Review by Crocomire
"A couple of faults, but a fantastic game as you'd expect with Mario."
Super Mario Sunshine was never going to live up to the same impact that Super Mario 64 created all those years ago. After all, we'd entered the third dimension in gaming now. SM64 was the one to start that all off. How could SMS compete with that? Still, this was Mario, and it was Nintendo making him, so people still expected big things from the chubby little plumber. SMS would be a great game, but it probably wouldn't bring the same feeling that people got when they played SM64 for the first time.
Let's get the game's story out of the way first. Mario, Princess Peach, the Princess's attendant Toadsworth, and a few other Toads, go on vacation to the lovely, tropical Isle Delfino. Upon landing, they notice a huge piranha plant creature spraying paint everywhere. Ever the heroic, Mario jumps in to help the residents of the island. He notices a talking water tank backpack machine which can squirt water. It befriends Mario and introduces itself as FLUDD (flash liquidiser ultra dousing device), and he also states he was created by Professor E. Gadd (of Luigi's Mansion fame, of course!). Mario puts FLUDD on his back and washes the plant away. Typically, Mario is taken away by the local police. He is put in court and is accused of painting graffiti all over Isle Delfino. A witness drawing looks identical to Mario, and he is found guilty. His punishment is to clean up the whole island. Mario gets on with it but is intent on capturing the real criminal while he's at it too.
So as you might have guessed after reading the plot, Mario has to use the water tank backpack, FLUDD. You can use it to squirt water at the paint and graffiti you'll see all over walls and floors. Getting rid of paint is key to progressing because when Mario walks over any goo, he'll slip and skid all over the place and you'll find it hard to dodge enemies. There will also be poisonous paint which decreases Mario's life gauge when you step on it too, so you must make sure to clear the path.
Nintendo really put a lot of effort into the visual details. When Mario runs through paint, it'll splash all over his clothes and body and you'll actually be able to see it covered on him! You will love to just take a run up, jump and then slide through the paint on the floor, just for the heck of it! You can slide on Mario's belly through the dirt and then crash into a wall. It's just so much fun! You're even able to wash it all off by jumping into water as well. But Mario looks just so much better when he's dirty The attention to detail really is astonishing though.
Back to FLUDD though Mario always wears FLUDD on his back throughout the game. To shoot water, you press the R button. What's so great about this though is that the R button is analogue; meaning the further you push down on the button, the further and more powerful water will shoot from the nozzle. This is ideal for spraying paint or enemies close or far away from you. By applying the right amount of pressure to the R button, you can choose exactly where to spray water. Water doesn't last forever though, and you must refill your tank if you run out. At the bottom right of the screen is your water meter. You can stock up on water at any time by jumping into a pool of water than holding the R button. The tank doesn't have to be empty to refill either you can stock up whenever you want to.
FLUDD can also change his water nozzles to let you reach new areas. With a tap of the X button, you will switch to the hover nozzle. When you jump and press R in this mode, water will shoot downwards and allow you to hover in the air for a limited time. You can use this to cross long pits or clear paint directly beneath you. You'll also find more nozzles in the game which will allow you to find secret areas and new levels.
SMS is played in the same style of SM64 in that you start off in a main lobby, and can explore it to reach different levels. In SM64, the lobby was the Princess's Castle and levels were hidden inside paintings. In SMS, you are at Delfino Square, the main area of Isle Delfino. All the levels branch off this section just like in SM64. You have to meet certain requirements to access each level though. You cannot jump in to any level from the beginning.
Just as you had to collect Power Stars in SM64, Mario now has to collect 120 Shine Sprites. These Shines are the energy source of Isle Delfino, but because the Mario impostor has polluted the island with his graffiti, the Shine Sprites have lost their power and shattered all over the island. It's up to Mario to get them all back! The same formula used in SM64 applies to this game too. Each level is split into episodes. Each episode hides a different Shine. When you jump in to a level, you're mission title is shown on the screen as to give you a hint on where the next Shine Sprite is located. The procedures for obtaining a Shine vary. A lot of the time, you'll have your platform jumping skills tested to reach extreme heights and then face off against a boss of some sorts. Other times you will have to win a race in a certain time limit, and on other occasions, you must collect 8 red coins (yes, the old 8 red coins mission returns too!).
But there are certain parts of SMS that long-time Mario gamers love. On some missions, you have to reach a cave. When you step inside, the Mario impostor, known as Shadow Mario in the game, steals FLUDD. Mario will appear in a secret stage a retro style 3d-like version of a mini Super Mario Bros level. The classic theme tune is hummed to you and Mario sprites from his first SMB game flash all over the background. What makes these levels so difficult are that you don't have FLUDD, and therefore cannot use the hover nozzle. You are forced to make perfect jumps from one platform to another. But one slip and it's all over. There's nothing below to protect you. You're jumping abilities and reactions are usually put to the limit here. You must run across falling blocks and spinning cubes in order to get to the Shine Sprite at the end.
A lot of older Mario players loved these secret stages so much because they were practically Super Mario Bros in 3d. Many people believe that if a Mario game was done in 3d using these secret stages as levels, it would be perfect. And with good reason too. I know for sure that people who've played and enjoyed 2d Mario games will adore these secret stages, simply for the fact that they feel just like those games. Imagine a Mario game in 3d with these stages, except longer and harder. Alright, it sounds a little plain, but this is just an example of what could be done. Imagine a Mario game in that style with awesome plot, graphics and music. I reckon Nintendo themselves wanted to do something with those levels afterwards. But hey, it shows they wanted to try and recreate some old 2d Mario by putting these levels in SMS anyway.
Mario controls a lot better than he did in SM64. The analogue control is perfectly executed when moving Mario about. He also runs faster too, which is obviously great news. Jumps are performed with the traditional tap of the A button, and by pressing it again upon landing, you can perform a double jump, and triple jump. Famous moves like the wall kick returns, where Mario can jump up between walls to reach higher platforms. One cool new move is the spin jump. By spinning the control stick and then quickly jumping, Mario will jump and twirl in the air. You'll remove any paint that is stuck to Mario with this move, so it's pretty cool. You can combine moves like the spin jump with the use of FLUDD too. For example, if you spin jump and hold the R button, Mario will spin around spraying water all over the place. Very handy to clear huge spaces of paint.
Also new to this game is that Mario can walk on tight ropes! This is a really cool new feature to a Mario game, and is a lot of fun to use. Throughout many levels, you'll have to jump on them and then use them to reach distant platforms. When you're actually on one, it's not difficult to fall off because Mario seems to fix himself to it. You can walk either forward or back or face any side. You can't fall off unless you actually drop down manually with the B button. You are able to swing on the tight ropes though, in order to reach platforms to the side. By hanging off one, you can then hold the R button to spray water. This will push Mario back and forth with the force of the water and you can then start to swing Mario round and round. With a tap of the A button, Mario will fling himself and somersault away. It's a wonderfully sweet move that is great to perform.
And for the first time ever in 3d, Mario is able to ride Yoshi! Soon into the game, you'll find a giant spotted egg. These will appear in many levels and you have to feed it a fruit that it asks for. A bubble will be above the egg to show you what it wants. Fruit is dotted about the levels in many areas, usually on trees. Once you pick one up and give it to the egg, a Yoshi will hatch out, and you can jump on its back and ride around. Yoshi is a lot faster than Mario and can jump extremely high. By pressing the B button, you can flick out Yoshi's famous tongue and gobble up enemies, coins, or fruit. You need to keep feeding Yoshi fruit to carry on using him, because if his juice meter runs to zero, he'll disappear. Sadly, Yoshi can't swim either, and as soon as Yoshi touches water, he'll vanish into blobs of paint. Quite why he can't swim, I don't know, but there are a couple of puzzles which you'll have to get around based on the fact that Yoshi can't swim. When you press the R button while riding Yoshi, he'll spit juice out. This special juice can dissolve yellow blobby gooey stuff, and can be found in many hard-to-reach areas. Valuable items and secret caves are hidden behind this goo. All in all, while it's a shame Yoshi can't swim and there's no green Yoshi available, it's good to be able to finally ride the little fella in wonderful 3d graphics. He's as playable in 3d as he was in 2d.
I think one of downfalls of SMS is blue coin collecting. In every level, you'll find about 30 blue coins. For every 10 you find, you can exchange them for a Shine Sprite. The thing is, these blue coins can be very tough to find. So tough in fact, that you would almost certainly need some sort of guide to help you get them all. Some coins are hidden in the strangest of places. Some will only appear if you happen to spray water on a sign for example. Others are a lot easier to spot. But when it gets to the point where you don't know which episode of a level blue coins can be found in, that's when it gets really frustrating. Some coins will only appear in certain episodes which can be a real pain as you are left replaying every episode, searching every spot of the level over and over. It's as if Nintendo ran out of ideas as to what to do with other Shines, so they introduced the blue coin mission. It's not a big problem, but it is indeed very stressful. Especially when you consider the final reward for getting all 120 Shines is terrible.
I previously mentioned how the attention to detail was fantastic. The fact that you can actually see paint splash onto Mario and water run down walls when you spray it truly is breathtaking. Pools of water and oceans whose tides wash up and down on the shore are so realistic. The GameCube really is the console of water. It has produced some of the finest water effects to date. Just look at Star Fox Adventures or Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II for further proof. Basically, SMS does a fantastic job of displaying realistic graphics. The only let down is that I don't think much time was spent on the walls. If you take a close look at some of the walls in certain levels, they really haven't had as much detail put into them as the paint or water. They look pixellated which is a bit of a letdown. It's not as if you will notice it as you play the game but, upon further inspection, it's a shame they didn't spend as much time making everything look wonderful. But like I say, you won't notice it, and when everything else looks as good as it does, you won't care.
Super Mario Sunshine does a great job of living up to Super Mario 64. It improves on the controls in every way and adds new moves and Yoshi to the list. Graphics are wonderful and the music is as catchy as ever. Minor downfalls include the blue coin collecting, lack of a decent reward for getting all the Shines, and a final boss that just wasn't as hard or as heart pounding as in SM64, but all in all, a fantastic game.
People who are expecting the same kind of revolution in gaming as what SM64 produced will inevitably be disappointed. Then again, anyone who is expecting one anyway should really think again. You won't get that with this wave of consoles. Nintendo's next system however that's a different matter. But hey, this is Mario, and he's about the only guy in the world of video games that can produce a good platformer. Even if SM64 will always be your first place ranked 3d platformer, SMS will make a perfect second!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/16/06, Updated 03/17/06
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