There are some moments in gaming that define why we're all here right now, moments that explain why we love games so much. They're the main reasons we chose to be games journalists and the main reasons you're reading this magazine. These moments are different for each individual gamer; for you it could be that death in Final Fantasy VII, for us it could be scoring directly from a corner in the original International Superstar Soccer. But then there are those that almost universally affect everyone: doing your first loop-the-loop in Sonic The Hedgehog, getting your first Tetris, the first time you swung the Wii Remote playing tennis in Wii Sports, and so forth.
It seems appropriate for this review then that the franchise responsible for most of these moments is the Mario series. Everyone who has played their fair share of games can relate to sliding down their first flagpole in Super Mario Bros, finding Yoshi for the first time in Super Mario World, running around Peach's castle grounds in Super Mario 64 and so on.
Now, with Mario's first proper adventure on Nintendo's fifth generation console, the plan is to provide some more of these defining moments and revolutionise platforming all over again, as had been done with Super Mario 64 just over a decade ago. Thankfully, we can safely state "mission accomplished", as Super Mario Galaxy is one of the finest games we've ever played.
The Look Of Love
It's funny, because the thing that annoys us most about Galaxy is that its fantastic graphics show us the sort of games we could have been playing for the past year had some developers bothered to pull their finger out and actually tried to use the Wii to its full potential. Any claims that Nintendo's console is effectively a motion-sensitive GameCube are blown right out of the water when you start the game and witness the controllable intro sequence. As you make Mario approach Peach's castle during a night-time meteor party you can't help but stop and admire the incredible water effects as the light shining through the castle windows reflects on the surrounding lake, while small meteor fragments and stars rain onto the castle grounds.
It doesn't let up there either. Throughout the whole game the graphics constantly amaze, with stunning visual effects (as the camera moves and large planets rise or set far in the distance you're treated to a fantastic sight as the horizon glows, creating a sort of lens flare effect), some remarkably huge playing areas (if you stop just before you collect the star in one of the Honey Hive Galaxy missions, you can see the whole of the level sprawling down below you) and characters that are positively filled to the brim with personality (not least of all, the main man himself).
Simply put, if you've long been dreaming of a game that actually makes the most of the Wii's powerful graphics processor then your dreams have come true. Super Mario Galaxy will not only rock your socks, it will blow your actual feet clean off, leaving you with a set of comedy stumps that you can use to pretend you're a marauding pirate (not literally mind, Nintendo's strict health and safety policy wouldn't allow that).
Sweet, Sweet Music
If your ears are starting to feel a little bit jealous, tell them not to worry; the eyes aren't the only thing being treated to a feast here. The sound is some of the best we've heard in a Mario game. While the new musical themes may not immediately be as catchy as the classics we all know and love, they fit the environments perfectly and capture the feeling of being in an unfamiliar location and we promise that eventually you'll grow to love them all the same and find yourself uncontrollably humming along as you've done in previous Mario titles.