Even with the recent run of Wii problems, Bit.Trip Runner has pulled me back in, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 with its heavy nods to previous titles… well, I guess I’ll hold off on shelving my Wii just a bit longer (though I’m still anxious about this new system eating discs. Unproven, but I’m gun-shy at this point).

I’ve been mixed on the whole Super Mario Galaxy 2 thing. I loved the first title, I expect this will be a fun game, but it doesn’t fill me with the sense of “Wow” like the first title did. The first game is still one of the best looking titles on the console, but with this one looking so similar, I feel like overall, I’ve tread this ground already. The initial sense of awe just isn’t present here.

But then, I tend to view the 2D and 3D Mario games as a trilogy, following a set pattern:

2D Mario
Super Mario Bros. – The one that laid the groundwork for the series and platforming in general.
Super Mario Bros. 2 – The “odd duck” of the series. Still fun, but a very radical departure that not everyone appreciated.
Super Mario Bros. 3 – Took everything the first game did, and refined it to perfection.

3D Mario
Super Mario 64 – The one that laid the groundwork for 3D console gaming and 3D platforming in general.
Super Mario Sunshine – The “odd duck” of the series. Still fun enough, but a very radical departure that not everyone appreciated. Mario doesn’t need gadgets.
Super Mario Galaxy – Took what made Super Mario 64 great, and took it to a whole new level.

Sure, there’s New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario World, but the 2D and 3D trilogies that I’ve mentioned follow very similar paths in terms of design, direction, and evolution.

While I expect this latest installment to be fun, will Super Mario Galaxy 2 “reinvent the wheel”, and give us the next genre-defining evolution? I don’t think it will, but as I’ve said elsewhere, getting “More of the same” from a title such as Super Mario Galaxy is still worlds better than most other titles available on the market.

Critics rip on Nintendo for not trying anything new, yet find comfort in the familiarity that’s offered. I do think Mario himself has grown overplayed. Not for his adventure/platformer titles, but for the endless spinpoff series that he’s begat with all of his party, kart and sports games. Personally, I think those series should take the Smash Bros. route and add the whole Nintendo gang similar to how Sega is doing with its All-Star series. It’s a change that’s long overdue, and I think Mario needs to share the spotlight with characters from Starfox, Kid Icarus, and others.

So it’s a real Catch .22 with Super Mario Galaxy 2. I expect it to be fun, yet I have a feeling it’s not going to break the mold for something different. We ask for new, yet we demand the familiarity that Nintendo-published games create. It’s a vicious cycle that can’t be broken, but it needs to be widened to include others. I’d hate to see Mario lose his “Spark” from continued, incessant overexposure. We just had a great Mario game less than a year ago.

I think it’s time for Mario to reinvent the wheel again, not tread comfortable and familiar ground.

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