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Super Mario Sunshine Review for GameCube
Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2004 @ 10:30:13 pm E.S.T

If you were to ask anyone about popular video game characters, there’s a good chance that most of them will mention Mario. Over the years, Mario has been a mascot, so to speak, for the gaming industry. His first adventure, Super Mario Brothers, was and still is considered a revolutionary game. The game introduced the genre of platforming to gaming. Ever since then, the game’s creator, Shigiru Miyamoto, has been known by many as the father of video games. When Nintendo released a home console that rendered complex 3D graphics, the Nintendo 64, Mr. Miyamoto naturally brought Mario to it. He dubbed his beauty “Super Mario 64” for obvious reasons (If you can’t figure them out then you should get your head checked). A number of years later, Nintendo announced their plans to create a new home console that we now know as the Nintendo GameCube. Soon enough, they also announced that they were hard at work on a new Mario title called Super Mario Sunshine. The hearts of many were filled with joy and anticipation. Finally, in August 2002, the game was released, and it was worth the wait.

Mario, Peach, and Toadstool decide to take a much-needed vacation to a tropical, dolphin shaped island named Isle Delphino (Once again, if you don’t get the name, see a doctor). Upon arriving they are greeted by a runway covered in an odd muck. Mario runs around the muck to find a mysterious contraption sitting near some boxes. The machine, named FLUDD, is capable of storing water and using it in different ways, like by spraying it or using it as a turbo booster so fast it would wipe the moustache right off of Mario’s face. After getting the hang of it, two policemen from the Isle Delphino police department arrest Mario and throw him in prison on the charges of defiling the island with graffiti. After a trial, the pudgy plumber is found guilty and sentenced to cleaning up the entire island. While cleaning, however, he sees a mysterious figure who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mario. To add to Mario’s string of luck on the island, the imposter kidnaps Princess Peach. As always, it’s up to Mario to track down the imposter and save the princess. The story is similar to that of just about every other Mario adventure, as it should be, in my opinion. This time around though, the story also contains some twists, which are sure to surprise and, in some cases, confuse most Mario fans. The twists make the otherwise simple story more entertaining and enjoyable for players.

Super Mario Sunshine is noticeably different from its predecessors, both 2D and 3D. In previous Mario outings, the gameplay consisted of powering the pudgy plumber up, while pummeling through persisting platforming action. Sunshine revolves more around using the FLUDD to erase the Imposter Mario’s mark on society. In fact, the ability to get “super” has packed its bags and disappeared in the game. Instead, Mario now can find certain nozzles for his water pack that have different functions. He starts the game with the spray nozzle, which shoots out a stream of water: and the hover nozzle, which uses water to elevate Mario’s chubby body above the ground. As gamers progress through the game they’ll obtain other nozzles like the rocket nozzle, which blasts Mario sky high. Mario will even be able to mount and ride Yoshi later in the game, which is a fun feature. While the game doesn’t present gamers with as many abilities as in Mario 64, the ones in Sunshine are still enough to keep the gameplay innovative and fun.

The platforming element is still present as always. What’s different is that this time around he must use his water pack along with jumping maneuvers to help him reach platforms. While some places can be reached by simply jumping to them, others can only be reached by hovering to them with Mario’s water pack. As the platforming goes in general, the game stays true to its roots. In some instances, Mario will lose his water pack and be placed in a linear platforming stage. In these, he will have to reach the end merely by jumping on different varieties of platforms, including oh-so annoying dissolving sandstone. These levels almost feel like 3D versions of 2D Mario stages, which is an excellent addition. So while platforming may have changed a bit due to the addition of the FLUDD it is still as fun as ever.

Another strong point of SMS is its diversity in missions and levels. The game features a load of different levels ranging from sunny beaches to amusement parks. Each level contains eight missions, each completely different from the other. In one level, a beachside hotel, missions range from cleaning electrical sludge from the beach to chasing down the imposter Mario through the hotel. After completing each mission Mario will receive a shine sprite that helps restore peace to Isle Delphino. Plain and simple, every single mission in the game is fun. Cleaning sludge off the ground alone can keep most players entertained for hours. Some of the most enjoyable missions are boss fights that appear in most levels. Beating each one requires a wacky strategy so players will never feel like bosses are repetitive. Every mission in the game is original and fun. Even missions that appear in every level, like “collect eight red coins,” still feels like it’s something completely new that you haven’t played yet. The game does a really great job of keeping itself fresh and fun.

There is only one small gripe I have with the gameplay: The camera system is a bit unpolished. Players must manually manipulate the camera using the C-Stick and left shoulder button. Players are able to move the camera 360 degrees around Mario, but apparently the camera sometimes seems to enjoy getting stuck in walls, or irritating the player. This problem is partly corrected by showing a silhouette of Mario whenever an obstacle is blocking him. Although this does help a bit, it still may leave some gamers frustrated. For example, one of the earlier levels contains a small village, and the camera is always getting caught up in walls. This small problem is the only thing that keeps the gameplay back from sheer perfection.

The game also “shines” graphically. Each diverse level is blooming with an atmosphere that really makes you feel like you’re at a tropical vacation spot. Beautiful, sunshine-filled beaches that look as though they were based off of real life vacation spots inundate the game’s island. Around every corner you’ll find a palette of color covering the area as if it were one big painting. Everything is detailed and filled with amazing color. To add to the loads of detailed environments, the game also has an incredible draw distance. In Sunshine everything can be seen at first glance. Even trees that are miles off are still in view. Mario can stand on the highest building on Delphino Isle and see the entire island around him with that added "heat wave” effect, again adding to the tropical feeling. Even more stunning are the game’s water effects. Images reflect off the water as they would in real life, and Gentle waves move through the water gracefully. Even water released by the FLUDD has the physics of water in life. If Mario sprays some water, it will fall to the ground, creating a small puddle that reflects images until it evaporates quickly in the sun. This is all wonderfully done, which is excellent since there is a lot of water in the game. The only things that are a bit off are a few textures. Amidst miles of beaches, trees, buildings, and so on you will sometimes find some backgrounds that look like they were just placed on a flat wall. As a result, some things like a rocky wall lack depth and detail. However, everything else more than compensates for this small drawback.

Mario Sunshine’s audio is a mixed bag. Musically, players are treated to a collection of ambiance-filled, tropical tunes. This adds to the game’s vacation feeling atmosphere, making players feel like they are really on an exotic island. Although these songs are very atmospheric and delightful, they do get repetitive from time to time. The fact that the music almost always gives you a laid back feeling can get a bit boring. Even if your getting attacked by an enemy, beach style tunes continue to play. I know that I don’t picture exotic beaches if my life is in danger (if you do, then skip the doctor, go straight to the psychiatrist). That’s not to say the songs are bad, in fact they are wonderful, they are just not played wisely enough throughout the game. The voice acting also has some strong and weak points. On one hand you have characters like Princess Peach and Mario whose voices sound, as they should. On the other hand, later in the game, players will hear some voices that will annoy them and make them wonder if Nintendo even thought about matching voices with character appearances. The dialogue, although cheesy at times, is still a comical treat. For example, if Mario encounters some fire he’ll yelp out “Hot! Hot! Hot!” This is all very nicely done and brings out characters' personalities.

There is no doubt that Sunshine is a wildly fun game, but will it keep you playing? As stated earlier, one goal in the game is to collect as many shine sprites as possible in order to bring light back to the quaint, little island. The game does not require you collect all of them to beat the game, so after you’ve beaten the main game you’ve still got a lot to collect. Shines are gained by finishing missions, completing side tasks, and collecting blue coins. When Mario has collected ten blue coins, he can trade them in for a shine sprite. Collecting every shine sprite is not a simple task; Players will need to search near and far for blue coins and shine sprites hidden throughout the land. There are even a few enjoyable secrets that players can unlock once collecting enough of them, so collecting is worth it. On top of this it’s also fun to run around the island, replaying missions and partaking in guilty pleasures (like throwing fruit at villagers’ heads!).

Some complained that Sunshine is not loyal to the Mario series. If you believe that Mario is about non-stop platforming then you may agree. However, if you believe Mario is about pure fun then the game is a welcome addition to the series. Love it or hate it, the game is one of the most fun experiences you will have on the GameCube. It has just about everything going for it, including beautiful graphics and a good amount of replay for a single player game. It is an excellent purchase for gamers looking for an incredibly fun game. However, if you were disappointed by Mario's Nintendo 64 outing then Sunshine may not be your bag.

Review By: MarioPrime - 1062 Reads

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