Graphics, Aesthetics and Camera
This game looks great. Everything looks better than it ever has before. There are some pretty good reflection effects in the water and the crystals, all the old characters and enemies are more detailed than ever before and the new ones fit right in.
The camera system doesn't give you much control over which direction it's facing and at times takes it away completely, but the game usually does a very good job with the camera, which makes it unnecessary most of the time. However, there were two times when the camera spontaneously decided that it would be a great help to me to have a wall blocking out my sight of Mario, nearly causing me to fall down into a black hole.
Sounds and Music
The soundtrack mostly consists of original compositions, although there are a few remixes of older Mario tunes, namely the original Super Mario Bros. theme and the Super Mario Bros. 3 theme, both of which I prefer to the originals.
There are some tracks, like the Comet Observatory, which would seem out of place in any other Mario game but feel right at home in Galaxy. Some tracks are dynamic, as in, they change depending on what you're doing. For example, one track plays with different instruments when you're underwater.
The music excels at setting the mood during the level. Just listen to this.
This one plays during a boss battle with a terrakinetic ghost and again during a boss battle with a skeleton shark. That song alone made me feel those two fights were more intense than the final boss.
The game has the same basic story as all the previous Mario games: Bowser kidnaps Peach and Mario has to go and rescue her.
However, that's just the story that takes place during Mario's adventure. There's a bit more to it than that. The biggest differences are the setting (space), Rosalina and that we get to know Bowser's motives.
There's also a bit of back story about the Star Festival that's being celebrated at the beginning of the game and the much more important Rosalina's storybook, which is the only part of the game with any character development. It's probably the most mature story told by a Mario game in the main franchise (although that doesn't say much). Overall, it's nothing on the level of the Mario RPG's, yet better than all previous Mario games.
The controls are rather simple (although that might be because I still remembered playing Super Mario 64), although movement takes a little getting used to when you're doing it upside-down. You can jump, ground-pound, long jump, back flip, wall jump and spin attack. The biggest change is the integration of motion controls into the game, which it does rather unobtrusively. You shake the Wii Remote to do a spin attack, you point at the screen to grab star bits or grab a pull star and you press B while pointing at the screen to throw the star bits, and that's the full extent of the motion controls while playing the main game. You can also play as Luigi after getting all 120 stars, with the only changes to gameplay being that he jumps higher than Mario and keeps sliding for a bit even after you stop moving.
There are also some galaxies with different controls that only use the motion controls to perform actions such as manta surfing, ball rolling and moving bubbles by blowing air at them. The motion controls are implemented well into these actions. The only one I have a problem with is the manta surfing one (which bears a resemblance to Mario 64's slide levels), where you control the manta by twisting the Wii Remote left and right, and if you do it too fast, the game interprets it as a shake, which is a jump when you're manta surfing. This can lead to deaths that could have been easily avoided by having more traditional controls in these segments.
The ball rolling segments are much less obtrusive, and the only problem I have with it is that it's hard to stop, which you do by holding the Wii Remote upright, but this is a pretty minor complaint, except in those places where you have to get through a narrow path. It would have been improved by being controlled with the analog stick, but it's better than the manta surfing stages, since the game only uses the motion controls for rolling the ball, so you won't be making any accidental jumps.
The bubble stages are definitely the best of the three. Mario is trapped inside a bubble which you can move by blowing air at it, an action which involves pointing at the screen and pressing A to blow air at it from the on-screen cursor. I never once felt that these segments would have been better by using the analog sicks, and they might even be better with the motion controls.
Thanks to the addition of planetoids and gravity, Super Mario Galaxy features some of the most creative level design in years. There is an entire planetoid shaped like a question mark, one shaped like an 8-bit Mario and one shaped like Yoshi's head.
Just like previous Mario games, whenever you get a star, you get taken back to the hub world, something that I hated in Mario 64. However, unlike previous Mario games, when you go back to the same galaxy to get the next star, the world is significantly changed (although there are a few exceptions), which makes it feel like there's a real reason to have to go back. The prankster comets are also a good way to justify going back.The boss battles are usually like a sort of final exam on some skill you learned, usually earlier within the same galaxy, like throwing koopa shells or leading the Bullet Bills. This time around there are less bosses that are just bigger versions of smaller enemies, and there are small changes in their behaviour after hitting them enough times to make the fight slightly harder, such as bringing smaller enemies to help them out.
When I bought Super Mario Galaxy earlier this year, I honestly wasn't expecting to be blown away by it. I expected it to be, like Super Mario 64 was to me, a good, but overrated, game. Instead, it surpassed all expectations I had for it. It's creative, it's new (well, it's new to me, anyway, seeing as I first played it this year) and it's full of memorable moments. It has it's own share of flaws, sure, but overall, I'd say it's without a doubt the best 3D platformer to date (at least until I play Galaxy 2),and probably my favorite game of all time.
Score: 10/10 (Just to make it clear, I rate games on a score from 1 to 10, without decimals)
(NOTE: This is my first ever review, so if you need me to clear something up or if you have any tips, please post them in the comments.)