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Postpartum Impressions: Super Mario Galaxy

1:21 PM on 12.12.2007 // Aaron Linde

We've all been there: a new game is forthcoming and your anticipation has pushed you to the brink of insanity. The wait is absolutely intolerable until that fateful morning rolls around when you haul your ass to the store, pick up your game, nearly slay hundreds of women and children in your savage death-race back home, and pop in the disc. The experience is euphoric. The waiting has payed off. Best game ever.

But a few weeks or even days later, the magic wears away and reveals something rotting away the very core of your bliss. The honeymoon is over, and every flaw you were too punch-drunk to notice is evident at every glance. Alright, alright -- it's not always that dramatic, but hey, it's something that happens often enough that Destructoid's bringing you Postpartum Impressions, a new feature dedicated to bringing you your lovable staff's perspectives on a game after the dust has settled. 

It's been almost a month since Super Mario Galaxy hit shelves, and though my review claimed with a mighty thunderclap that the very code the game is built upon should be tattooed across the backs of gamers everywhere, how'd it fare with the rest of the staff? Hit the jump to find out.

Aaron Linde: As a means of starting us off, here's a question: has the platforming genre faded in recent years, and has Super Mario Galaxy changed your expectations for the genre in either the commercial or creative spheres?

Anthony Burch: I dunno if the platforming genre has necessarily faded; I just haven't had that much interest in any of its recent offerings. Even if I had played a metric asston of platformers over the last few years, however, I still imagine that Super Mario Galaxy would trump them all. It hasn't necessarily changed any of my expectations -- it's still "just" a platformer -- but it's the best title of its kind I've played since Super Mario 64.

What did you all think of the shift from the nonlinearity of 64 and Sunshine to the straightforward challenges of Galaxy?

Tristero: I have played a "metric asston" of platformers over the past 5 years and I'd have to say that the genre is very healthy right now, considering its second-tier status among a lot of videogame fans. We had a bit of a renaissance over the last generation with all of the Sony offerings like Sly, Ratchet, and Jak, with Capcom adding Maximo and Viewtiful Joe to the mix. Super Mario Galaxy doesn't do a whole lot to change the advancements and refinements made recently. It's an amazing game, and almost certainly a shoe-in for my favorite game this year. But I think people are largely excited about it because it brings fun back to front and center for Mario games. It nails everything the whole Mario series has ever done right, from creative and plentiful power-ups to the constant sense of surprise that each new stage brings.

Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine both seemed focused on displaying and selling the strengths of Nintendo's new hardware, often at the expense of how entertaining the overall experience was. It seems like this time around with Galaxy, the question the designers asked themselves was "How can we design this level to best enhance the user's enjoyment?" rather than "How can we strengthen the industry's impression of our new system?". The irony is, at the end of the day, this focus on fun, above all other goals, will endear it to both gamers and the industry in one fell swoop.

Chad "DOLPHINNNNNNS!" Concelmo: I couldn't agree with Tristero more, but I think I will even take it one step further and say that Super Mario Galaxy truly does (singlehandedly) revitalize the platformer genre. While the Ratchet and Jak games are spectacular in their own rights, Super Mario Galaxy is a pure platforming experience through and through. While the gunplay of Ratchet and the -- well -- gunplay of Jak is fun, having a game almost entirely composed of running and jumping just feels so fresh and the perfect representation of what a Mario game should be.

I know what I'm about to say may sound extreme (and blasphemous to some out there), but I think Super Mario Galaxy is my favorite Mario game of all time, even trumping the majesty that is Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and Super Mario Bros. 3. I've had a few days to take the game in and replay some of my favorite sequences and I have to say: the experience feels completely, 100% perfect to me.
While everyone seems to be focusing on how much fun the game is (which it most definitely is!), I can't help but be mesmerized (even days later) by its flawless level design. And I am not being dramatic when I say "flawless." Everything in the game (from enemies to puzzles) feels perfectly placed, more often than not reaching levels of such design genius that my waking mind can't even take it all in. The gravity mechanic alone constantly overloaded my brain with some kind of giddy euphoria on numerous occasions. Super Mario Galaxy has, hands down, the best level design I have ever seen in a videogame.
To put it mildly, my initial expectations for Super Mario Galaxy (already unrealistically high) were blown out of the water after my first (120 star-earning) playthrough. For me, Galaxy is the peak of what a videogame should be in all departments (graphics, gameplay, creativity, design, challenge, etc.). The bar has been raised ridiculously high and I am filled with as much trepidation as excitement to see what Miyamoto can come up with next.
Colette Bennett: My favorite thing about Galaxy so far is that it seems to have perfected the ability to take you out of yourself. It's a complete experience, like when you see a magnificent movie and you forget the world even exists for a few hours. I think this is what most games are shooting for these days, but I feel most of them miss the mark, whether it's the way the game is structured (for instance, when you come out of the Assassin's time period in AC and back to the real world, it shook me out of the game and broke the sense of atmosphere I was hoping to remain within) or the choices made within the game.
The tone of Galaxy is so effectively realized that you just promptly fall into it. Sure, Mario has a flavor we are all familiar with, so that wasn't the challenge here. Nailing a sense of childlike awe for the player, and then giving it to them, seems to me to be the great achievement here. It's not too often that we get to forget that we are adults and enjoy the experience, and Galaxy perfects that.

Leigh Alexander: I like the Mario franchise. I always have, always will, there ain't a gamer alive who doesn't. That being said, I assert there hasn't been a really freaking awesome Mario game since Super Mario World on the damn SNES. I don't feel the franchise ever translated well to 3D, and yet there's a principle in our industry among media and readers alike where we're just so damn fond of the franchise we seem incapable of ever critiquing it honestly. I feel like reception for Galaxy has been insanely sentimental, an emotional response from a generation whose childhoods belong to Mario.

Yeah, well I was a Sega girl, god rest.

Heehee, that being said, Super Mario Galaxy is indeed a great, fun game, and is the first Mario title in years that feels like a true and proper franchise heir. Buy it, it's great, it's fab, no complaints here, and seeing Bowser steal the princess in next-gen (or close enough har har) will give you one of those little "whoa, we've come so far, yay" sort of breathtaking moments.

But best level design ever? Better than Ocarina, or insert-classic-title-here? I'd like to see people wait a bit and see if it stands the test of time before gleefully wetting their footie pajamas over their bowl of Alpha Bits and watching Captain N. We ain't nine anymore.

Chad: I don't know. I still stand my my dramatic proclamation. While Ocarina is remarkably amazing, think about Hyrule field: there really wasn't that much to do in it (which is fine by me, but still). To me, what makes Galaxy so perfect (I say it again) is the way each level feels so full. Not once did I feel like I was just wandering around looking for something interesting to do. The entire game is interesting, from one jaw-dropping moment to the next. I truly can't think of the last time I played a game that presented itself the same way.

Anthony Burch: I'm inclined to agree with Leigh partially, there: I love the game, and it's great, but it's not perfect. The difficulty never really ramps up in any significant way, and -- although this could just be me -- it felt a heck of a lot shorter than Mario 64. In Galaxy, I got 120 stars in about four or five days; with 64, doing the same thing took me the better part of the month.

But I admit, I have a soft spot for 64's nonlinearity that will never be outdoneby a superlinear Mario game, no matter how beautiful or well-constructed its levels. I really got a sense of exploration, discovery and wonder from 64, and -- while Galaxy's levels do include a few bits of exploration in the form of hidden stars -- Galaxy just seemed to be missing that.

Dyson: You know, I'm not really through the game all the way (about 20 or so stars), but I have to disagree with Rev's like of the non-linearity. Not because I think that he's wrong in any way, but because I think that return to actual levels instead of wandering around aimlessly is refreshing not only for the series, but for old school Mario fan, too.

Although, I wouldn't go as far as to say that the game is perfect, but even after the newness has worn off I still feel that this is, by far, the best Mario game to date.

Tristero: The non-linear aspects of the previous 3D Marios always bugged me because I felt like they just didn't know how to do it well. I'd always wander out to the edges of a polygon no man's land that lacked the polish of the central game. I knew I wasn't supposed to be there, but I didn't know how to get to the random location the designers forgot to adequately suggest I go to. All of that's pretty much been chucked out of the window with Galaxy. There are small areas to explore here and there and when you do venture out, there's always something hiding, like a secret planet or power-up, that make it worth the trouble. 

Nex: Before I say anything let me state first that I love Super Mario Galaxy. It's fantastic, fun as hell, the best Wii title to date, and is easily game of the year material... Or it would be if it weren't for the ridiculous number of phenomenal, groundbreaking titles that hit during 2007. I guess I'm just getting old and bitter, but running around, collecting stars and turning into a bee just doesn't have the same draw for me that it would have 5 or 10 years back. Now it takes something really original to move me, something that tests the boundaries of human belief and leaves you scratching your head and examining your life once it's over.

In the end, Galaxy is amazing and everyone should buy it, but compared to truly inventive stuff like Portal, it's just another platformer.

Aaron Linde,
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