Super Mario Galaxy Impressions

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December 15, 2007

Finally started this last night.  Not going to be long about it, because I want to go play it more.

Even though I've played it for a few hours, I still don't completely have the hang of it.  It really does bring to mind early times playing Super Mario 64.  In that case, 3D platforming was completely new to me, and I remember saying to myself things like "Boy, it'll take a LONG time until I'm as familiar with this as with Super Mario World."  I feel like this now.  3D platforming is old hat, but not like this.  Getting used to walking around spherical planets, timing jumps on them, seeing Mario occasionally walk around upside down... this will take some geting used to!

Already there have been plenty of "Oh!" moments, though, where some particular trick has impressed me.  Seeing a giant black hole through the background of a level, then eventually finding it's used to give normal old-school flat gravity to a non-spherical section above it.  Finding a star in the middle of a group of pull points, so I have to switch which one is grabbing Mario in mid-pull to direct him towards the center.  An area inside of a pill shaped planet where gravity changes direction depending on whether the background where you're standing has up arrows or down arrows, and having to make a big jump at one point to reach a gravity flipping point.  Running around collecting a series of objects in a line, and getting a note of the "Super Mario Bros. underground" music after touching each.  A level with rotating/scrolling floors with holes in them presenting a great running/jumping challenge, using updated music from Super Mario Bros. 3.  And I don't even have 10 stars yet!

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December 15, 2007, end of day.

Phew.  Today we went from 9 stars to 45 stars.  I say "we" because thus far most of my play has been with Austin.  Something I neglected to mention before is that the co-star mode is pretty great.  It's not a full-on co-op game in giving each person a plumber to control, but it's an awesome improvement on watching someone else play.  Rather than the other person being a complete non-participant, they can do things like help collect star bits, shoot star bits, or hold an enemy in place.  Certainly this gives the person with a partner a bit of an easier time, but the fun of getting it right has beat out worries that I'm having too easy a time.  Usually it's just "Pick up the star bits while I'm concentrating on the battle.", but occasionally it gets a bit more complex, like "I'm using the pointer for rolling/pulling/whatever right now, you shoot the obstacles with star bits to help clear my path."  More games should have something like this.

It really is much more like the 2D games, in that there are more areas, but more streamlined and linear... with occasional branching points.  Invisible checkpoints along the way make it like an older 2D game, too.  I somewhat miss having a single large play area to check out like in Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine, but really the continuing presence of those "Oh!" moments is enough to make up for it.  Walking around a sphere is weird, but underwater swimming in a sphere with "surface" being in all directions is even weirder.  Slippery ice is a common thing in platformers... but ice skating around a torus?  Can this game really keep throwing new stuff at me so frequently for the rest of the game?

On another note, I was an opponent of the orchestrated soundtrack.  I listen to more game music than most anything, so synth doesn't bother me, and it seems to have many advantages in the way it can be modified in real time.  However, they've done a pretty good job of playing with the pre-recorded audio to make it less static.  At times it'll do a little slowing down or speeding up, and though it must be looping I've never noticed an awkward transition.  And really, having a Bowser battle with a choral background just seems so... grand.

So between sessions of SMG today, Austin and I also played a bit of SM64 on Virtual Console.  I still think the game looks nice in higher resolution... but what was really apparent was the frame rate.  Going to a 30-or-less frames per second game immediately after playing a 60 fps game is the best time for it to stick out as choppy.  I love me some high frame rate, and I'm quite glad it's the route they went with SMG.

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December 17, 2007

So yesterday, after 60 stars, it gave us the option of going to the last area... which I held back on until completing a bit more of the game.  I did end up going in after 75 stars, so a bit more than two days after starting the game I did end up beating it for the first time.  Phew.  Still have a ways to go to get to the 120 max.