E3: Super Mario Galaxy leaves us skeptical

  • Santa Monica (CA) - After playing the Super Mario Galaxy demo at the past two E3 events, we're still skeptical about how the game will turn out when it makes its debut.

    Mario helped sell the NES, Super NES, and Nintendo 64, and some might say it's because of the lack of a good Mario game on the Gamecube that hurt it.  In other words, Mario is essential for a new Nintendo platform.  Perhaps that's less of a problem for the Wii, but the system does still need a game that truly defines it.

    Nintendo wants that game to be Super Mario Galaxy.  At last year's E3, we were somewhat overwhelmed with the confusing control scheme.  The nunchuck is used for moving Mario, the A button makes him perform a couple action commands, and shaking the Wii Remote lets the plumber perform a spin attack.

    That part was easy to grasp, but another element gave us a headache.  The B button brought up a cursor that was needed to pick up stars and coins.  The Wii Remote could also be used as a pointer to temporarily freeze enemies and perform other actions.

    While those controls are still around, Nintendo at least made it a little easier by throwing in one of its most unexpected additions, a sort of cooperative two-player mode.  While the second player is not actually seen on screen, it can use the Wii Remote to help perform these miscellaneous tasks.

    Last year we tried out a round that had Mario making his way from the ground to outer space.  This time it was all in space.  While it's cool that Nintendo is trying to push the Mario envelope by putting its icon in an intergalactic adventure, we're just not that fond of the way the control has turned out.

    Having to deal with warped gravity and other space anomalies makes navigating the area a bit too frustrating, at least it did for the 15 minutes or so that we played.

    We're also not clear on how the game progression will be handled, and we didn't get any answers from the handful of Nintendo people we asked.  Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario 64 are great because the overworlds work so well.  We don't know if there will be something like that in Galaxy, or if it will be all open ended like in Super Mario Sunshine, which wasn't exactly a huge success for Nintendo.

    We're not putting a seal of death on the game, but the limited amount that we tried just didn't amaze us the way we hoped it would.