Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Thought to Chew: The Galaxy Palette

Back in the days when Super Mario Galaxy came out, my brother and I compiled something that he dubbed "The Galaxy Palette". What we did was transverse the game world in search of particularly interesting colors which he captured and saved onto his DSi, allowing him to use them to make images with varied colors.
This got me thinking about what kind of article I should make, and I realized that Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel were excellent in their usage of colors to portray certain moods and, above all else, the sheer vastness of space.

When you play Super Mario Galaxy, you will notice that the sky is consistently dark, either a near pitch black or shades of dark blue. This is a slight nitpick of mine which I'm sure I will discuss more of about later (because I unabashedly love saturated colors), but it truly helps with the atmosphere- you feel lost in the middle of space. There's some feeling of hopelessness, being out there in the middle of the  void, and while the set-up of the level tends to hide this, some stages take it and perfect it. When you see Space Junk Galaxy, if the skies were blue and cheery it would mean nothing, but set to its ethereal music and floating space junk, the dark, subdued palette makes it almost scenic and lonely. You really feel like you're almost all alone out there.
Perhaps one of my least favorite galaxies is Dusty Dune, the eponymous desert world. Even so, they utilize the levels color scheme perfectly. It's one of the few levels to utilize a cheery blue sky, a brilliant move to contrast with the intensely bright hues of yellow and orange that make up its planets. While this is true of deserts in the real world, I like to think of it more as a tactical move and an embracing of color theory- they could've intensified the galaxy with blood-red skies, but instead the blues contrast, making the level more bright and thus feel more arid. This layering effect isn't necessarily that bad either, I suppose- levels like Melty Molten accentuate their redness to further their atmospheres. And that's fine.
Going from least favorite to a favorite is Slimy Spring. While I completely hate the level design (it's kind of a straight line that breaks off a ton), its atmosphere is on-point. You start in a dark cave with shades of blue and earthy green in a shallow pool. If you look behind, you see a deep cavern, infintely gray, the only exit a descent underwater.
This becomes the bulk of the level, a long, narrow passage- there is some semblance of hopelessness, with air bubbles sparse, forcing you to go forward without any real safety in hopes of getting out fast enough.
But when you reach the end, you get a big smack to the face. The weirdly atmospheric (but hokey) music stops. You're slammed in the face with a gorgeous sunset. Your reward for enduring the hellish waters below presents you with the most beautiful screen in the game.

It's one of my favorite screens in all of the games I've played. Yes, it's a mediocre level at best, but that sheer surprise of popping out and seeing something so majestic, even for a game as fantasized as Galaxy 2, is remarkable. That it can surprise you even after transversing 80% of the game is astounding and it really shows how great the games are that they don't wear you down at all, with many galaxies feeling completely refreshing. Other Mario games rarely surprise, especially tried-and-true 2-D ones, but that just makes these games all the more unique, and that's why I admire them so.

For the last Interview with Final Smash, CLICK HERE.
For the last A Thought to Chew regarding self-awareness in gaming, CLICK HERE.
See you soon.

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