In this series of articles we'll write about one or more Mario games per day, each representing a different year as part of our Super Mario 30th Anniversary celebrations.
In our previous entry we highlighted how New Super Mario Bros. was the first new 2D Mario title in some time; that was due to a general focus on 3D Mario gaming. From the DS / Wii era onwards it's the 2D games that have been greater commercial successes, yet when considering critical acclaim from gamers it was the Wii's 3D Mario debut that truly set the bar to new heights. Super Mario Galaxy is considered by some to be among the greatest video games of all time.
The idea of the title originated with a GameCube prototype, yet it's a reflection of the technical challenge posed that it would pass to the Wii generation, with Galaxy arriving about five years after Super Mario Sunshine. In an Iwata Asks interview for Galaxy's release, the game's director (Koizumi) and producer (Shimizu) talked about those origins, and how daunting the challenge was for Tokyo EAD which was, at the time, a relatively small and recently created studio.
In Mario 128, the platform was built in the shape of a flying saucer, but in order to change the platform into a spherical shape where Mario could freely roam around, it would require a high level of technical expertise. I also felt that the motivation of the team members had to be very high in order to overcome this obstacle.
Incidentally, I had heard about the spherical platforms from Miyamoto-san more than five years ago, though at the time, I didn't quite understand why having spherical platforms would be so ground-breaking. However, as Mario Galaxy began to take shape, I finally started to understand.
At the time, I felt the same way. It sounded interesting, but I wasn't sure whether or not it would be worth the effort. Thinking back, this probably was a thought that was shared by everyone on the staff. But Miyamoto-san kept saying over and over again that he wanted to make it happen.
So, about two years ago, after we were finished developing Donkey Kong Jungle Beat for the GameCube, we had some time to plan what our next game would be. I had suggested creating a new, original game on our own, but then Miyamoto-san said in a rather sad tone, "I wish you could make a game with Nintendo characters..."(laughs)
The EAD Tokyo office had just opened in 2003, and at the time, we didn't think we were able to make such a large-scale game. So I had suggested plans for a rather smaller, compact game title. But then Miyamoto-san asked me, "Don't you want to work on something bigger?" So I asked the staff members for their opinions, and somebody on the team said he wanted us to use our skills to make the next Mario game with our hands. By working on Jungle Beat together, I got to know the staff well enough by then, and I thought, if it was with this team, we may just be able to tackle the new and difficult challenge of making spherical platforms work.
Though the intention had been for the title to launch with the Wii, extra time was taken to make sure it was up to scratch. It generated huge buzz in the build-up to release primarily because of that spherical approach and the outer-space setting, as it was a dramatic upping of the ante from its direct predecessors.
The ambition was realised in impressive terms, with the release earning significant acclaim when released. It was not just a design tour-de-force in terms of its stages and implementation of gravity, but for its sensitive usage of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.
The addition of the spin move was to assist players who would find jumping on enemies difficult in gravity-defying 3D, and this was smartly mapped to a quick shake of the Wii Remote. Grabbing star bits with the pointer was also intuitive, and so standard analogue stick and button controls were carefully combined with Remote shakes and pointing. It worked beautifully.
Super Mario Galaxy's legacy is also deeply rooted in its soundtrack. Nintendo has embraced live bands and orchestral scores in various franchises now, but Super Mario Galaxy set the standard for this approach. Its soundtrack has since been released as a CD for sale or on Club Nintendo, depending on region, and is fondly remembered by many.
Just recently this writer shared personal memories of why this game matters, and it's to the credit of this title and its sequel that there are still regular calls - in vain so far - for a third title in this particular series.
One of the greatest games on Wii. In fact it's arguably one of the greatest games of all, regardless of system.