Super Mario Galaxy
Find out why Nintendo's latest Mario installment is out of this world. Our super report, inside.
Preview by (Email)
May 17th 2006
The Basics: In space, no one can hear you scream about what a wretched disappointment Super Mario Sunshine was. That's because if this year's E3 demo is any indication, the franchise is going to have a spectacular return to form in Super Mario Galaxy for the Nintendo Wii. The game was the most visually impressive Wii title on display in Nintendo's booth, and as Mario games are meant to do, sold the new Nintendo system's controller as a model of intuity.
At the outset, you calibrate the Wii controller by aiming at the center of the screen and clicking the B trigger . Attached to the main Wii "remote" is an analog stick which you hold in the other hand to move Mario around in all directions, as well as a Z-trigger underneath the stick. In the right hand, you can jump with the large primary A button, and perform what seems to be Mario's new signature move for this installment of the franchise, the "spin punch." A rapid flick of the wrist will send Mario into a flailing whirl. The proper Z-trigger also means that both the long jump and backflip have returned from Super Mario 64. Yippee!
The wireless Wii controller also features a "star pointer," which showed up as a yellow star icon on the screen that left a blue tracer line as you waved it. Think of a laser pointer in practice. This pointer was always active, and could be used to interact with various objects on the screen independent of Mario himself. For instance, point at a blue star with the Wii controller and press the B trigger to activate anti-gravity for Mario, who slowly floats up towards the star. You could do this in rapid succession with a line of stars, and at certain points even choose different paths towards a variety of planets. It's possible to pick stars that lead you towards a dead end, but luckily Mario will just float back into orbit so that he can be redirected along one of the available routes.
The E3 demo took place in what was called "Star World," which starts out looking like your standard 3D Mario level in Princess Peach's backyard, all bright green grass, flowers, and rolling hills. But soon Mario turns astronaut: execute a spin punch near a star icon while holding B, and Mario will blast off into space and land on another nearby world. The Wii's wireless motion-sensing controller and the game's wacky theme of anti-gravity intersect to provide a sense of weightlessness that is truly unique. Mario walks, jumps, drifts, and spins around mini-planets as if he's The Little Prince.
It's unclear if the entirety of Super Mario Galaxy will feature the same planet-hopping dynamic, or if this is only one section out of a series of environments with more traditional 3D Mario mechanics. For instance, Star World could just be the equivalent of "Wet-Dry World" in Mario 64: a quirky level with a unique approach to action, much different from the other dozen or so worlds that comprise the game.
Mario lands on a couple dozen colorful planets in the demo--including the following highlights:
- A wacky castle in which Mario must follow a rabbit to find the exit point—dodging Goombas and even traipsing upside-down across twisting bridges that defy gravity.
- Bullet Bills follow Mario around the globe like homing missiles on one planet. Mario must lead them towards a cage containing a 1up and then another cage housing the star teleport to leave the deadly zone.
- An ice world where Mario runs through tunnels of transparent ice to reach the star icon while avoiding Goombas and dead ends.
- One star blasts Mario directly onto the deck of a huge galleon, complete with cannons firing and other hazards that will see him walk the plank if he's not quick on his toes.
- Another planet features sticky gray plants, which Mario can get glued to and then use to slingshot himself into space and onto other meteors. You charge up the sticky plant by clicking the B button on the Wii controller and then pulling back, opposite the direction you want to launch. This was remarkably easy and fun using the star pointer. And if Mario misses the mark, he simply loses one bar of health (of which there are eight) and drifts back to ground near the plant.
- Of course there are boss planets too. On a fiery world, Mario encounters a Lava boss that attacks by shooting out green pods. Spin punching them back at the boss inflicts damage, but later the boss will get angrier and Mario will have to ping-pong the pods at the boss several times in order to hurt him. There is also a huge Metal Spider boss that sprouts out of a steel planet; no one could seem to defeat it in my time spent watching (and playing) the demo.