Review by JPeeples
"Mario? Tearing LIMBS off of creatures! Will I never..."
Gamers across the world waited with baited breath for six long years in anticipation for the next true Mario game. Super Mario 64 showed that Mario could survive the transition to the third dimension, and we all wanted MORE. However, that was not to be. We all saw him take a supporting role in games like Mario Tennis and Mario Golf, but we wanted him in something along the lines of a platform game. After seeing him in great games across tons of genres, we all wanted to see him return to his plat forming game duties. Sure he’s a good golfer, and a nice tennis player, but the lack of jumping on baddies had the gaming world in a tizzy. We all wanted him in a platforming game, and now, our prayers have been answered, GameCube style. Mario and company go to take a vacation, but find out that their little island retreat (known as Isle Delfino) has been recently sullied with graffiti from a guy that more, or less, fits Mario’s description. Now I find it amazing that the ONE island they want to go to has a witch hunt out for anything remotely resembling Mario, but I digress. That guy just doesn’t have lady luck on his side, poor fella. This Mario-ish dude has been putting all kinds of goop on everything, causing the Shines to leave (Shines are the island’s source of sunlight, so you can imagine that they would REALLY like to get those bad boys back ASAP.) Without the Shines, the island is in dire peril, yadda, yadda, yadda. It is your job to clear your name, destroy a whole slew of nogoodnicks, and clean the island up, while at the same time collecting the many Shines that have been shrewn about the game.
The gameplay of Super Mario Sunshine most resembles that of Super Mario 64, with a couple of exceptions. First off, Mario has a cool, versatile water pack called FLUDD which he can use to do any number of tasks. This one tool can kill baddies, bring flowers back to life, clean gunk off of townsfolk, and help you get across seemingly impossible jumps. That’s one versatile water pack right there. However, with this water pack comes great responsibility. You only have so much to use in this bad boy, and if you run out, you need to either get an ever-so-convenient water bottle, or find some body of water to dive into, in order to replenish your H2o supply. If you find yourself without water, you can still jump on baddies to beat them if worse comes to ware. However, the punching abilities that Mario gained in Mario 64 have gone by the wayside in this game, giving you one less offensive attack strategy in the game. All that tennis and golf must have given Mario some Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. He just can’t catch a break…
As you go through Isle Delfino, you will meet all sorts of bad dudes, brother. You will see a few old baddies, tons of new baddies, and that really bad dude who sent Mario up the river. Now when you see the Imposta-Mario, you’ll wonder just how the citizens of Delfino could have gotten confused, I mean really now, the evil dude is BLUE and looks to be made of water, and is carrying a paintbrush. Really… How on Earth they could confuse a guy in red overalls to a mass of liquid is beyond me, but considering Mario’s pot luck, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.
Progression in the game is accomplished by beating episode after episode of gaming goodness, all the while doing some sort of good deed to get a Shine. Getting red coins, getting lots of golden coins, and of course, meeting the set goal for each episode will net you a Shine. Get as many of these as possible to NOT have the townspeople want your head on a stake. Throughout this episodic madness, you will be treated to some classic Mario gameplay thanks to short levels in which Imposta-Mario takes your water pack, and leaves you to rely on GASP, YOUR GAMING SKILLS to survive. That brute! How dare he expect players to use skill in a Mario game!
The boss battles in this game take on an epic scale not seen since the days of 2D Mario. Now I might be in the minority here, but I don’t consider a big ball and chain (thank you Mario 64) to be all that imposing a foe, wow, it’s big, and it’s got a chain. At least with Bowser you could always count on him throwing axes at you, or attacking you in a scary smiley face craft of DOOM. Thankfully, Nintendo realized that the boss battles needed to be spruced up a wee bit of a lot, and they did a great job with it. Now, you will go toe to toe with an overgrown version of the CLASSIC PIRHANA PLANT OF EXTREME PAIN, and you will LIKE IT! Also, expect to make use of Mario’s grabbing abilities that came in ever-so-handy in Mario 64. Now, they’ll be used to rip off the arms of EVIL OCTUPI! Tearing off limbs? In a video game? Man, that makes Mario Sunshine the most violent game EVER! Anyways… The boss battles also give the player a sense of tension not seen since the days of old. You’ve got pulse-pounding music blaring, that speeds up to match the tempo of the fight, and a BIG, HUGE FOE in front of you just waiting to be killed. That my friends, is a boss battle.
Controlling everyone’s favorite plumber has never been easier. The GameCube’s controller was seemingly made for the game; hell, it probably was. The controls are as responsive as humanly possible, and the 3D control stick thing makes controlling Mario a breeze. It’s never been easier to move him from Point A to Point B, and I for one, couldn’t be happier. Using FLUDD will become second nature once you get used to the mechanics of the device. After a few minutes of practice, you will be blasting away baddies with water like John Wayne in a western. The slick controls that Mario games have always featured relatively simple control schemes that allowed you to do quite a bit within the limiations of the controller. Even the newest Mario games feature this idea, albiet, in a more limited capacity. Nothing is mapped to more than three button presses, and that kind of simplicity can really help get a player into a game. This feature really helps to show that nothing is out of reach, gameplay-wise in a Mario game.
The graphics in the game are truly some of the most breathtaking in gaming history. The entire game is bathed in a wide array of tropical colors. This use of one basic color scheme helps give the game an identity all it’s own. While the other Mario games features the same basic look, only with a palette swap, this game gives each and every world a look all it’s own. Effectively, giving each world it’s own personality. The bright colors help accent the lush textures that are used to coat each and every little thing in this game with details. Things such as the puddles left by water after using the FLUDD, and the refined textures on the many structures throughout Isle Delfino add quite a bit to the overall look of the game. The graphics maintain the ''less is more'' philosophy that has been prevalent since the inception of the Mario series. Although, it's to a lesser extent in this game. The Mario games have never really relied on little graphical tricks to look impressive. They have always focused on the principle graphic elements. Nice looking characters, nice looking environments, etc. I believe it is this philosophy that has enabled the Mario games to always look good no matter how much they age. Because they don't rely on ''flash in the pan'' graphical techniques to reel you into the visuals, they have more substance to them.
The bright color scheme in the Mario games also helps to enhance the fantasy-esque feel of the series. The bright scheme can't help but put a smile on the face of all who play it. After all, how can you NOT enjoy a game that's all happy and cheery and such?
The sound in the game, much like the graphics, has been refined to the point of near-perfection. As per usual, Nintendo included some classic Mario tunes to enhance the ''classic'' vibe to the game. They also put in some classic sound effects to enhance this vibe. I feel that the new tunes retain the qualities that made the classic ones so memorable. Like the classic music, some of the newer stuff is catchy, it's stuff you can hum easily, and it's stuff that sticks with you long after you've played the game. The sound effects for Mario games have always had their roots about as far removed from reality as possible, and this game continues that grand tradition. When you are playing a Mario game, you're looking for some escapism, and the sound effects help you out in this respect. However, not all is well with the sound in this game. Nintendo has seen fit to give the main characters in the game voices for the first time ever. Now, this could be a great thing in theory. Finally giving a voice to the most recognizable gaming character of all time. Unfortunately, things don’t quite work out as well in execution as they seem in theory. Part of the fun in the Mario games has been using your imagination to voice the characters. Mario is an everyman, while Peach is the damsel in distress. Letting the player come up with voices for the characters gives them yet another reason to love the Mario games. Too bad the voice acting takes away that need for imagination. Mario sounds a bit too much like a doofus; while Princess Peach (Toadstool in the older Mario games) sounds like a complete ditz. And FLUDD sounds like a hydraulic version of HAL, which is really freaky if you think about it for a second or two. Considering the pristine level of everything else in the game, it really is a shame that the voice acting couldn’t be up to par. Placing voices on Mario characters is the modern-day equivalent of putting voices in Charlie Chaplin flicks, you can do it, but since it would take away something that makes the source material so endearing, why would you want to? The voice acting really strips some of the player’s imagination away. All in all though, the sound is great. If it wasn’t for the voice acting, they’d be about as perfect as could be.
Super Mario Sunshine is one game that you will be playing for years to come. The fun, addictive gameplay will keep you hooked on your first time playing through the game. While the Shine collecting, and many subtleties of the gameplay will keep you playing long after you beat the game.
If you are looking for a game that will provide you with countless hours of enjoyment, then look no further than Super Mario Sunshine. It combines classic Mario gameplay with flawless control. Toss in the stunning graphics, and you have yourself a game that begs to be played. The only black eye on the whole thing is the horrendous voice acting. Thankfully, the pros outweigh the cons a million to one, making this game a must-have.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/03/02, Updated 09/12/02
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