Review by ShadowGuardian9

"Mario's Time to Shine"

It's extremely difficult, nearly impossible to be a gamer and not know about Mario. Nintendo's main man for decades, Mario has grown to be one of the most recognizable faces in gaming history. Upon the release of the Nintendo 64, Mario moved from the 2-D side-scroller to the 3-D platformer, a feat that was not one to scoff at. Super Mario 64 was Mario's mighty leap into the third dimension. After its release, the world took notice at Super Mario 64's huge levels, amazing controls, many challenges, and incredible quality. Super Mario 64 was a groundbreaking title. After the Gamecube was released, fans quickly desired another Mario adventure. Super Mario 64 was a tough act to follow, but Nintendo brought Super Mario Sunshine to the Gamecube in 2002. With such a pedigree, did it have the same quality as its legendary predecessor?

Super Mario Sunshine starts off with Nintendo's legendary plumber taking a vacation with Princess Peach and her crew of Toads on local vacation spot, Isle Delfino. Mario is eager to arrive; besides, doesn't every hero need a vacation? Upon landing, however, Mario encounters graffiti all over the airstrip. After exploring the mess, Mario discovers FLUDD, a water pack that Mario uses to clean up the mess. Shortly after saving the airstrip, Mario is arrested by the local police. Apparently, someone who looks exactly like Mario was the one who's been making a mess of Isle Delfino. Additionally, the beacons of shine that Isle Delfino possesses, the Shine Sprites, have been taken from their resting place at the Shine Gate, leaving Isle Delfino in a haunting shadow. Mario, after losing his court trial, is punished by being forced to clean up the mess and is unable to leave the island until his duty is complete. The game's story does have a few twists and turns, but really isn't anything too complex.

Controlling Mario is surprisingly simple, even with the addition of FLUDD capabilities. From the start, even before equipping FLUDD, all of Mario's moves from Super Mario 64 are available. Jumping, spin jumping, ground-pounding, triple jumping, Mario is equipped from square one. The basic controls are still responsive and accessible; jumping about the town square is incredibly fluid and easy to accomplish. However, upon finding FLUDD, Mario can not only spray water with R, but he can also hover in mid-air by switching to a special nozzle, a very helpful ability throughout the course of the game. FLUDD, as a water cannon, also runs on water. Mario runs out of water, no spraying, no hovering. To refill FLUDD, Mario must simply press and hold R in a pool or other water source until the tank is full. But the game constantly demonstrates FLUDD's uses by throwing a handful of challenges for Mario to complete.

Mario's goal on Isle Delfino is a very simple one; clean up the mess, while trying to find out more about the mysterious Mario imposter, dubbed Shadow Mario. From the start, Mario is thrown into one of the many levels throughout the game. The levels follow the objective-based gameplay of Super Mario 64; Mario is assigned a scenario and must complete it to earn a Shine Sprite. More Shine Sprites allow for more levels to be unlocked. Some of the mission objectives are pretty cool, like facing down the giant Piranha Plant, Petey Piranha, or riding Blooper squids in a racing minigame. Most of the platforming-based objectives are very well done. The levels are usually tremendous and require some fast reflexes and quick movements to be completed. It's here that Super Mario Sunshine really...well...shines. The rock-solid platforming is one of the game's greatest strengths, showing how good 3-D platformers can truly be.

However, the platforming (sadly) isn't always great. Many a time Mario is sent into portals located in secret areas of levels. Upon traveling to these levels, Shadow Mario sneaks in and steals FLUDD, leaving Mario to rely on his classic Super Mario 64 move set. While this may seem like a brilliant piece of reminiscence, the levels are purely linear and suffer from some frustrating design. Some will be ridiculously easy, others excruciatingly difficult. The main cause of the difficulty lies in the almost erratic camera, which has a tendency to hide critical structures, or at worst, cost you a life. Considering the levels' simple design, there really isn't a reason the camera should be so frustrating. Costing a life in the levels is always frustrating. But, at their best, they are challenging and even fun pieces of nostalgic 3-D platforming worth at least a little merit.

However, the camera doesn't only appear in the special challenges. Sometimes it will appear in the main levels. As with the secret levels, such a clumsy camera isn't welcome. Walls and pillars will appear, hindering view and gameplay. To its credit, the camera isn't completely horrible. It's responsive and generally functional, but there are moments where it just goes crazy. Such a problem could be easily remedied by slightly better level design, but sadly, that's not the case.

Super Mario Sunshine does its best to bring back old objectives from Super Mario 64. One of which is collecting coins. Gold coins are used for health, blue coins can be collected to trade in for Shine Sprites. The classic Red Coins objective in levels is still good, although tedious after repeated completions. One new addition is the inclusion of Mario's old friend Yoshi, whom Mario can ride for the first time in 3-D. Yoshi's controls are very similar to Mario's. Yoshi spits juice instead of water, and is fueled by fruits instead of water. Yoshi's controls included his trademark Flutter Kick and he can always use his tongue in a pinch. The controls are pretty easy, but they suffer from many of the same problems Mario's controls suffer from. An unreliable camera and annoying level design don't destroy Yoshi's gameplay, but can make it less than ideal.

Some level objectives prove quite inventive. Mario won't always have to run and jump from Point A to Point B. Sometimes some creative puzzles will appear. Running a slot machine or exploring a creepy hotel do prove pretty creative and are welcome additions, as they break up some of the stale objectives. Along with the puzzles, some entertaining boss fights do show off the craziness of the Mario world, thanks to clever boss designs and unique battles. Another objective is the Shadow Mario chase, which each level has. Mario must chase Shadow Mario throughout the level and constantly damage him with water while following him and not falling behind. It's challenging and surprisingly intricate considering some of the levels, but it can get frustrating. Shadow Mario isn't afraid to use a spin jump and make a crazy leap from one platform to another, and some of the level designs don't make the chase any easier. Super Mario Sunshine has some fun objectives, many of which introduce creative situations or are pure examples of excellent platforming, but not all of them make use of such inventiveness, which is a shame.

Super Mario Sunshine's replay value is actually pretty good. There's over 100 Shine Sprites to find, including Blue Coins. The levels are pretty fun to explore multiple times, but more objectives would've been even better. With that, the main story doesn't require all the Shine Sprites and the final boss can be defeated pretty quickly through the game. Some of the objectives, like the Red Coins and Shadow Mario Chase, are reused far too much. They seem to be there only to include another reason to go through the same level, as they don't have the creativity that some of the other objectives have. Replaying objectives is fun, especially the really good ones, but Super Mario Sunshine doesn't pack on the innovation that its predecessor had. Regardless, it's still a solid platformer with plenty of running, jumping, and exploring to do.

Graphically, the game is truly second to none. Super Mario Sunshine has some of the most vibrant, colorful, and brilliant graphics ever to hit the Gamecube. Shining hues paint the world with a truly beautiful color palette. There's rarely a moment where bright colors, amazing lighting effects, or elaborate textures populate the screen. However, and while this should be expected considering the game's scenario, the levels lack the overall variety of Super Mario 64. While Super Mario 64 had sand, snow, sun, and all the rest, you'll surely become at least a little irritated at Super Mario Sunshine's almost bland choice of tropical areas to explore. They look beautiful, but by the end of the game, you'll surely feel like there could've been at least a little more variety in each of the amazing looking levels. The tropics can only be interesting for so long, and Super Mario Sunshine shows it.

Audio-wise, there's some catchy themes throughout. Some, like Bianco Hills, will get stuck in your head. Classic Mario themes make some appearances, and although some more classic music would've been amazing, you can't blame Nintendo for trying some new music instead of reusing the same themes over and over. Voice-acting is pretty mediocre, though functional, but Mario has his classic quips. On the whole, however, audio is pretty middle-ground. Not too much new, but it still has the classic Mario charm.

+ Absolutely amazing graphics
+ Rock-solid platformer gameplay
+ Nice worlds
+ New concepts pan out okay
+ Interesting objectives

- Worlds lack Super Mario 64's variety and awe
- Some objectives are overused
- Camera isn't perfect
- Main story is pretty short

Super Mario Sunshine, regardless of its quality, had a tough act to follow. As the sequel to one of the most groundbreaking games in history, Super Mario Sunshine had a lot to fall back on, but simultaneously had a great game come before it. After consideration, Super Mario Sunshine is classic Mario platforming in beautiful worlds with solid objectives and the fun of simply running and jumping as everyone's favorite Nintendo plumber. However, Super Mario Sunshine doesn't break the ground that Super Mario 64 did. While the levels and graphics in Super Mario Sunshine are stunning, there isn't the awe factor of Super Mario 64, mostly caused by a static tropical theme. There just isn't as much variety. The camera still isn't flawless and the objectives aren't as clever as those in the game's predecessor. But if you can overlook such flaws, Super Mario Sunshine is a grand reminder of how great Mario games are. It doesn't pack on its predecessor's innovation, but Super Mario Sunshine is a beautiful, clever, and fun platformer for the Gamecube and definitely worth checking out.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/14/06

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