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Ugh, stop twitching
super mario galaxy 2
games Posted 2010-07-07 23:39:24 by Jim Crawford
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is very retro, linear, and instant-action. Takes it back to the series roots. Unfortunately for me, while I loved the original trilogy, my deepest personal roots lie with Super Mario 64. It is sad-making that exploration-heavy Mario games appear to have been a blip rather than a long-term trend. It makes sense; exploration was a late addition to the series, when they were trying to figure out how to bring the platformer into 3D. By comparison, exploration was at the heart of the Zelda series from the beginning. But my take on it is that exploration and platforming make a great mix: exploration is about discovering a space, and platforming is about navigating a space. One leads directly into the other.

After you collect the 120 standard stars in Super Mario Galaxy 2, it unlocks a second set of 120 stars, colored green. If you thought that was a spoiler, don't read the rest of this post. The green stars are something of an afterthought; the designers basically just chose additional places in each existing level for stars to appear.

Some of these are hiding in new and interesting places -- which is to say, places that were there on your standard playthrough, but that you were unlikely to find. For me, there were maybe 10 of these places. The rest of the green stars were just hanging somewhere hard to reach, or even less interesting, just hanging off a ledge over a void; not hard to reach, just risky. I loved the stars that took me to new places. I think what I was looking for was a token representing exploration of a space, not just navigating a jumping puzzle. I.e. nearly every star in Super Mario 64.

Notably, the hard-to-reach green stars are probably the first goals in any 3D Mario game that require you to triple-jump or do the backflip-spin-walljump-spin combo. I love goals that stretch the range of the controls; in the main game, much of Mario's capability acts just as safety margin or enables a shortcut.

After you get all 120 green stars, another level gets unlocked. This is incredibly generous: a double dose of unlockables past what you expected to be the end of the game -- which itself was a fair chunk of game past the fight against Bowser that ends the story. This last level is a brutal affair, with too-sparse checkpointing, and utilizing a number of mechanics that I thought were fairly poorly tuned. The designers got away with them in the main game because you play past them quickly, but when you're grinding up against them over and over, it chafes. After you finish that, Galaxy 2 throws the final star at you, called “The Perfect Run.” It's the same level as before, but you're given only one hit point and no checkpoints at all.

Except for this brutal final level, the challenges in Super Mario Galaxy 2 didn't feel any more difficult than those in the original Galaxy. Some did, however, feel more like they were designed by assholes. “The Perfect Run” definitely falls under that umbrella; frankly, I thought it was a little too hard with checkpoints.

When you finish with 242 stars, Galaxy 2 sends an image of all your stars to the Wii Message Board. By which I mean an image of 242 star icons in a grid. I thought that was delightfully ridiculous.

Okay, look: I talk some shit about Mario Galaxy 2, but bear in mind that I value its existence more than anybody you know. And while I think some green stars were by-rote, I am so grateful that they're in the game, as opposed to either a Galaxy-style new game plus or there just being nothing past 120 stars.
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