"As soon as (Super Mario Galaxy) was over, we started making something that we might call version 1.5." This revelation from Nintendo's mastermind designer Shigeru Miyamoto — that Super Mario Galaxy 2, due out May 23, began as a middle step — is not a huge surprise, but it raises the question of what made them decide to turn it into a full-fledged sequel.
"It's actually quite unusual for us to make two different games in the same series on one platform," Miyamoto acknowledges. "Usually we wait until the advent of new hardware, but for this time around, because there were so many ideas we were not able to include in the first volume, we thought we should make a sequel to that."
In our most recent hands-on with Super Mario Galaxy 2, we got to experience those new ideas firsthand.
The drill power-up
This powerful ability allows Mario to drill straight through planets. Sometimes he'll pop out on the other side of the world, while other times he'll discover a hidden area in the hollowed-out core of a planet. Strategic drilling also will allow you to damage enemies and bosses.
Little else has been shown in the way of power-ups, but Miyamoto promises more surprises in the full game, saying, "We obviously have more abilities that Mario will have with his different suits."
The most anticipated change to Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the addition of Yoshi. Fan service though it might be, the inclusion of the lovable green dinosaur also heralds some major gameplay changes. Yoshi's ability to float through the air for a long time has allowed Nintendo to create even crazier jumps and more precarious platforming.
Yoshi also gets his own power-ups in the form of food. Spicy foods, for example, make him run extremely fast for a short time. A special fruit makes Yoshi gassy, essentially turning him into a balloon floating upward until he runs out of gas or can eat another fruit.
Yoshi's sweetest move is his ability to swallow enemy projectiles, such as Bullet Bills or hammers, and spit them back out. This power will be used to find hidden secrets and open paths, and to defeat bosses, and it's all made possible by the third big addition.
More pointer functionality
Super Mario Galaxy featured a few segments in which a free-floating Mario could grab onto objects in space by pointing at them with the Wii remote. Expect to point while platforming a lot more often in the sequel.
"Aiming the pointer at specific enemies makes Yoshi swallow that enemy," Miyamoto explains.
As in the original, players should be able to see the credits easily enough by collecting a mere 70 stars. However, finding special Comet Coins will unlock super-hard bonus levels on top of the numerous extra challenges already available in each world. All told, there will be more than 240 stars to tackle for players hoping to see everything Super Mario Galaxy 2 has to offer.