About two and a half years ago, a wonderous little thing called Super Mario Galaxy happened. It was magical, and I hastily labeled it my very favourite Wii game. That title had not fallen, even though I've finished the game but once, until now. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is quite possibly the most direct sequel that Nintendo has ever made. It's the exact same game, just crammed with boatloads of new ideas. All the fat has been trimmed, leaving a very polished, very intense gaming experience behind.
But maybe there's something you didn't know about Mario Galaxy 2. It's got a thing about colours. To this you might say "Oh of course, Ryan. Both Mario Galaxy games have very vibrant and extensive colour palettes. They are indeed quite colourful!" But I'm not talking about the graphics, or the art style. What I've noticed, is that many of the outstanding elements in the game are all tied around a single colour, and it's ain't Mario Cap Red. Nope, the little bro gets his dues here because this game is all about green.
That's right. It's called Super Mario Galaxy, but the recurring theme of green in the game is undeniable and screams Luigi. And there's no better way to present this theory than with the element of gameplay that Nintendo is pushing more than anything: Yoshi.
Now me and Yoshi have had a very turbulent relationship. In the beginning, things were peachy. He first showed up in Super Mario World, where not only was he just slightly less useful than the cape power-up, but he would also selflessly hurtle himself into the void in hopes of giving Mario a big enough boost to make that jump that was just a little too long. Now that's friendship! Back then, getting Yoshi was something to be very happy about. There was absolutely no reason not to saddle up the dino. He was great. His starring role in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island brought us even closer, as that is undoubtedly one of the best platform games ever crafted.
Things took a turn for the worse when Yoshi's Story came out though. It wasn't a terrible game, but it suffered from a few odd design choices, like the game being six levels long, even though it contained 24 in total. And the baby Yoshi voice. It could have been a one-time annoyance, but no. Nintendo somehow decided to make the grating Baby Yoshi voice the de facto standard for any time noise might slip out of a Yoshi. Maybe it was to annoy people out of buying their games, maybe it was because they wanted people to hate Yoshi. I don't know why, but it happened.
Add in the fact here that in the Super Smash Bros. series, Yoshi is nigh unplayable, and you've got yourself a real stinker of a character. Super Mario Sunshine seemed poised to make Yoshi a desirable companion, but in the end, it just got worse. As you played through that game, you quickly learned that anytime you saw a Yoshi egg, it was pretty much guaranteed that you were about to be forced through an either extremely annoying or difficult (often both!) challenge. Not to mention that it was an unnecessary hassle to find Yoshi a particular kind of fruit for each challenge, and there would usually be only one on the level and it would be quite far from your goal.
Super Mario Galaxy has turned it all around though. Yoshi is back, and while his voice is still a pain in the ears, he has definitely earned back his place as a worthy sidekick. Not only is Mario once again able to jettison Yoshi to his doom to save himself from a deadly fall, but unlike Sunshine, finding a Yoshi egg inspires hope, because levels with Yoshi in them are fun here. For example, there is a flower that Yoshi can grapple with his tongue and use to swing back and forth like some sort of bionic commando, and just flipping around on these flowers is worth hours of fun! Yoshi's flutter jump will also save your ass countless times as you work your way through Galaxy 2, and every single time he shows up, you will be grateful.
As an aside, Yoshi has fruit-activated abilities again. Besides the mostly uninteresting Bulb Berry, they seem to be based on Sunshine's FLUDD backpack. The Dash Pepper, for instance, will make Yoshi run at a high velocity, allowing him to run up walls and, more notably, dash across the surface of water. Sound familiar? And the Blimp Fruit is used to propel the duo into the air, allowing them to reach great hights or hover around for a while. Again, I'm feeling a little deja vu. Whether this was on purpose or a very sly nod to Sunshine, I don't know, but I think it's neat either way.
To continue with my green theory, we'll also have a look at one-up mushrooms. They are an iconic Mario item, and they are not at all lacking in Super Mario Galaxy 2. In fact, there may be too many. The first Galaxy easily provided more than enough lives to get by, but Galaxy 2 takes it to the extreme. Not only are the bright green 'shrooms just laying around everywhere, but there are countless opportunities to earn more.
In nearly every galaxy, there is a teleport pad that will take Mario to a small arena, where if he is able to defeat a handful of enemies quickly, he is rewarded with not one, but three 1-up mushrooms. On Starship Mario there is a die you can hit that will either release a 1-up or a star bit, and later on you can enter a pipe on the ship that allows you to buy five more die that can yield up to five 1-up mushrooms each. That's a possible twenty-five lives. It's not likely that you'll get the yahtzee, but the possibility is there.
Last but not least (probably not even last, I just can't think of any more examples) just like in the first Galaxy, every time you boot up the game, there is a mailtoad who will give you five free one-ups. Excessive? Yes. In a prolonged play session, it wouldn't be out of the ordinary to reach the 50-life mark. In my longest session, I far surpassed the 99-life cap. Of course, there are some hidden terms here, the most notable being that every time you turn the game off, your stock of extra lives goes back to a measly four. And also, once you get to the latter parts of the game, you'll probably need all of those lives. Why? The green stars are a pretty good reason.
And what exactly do I mean by green stars? Firstly, I'll ask you to stop reading if you haven't finished the game and don't want to be spoiled. Now that I've warned you, I'll tell you this: the green stars are both a blessing and a curse. Once you've acquired all 120 gold/yellow stars and trounced Bowser, the game will unleash another 120 stars into the galaxies. They are green, and they will give you headaches.
The bad news is that these headaches will likely come from annoyance and monotony. The green stars are not 120 new challenges, but rather they are simply placed into the galaxies you've already cleaned out. Just hanging out there. It turns the back half of the game into something that comes eerily close to a collectathon. However! There is a better side to this.
Obviously, you want to play these levels again. Or at least most of them. The game is so big and full of great ideas that it's still fun to just run around like an idiot in the many galaxies searching for the green stars. And while a few are a bit uninspired, the worst of them being situated right beside a regular star, the majority of them require some serious skills. Or at least serious accuracy. At least half of the green stars that I've collected to this point (currently counting a measly 31) have been floating out in the middle of nowhere, meaning that you're making a big jump, and if you miss, you die.
Until I embarked on the hunt for green stars, I had no idea why Nintendo had created so gosh darn many opportunities to reap massive amounts of extra lives. The answer being that most of those green stars are literally death traps, and they demand that you be perfect. They are brutal, and if you have any trouble getting through the front half of the game, you'd best be prepared to either step it up a notch or just give up while you're ahead. Did I mention that most of them are just a little bit farther than Mario can jump comfortably? Yeah, that makes the need for precision even more dire. Well, precision or someone who can jump higher and farther.
And that's when we come back around to the man in green himself: Luigi. Luigi initially appears fairly early in the game, urging Mario to let him help collect some of the many power stars. And from that point, Luigi will appear at the beginning of certain missions, asking you to let him take over for a while. Using Luigi for that particular star will usually unlock a Luigi ghost, who will in turn lead you to a hidden star on your next run through that stage. It's not the most logical event, but it happens.
Other than the few scripted appearances, once you've defeated Bowser in World 6 for the first time, you can freely switch between bros on Starship Mario, allowing you to take control of the L-Man whenever you desire. He still inexplicably lacks friction, but he does jump higher, making jump-based challenges easier, and many green stars a lot less deadly. Of course, this is kind of a step down for Weegie, who got an entire game mode to himself in the first Galaxy, but I suppose it's nice for people who don't want to play with him, as now he isn't a mandatory step in reaching the very end.
It's a little sad that Luigi has been demoted from second quest material to a common beggar, especially since someone on staff saw it fit to make so much of the game revolve around his trademark colour of green. But what can we do except take it as it is and simply make that choice to play as Luigi. His place in the galaxy may not be as glamorous as it was in years past, but at least we can still see from this recurring theme that he is loved, even though it's a total pain in the ass to try to control him on the ground. Like seriously, do his shoes secrete oil or something?