Connect with us

Blog

Perfecting the Nostalgia Kick: Super Mario Galaxy 2

Another marked difference from the first Super Mario Galaxy is the jettison of an involved plot or backstory, a point of debate among Mario vets.

Published

on

Perfecting the Nostalgia Kick: Super Mario Galaxy 2

How many times have we returned to Mario, and how many more times will we be returning to him still? Nintendo’s beloved icon, as easily identifiable by his blue-collar duds and quiet, goofish mannerisms as his graceful athleticism and chameleon-like adaptability to peril, continually asserts himself as a permanent fixture of video games. Nintendo has done quite a rare and amazing thing with the stout plumber and his army of supporting characters: As far as the medium of video games has come, both in terms of conceptual ambition and the technology developed and utilized to realize those ambitions, Super Mario games still matter. They are still relevant. So, like always, the sphere of Mario has come around to the same place again, and now here is Super Mario Galaxy 2.

In this case, however, the sphere is quite literal. Super Mario Galaxy, released in 2007, introduced the concept of “planet platforming,” with stage layouts resembling archipelagos suspended in foreboding space, many with their own unique looks and mechanics. In this universe, gravity is circumferential; Mario will always land toward a land mass’s surface no matter which direction he faces, even if on the underside (the rule of thumb: If it’s round, downward forces are relative, and if it’s not, it’s absolute). Even though historically it isn’t entirely original, it was a revelation for the 3D “platformer” genre and especially for Mario games, as it required new methods of spatial thinking (time and space are perpetual mantras of the platform gamer), increasing the sense of surprise and alertness tenfold. Nintendo’s masterful level design and gameplay twists, doled out in drips instead of globs, brought everything together in a sense that seemed both startlingly new yet assuredly familiar.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 doesn’t radically change the foundation laid down by its predecessor, but that’s completely forgivable since Super Mario Galaxy had to exist first and contain such a strong core in order to appreciate how Super Mario Galaxy 2 impresses as much as it does. That deep precedent had to be met in order for it to be so thoughtfully exceeded. It couldn’t have been done any other way.

Take the “hub-world,” for example, the common area through which the player accesses new galaxies and their stages. In the first game, a sterile space station fulfilled these duties adequately, but it was a tad too ambling and impersonal, an odd anomaly considering the amount of life and saturation present in the levels themselves. The sequel was able to subvert this pitfall in a simple and direct way: create the most charming, weird, and wonderful hub-world ever conceived, an organic planetary vessel—complete with wheelhouse—fashioned after the head of Mario himself. This “faceship” becomes a repository for all of the secondary characters Mario meets and assists over the course of the game, a brilliant device to implicitly denote progress and boost the feeling of accomplishment that coincides with collecting power stars, the valuable currency of all 3D Mario titles.

Another marked difference from the first Super Mario Galaxy is the jettison of an involved plot or backstory, a point of debate among Mario vets. General Producer Shigeru Miyamoto has gone on record himself saying that he felt a heavily involved “story” wasn’t necessary for Mario games, that the act of doing, of performing, is where the importance should lie. The plot of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is as base and pure as the Mario games of long ago: Bowser, the fire-breathing prehistoric turtle-like main villain, has kidnapped the sugary Princess Peach, damsel in distress, and Mario must save her. Oh, with every game there are slight variations on this main theme, but in essence, the narrative—or the lack of it, perhaps—is tried and true, and needs no meddling.

For me, the strongest quality of Super Mario Galaxy 2 may actually be its most subtle: the manner in which the different levels and styles of play are parsed out like small nuggets of brilliance instead of spacious, drawn-out platforming exercises. Each objective in each galaxy is just long enough to keep things fresh without feeling monotonous. The incredible amount of variety aids this nirvana: One moment Mario is skating on a frozen lake, the next he could be diverting the routes of chomps (large, barking wrecking balls with menacing fang-grins) through a foundry, the next balancing himself on a ball like a circus seal while navigating through a winding obstacle course, the next reliving his early 2D days by progressing through traditional side scrolling sections, and so on and so on. The wise, borderline Spartan dispersal of power-ups means that every level is a surprise in and of itself. The bee, ghost, and spring abilities return (thankfully, use of the frustrating spring is minimal), along with new power-ups: the Cloud Flower—which makes Mario’s jumps inherently “floatier,” and he can create a limited number of cloud platforms—and Rock Mushroom, a rolling boulder capable of smashing objects. Even Yoshi, Mario’s dinosaur sidekick, makes an appearance, but his presence isn’t a constant; he shows up only when needed, or rather, when the level design dictates that he be utilized.

That brings up something about Super Mario Galaxy 2 that’s very important: No particular ability or gameplay mechanic is overused to the point where the player becomes overly comfortable or confident in their own skills. Furtive intensity is a valuable asset of the Mario series, the feeling that you’ve barely succeeded by the skin on your teeth, that somehow you were able to get that little man to his goal despite the odds being ridiculously stacked against him. There were definitely more sighs of relief this time than in the first Super Mario Galaxy, which is ultimately a good thing, but be prepared, as the development team at Nintendo seemed to assume that players are acclimated to the foundation set by the first game and are ready to handle more precise jumping and quicker reactions. Some of the levels late in the game are absolutely brutal, but in this case even mistakes are intuitive; one is never blaming any element of control other than themselves, and the true magic of a lost life in a Mario game is the player’s willingness—no, enthusiasm—to say “I want to try again.” For those who may find that prospect too intimidating, however, Nintendo has implemented more of its “guide” features, first seen in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, to help first-time planet hoppers who are stuck on a particular portion of the game by providing occasional hints and the option to be walked through a level by a cosmic helping hand—but only after a certain number of deaths have been reached. The limited but enjoyable co-op mode returns as well, allowing for a local companion to help by using a second Wii remote to gather star bits and attack enemies.

Of course, the entire package is wrapped beautifully: The graphics, while using the same engine from Super Mario Galaxy, still impress as some of the most colorful and fluid on the Wii to date. And though the orchestral portions of the soundtrack have lost a little of their grandness and majesty since the first game, the music is as catchy and engaging as it’s ever been for a video game. Make no mistake, composer/arranger Mahito Yokota, who contributed to the first game alongside veteran Nintendo composer Koji Kondo, proves that he is the real deal, a worthy successor to Kondo’s aural kingdom.

Are there any faults with Super Mario Galaxy 2? Well, yes: The limited camera control is still a bit bothersome at times, and some power stars are obtained through simple mini-game challenges, which feel a little stale. These moments, however, quickly pass, brief blips in an ever-moving avalanche of expert game design, built from the ground up to be an experience of play, of whimsical engagement, and not just agency, a turnkey required to fulfill some clichéd predetermined narrative. In all the years that Mario titles have been synonymous with “good” video games, perhaps that is the crucial element that gives them their lasting appeal and keeps drawing people in, whether they are first-time players or have been with Super Mario from the beginning. Games can simply be fun, and light-hearted, and wondrous. The infatuation with “adult” and “artistic” pretenses in gaming remain popular among its advocates, but in the context of what video games used to mean and why millions grew up loving them, Super Mario Galaxy 2 may be its best example yet.

Super Mario Galaxy 2. Publisher: Nintendo. Developer: Nintendo. Release Date: May 23, 2010. Platform: Wii. ESRB: Everyone. To purchase, click here.

Advertisement
Comments

Blog

Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

Published

on

Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

Continue Reading

Blog

Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

Published

on

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

Continue Reading

Blog

Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

Published

on

Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Donate

Slant is reaching more readers than ever, but as online advertising continues to evolve, independently operated publications like ours have struggled to adapt. We're committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees—so if you like what we do, please consider becoming a Slant patron:

Patreon

You can also make a donation via PayPal.

Giveaways

Advertisement

Newsletter

Advertisement

Preview

Trending