(Featured image description: Two white men wearing blue overalls. The man in front is wearing a red hat and is holding a star. The man behind is wearing a green hat and is doing an arm punch. Background is mostly blue.)
Note: This is the first article in a series where I discuss my experiences with video games as an autistic person. You can find out more here.
In this instalment of Subtly Subjective, I’d like to talk about Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii. Super Mario Galaxy is another one of my childhood games and was among the first titles I had played on the Nintendo Wii. It was a title that blew me away as it was an experience that I had never had before. It was also a title that helped me refine my competency with regards to playing games which would serve me well into the future.
Before I outline my experiences, I am first going to sum up the game. Super Mario Galaxy released in 2007. It was developed and published by Nintendo and is the 3rd 3D Mario game to be made after Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. It was also one of the first major releases for the Nintendo Wii and is among the most critically acclaimed titles on the platform.
It stars Mario as he goes to visit Peach at her castle during the annual Star Festival but Bowser interrupts and kidnaps Peach and her castle. Mario goes after them but is stopped by Kamek (an evil magician) and is slung into space. When Mario comes to he is on the Gateway, where he meets Rosalina and the Lumas whom agree to help him if Mario can collect the Power Stars to power up their observatory (the Power Stars were taken by Bowser). This begins a lengthy and enthralling adventure.
One thing I vividly remember from my time with the game was how I had managed to learn hand-eye co-ordination as well as how to wield the Nintendo Wii Nunchuk (pictured right). It is a very unconventional controller in terms of design which was difficult to get used to – especially as with me being autistic I would have greater difficulty adjusting to it from a “conventional” controller such as those seen on PlayStation home consoles. The most difficult part of the controller to wield was the analogue stick.
Bare in mind this is before factoring in Galaxy’s unique gravity mechanics where you could walk around many planets in a variety of shapes from spheres to flat platforms where if you fell off you would go out of bounds and lose a life. At the time this mechanic was wholly original for 3D games. The gravity mechanics were very difficult to get used to and was subsequently very frustrating for me. I remember losing lives a lot on the hollow planet in the tutorial level which has a black hole in the centre and a few holes in the outer shell where the player could fall through and subsequently get sucked into the black hole.
I found dealing with these controls very difficult and was exacerbated due to my (at the time) poor hand-eye co-ordination and it really hampered my enjoyment of the game to begin with. It was difficult for me to work out how to control Mario on screen and be able to mentally map the stages in my head due to struggling to perceive all sides of the game’s planets like in the picture below. Using the Wii Remote’s pointer to pick up the Star Bits was equally as difficult.
However, when it clicked – the game became a joy to play. The amount of variety in the galaxies was excellent. I really liked the allure of seeing all these planets in the worlds – even those on different missions to where I was going originally. It’s a unique twist on the platforming formula. The first galaxy, Good Egg Galaxy, set this up with a sheer diverse number of planets that summarised the scope of galaxies that would follow later on in the game. There were dirt planets, grassy plants and a pill shaped planet with gravity fields inside. The side stories with Rosalina and the Lumas were also interesting. It was one of, if not the first mascot characters to have a substantial side story in a platformer that I’ve played. It was a sad story that gradually unlocked the more you played the game.
The music was also orchestrated – a first for a Nintendo game. Many classic songs were produced – my personal favourite is the theme for Gusty Garden Galaxy, one of the galaxies that appears in the middle of the game. I would go as far as to say that even those not into gaming should listen to the soundtrack. It is excellent and there are even remixes of certain old Mario songs – a common recurring theme in Mario games (such as the underground theme that first appeared in the original Super Mario Bros.). It was one of the highlights of the game for me.
Nintendo would later go on to produce Super Mario Galaxy 2, a sequel that uses over leftover ideas that were never implemented into Galaxy 1. Some great ideas like the addition of Yoshi and the Cloud Flower were added allowing for some innovative level design and expansions upon Galaxy 1’s mechanics. I didn’t like Galaxy 2 as much mainly because I didn’t like the change in structure. The levels became shorter and more linear and the exploration aspect was removed due to Nintendo increasing the number of galaxies in comparison to Galaxy 1.
Super Mario Galaxy is one of my favourite games with only 2017’s Super Mario Odyssey coming close for me in terms of quality out of all the mainline 2D+3D Mario games I’ve played. It is a game I look back on fondly and would recommend to anyone interested in gaming that is able to overcome the added accessibility barrier caused by the unique gravity mechanic.
That’s all for today.