One of these days, Mario is gonna give me diabetes


Super Mario Galaxy (2007)

As a man of boisterous build, it goes without saying that I need my rubbish food just to keep me going. All these lovely things that I see being restricted by fad diets, you know, carbos or whatever it is, trans fats, saturated fats, fats domino. I need generous amounts of all that stuff just to keep me ticking over. So you can keep your marathons and your ironmans and your abs – it’s behemoth beefburgers, killer kebabs, flatliner fries and even heartstopping hummus for me.

I could give it all up of course, and sometimes I even make vague plans to do so. It doesn’t seem very hard to cut down on fatty foods – after all, can you imagine how much work it must take to become stop-and-stare levels of fat? Not long back, Britain’s fattest teenager had to be lifted by a crane from her bedroom so that she could leave her house and be brought to the hospital, a fine waste of both our taxes. Well, I’m not a resident of the UK and perhaps neither are you, but when I’m on my high horse I’ll not listen to reason.

Now I’m sorry but I’m certain that, while that particular emergency services crane had proudly lifted weeping children, supply crates, stuck animals and performed all kinds of other noble duties during its career, it never before had to suffer the ignominy of bearing a sixty-two stone beast (that’s 868 pounds, folks) down two storeys. I can only hope that the crane retired after that – and that the doctors and surgeons and other emergency services present that day followed suit as well.

Stacked up against people that are wider than they are tall, I don’t think even my lamentably poor diet is all that bad. I can always change it, and inevitably I will in the end when my heart rears up and says “Listen kid, that’s enough. Don’t you know how efficient I am? I’m a supremely competent natural organ that keeps rhythm about 110,000 times a day, multiplied by however many years you decide to stick around for, now stop it”. I can listen to my body, and if the time should ever come, I can listen to medical advice as well – or failing that, I’ll hear the creaking of the cranes.

But the one thing in life that I simply could not do without is sugar. Actually, I think my old biology book might have once impressed upon me the fact that sugar is a basic requirement of our body to actually function, but I’m on about the proper stuff here.

Despite what toilet graffiti and the authorities often claim, I’m only into one type of white powder, and kilo bags of it can be had for half-nothing. Sugar is that little bit extra in life, that bit of unbridled excitement that tears down discipline, it’s what helps the medicine go down. Everything’s better with it – possibly even intercourse if you don’t mind the stickiness.

When the latest 3D Mario was about to make its bow for the Wii, I’m afraid to say that I wasn’t fully enthused. I’d also played the wonderfully jaggy Super Mario 64 to hell and back. But the GameCube’s Super Mario Sunshine left a lot of us a little cold, and I was worried that we wouldn’t get a return to 3D Mario’s incredible start. Incidentally, have you played Super Mario 64 recently? Golly, if the camera and control in that game doesn’t send you up the wall these days, but we’ll leave that for another day’s rant.

Pressing on, although I wasn’t yet fully convinced, even a blind man on a galloping horse like me could see that the Galaxy graphics looked like some of the very best the Wii could engineer – and whatever about the console’s flouting of High Definition standards and its promotion of 60 Hz/widescreen as some sort of selling point, the Wii could throw up some decent lookers in its day. The screenshots were brimming with so much juice and colour that I just about had one of my famous saccharine attacks just looking at them – no really, it’s true.

Put another way, you’d not feel an ounce of shame or regret waking up the morning after next to Super Mario Galaxy. And the tunes in the trailers and gameplay videos sounded top drawer, especially that delightful little Super Mario Bros. 3 ditty, something that told me Galaxy would be taking cues from the better Mario games, and not from whatever road-sweeping simulator Super Mario Sunshine was inspired by.

Let’s be frank, I don’t mean to bash the GameCube effort, but the fact that Galaxy did away with all that messing about with FLUDD is probably one of the best selling points that this game could have asked for. Super Mario Galaxy shoots straight from the hip, not wishing to faff about with Blue Coins or melting Yoshis (well, you won’t get a Yoshi of any description in the original Super Mario Galaxy, but that’s arguably better than Sunshine’s alternative) or even something as mildly troubling collecting 100 Coins on each level.

Every single Star in this Galaxy has substance to it – entire game worlds are constructed for the sake of just one Star. There is a little bit of retreading, courtesy of the comet system that adds certain challenges and modifiers to specific Stars. But it’s not done to the point of tedium, even if those dreaded Purple Coin challenges could afford to go. 120 Stars are spread over heavens knows how many Galaxies. One might have preferred more wide-open, exploration based worlds like in Super Mario 64, but the game’s packed with so much variety that you’ll not care a jot.

Possibly the part of the game that’ll stick out the longest in your mind is the music. Mario’s gone orchestrated, and the Bob-Omb Symphony Orchestra, or whatever the ultra uptight cellists & clarineters employed here call themselves, have turned in a banging performance.

Having an orchestrated soundtrack certainly doesn’t guarantee quality, but Koji Kondo and his possibly long-suffering boys have cropped up with the usual selection of upbeat, bouncy melodies alongside some wonderfully ambient tunes for the outer space bits, perfect companion tunes for studying or writing or extreme jacks or whatever your chosen leisure pursuit happens to be. The whole package provides Mario with a serenade so sweet and so grandiose that he himself can taste it.

The challenge is mostly pretty easy. For whatever reason, probably because the 1-Up Mushrooms are now a global institution, the game still uses a lives system. To make itself further redundant, lives are simply thrown at you: even picking up as few as 50 Star Bits (a wildly abundant sort of game currency that, more importantly, you can hurl at enemies) earns you a life.

Sometimes the camera can be uncooperative – I don’t mean the default angles that the game gives you, more if you want to take a look around or line up a Boo or something goofy like that. It’s simply not as free as you’d think it’d be, and it often buzzes and tells you to get lost. But it’s not serious, really. Yes, a 3D platformer lives and dies by its camera, but Super Mario Galaxy’s one only folds its arms and deliberately turns the other cheek every so often. You can probably pin the blame on Nintendo for this one, having seemingly made the helpful Lakitu redundant after  the kid tried his best in 64.

There’s enough secrets, baubles & trinkets in the game to make Mario, Luigi and all the Lumas on the Comet Observatory choke. You can beat the game and see the credits without ever visiting or fully exploring dozens of Galaxys, or you can launch yourself towards everything and still be seeing new sights until the very end, each more sugary and sweet than the last. To be honest, this one probably goes beyond sugar and straight onto the joys of LSD, with no comedown in sight.

And just wait until we get on to the sequel.

7 September 2015

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