When legendary Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto speaks, everyone listens. In the case of the 2007 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, "everyone" included a packed house of game producers, developers, engineers, executives, and press folks all hanging on the words of the man behind Donkey Kong, Mario, and so many other classic Nintendo franchises. While Miyamoto's keynote address mainly focused on the values that both he and Nintendo hold dear when developing games, he did give us and the attendants a look at the upcoming Super Mario Galaxy for Nintendo Wii, debuting later this year.
Before showing off the new trailer of the game, Miyamoto talked about a common question he receives from fans of the Mario series: Whatever happened to Mario 128, the follow-up to the famous Super Mario 64? Miyamoto confessed that, though he's been asked that question many times over the years, he's never been quite sure how to answer it. After all, as he puts it, the original Mario 128 demo at Spaceworld in 2000 was meant merely as a demonstration to illustrate the power of the GameCube. More interestingly, however, Miyamoto pointed out that, in a way, people have already played Mario 128 in the form of Pikmin. This game utilized a key concept from Mario 128, which had a large numbers of characters working independently of one another. Another aspect of Mario 128's gameplay, the concept of walking on 3D spheres, has made the leap to Super Mario Galaxy. And from the look of the trailer Miyamoto introduced, it will be a crucial element to how Mario moves around the world.
The trailer began showing Mario floating in space around one of his familiar magic stars, then went directly to a montage of Mario leaping and flying in an interstellar setting that featured planetoid-like objects floating in space. The planetoids were varied in shape; some were shaped like eggs, others were more oddly shaped and featured rocky outcroppings or grassy knolls; still another looked as if it were carved from wood. From the looks of things, each will have its own inherent challenges as Mario makes the leap from one to the next. On one, Mario had to dodge boulders rolling in concentric circles; in another, Mario was being chased by huge caterpillar-like critters intent on doing him harm.
How Mario moves from one chunk of land to the next seems to be a key component to the gameplay as well. By running into specially designated stars, Mario could blast from one planetoid to the next. It seems like these stars are the main way to travel great distances and, as you move through the level, it looks like previously opened paths between planets are indicated by a line connecting their "jump stars," which could be handy for backtracking through levels or finding secret areas. These jump stars aren't the only way to get around, however. On one planetoid, we saw Mario ride a quickly growing vine to access a level just above him. On another, while walking on a huge applelike planet, Mario butt-dropped on a lever, which caused a gigantic worm to exit the apple and connect to another level. From there, Mario ran up the body of the alien-looking worm to access the next planetoid. In another portion of the trailer, Mario wasn't flying through space but rather floating in a protective bubble that you will only be able to control in a limited way. To move Mario in his bubble, you point a star-shaped icon with your Wii Remote from one destination to the next, hoping to avoid obstacles (such as solar flares), which will pop your protective bubble.
Miyamoto's reference to walking on spheres showed up several times in the trailer, with Mario walking "upside down" (if that has any meaning in outer space) and on the side of objects as he made his way around the planetoids. It seems like Mario will be able to "stick" to the planetoids he lands on, and part of the game's challenge will be in consistently reorienting yourself to Mario's new position and perspective.
Beyond the traveling and the unique perspectives, much of Super Mario Galaxy looks like standard Mario action. You'll still encounter plenty of enemies to battle with (or avoid depending on the circumstances), including one big guy hatching out of a dinosaur egg that looked like a cross between Godzilla and Petey Piranha from Super Mario Sunshine. There also looked to be an underwater level full of massive sea creatures trying to gobble Mario up. And, naturally, there were a whole mess of gold stars to collect.
Except for the outer-space-theme elements, such as the occasional geodesic-dome-looking structure and what appears to be UFOs to hop on, the look to Super Mario Galaxy will be instantly familiar to fans. The character and enemy designs are especially familiar, though the lighting effects are more intricate than we've seen before, particularly as Mario soars through the cosmos. The huge planets that form the backdrop of the levels add a nice sense of scale to the action.
It would have been nice to have a full-scale demonstration of a playable version of Galaxy guided by Miyamoto but, for now, the trailer will have to do. Miyamoto did say the game will be released later this year, and we'll be bringing you more updates on the game in the coming months.