This game, quite nicely for the Mario series, has a rather interesting story line as well. Mario heads down to Princess Peach's castle so that they can celebrate the Star Festival together (an event which comes once every hundred years). Sadly, Bowser soon turns up in a giant flying saucer and uses its powers to pull the entire castle out of the ground and into space. Mario tries to stop this happening, but is thrown off into the void. He later wakes up on a small planetoid and meets Rosalina in her Comet Observatory who helps him to travel throughout the galaxies to collect all the necessary Power Stars and to defeat Bowser.
This is the first appearance of Rosalina, and I'm very pleased that this game introduced her as she has become one of my favourite Mario characters. You can speak with her at any time in the Observatory and you'll eventually learn her backstory through various interactions. She's a very interesting and mysterious character and her presence adds a lot to the game. Looking at a picture of her, you might think that she's just a copy/stand in for Peach but in reality she is a very different (and in my opinion much better) character.
I think a big thing that makes this game so wonderful is its atmosphere (despite the condition of the atmosphere in space in reality). The entire soundtrack is made up of performances by an orchestra and it gives it a feeling of being a big grand adventure and sets the tones of several areas perfectly. There's one level in particular where you are hopping across pieces of junk which have just been abandoned out in space and I think that that area perfectly captures the quiet and emptiness of the place. There are also some absolutely beautiful ice worlds and there you can become Ice Mario who is able to ski across flowing water (by freezing it) and it just feels so good.
The whole game is a big step away from the 'norm' for the Mario series. Instead of big bright colours with fast paced music and gameplay, you have the cold darkness of space to contemplate along with a glorious sound track to add an exclamation point to its beauty. But while there has been this change, at the same time it doesn't feel unnatural, because you still have all the usual elements that you expect from a Mario game (Goombas, mushrooms, coins, Koopas) but they've all been moved into this wonderful new environment. A beautifully innovative title and certainly not one to be missed! Rating: 9.2/10
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