Super Mario Galaxy 2: 10th Anniversary Review
Happy birthday to Super Mario Galaxy 2! This month marks the 10th anniversary since the release of Mario's second space adventure, making it the perfect time to look back at this platformer for the Wii. The fact that this game exists is already special because Nintendo rarely makes direct sequels for mainline Mario games on the same console.
As a big fan of the original Super Mario Galaxy which came out in 2007, I was quite excited when the news of a sequel broke. Super Mario Galaxy was epic as it had a fascinating plot with Bowser crashing the Star Festival, to Rosalina's storybook, along with just the mystique of having an adventure take place in outer space - which made the game feel limitless.
Spin-activated Red-Blue Panels in Super Mario Galaxy 2
Unfortunately, there isn't much of a plot in Super Mario Galaxy 2. Princess Peach asks Mario to come over to the castle for cake (sound familiar?) and to watch shooting stars. Ok, so it turns out Bowser has again nabbed Peach. Mario finds Luma and he goes inside his hat like old times, and off we go to space again! Mr. Miyamoto definitely wasn't kidding when he said Galaxy 2 would have as little story as possible.
The graphics have not changed much in Galaxy 2 compared to the original Super Mario Galaxy, it's the same visual design and in-game presentation. As this is a direct sequel on the same console, no surprise here. It's unfortunate that we were not able to have this game in HD due to the Wii's limitations, it would have exemplified the visuals. The music found in Galaxy 2 is also in a similar orchestral style as well - they didn't try to fix what wasn't broken here. There were a few familiar tunes remixed from the ghost houses of Super Mario World, along with the Whomp's Fortress and slide music from Super Mario 64, which were nice touches to make a Mario fan smile.
Outside of the aesthetics, there were quite a few changes in the sequel - the biggest one being the addition of Yoshi.
It was great to see the return of Yoshi as Mario's companion similar to his role in Super Mario Sunshine. Yoshi doesn't appear in a lot of levels here, but he shows up enough to be relevant and he has some dynamic new power-ups such as the bulb berry, balloon and hot pepper.
Although many wacky and unusual transformations have also been in the Yoshi standalone games, it's still pretty comical to see him turn into a fat Yoshi floating in the air, and running like mad after eating a hot pepper. He continues to have his signature flutter jump, in addition to being able to use his tongue to cycle around flowers to get an additional boost in the air. Unfortunately, Yoshi is self-contained in a given area, you can't bring Yoshi to different stages to explore.
Mario has his standard Galaxy moves, the Luma spin attack, double/triple jumps, long jump, and backflip, but he also has a few new power-ups as well. Cloud Mario is a bit more floaty in the air and can spin up to three temporary cloud platforms that he can stand on. Getting the spin drill allows Mario to literally drill into the ground into the other side - allowing for some crazy manoeuvres where the gravity changes. And finally, Rock Mario where he can become a giant boulder and roll around, this is one of the worst power-ups as it can be very difficult to maintain control with the Wii remote. Previous transformations such as Bee Mario, Spring Mario and Fire Mario make a return and work the same way.
There is no overworld like Rosalina's Comet Observatory in the original game. Instead, Starship Mario is used to fly to different galaxies that are selected using a traditional world map. I was originally quite disappointed in this format since the first Super Mario Galaxy, along with Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine all had huge overworlds that you can roam around and explore. You can run around Starship Mario a little bit like a planet, but it just didn't feel the same. But given there wasn't much of a story to this game and if you divert your focus to the stages, it's an acceptable compromise.
The level design in Super Mario Galaxy 2 is more compact compared to its predecessor, there are more galaxies than the original, however they tend to be smaller, making it a much more "linear" game than Galaxy 1. Overall, it allows for faster paced play but in most areas there is still room to explore and look around for secrets and hidden items. Although in practice, the level design may be a little constrained, the game is designed in a way that does not feel restricted to the player at all.
Nintendo considers Super Mario Odyssey, which came out many years later to be a "sandbox" game, but Odyssey itself has many linear stages that draw inspiration from the Galaxy 1 and Galaxy 2 games.
The Prankster Comets which trigger unique challenges are greatly improved in Galaxy 2. Instead of appearing randomly, the comet condition can be triggered in a stage by collecting a Comet Medal, after which it becomes a selectable star in the galaxy. In the original game, comets appeared randomly, and you had to pay a Luma to rearrange them into different areas causing a lot of unnecessary backtracking and roaming around to play all the missions.
After playing Nintendo Switch games which have far more responsive controllers, it took me a little time to adjust to the decade-old Wii remote. I've found the spin move seems to be a fraction of a second slower than what I would expect. Also, controlling the camera can be annoying at times compared to newer Mario titles as it can only be controlled using the control pad. There are a few places that you just end up in an odd spot, and just can't see what you want to see. But for the most part the camera follows the game play quite consistently and you won't have too many problems.
One of my new year's gaming resolutions for 2020 was to unlock and complete the Green Star Challenge. As a lifelong fan of Mario games, I felt a little incomplete that I didn't get to 100% in Super Mario Galaxy 2. Thinking back, I had been quite occupied with other things in life and I wasn't as immersed while playing this game. After picking up the Wii this year and playing Galaxy 2 again, I've found it to be an excellent adventure, far better than when I originally purchased this game. Perhaps, Galaxy 2 came out a bit too soon after the original - it didn't feel very fresh, but now I've grown an appreciation for this game.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 packs a large amount of content in the game, there are 120 standard Power Stars, but only 70 are required to get to the final Bowser battle. If this sounds like a lot to collect, Nintendo has added some help for Mario novices. Throughout the journey, there are many forks in the world map that allow you to skip over certain stages completely meaning you don't need to play every single galaxy. Not only that, there is a Cosmic Spirit (which resembles Rosalina) that can help you complete certain challenging stars if you're running into trouble.
After the first 120 stars, Green Stars are unlocked. Green Stars are scattered all over the galaxies you've explored. While many of them are easy to collect and some are even in plain sight, a sizable portion of these stars will require some advanced Mario platforming skills to reach. Outside of the star selection preview sequence, you will have to find the Green Stars like a scavenger hunt, though they do emit a distinct "twinkling" found to help you find them. These stars are analogous to the Power Moon collect-a-thon where moons can be found anywhere and everywhere in Super Mario Odyssey.
It will take many hours to collect every single Green Star, and to unlock the challenging Grandmaster Galaxy which has a difficult final mission that has now become standard in Mario games.
How does Super Mario Galaxy 2 compare to other Mario games? For me, it's definitely better than Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario Sunshine. I'd put Galaxy 2 in the upper echelon with Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Odyssey. It's hard to rank what truly is the "best" as they are all great in different ways.
There has been speculation that a few 3D Mario games will be remade for the Nintendo Switch for the Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary. Could we see Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 remade with enhanced graphics? It would be interesting to see what kind of treatment these games get. Even without remastering, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is not dated at all in 2020, the only sore spot is the lack of HD graphics on the Wii. If you haven't played SMG2 before or haven't played it in years, this game can still provide a refreshing experience.
It's not groundbreaking like the original game, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii is still a classic that is still worth playing and even 10 years later, it continues to hold up as one of the best Mario games created.