy's celestial currency that looks like space Dippin Dots, will add an extra life after collecting just fifty of the small, colorful space flakes, which Mario can obtain simply by waving it around the Wiimote's cursor. Peach even sends Mario a care package of five 1-Up mushrooms whenever the player starts playing again. Peach is so prepared to be kidnapped that she shares her hostage rations with Mario. Needless to say, Super Mario Galaxy is much easier than the previous two 3D Mario games. Considering that Mario titles are intended to be relatively stress-free experiences, Galaxy's reduced difficulty feels more appropriate.
But what about the thrill of a challenge that every video game must offer, regardless of its high accessibility? Surprisingly, Super Mario Galaxy still offers this in a bevy of opportunities, just not along the normal star-gathering route. Off the beaten path of major planets are those with only one objective that can supplement the star total if the player deems it necessary. Many of them come with feeding the jovial “Hungry Lumas” enough Star Bits to make their own “big bang” and become a new level. Feeding these gluttonous pink globs is recommended because it's the only way to purge the excessive amount of Star Bits in Mario's wallet. A common source of extra challenge is the periodic occurrence of the various comets. The added layer of challenge matches the type of comet in orbit, which ranges from competing with Shadow Mario, completing an ancient task with a time constraint, beating a boss in one life, etc. know that the games most famous second fiddle has at least one supporting NPC role of searching for Power Stars in inconspicuous corners. Looking around outside the intended avenue in some levels will earn Mario a "secret star" and the total of three will create a green launch star to propel Mario to the most challenging three stars in the game. Whether it's balancing Mario on a ball, a manta ray or preventing his bubble from bursting, each of these unyielding tests of endurance will require extreme proficiency with the game's motion controls.
Although Galaxy approaches Mario's 3D level design with a radical divergence, it reinstalls many 64 attributes that Sunshine had omitted. Sunshine's intention was literally and figuratively to take a vacation from the Mushroom Kingdom, and along the way, the cool environment felt perhaps too alien to Mario's main trademarks. One aspect removed from Sunshine was the various power-ups such as the invincibility star and fire flower, as the latter would counteract the usefulness of the water spout squirted from Mario's back. I'm happy to report that both of Mario's signature temporary boosts are back for breaking through groups of enemies and lighting torches, respectively. The developers even added an ice flower to complement the fire flower, where Mario can water skate like a Jesus snowman. In addition to the fleeting power-ups that were standard in '64, Galaxy recalls a time before the 3D era when Mario could use a power-up as a costume for as long as possible before it dissipated upon taking damage. A mushroom with black and yellow stripes will turn Mario into Bee Mario, who can stick to the honeycomb walls and fly for a short duration depending on a stamina meter. A translucent white mushroom will test Mario's death coil as a Boo with Mario's mustachioed face instead of the wide, twisted smile of Mario's deceased enemies. Boo Mario can float infinitely and make his form immaterial to pass through solid bars. Mario must avoid light as a Boo and be careful not to touch any water as Bee Mario, unless he wants the power to be taken prematurely from them. Spring Mario is the latest to round out the trio of new forms, and the tight mechanics make it feel more gimmicky than the other two. Whether or not you find these costumes adorable or whether they're phobia triggers (related to ghosts and bees, but I'm sure there's some weirdo out there who runs away screaming when they see a Slinky), there's no denying that they provide another layer of variety to a game that already reveals diverse gameplay.
Sunshine also seemed to confuse Mario's combat to a confusing degree. Of course, spraying enemies with F.L.U.D.D. as protesters in the streets it was quite effective, but the high-octane hydraulic pump was primarily intended to clean up and uncover secrets beneath the gooey mess. In truth, there weren't many enemies situated around Isle Delfino to really highlight F.L.U.D.D.'s fighting potential. For some reason, the infinite reaches of space feel more like Mario than the vacation resort. Either Bowser has invited his entire fleet to join him on his mission of galactic conquest, or Goombas and Koopas are part of every Mario ecosystem except Delfino Island. Bullet Bills will furiously attack Mario, and the stone giant Thwomps will even pulverize Mario if they catch him under its enraged gaze. I've just noticed that I've already mentioned a handful of basic Mario enemies missing from Sunshine beforehand, which goes to show the lengths the developers have gone to remedy the lack of familiar Mario enemies featured in the previous game. Hell, the Cataquacks return to quickly catapult Mario, solidifying them into Mario's enemy canon.
As the main function of F.L.U.D.D. it wasn't the combat, Sunshine's bosses were always a little disorienting as a result. They always required unorthodox means of disposal that tended to turn into unnecessary circuits. Bosses in Galaxy are obstacles at the peak of some Power Stars lanes. Like every other aspect of the game, they're all a varied bunch, and all it takes to defeat them is a variation on Mario's own innate abilities. The evil Beyblade Topmaniac just needs to be attacked and slammed into the electrical currents that circulate around the arena. The evil and powerful Monty Mole, Major Burrows, needs a little earthquake caused by Mario's ass to dig him up and stop him from chasing the poor bunnies underground. Swinging the black Bomb Boos to erode the bouldergeist ghost's rocky exterior reminds me of throwing Bowser by the tail in 64. Bosses like Bugaboom and Baron Brrr require the use of the new power-ups to defeat, but only in conjunction with Bouldergeist's natural talents. Mario. Each boss also takes a measly three hits with slight increases in difficulty between them, signaled by a smoldering rage that signifies an increase in aggression level. It's all quick attacks, much like the many cases of waiting we've all had to endure with Sunshine's bosses. bowser jr. and his father exchange the apex of the solar system from each room. bowser jr. will introduce a new machine or other enemy and taunt Mario from the outside, the highlight being an imposing mech on which scaling its skyscraper legs channels Shadow of the Colossus. Bowser's three duels are largely the same, with Bowser adding another move to each subsequent fight to marginally prolong it. The paths to Bowser harken back to those of Super Mario 64, which include the most involved platforming sections involving gravity manipulation. Big or small in importance, the universe's big bads finally provide substantial boss fights in a mainline Mario game.
Underneath the planet-hopping action is a layer of emotional depth rarely explored in the mainline Mario games. As exciting as it is to soar easily through the cosmos as Mario is, there's a sense of sentimentality in man's relationship to the vast scope of the universe. Once Mario unlocks the library, Rosalina is seen reading an illustrated children's book detailing her story of how she came to be the leader of the Luma as a little girl. Chapter by chapter, a younger Rosalina grows more comfortable with the alien atmosphere of space thanks to the company of the Lumas, but longing for her makes her yearn for her former concrete life on Earth. She is finally content when she comes to terms with her old life perishing without return and finds new happiness in her new status. It's optional to read along with Rosalina, but it's recommended because it helps impact the ending. Once Mario stops Bowser in his final fight and thwarts his plans to create a galaxy in his image, catastrophic damage is done to the universe. A black hole of impeccable scale swallows the remains of Bowser's latest failure, and all that exists seems doomed. However, a Luma sacrifices itself to create a fission of new life in place of the old, a rebirth of life. I'm not sure if it's the image of Mario floating in the light ether of a new existence, but the whole scene made a lump form in my throat. Returning to the Mushroom Kingdom as pristine as it was before the initial events might be something of an excuse, but it still felt like Mario went through the same rebirth arc that Rosalina went through in the process. Only the first Paper Mario has made me feel emotional up to this point, and I hope the Mario spin-offs are the only games to resonate emotionally.
The spirit of Super Mario Galaxy isn't really to quell any anxiety related to space travel. Mario's breeze across the final frontier does not indicate Nintendo's attempt to condition future space imperialists to show that conquering the cosmos is an easy task. Instead, Mario's easiness in every aspect of the game is Nintendo perfecting all the attributes of 3D Mario. Ironically, Mario's flagship title that implements motion controls is the smoothest and most enjoyable he's ever had in a 3D ride. Mario finally came full circle in the third dimension to deliver the same mechanical and presentational experience he did when rendered with pixels, and here I thought there wasn't much to improve after Sunshine. Mario's brand of accessibility is directly linked to Galaxy's impeccable performance. Many might argue that linear levels and a constant reward of extra lives is not an improvement, but I believe it shows a more direct focus on what 64 and Sunshine set out to do. The wide variety in the game of areas, power-ups, enemies and bosses will always keep the player intrigued. All the while, the dazzling cinematic depiction of the cosmos and the bittersweet sweetness of existence beneath it all made my tired, cynical heart melt like chocolate. If something as wholesome as Mario doesn't feel that way, then what's he really good for? If space travel is the height of human achievement, the same can be said of the Mario series.
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