Super Mario Galaxy is one of the greatest platformers I have ever played, Wii's best game, and an absolute must-own experience. And to me, this odd trek through space really does feel like the true sequel to Mario 64. It harkens back to the N64 classic with nostalgic faces and places from the Mushroom Kingdom, but it also re-invents the franchise with new space-themed mechanics and fresh Wii-enhanced controls. It is, as I have said since I first played it, a near-perfect combination of old platforming values and new design.
Except to be blown away by the fantastic level challenges and galactic variety. Expect to be blown away by the addictive gravity effects -- you will jump off ledges just to see if you can rotate all the way around a structure. And expect to be blown away by the tight controls and beautiful graphics.
Super Mario Galaxy should be free of any such contention. It is an exceptional game by any standard, Mario or otherwise. It doesn't invent new kinds of gameplay, but it represents something that is perhaps equally important: A rethinking of how 3D platformers should work. The decade since the N64's debut has seen the genre struggle (and generally fail) to move beyond simply piling needlessly complex controls and obsessive-compulsive item collection on Mario 64's foundation. Galaxy strips away those encumbrances, revisits the essential concepts that made its esteemed predecessor so enjoyable, and then expands on them in new and intriguing ways.
In short, Galaxy is one of the most impressive, engrossing games in recent memory -- and quite the contrast to the rest of this year's triple-A gaming crop, which tends toward the dark, the M-rated, and the first-person perspective. Gaming may be growing up (per se), but gamers will always appreciate beautifully polished gameplay and inventive design...even if it's sugarcoated with squeaky baby stars and a goofy cartoon of a hero. Galaxy proves that Mario matters just as much today as he did 25 years ago, and that makes him one of a kind in this medium. But don't play Galaxy simply because Mario is the timeless godfather of gaming. No, play Galaxy because it's fantastic.
Super Mario Galaxy is an embarrassment. It's an embarrassment for platform games. It's an embarrassment for adventure games. It's an embarrassment for Nintendo and an embarrassment for the Wii. What have we all been playing at in the ten years since Super Mario 64 came out? This is what gaming ought to be like.
Bright, bold, unrepentantly loony, Galaxy is everything you wanted it to be. It's beautiful and inventive. It's pure-blood Mario without being a retro indulgence. It's a stiff platforming challenge and a free-wheeling romp. It's the best thing on Wii, and the best traditional game Nintendo has made in a decade. The only thing about it which dulls your enjoyment is the memory of all the mediocre games you've had to play in the meantime.
Wow, these guys are really loving the game. I'm picking up my copy as soon as I can.