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When Nintendo makes a new Mario platformer, fans take notice. After all, the mustachioed plumber is pretty much the star of their flagship series of games, and while his board-game and sports-title appearances are usually at least somewhat enjoyable, a new title in the core action series is always an event in the eyes of dedicated fans everywhere. Things were no different leading up to the November 2007 release of Super Mario Galaxy, which immediately drew attention for its stunning visuals and unique "Mario-in-space" gameplay. Since then, the title went on to sell more than six million copies and win numerous Game of the Year awards from the gaming media, and even now, more than a year since it first hit, it remains one of the best reasons to own a Nintendo Wii.
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Graphics and Sound
From the very instant you first power up this game and play through the opening sequence, you'll be in awe of the visuals. There's little doubt that this is one of if not the best looking Wii game released to date, despite the fact that it's now more than a year old. The game is colorful and extremely detailed, making good use of every ounce of power the Wii hardware possesses to create a flashy, lavish visual feast that will absolutely stun gamers who have come to accept sacrifices in this department due to Nintendo's hardware. As for sound, the game features a fully orchestrated score which somehow doesn't feel out of place in the colorful, cartoony Mario universe, as well as a good mix of standard series sounds with sci-fi style effects. The whole package comes together to create the kind of stunning sensory experience normally available only on the Xbox 360 or PS3.
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After being relegated to a comic relief role in several recent Mario series titles, Bowser returns full force as a worthy antagonist in Galaxy. With the Mushroom Kingdom celebrating the arrival of a comet, Bowser takes the opportunity to bombard Princess Peach's castle with an epic display of firepower, making off with her royal highness in the process. Mario tries to stop him but fails, and is soon sent hurling through the stars before winding up on a small observatory run by a mysterious woman named Rosalina and her friends, a race of star-like creatures called the Lumas. According to Rosalina, the observatory could help Mario track down Bowser and rescue the princess, but it requires power stars to operate, and wouldn't you know it, the Koopa King went and stole them all. So it's up to Mario to find them all, get the celestial base operational, track down Bowser and save the day. Yeah, it's pretty standard fare for a Mario game, but it is well written and entertaining, made all the more intriguing by the included subplots involving Rosalina and the Lumas.
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Following titles like Sonic and the Secret Rings and Dewy's Adventure, which drew largely mixed reactions from gamers, it should come as no surprise that Nintendo would be the first to truly nail a platform game with motion controls. Both the Wii remote and the Nunchuck attachment are used to control Mario in Galaxy. On the Nunchuck, the control stick is used to move, the Z-button is used to dive and crouch, and the C-button resets the camera. On the Wiimote, meanwhile, the pointer is in many different ways, including grabbing star bits, aim at enemies, and so on. The A-button is used to jump, speak, read, swim, and execute a number of other activities. The B-button fires the aforementioned star bits, while shaking the remote allows Mario to spin. In addition to those basic controls, there are other skills and abilities that players will learn and need to utilize along the way, but rest assured, all of them are very intuitive and easy to both learn and perform.
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Utilizing those controls, the developers carefully crafted a game that, while at its core involves standard platform style action, also comes with enough gameplay variety to remain fresh throughout. In addition to being able to use classic moves like the wall jump and the running long jump, Mario has more than a few new tricks up his sleeves. Using special power-up items, he can, for a brief period of time, transform into a bee, a ghost (known as a Boo in the Mario universe) or a giant spring, or he can obtain the ability to shoot fire or ice. All of these abilities are used in different, creative ways to solve puzzles during the game. There are also different stars that are used like grappling hooks or launchers, as well as various minigames and even comets which, when they go into orbit around a level, change the mission objective in that area and present the opportunity to earn another power star. Furthermore, there is a unique co-op mode in which a second player can help out by collecting items or freezing enemies by click on them with a remote (excellent for helping out a younger, less experienced gamer), and those who take the time to collect all of the stars will be rewarded with a nice surprise. Super Mario Galaxy is a wonderfully deep platform game that, above all, provides fantastic E-rated fun for gamers of all ages.
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There have been several solid platform games to hit this Nintendo console, but all things considered, Super Mario Galaxy is, if you'll pardon the pun, on a whole different planet in terms of quality. The controls are rock solid, the gameplay is engrossing and filled with variety, and I'd venture to say the game looks and sounds better than any Wii game that has come before or since. Various media outlets have heaped mountains of praise on Super Mario Galaxy, generally referring to it as a must-own game, one of the best Wii titles on the market, and even one of the greatest platform games of all time. That's not just hyperbole, folks. This one is the real deal.