4 July 2013

The Great Galaxy Experiment Pt 1: This Is Crazy

When I was a kid, we had an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, as families with kids at that time were wont to do. And, like anyone who ever had a NES will know, Super Mario Bros. one through three were among the games we would play most on it. But then in the mid-90s I mostly played on PC and when I got back into consoles it was on the PlayStation, and the games I was playing then were serious, story driven RPGs, action adventures and the like. Nintendo's offerings felt like little more than toys for kids, and when the Wii came along the silly motion controllers did little to alleviate this image.

Then a few years back I stumbled on to the Mario Marathon. Mario wasn't exactly my thing, hadn't been for many years, but the people were fun and working for a good cause. And I also got to see how Mario games had evolved since the days of the NES. And... I could see the attraction. They looked pretty fun to play. Every year after the event I'd have a yearning to play something simple and oldschool and just plain fun. But I never acted upon it. Until now.

After this year's Mario Marathon ended last week (and it was, as ever, a really fun event and raised a bunch of money for charity), I begun to seriously consider buying one of the more recent Mario games, just to finally try them for myself. I ended up getting Super Mario Galaxy, which, being a few years old, was around for a reasonable price (though strangely enough it seems cheap Wii games are much harder to find than, say, PS3 games). I also wanted to experience a 3D Mario, since I had never played one. (New Super Mario Bros. Wii looks pretty cool, if you're a fan of the original 2D games, but I wanted a new experience in addition to those nostalgia kicks.) I've never really played anything on the Wii before — we've had one in the household for some time, but it's mostly been used by other family members for Wii Fit (something that I wouldn't touch with a proverbial ten foot pole).

So I will try my best to play, and actually beat Super Mario Galaxy (something I can't really say about the NES games — I think SMB2 was the only one I ever beat without the Game Genie). And naturally I thought I'd blog about the experience as I proceed.

I received the game today and have now spent a few hours playing it. So far it's been fun — and pretty darn crazy. So Bowser kidnaps princess Peach, for a change. Seriously, have they never heard of security in the Mushroom Kingdom? This time he takes her to outer space, and Mario has to travel through a multitude of galaxies searching for stars (small, five pointed things, of course — not huge balls of fire) that will give him power to reach new galaxies — and, eventually, the princess. There's, unsurprisingly, a little more dialogue than in the NES games, but yeah, story's obviously not the main point of these games. It's the gameplay. Which, deep down, is still relatively true to the origins of the series. You run around. You jump on enemies. You collect coins and items that give you additional powers. Sure, the third dimension adds a new, um, dimension to the game, but we're all used to games being 3D these days.

Getting used to the Wii controls takes a moment, of course, although essentially it's not that different from a regular game pad. Naturally it uses the motion control to some extent — there's a move you do by flicking the Wii remote, and you also need to use the pointer to do some stuff — but none of these, in my mind, really add much to the game that couldn't have been done with a conventional controller. Camera control is pretty limited, what with the controllers lacking a second stick and all...

But where Super Mario Galaxy shines is the level design. Like I said, this is a pretty crazy game. A lot of the levels are formed of tiny 'planets' — three-dimensional, of course, so you can run all around them, with gravity shifting accordingly. This can be a little disorienting at times.

But I'll (hopefully) get back to you on this, and other topics, when I've played some more of the game...

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