My, Mario always draws a crowd, doesn't he. Plenty of responses to last week's Mario Galaxy 2 ZP. Let me just put my antlers on and I'll start butting away.
"It's not really a surprise though. I mean, Nintendo have pretty much been re-using the same formula for Mario games for a long time."
I had this same argument with a friend of mine not too long ago, so I'll say the same thing to you that I said to him: you shut your fat fucking face. Yeah, Nintendo has proved itself to not be above the odd bit of recycling (here the word "Pokemon" appears in massive neon lettering on the wall behind me), but with Mario, their flagship franchise, the main platforming series (Super Mario Bros 1, 3, Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island, 64, Sunshine and Galaxy) has always made some kind of significant evolution with each installment. Yeah, they often have similar themes and similar plots (only Yoshi's Island doesn't feature the princess being kidnapped on account of her being an embryo at the time), but the gameplay is always significantly tweaked, whether it be by space travel or a water pistol. Mario has almost been the symbol of Nintendo's creativity, the recurring face upon an entire universe of very different games, and that's why Mario Galaxy 2 is so disappointing. Mario has finally succumbed to the temptation of the fast buck. It's the first time that a new Mario platformer has been more like a level pack than a whole new game.
Alright, alright, yes, the original Super Mario Bros. 2 was pretty much just a level pack too, but Super Mario Bros 2 doesn't count. It was only released in Japan, and (as every one who thinks they know gaming should know by now) the SMB2 released in other countries was a re-spriting of a different game called Doki Doki Panic, with the original Japanese SMB2 only being released as part of the Mario All-Stars collection for the SNES as "The Lost Levels." But this was before Nintendo had the money and technology to realize any and every creative vision, and we had 24 years of near-constant growth between then and now.
Incidentally, the whole reason Nintendo did that whole Doki Doki Panic re-skinning rigmarole was because they didn't think they could get away with releasing a game so similar to the first in non-Japanese countries. Where the hell did the guy who made that decision disappear to? What's changed since then to make the rest of the world as cowed and obedient as your fellow countrymen, Nintendo?
It seems that one of the main reasons the core series of Mario platformers changed significantly with each game was because they were on a myriad of different consoles with a myriad of hardware limitations, but now the constant changes that came from the ongoing competition to make the cleverest use of the frugal processor power available has ceased and stagnation has followed. The obvious solution is to make the process of game development challenging in different ways. I would suggest strapping live woodpeckers to the heads of everyone on the Mario design team.