Day two of this work week and we're sticking with the Mario theme. There's a topic I've been pondering with ports of Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2, and now's the perfect time to discuss it! As always, thanks for reading.
The Switch's Joy-Con can do lots of things the Wii's Wii Remote couldn't. There's NFC tech inside, it has HD rumble for a more immersive experience, there's an IR camera for unique tracking opportunities, and so on. The Wii Remote also had motion controls, but there's no doubt the tech inside the Joy-Con is much more capable of a sophisticated gesture-controlled experience. By and large, the Joy-Con is on-par, if not better than almost everything the Wii Remote had. It's the almost that has me worried.
The one thing the Wii Remote has on the Joy-Con is its IR pointer. A ton of games on the Wii used the IR pointer for menus, game input, and more. Super Mario Galaxy happens to be one of those games. There are a number of menus that you can interact by pointing at your TV screen and lining up the pointer icon. On top of that, the IR pointer was used for pointing at/interacting with elements during gameplay as well. Those are the areas that I'm worried about if Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2 were to come to Switch.
Making menus work without a Wii Remote pointer is no trouble at all. If memory serves me right, both Galaxy games already let you scroll through menus with the joystick anyway. It's the gameplay areas where IR pointing was necessary, and I don't recall there being another way to manipulate things. Granted, I am an old man and I might be forgetting a few alternate control methods, but I'm pretty sure some areas in both games would need considerable tweaking.
The most obvious change would have to come with collecting certain star bits. In Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, you'll find star bits scattered all over levels. Instead of having to run over and grab them all, you could simply point the Wii Remote at the TV screen and "touch" them with your pointer to collect them. Not only did this make it easy to collect star bits that were both near and far in a level, it was fun to grab them as well! Finding every last star bit in an area and seeing them zip all the way over to Mario, no matter how far away they were, became like a mini-game in and of itself.
You could also use the IR pointer to fire off star bits at enemies. This would be great if you were running into trouble with some baddies, as you could stun them for a moment or two. If you were about to take a hit from an enemy, you might be able to save yourself the damage by shooting out a star bit at exactly the right spot. A second player could also come in with a Wii Remote and grab enemies to mess with them, providing another way for you to maneuver around levels without as much worry.
A specific IR Pointer action in Super Mario Galaxy 2 was tied to Yoshi's tongue. While most Mario games have you hit one button for a canned Yoshi's tongue action, Super Mario Galaxy 2 let you point to shoot Yoshi's tongue anywhere you wanted. The tongue would twist and shift to reach its destination, adding in a whole new layer of enjoyment. You could certainly take things back to how they were in previous Mario games, or perhaps add some other way of targeting, but I doubt any of it would feel as fun or engaging as the Wii Remote pointer method.
Outside of those features, there were other superfluous uses of the IR pointer. There were Pull Stars you would point/click to pull Mario through space, bubbles for Mario to travel in that were blown around based on where your pointer was, and Sling Pods that would let you pull back and whip Mario into the unknown. While these gameplay features were certainly made more fun and novel by using the Wii Remote pointer, mapping them to traditional controls wouldn't be any issue at all, and you'd most likely retain a similar level of fun.
I just keep circling back to the star bit collection/firing aspect, though. I don't see a good way for that to be remedied. Super Mario Galaxy made its way to the Nvidia Shield, and it let you control the on-screen pointer with the second joystick. As you might guess, that was a clunky solution at best. It barely got the job done, but doesn't measure up to the Wii Remote pointer in any way, shape, or form. If anything, it went to show just how integral the Wii Remote was to a big part of Super Mario Galaxy's experience.
Furthermore, if you're playing Super Mario Galaxy 1 or 2 on Switch in handheld mode, I would imagine the only options for star bit collecting would be the second joystick or touch screen. We already know how the second joystick implementation works out, which would make the touch screen option the better of the two. That still wouldn't be ideal though, as your hand would have to obscure a large part of the action during gameplay. That's not to mention the clunky nature of constantly having to take one hand off the Switch in order to drag/poke/prod your finger on the screen. Again, it doesn't sound like a great solution, but I'll take that over the second joystick approach.
Back on the docked gameplay side of things, the other control solution is to use the Joy-Con as a 'virtual' IR pointer. Thanks to the advanced tech inside the Joy-Con, it can do a decent job of mapping out where you are in 3D space. It also knows which what you're holding the controller, which can be used to roughly approximate where the tip of the Joy-Con is pointing. It's not a perfect solution, but it's certainly better than what Super Mario Galaxy did on the Nvidia Shield. World of Goo's Switch port utilizes this feature, and it mostly works, but it needs to be recalibrated quite a bit. Whether Nintendo could improve on what Tomorrow Corporation pulled off with their 'virtual' IR pointer remains to be seen.
If Nintendo is indeed bringing either Galaxy game to Switch, they must have found a solution to these issues that they're happy with. I can't imagine they would release ports that are fundamentally broken compared to the original. Whether they've got a virtual IR pointer that doesn't need nearly as much recalibration, or completely reworked star bit mechanics remains to be seen. Perhaps they thought of a completely different solution that I'm not even considering. If anyone can pull something like this off, it's Nintendo.
All I want for Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 ports on Switch would be for the original experience to be as close to intact as possible. Those two games are my favorite Mario titles hands-down, and they were really huge steps for what Mario experiences could offer. Part of that fun and wonder came from the Wii Remote interactions, and I don't want to see that content lost. I'll be hoping Nintendo surprises us with some unique twist or incredible solution to the problem. Whatever they do come up with, I'll certainly give it a try before I make my final call. With all that said though, I'm hanging on to my original copies Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2. The classics never get old!