I was one of the many people who never really got to play Mario Galaxy before, and now with the new Super Mario 3D All Stars collection I have my chance! I will be reviewing the games individually, only reviewing after playing one fully to completion. As this takes time, I have only completed Mario Galaxy, so let’s talk about that!
Princess Peach has been kidnapped again and this time on a universal scale. After being beaten by bowser you find yourself on a spaceship, and must collect stars from all across the galaxy by visiting unique planets and solar systems (both incorrectly labelled as galaxies) and collecting stars to power the space ship.
It is a simple formula which guarantees enjoyment. Every planet is unique and interesting, and the missions feel very cool.
It actually surprises me just how interesting these stories can get. Sure, many levels are just travelling from galaxy to galaxy but there’s so many twists and unique things that make it really fun. It features a lot of memorable boss fights which are all great and interesting, really making such a good and satisfying end to all stages in which they feature. If you go back to play this game after completion, chances are you will be fighting against all these bosses to revisit those awesome memories.
Each galaxy will have roughly three basic stars to collect, and most of the time is really interesting. You may find the prospect of coming back to the same place a boring idea, but generally it’s mixed up quite a lot. You will often find yourself getting attached to one location, only to find the changes even more interesting.
Movement feels very satisfying, and although the moveset is limited compared to Mario Odyssey, I never found myself wanting or needing any more. You have long jump (which I used all the time), backflip, spin and triple jump.
The spin is by far the most useful. The most annoying thing about 3D Mario games for me is when you try to jump on a goomba only to find that the 3D perspective has made you miss, taking a life. The spin solves this problem beautifully. Too often I also found myself relying on it to correct my jumps if something just went a little wrong, or I wanted to guarantee that I made it.
Another aspect to this game is starbits, which are star pieces you collect to feed hungry luma’s (star people that turn into planets, stars or powerups after you feed them), once you get 50 you get a one up. Considering by the end of the game I had 3,000 starbits (and it would have been about double if I didn’t feed hungry luma’s) one ups are very easy to get. It’s the only Mario game that could get away with setting your life counter back to 4 every time you stopped playing, which is something confusing that it does. I don’t mind it, but it kind of never tells you so it’s a bit of a surprise to learn. Still, there are plenty of easy quick one ups in the starting area, not to mention 5 free one ups from princess Peach every time you load the game.
In Mario Galaxy the comet observatory acts as the hub world, which is very pleasant. Nothing is too far away, and unlocking new areas feels like restoring life to the spaceship. There is also a map at the center which will tell you when there are new comets in orbit, so you know where to go to play something new.
So what are comets? Occasionally there will be a comet in orbit of a planet which will present you with a unique challenge to get a star. They include, racing an evil version of yourself, completing a level or fighting a boss with just one heart, or completing the level within a time limit or even completing the level where everything in the level is moving faster! All of these comets are good (except for one I will talk about later) and make for an interesting and fun challenge. I particularly like the ones where you revisit old boss battles as the bosses are fun in general, and you do to some extent feel a mastery over the game for completing these extra difficult challenges.
This is not to say that the game is without any flaws. Due to the fact that you are often walking upside down and at strange angles, the controls can often get confused. The worst offender is when you are pointing Mario in a perfect straight line and for some reason he’s going in a circle – I never understood why that one happened. These problems are fairly frequent, but never really cause that much issue, you do get used to them fast.
Another major problem is swimming. It’s so bad. I found myself constantly circling around an item without actually collecting it just because changing direction is horrible. Changing the camera is also horrible, and the controls are inverted which makes it incredibly confusing, particularly transitioning into swimming in the first place – this was never clear to me. The only consistent way I could do this was ground-pounding into the water. Sure you can do it in different ways, but too often I found myself jumping on top of the water instead of swimming. It was really strange.
I never took issue with these things, but I’ve heard other players getting annoyed at sections where you have to swim on the water or roll on top of a ball. I never minded these sections too much, but I could easily see people finding these parts of the game annoying and tedious.
Overall Mario galaxy has a lot of fun elements to it and is an immensely enjoyable experience… that is until you get to the second half. The most important reason why I had to make this review was to explain the significantly poorer second half of this game. It’s not talked about in reviews really (Maybe because they didn’t play the game that much before deciding it was a 9/10) but I would be very surprised if this is just an issue that I had.
When I say second half, I don’t mean that the first 60 stars are good, and the last 60 stars are bad. It’s a much more gradual transition than that. It’s not even that the split is halfway, you can probably get a really good 80-90 stars before the problems really start to show themselves. The reason why it’s a game of two half’s though is that the last set of stars will take vastly longer to get than the first, more interesting set.
I reached a point in the game much later on when the planets started to feel much more like Mario stages than planets, with less interesting worlds and more frustrating elements. What I like so much about the start was how little you were punished for mistakes. Later in the game they introduce things that are simply designed to waste your time. Like a gauntlet of five relatively easy yet tedious tasks that weren’t at all fun, it was too easy to make an easy mistake taking you back to the start, really wasting your time. There was a lot of this.
In addition, boss fights became scarse, and they started to reuse ones they’d used already. Some were just flat out confusing and gave you no idea where you should go, there was a lot of obscure secret stars which were very difficult to find. But just for me, it really started to feel tedious and less fun as they used techniques to increase your playtime and made things more annoying. Some galaxies were even direct copies of previous ones but just flipped and mirrored, or with very minor changes.
Then once you complete the game and are left to collect the extra stars at the end, it enters a whole new level of tedium. Completing some stages took the same amount of time that you would take to complete several galaxies. The most notorious of these being the purple coin stars.
For several days, the only things I did in this game was play horrible 100 purple coin comets (the final type of comet I’ve come to talk about) – it’s like the game forgets about all other comets entirely after the game has been beaten.
These stages are the worst that Mario has to offer and they contain several problems. The first is that you have to collect 100 coins, the task in itself is not interesting. Next, if you die, you do not save the coins that you have collected already and respawn at the place where you died, no, that would make you want to live far too much! No instead you’re sent back to the start with nothing. To make matters worse, even if you collect all of the coins but die before you collect the star you then have to collect all the coins again. It’s ridiculous, this is true for all stars as well and just felt really strange to me.
But the tedium doesn’t stop there, some purple coin stars are timed. But when you collect all the purple coins and the star appears, the timer still continues. Due to the fact that these missions don’t give you very much time at all I was killed so many times when I shouldn’t have. It felt so bad.
There are also a few purple coin missions where you are on a fixed platform and if you miss the coins you have to kill yourself to start again. It requires very precise jumps and a lot of patience just to make it to the end.
Some of these purple coin stars take 10 minutes to complete. and if you mess up you have to start again, it’s incredibly frustrating. And although there’s only like 15 of them, they do make a much larger portion of the time you will spend on this game.
The only good thing that I can say about these levels is that they do come towards the end and are not at all essential to seeing the end credits. Sure it gets challenging towards the end, but a string of strange and odd levels or galaxies at the end won’t be that much of a problem if you don’t intend to collect all of the stars.
It could be argued that I’m just bad at the game, so later on I found it more annoying because it wasn’t as simple as I thought. To an extent I acknowledge that this is part of the reason. If I never died I wouldn’t have discovered a lot of these frustrating things.
However there wasn’t a single point in the game where I felt that something was impossible or too difficult, it was always, just too tedious and annoying. Or perhaps this is just something to be expected for 100% completion and I’m annoyed that the bonus content only intended for hardcore fans isn’t as unique or accessible.
Regardless of this criticism, and it’s drop in quality just as the final fight with bowser is in site, I would definitely recommend this game. The bosses, stages, and missions before the drop are far too fun and feel great to play. It more than justifies the purchase of Super Mario 3D all stars. Heck, the thrill of facing off against King Caliente is more than enough to justify this game!