Note: This is a repsonse to Destructoid's Chad Concelmo's latest article
I have to agree with Mr. Concelmo, SMG2 is just damn right perfect... as long as gameplay, level design, and music is concerned.
I know its a useless debate, but the big downer I have with G2 is how the story was handled. I know the old story, "It's a Mario game, don't expect a good story or plot, or don't even expect a story or plot.", and did heard that Miyamoto didn't want to put any empazis on story-telling, but that's just getting ridiculous. We know why Boswer constantly kidnapps the princess (He's in love with her and jalous of Mario, for those who didn't play Paper Mario 2 or Super PM), but a giant cake? That's just plain stupid. The plot in the first SMG wasn't that original either, yet it was presented with much more conviction. You really had the feeling you entered a new level of story-telling in a Mario game with that intro and ending. Gorgeous cinematics, characters full of expression, suspense, emotions. Why didn't Miyamoto wanted to use that in the sequel? Instead we get some lame story-book like designed intro, ā la New Super Mario Bros Wii (one of the least original game ever created by Miyamoto), with a giant Bowser coming out of nowhere, that just takes the Princess, rants about not getting any cake, and leaves. At least in the first one he made sure Mario coudln't follow him by blowing him up into space (it was actually a Magikoopa, but that's pretty much the same.) The capture was brutal, had and impressive element of surprise, and was reminiscent of Paper Mario's intro.
Which also makes me wonder why RPG Mario games have such deeper and more original stories, while Platformers still get the same Kidnapped Princess sh*t. Yes, in Paper Mario 2 the Princess does get kidnapped, but this is NOT the only plot element of the game. Peach developps a strong relationship with a computer. Several backstories to Mario's compagnions are revelled, some of them very moving. Two characters developp a strong bond with Mario (Goumbella and Vivian). Even Luigi gets a more significant role than in any other game, even when he's supposed to be the hero (granted, it's only when he narrates it, but you get the point.) RPGs are supposed to have deeper stories than average games, since, as their title suggests, they need to immerse gamers into their characters and plots. But that doesn't mean that deep plots are reserved to RPGs.
Super Mario Sunshine wasn't the best 3D Mario, nor the best Mario (it sure was one of the hardest!), but at least it offered an interesting plot. I know I was surprised when I found out Boswer Jr. was Shadow Mario, and that he was using a device made by Prof. E. Gadd (which we don't see enough of, if you ask me). Hell, Peach doesn't even get kidnapped until near the middle of the game. The main problem for that one was that most of its cinematics were boring and pretty badly written.
But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe an elaborate personality for Mario, and a better plot for a game would have a negative effect on the series. Just look at Sonic. Sonic isn't likeable in any way. He's reckless, pretentious, and has a retarded sense of morality. He was more interesting in the Genesis age, where the only character traits he had was his sense of justice, his courage, and his impatience (you know, when he looks at you and taps with his feet?). As for plots, Sonic Team trying more and more to be original actually has the reverse effect: they're getting more and more ridiculous. Ancient demons? Earth Spirit? (are we even on Earh? What ever happened to Moebius?) Gaia? Werehog? Shadow? With guns? So much useless and annoying sidekicks you don't even know what to do with them? Tails is tolerable, I guess. Knuckles was pretty cool back then. It all went downhill with Amy Rose. And downer with Big the special needs cat. And a bat with boobs? Granted, she's hot, but I'm not that much of a furry guy.
But I'm wandering from the point here. Sonic received enough bashing already (well, enough until Sonic Colours and Sonic 4 come out). We don't need to compare Mario and Sonic anymore, Mario having won the mascott war a long time ago.
Sadly, I surprised myself having weird thoughts when playing SMG2. When you get all 120 regular stars, you can start to collect special green stars that are hidden throughout the stages, and the theme of the first world's map changes to this sweet, nostalgic, sad flute and violon remix of Good Egg Galaxy from the first SMG. The nostalgia was so strong in that theme, but I still wondered: "Why do I feel so nostalgic about that theme or the Mario platformer series? It's not like Mario has been trought that much adventures in his life. I didn't encounter any unforgettable unrecuring character. Nobody died. No emotions were ever shown. No feeling were ever developped between any of the characters. The princess and Mario never got thogeter, nor Luigi and Daisy, or any of those two with Rosalina. Most of the characters are devices that serve nothing more than to animate a bland universe filled with conveniantly placed objects that you can jump on and off. Miyamoto isn't a story teller but a game maker. His characters exist only in the limits of the gameplay he creates for each game, would it be from the Mario or Zelda universe."
I was actually ashamed of myself from having such horrible and ungrateful thoughts. How dare could I ever feel that way about one of the best things that ever happened in gaming history, let alone in modern world's history? I then realised what Miyamoto really achived with his creation.
Mario is a child that never grew up. Just listen to him, with his yahoos, his yipees, and his shouts of joice and relief. He's just enjoying himself about what he does, what he sees, what he experiments.He's living in a world of fantasy, of hapiness and innocence. That's why he has a sense of justice and morality so strong. Mario is the protector of the inner child we all have inside of us. He's not vengeful, he's not ambiguous, he's just himself. The only purpose he has is to enjoy his life, and make sure that every one around him enjoys their as well. Why bother with deeper connections between characters? Mario and the princess have such strong feelings for each other, their's no need to go into much more details. Why ruin such a beautifull relationship with one of the supidest and most vague concept ever named?
(I was talking about romantic feelings, or what you usually see between a man and woman, what we generally call love, but in the cliché and uninspired sense of the word)
That is why I felt so nostalgic about that Good Egg remix. Mario has gone through so much since 1981. Sure, His adventures were not the greatest and most original (plot and story wise anyway), but just think about how much his presence had such an impact on us. We actually developped that kind of relation with the character, the one he and Princess Toadstoll have.
I had a debate once with some fellas on deviantART about how Mario and Link are designed with such character traits that it is more easy for us to see some sort of avatar in them, as opposed to RPG characters like Sora (Kingdom Hearts) or Lucas (Mother 3). My arguement was that even if the character has a complex personality, it is possible, and mostly easy, to see some of yourself in him. I was sad and touched about the Roxas/Sora story, and seeing Lucas's hometown deserted and forgotten broke my heart. The feeling I had with Mario when he woke up on that small moon in SMG, and Link when he finally confronted the giant bird who kidnapped his sister, or when he tried to save the King, were that strong as well. Disorientation, peacefulness, revenge, hope, sadness, such feelings were present in such games, in the happy-go-lucky, wacky universe of Mario or the strange, inhospitable lands of Hyrule, Termina, Holodrum, and Labrynna.
I guess what I'm trying to say here is that, altought Super Mario Galaxy 2 deserved a story more coherently and dinamically presented, possibly without the same ol' kidnapping routine, it shows us that a Mario game doesn't necessarily need it to touch us, to move us, to make us feel for the hero, the damoiselle in distress, the bad guy's loss, or the trouble they all go throught.
But a little change never hurted anybody.