Pros: Despite all the water, few actual water levels
Cons: The feeling of intentional sadism you'll get after repeatedly failing sometimes
The Bottom Line: MAH-REE-OH! MAH-REE-OH! MAH-REE-OH!
Poor Mario! He just can't seem to escape trouble, even when he flees his home in the Mushroom Kingdom for a much-deserved holiday at the beautiful resort of Isle Delfino. As Mario, Peach, and an army of Toads large enough to take over Belgium fly toward the hip vacation destination of Mario's world, they dream of the various wholesome and relaxing activities they plan to engage in. But as they journey toward Isle Delfino, a short, plump silhouette spray paints all over the island. Apparently the people of Isle Delfino fail to get a good look at him, because the second Mario steps off the plane, he is immediately blamed for the mess, tossed into the pokey, and then given a court order to clean up his act, so to speak. So Mario takes to the tropical resort with a cool little water gun gadget strapped to his back to spray all the graffiti and paint clean. An optimist could think of it this way: He gets to stay on a tropical island for free!
This is how Nintendo's latest game from their wonder boy developer, Shigeru Miyamoto, begins. As he did with Super Mario World, Shigs removes Mario from his home setting and places him in a joint which isn't quite the Mushroom Kingdom. The difference is that in Super Mario World, Bowser was still around. This time Bowser is missing, though his Koopa clansmen still show their faces sometimes. This is where most of the big differences between Super Mario Sunshine and other Mario games end. The standard Mario gameplay is still there, which means that we are thrust into a very open world. The specialty of the Mario series has always been providing worlds which encourage and challenge you to push your imagination to its very furthest limits, experimenting with every kind of device and power move you're given, and seeing what kinds of wonderful rewards await you at the end of your experimentation.
Unfortunately, there are points in Super Mario Sunshine which feel like Shigs was just trying to get even with gamers who always have high expectations from him. Super Mario Sunshine is creative and imaginative and a worthy carrier of the Mario name. But at the end of all that, you're still being made to run around picking up junk in a lot of places. Maybe Super Mario Sunshine represents a kind of dream vacation which Miyamoto thinks he will never have, and so he's living his dream through his game and getting even at the same time. Each world in Super Mario Sunshine has one or two missions where you have to collect coins which were carelessly placed; in one of them, you have to ride around on a speeding blooper to collect them! This is also another one of those games where you have to actually explore a mother world to find the worlds you actually play in. If you fail at one of the mini-games you occasionally have to play to collect the Shine Sprites, you're thrust back out into the parent world with one less life even though you technically weren't killed; you only blew the game. There's one nasty mini-game where you have to pop 20 balloons with a very limited number of rockets while riding a roller coaster. This is a great game, but it's the most sadistic Mario game since Super Mario Bros. 2 - the real one, not the Doki Doki Panic redux we got in the States.
Mario has a lot of his standard moves, including his classic jump. The innovation of Super Mario Sunshine comes from Mario's water pack, which is called FLOOD. It fires water like a steroid-using Super Soaker, and it's very handy for fighting enemies. But it does a lot of other things too. Just the nozzle setting alone can provide dozens of ways to experiment and just fool around. It's always available and it's a handy weapon in a fight. But the real fun starts once you get to play with the nozzle's mutations. Mario will be using a rocket pack to help himself up to incredible heights, a hover pack, and a turbo pack to make himself run faster than Sonic the Hedgehog. Mario's old pal Yoshi is also on hand to spit ultra-powerful juice. In this game, Yoshi spits different types of juice which perform different functions depending on what kind of fruit he eats. And yes, that cool ultra-long tongue is still there.
Once the game really gets going, we do learn the secret behind the shadow Mario. But he's still an odd foe. At certain points in the game you're made to chase him while squirting him. It's through the shadow Mario that you reach new worlds. It's also through the shadow Mario that you'll have access to certain Shine Sprites. In some missions, shadow Mario steals FLOOD right off of Mario's back and traps Mario inside of an obstacle course perched over a bottomless pit. To escape, Mario has to run the course and get the Shine Sprite at the end. Some of the courses are simple, others are very annoying. Some of them actually provide 1up loops, so you can keep playing despite repeatedly dying.
That's basically what the game is all about. Tracking down and collecting Shine Sprites. You'll have to go back into the levels again and again to collect them all, because levels open up often before you've collected all the Shine Sprites from the last level. And I know what you're thinking: Since Super Mario Sunshine takes place at a tropical resort island, the prospect of an abundance of water levels seems a little bit daunting. Super Mario Sunshine does have its share of water levels, and some of them are pretty annoying. But Shigs wins points on this front because there aren't any more water levels than there are in any other standard platforming game. Nintendo gets all the credit in the world for making Isle Delfino nothing more than a real setting. I can see a lot of lesser developers using the water as a crutch and blowing the number of water levels to ridiculous proportions. There will be swimming in virtually every mission, though, even though the game doesn't rely on making water an obstacle.
The graphics in Super Mario Sunshine don't really stand out in any way. They look great, that's for sure. But there's only one notable thing about them, and it's that they're overwhelmingly bright. Isle Delfino is a tropical island, after all, and so the standard solid color palette used in most Mario games is replaced with a brightly colored tropical color palette. It results in everything being loud and bright. The character designs are terrific. I love that the people of Isle Delfino have palm trees growing on their heads. There's one pair of Isle Delfino residents who can be seen constantly fighting over whose tree is bigger.
The music is also very tropical-sounding. Unfortunately, it's also very forgettable. I daresay this is the most forgettable soundtrack the Mario series ever produced. There are cool remixes of the classic Mario theme in the dark bottomless pit levels, and there's a clever rendition of the underground level music from the first Mario game. But honestly, that's about it. As for sounds, Super Mario Sunshine lives up the reputation for terrible voice acting video games of this generation have. The rest of the sounds are classic Mario sounds. We all know what those are, so there's no need to go on.
The controls are very tight. Mario moves swiftly and turns tightly. Sometimes he'll perform a backflip when you really didn't intend for him to, but this doesn't happen a whole lot. Even when it does happen, it probably won't be in a situation which will kill you if you mis-time something. Just besure to look out for the bottomless pit obstacle course, because mistakes there will cost you. The Gamecube controller uses the spring-loaded shoulder button to its advantage by letting you move while Mario is firing a stream of water when it's lightly pressed or fire a harder stream of water with Mario stopped so you can aim by pressing it in all the way.
Super Mario Sunshine may not be the best game in the Mario series, but it will almost certainly bring a little bit of sunshine on a rainy day.
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Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial. Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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When Mario, Peach and an entourage of her loyal Toad friends set out for a tropical vacation on lovely Isle Delfino. A mustachioed maniac has mucked up the entire island, and Mario is accused of committing the crime.