The Super Mario series has always been Nintendo\'s flagship franchise, and with much anticipation and fanfare, Super Mario Galaxy arrived on Wii. It all starts with Mario & crew responding to a request from Princess Peach to join them for a celebration. When he gets there, we find Bowser taking not just the princess, but the whole castle, into space. Mario tags along, and is rescued by Princess Rosalina, who asks him to help save not only Peach, but the whole universe, by taking back the Power Stars from Bowser and his ilk.

Super Mario Galaxy in many ways plays a lot like its immediate predecessors, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario 64. You walk, run, and jump in various ways in a 3D, 3rd person environment, to bop your opponents and otherwise reach the end of the level and complete various goals to collect a star. You can save the universe once you collect around sixty, or strive to collect one hundred and twenty stars, which is also similar to previous titles. What really changes the formula is the focus on planets and galaxies. Each area is called a galaxy, and within there may be multiple planets, each with their own varying gravity. Yes, you can be walking along, and up and down can switch places on you! You are also imbued with a special Luma, which allows you to perform a handy new spin jump/attack which can punch out enemies, as well as increase the height and distance of your jumps. Within a level, you can also collect coins (as in previous entries) but also the new star bits, which you gather by running into them or pointing at them with the Wii Remote. Both of these collectibles can win you 1-ups, though only coins help you regain health.

This new planet/gravity mechanic may seem simple or gimmicky at first, but it is put to use in rather ingenious ways. Each planet can be of a unique size and shape. Some are very small which you can literally run around on the screen without the camera needing to move much. Others are much larger, resembling a typical level from a previous 3D Super Mario game. Planets can also be of many various different shapes, with unique gravity on each.

This variety leads to some pretty neat level designs. These include situations where you do a long jump in between planets, and the gravity from one can suck you away to the other. Or it can mean planets which are not necessarily round - this can be cubic, flat, or some other odd shape - where traversing to the other side(s) can lead to quite a surprise waiting for you. On the smallest planets, I find it fun to do a running long jump off of the side, and watch as it takes a few revolutions before you finally land. Other areas have planets somewhat isolated, with a launching star, which has Mario flying in between one or more others. There are also low gravity areas, where you use your Wii Remote to click on a pull star to fling you toward them, and as such, you defy gravity. This can lead to some really interesting variety on levels. Nintendo did a great job of mixing things up and keeping this game feeling fresh throughout. The level design really is fantastic.

There is a fair amount of variety for enemies as well. Goombas, piranha plants, bullet bills, and other classics. There are also some new surprises waiting. Boss battles look great, and have a lot of personality. Even with all of this, your biggest \'enemy\' is the level itself. On your side, you have some new power-ups. In addition to classics like the fire flower, you now have the Bee Mario suit, the Boo Mario suit, the somewhat annoying Spring Mario suit, and others. This naturally serves to increase the level variety even more, and the challenge as well, since most of these suits only last for a limited time. There is also a simple two player co-op mode, where the second player helps collect star bits as well as helping you out with enemies and even jumping. It\'s a nice gesture, though we didn\'t find it to be worth much. At least it\'s easy for the second player to jump in and leave at any time.

The graphical presentation on Super Mario Galaxy is something really well done. While the Wii doesn\'t have the power of other current consoles, this game shows what it can do, and it does it about as well as you could hope for with the game running at 480p resolution with the 16:9 wide screen aspect ratio. Each character and object has nice round smooth edges, there is plenty of nice lighting and reflections as appropriate, and it has the bright, and colorful palette of a typical Mario production. It also runs silky smooth without a hint of frame rate problems. Even on my large (126") projection screen, aliasing problems were not painful. All in all very well done and easy to enjoy.

While the graphics are nice, the sound and especially the music is spectacular. Here, the music is fully orchestrated, and sounds just great. From the appropriately mysterious intro theme, to the upbeat tunes in Egg Galaxy, to the menacing Bowser boss battle music, they all engross you in the atmosphere and help bring about the proper emotion of each area. This is definitely one to crank up, and if you are so fortunate to have your Wii hooked up to a nice 5.1 surround sound system, all the better.

There is not too much concern on the appropriateness front. There is common cartoon violence with jumping on and punching of unrealistic bad guys. There is also the occasional bomb thrown in. A few areas have Boos, which is the Mario equivalent of ghosts. You can also transform into Boo Mario in a few areas where you can float like a ghost. This is all done in a cartoonish way and is certainly nothing scary. There is a side story involving Rosalina that, while touching, is a bit sad. The E rating from the ESRB seems appropriate.

Super Mario Galaxy is a fabulous addition to the Super Mario franchise, and quite possibly one of the best ones yet. I find that this game does something that I haven\'t experienced in a long time - it brings back a sense of wonder and joy to gaming. As you play more and more, every turn seems new, different, and sometimes wonderful, with it rarely feeling tedious or too repetitive. While there is plenty to do, I found getting to the point where you can save the universe to be not all that challenging, though it does pick up if you continue towards getting all of the stars. Nevertheless, save the minor appropriateness concerns, and the nearly worthless two player mode (which most other Super Mario games don\'t even include), this is a game I really can\'t recommend strongly enough. Super Mario Galaxy has all of the earmarks of an instant classic.
Second Take by Kenny Yeager

Super Mario Galaxy is one of those games that reminds long-time gamers like myself of why we fell in love with gaming to begin with. This game is fun, easy to get into, and impossible to put down. The thrill of running around the game\'s worlds (or galaxies as it were) so well embodies what gaming has always been about, pure, inventive fun, that it becomes impossible not to consider Galaxy as Mario\'s triumphal entry into this generation of gaming, showing that he still has what it takes to play with the big boys.

Nintendo did an amazing job with the production values this time around, and the final release is nothing short of fantastic. The graphics shine. The characters are brought to life. The game\'s musical score is beautiful, and hearing a classic tune from Super Mario Bros. 3 given an overhaul is just one more example of Nintendo showing love to its loyal fans.

It doesn\'t matter who you are or what kind of games you like most, you owe it to yourself to pick up this masterpiece.

Appropriateness Score:

Violence 8/10
Language 10/10
Sexual Content/Nudity 10/10
Occult/Supernatural 8.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical 10/10

Appropriateness Total: 46.5/50

Game Score:
Game Play 20/20
Graphics 10/10
Sound/Music 10/10
Stability/Polish 5/5
Controls/Interface 5/5

Game Score Total: 50/50

Overall: 96.5/100

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