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Super Mario Galaxy
From: Nintendo
For: Wii
Genre: Action, Adventure
ESRB Rating: Everyone (6+)
Super Mario Galaxy
It's the best Mario game to date, arguably among the best platformers ever made, and certainly one of the best things currently out there for the Wii, period. Mario Wiiturns, a bigger star than ever.
Posted November 13, 2007
Back in the creaky, horse-powered-console days of the Nintendo 64's debut, Super Mario 64 wowed gamers around the globe -- not merely for its technical and visual innovations (jaw-dropping enough in their own right, to be sure), but for the wide-eyed (and always good-natured) sense of, well, magic that its onscreen world delivered to the player. No longer content with giving as a mere 'world' in which to play, game-design maestro Miyamoto Shigeru has rolled out entire star systems, entire galaxies, of challenge and fun -- welcome to Super Mario Galaxy. Hot on the release-heels of the recent, excellent Zack & Wiki, it's the kind of game that justifies the purchase of a Wii all by itself -- it's that good.

Like all Mario games, it's broad strokes in The Story department: Perennial bad-guy Bowser has launched yet another attack on the populace of the Mushroom Kingdom… and this time, he's going Megalomaniacal on their animated little butts. His ships have wrenched Princess Peach's castle right out of the ground and into the upper reaches of the atmosphere during the hubbub of a millennial star festival, and his evil plan (this time around) is nothing less than the creation of his own universe -- moons, planets, stars, the whole nine parsecs. It's time for Mario -- you -- to chase Bowser into the depths of space and once again save the Princess (who should really be running some serious risk-assessment on old Bowser by this point).

With the aid of some cutesy star-thingums called Lumas, you'll meet Rosalina, the keeper of the Comet Observatory -- a hub from which you can view and travel to distant galaxies. Your job is to hunt down Bowser, beat his various and far-flung galaxy boss challenges, and retrieve 120 Stars scattered throughout the cosmos. It's possible to "finish" the game by collecting far fewer than that, of course, but that's hardly in the Mario spirit … and you'll miss a lot of the game's rewards and challenges.

Striking out from the Observatory to ever more newly-unlocked galaxies, you'll find a broad spectrum of weird, wonderful gameplay challenges: Groups of planetoids large and small which Mario can completely circumnavigate (sometimes running and/or jumping upside-down relative to the player, as he crosses the gravitational "equator" -- other times, the camera perspective automatically flips as Mario crosses the threshhold); carved platforming trenches whose opposing walls have their own local gravitational fields; salvoes of seeking (and sentient!) missiles that relentlessly hunt Mario down as he dashes for cover, releases captive Stars, and jumps across gaps in small, hollow worlds (at whose centers lie dangerous black holes).

There are also wave races that utilize the Wiimote's motion-sensing abilities, Super Monkey Ball-esque golf courses, deep-space honeycombs (traversed by a Mario dressed in a Bee outfit) and massive enemies big enough to stand astride their little floating worlds from horizon to horizon, like planetary Colossuses. How about becoming a ghostly, insubstantial Boo that can float through walls, while you're at it? You can do that, too.

One of the great little mechanics of the game that never seems to get old involves the star-shaped mechanisms that literally launch Mario out into space, careening for the next floating worldlet on which to land -- dizzying little vectors of space-travel very redolent of the dreamy "flight segments" in the original Super Mario 64. Super Mario Galaxy literally and figuratively shoots for the stars.

Speaking of shooting, there's a neat scheme that almost, but not quite, qualifies as "multiplayer." Using a second Wiimote, you can have another, perhaps less-invested participant in the game (a half-tanked buddy or a dubious girlfriend mayhap … or mom, as the case may be) point at the screen with his/her own cursor, providing support-fire for Mario by collecting (or shooting) star-bits -- that celestial coin and ammo of the realm -- hither and yon about the screen. Understated, but still very cool.

Downsides of particular import? There basically aren't any. It's that simple -- as clear-cut as the gorgeous, smooth, candy-colored visuals. Super Mario Galaxy is a grade-A, head-wobbling case of "they've done it again," -- it's the best Mario game to date, arguably among the best platformers ever made, and certainly one of the best things currently out there for the Wii, period. Mario Wiiturns, a bigger star than ever.
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Bang for your buck:
Excellent Rental 
Excellent New Purchase 
Excellent Pre-played 
Excellent Bargain-bin Buy 

Score:  5  (out of 5)