With the release of Super Mario Galaxy 2, we get a sequel to a main series Mario game for the first time since the Nintendo Entertainment System. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is filled with even more creative, fun, and rewarding levels, and is made even more fun with the addition of Yoshi, whom you can ride, and Luigi, who you can play as sometimes. It’s a long game, and it overstays its welcome, especially by World S and the introduction of green stars.
The opening is almost identical to Super Mario Galaxy, which is a letdown. There is a festival with Toads, whereupon Bowser appears and kidnaps Princess Peach. You must chase Bowser across the universe after that. The story is very uncomplicated compared with the story in Super Mario Galaxy. Just keep collecting stars and face Bowser or Baby Bowser at the end of a world.
Checkpointing is an improvement, where you switch a Bowser flag with a Mario flag by walking through it. The previous game didn’t tell you where the checkpoints are. Also an improvement is the addition of Yoshi, who can run slightly faster than Mario, and does a flutter jump as seen in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Yoshi can eat a hot pepper, which makes him run extremely fast temporarily. Mario is still the best jumper. Luigi appears about halfway through the game. If you talk to him, you can play as him, but only for select “galaxies” and stars.
The galaxies feel like they’re meant to be run through and not savored, unlike previous 3D Mario games. With an average of two stars per galaxy, you get the two stars, and move on. It’s a lot of platforming puzzles. As an example, in one level, there is a sand bird that you ride on. Oncoming obstacles make the bird’s sand blocks fall apart, and they group back together a few seconds later. Prankster Comets appear in previous galaxies after collecting a Prankster Comet Medallion, adding a star to that galaxy.
The game does mess up space nomenclature. A “world” has multiple “galaxies” (false), but a ‘universe” has multiple “worlds” (possible). Navigating from world to world is a breeze. After selecting a world, you get what looks like an overworld from Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World, showing you where to go. The spaceship has been simplified. You step on a peddle and can go to any world or galaxy from there.
The game has not turned ten years old yet, so I must warn that spoilers follow.
A big problem is that the game ends somewhere around 105 stars. That’s basically the most stars you can get before facing the final Bowser. Part of the fun of Super Mario 64, and even Super Mario Sunshine, is saying “Yeah, yeah, the princess is kidnapped, but I’m going to get 120 stars first.” After you face the final Bowser, a world opens up, “World S”, which basically holds the keys to the remaining 15 stars.
What I strongly don’t like is that once you get 120 stars, challenges for green stars appear. There are a lot a lot a lot of green stars, and they count toward your star score, pushing your overall score above 120 stars. This is the most offensive thing the game has done. You don’t truly beat Super Mario Galaxy 2 until you get all those darn green stars and face off in the real final battle of the game. There’s a lot to love about Super Mario Galaxy 2, but they changed the 120 star formula! Even so, it’s like a B-side to the original Galaxy game. I’m still glad the game got the green light.