Review by Chaos Control

"Water has never been a stronger weapon"

Any hero will get tired of the seemingly infinite duties of justice. Since villains never seem to learn their lesson, a hero's job is never done. Mario is no different. This plumber has been battling evil for as long as anyone can remember and has taken more jobs than that. We have seen Mario racing karts, playing sports, playing board games, and so much more! Mario finally decides to take a break from all his work, and what better place to relax than the beautiful Island Delfino? From shining blue skies to crystal clear waters, and weird natives with plants on their heads, Island Delfino is the perfect place for some R&R. But in the tough life of a superhero, anything that can go wrong, probably will. Super Mario Sunshine is one of the best platformers for the Gamecube, and is a must have for all players.

What's the worse that could happen? Judging by what happened in the past, Peach will probably be kidnapped from somebody, and Mario will embark on some epic journey to rescue the princess of Mushroom Kingdom, squashing enemies and collecting coins on the way. But this has been done before, and surely nothing of this magnitude could happen on a simple vacation, right?

Not a chance. As wonderful as that sounds, it is too good to be true. Even when Mario and Peach are on the airplane viewing the Island Delfino commercial, Peach notices a strange, liquid form of Mario running amok behind the scenes. Without even the chance to check into the hotel, Mario meets his first enemy right when he disembarks the plane on Delfino Airstrip! This time, his enemy is a piranha plant, but instead of being an actual plant, it is made of... sludge? After defeating this foe and arriving at Delfino Plaza, Mario and company find that this tropical paradise has been polluted, and it's Mario's job to clean it all up! Mario finally returns to his janitorial duties!

But if only it was that simple. Soon after, Mario's evil replica shows up and kidnaps Peach. So on top of cleaning up the polluted resort, Mario has to rescue Peach yet again. The concept of cleaning up pollution certainly is different. Nintendo must have some environmentalists on this development team. Perhaps the theme of this game is suggesting something in real life?

Mario is not alone on his journey, however, as he is accompanied by an unusual, talking water pack called F.L.O.O.D. This water pack is the most useful tool in the entire game, as it will allow Mario to squirt out jets of water, hover in the air, and even more features! This is the only game I can think of in which water is a deadly enemy, as most enemies seem to be vulnerable to something they should be drinking anyway?

And of course, what will Mario be collecting at the end of levels? Maybe stars? No, Mario will be collecting Shine Sprites, which are little shiny suns with eyes. Well, they look like stars, and are quite pretty. When Mario first steps into Delfino Plaza, the entire place seems shadowed by some dominant force. As you free these Shine Sprites by beating levels, the world will suddenly get much brighter.

The bosses Mario faced in the old days are back with a vengeance. Among the returning veterans include Petey Piranha, a giant bowling ball that thinks it's a dog, and his old friend Bowser. The fun is not over, as Mario will be facing new enemies like mutant marine creatures in his quest. Old friends return too! Yoshi's back to help Mario in his quest, although he will be in different colors that are not green. Yoshi changes color based on the fruits he eat and Yoshi's life can only be replenished by eating fruit. Yoshi is an invaluable asset though, as he can squirt out unlimited juice that can eliminate many enemies and obstacles.

The game play is similar to past Mario games, as Mario is allowed to roam freely within a bounded environment, jumping from platform to platform with the aid of his jet pack. Some surfaces, like the roof of stalls, are really bouncy and can help Mario reach the highest surfaces. The game is separated into various stages with 8 episodes each. The goal of each episode is to acquire the Shine Sprite at the end. These Shine Sprites can be obtained by picking it up after clearing certain obstacles, battling bosses, or reward for winning a race. Some levels have you collect 8 red coins under a time limit. Really high pressure. Each stage also has a Shine Sprite you can trigger by collecting 100 coins in that level. There are also retro levels where Mario can't use his jetpack. In these kind of levels, Mario must jump from rotating block to other rotating blocks to reach the Shine Sprite on the final platform. Timing and control is essential for these levels, lest you want Mario to fall down into a never-ending abyss of darkness.

Super Mario Sunshine stresses the importance of water, because as long as there is a pond, or even a fountain, Mario can refill his water pack and proceed to kick butt. No water, and Mario is in trouble because he can't punch enemies in this game. Water is so important, as it cleans up the pollution, clearly fire-covered paths, and helps Mario fly over burning lava. Is this another hint suggested by the environmentalists on the development team about how we should value our water? The Fremen on Arrakis think so.

The stages all have some kind of tropical theme behind them. Some of the stages are centered around resort locations like a harbor, a hotel with a gorgeous view of the ocean, and a really beautiful bay shrouded in mystery. Even after you've beaten all the episodes in a stage, you can always return. All the levels are fundamentally the same though, beat the enemies, then the boss and retrieve the shine sprite, enjoying the beautiful scenery in the process. The levels and the game itself do provide some degree of freedom. The stages are open, and you can complete the stages in any order you choose. New stages can be unlocked by obtaining a certain number of shine sprites.

Sometimes you have to though, to collect the blue coins. There is a Shine Sprite shop where a raccoon holds valuable Shine Sprites hostage unless you give him 10 blue coins. Blue coins are found by clearing the "Shadow Mario" logo from various places, completing certain requests from villagers, or by shooting bird.

Yes, you can shoot birds for items. There are blue, red, and green birds. Spraying a red bird long enough will "kill" it and make it drop a red coin. Spraying blue birds will give you blue coins and green birds will give you regular gold coins. After you've gotten all the blue coins, all the blue birds will be gone because you've killed them all. Are the environmentalists trying to say something about animal cruelty as well? There's more to Mario than meets the eye. On a side note, Mario's health bar isn't a flower that loses petals when Mario takes damage. No, it's a smiling sun that loses it's rays when Mario is damaged and regains rays when Mario picks up coins.

The controls are extremely sensitive, so one must have nimble fingers to maneuver through difficult platforms and jump on tightropes. One mistake and Mario will fall back down and you have to climb up all over again. Mario can perform common actions, like ground pound. In this game, Mario has traded his punching for double, triple, and spin jumps which are actually really useful to reach high platforms.

I must say that graphics are easily the strongest point of the game and among the absolute best I have seen on the Gamecube. All the islands and stages seem to bright after you've collected many shine sprites. It's almost inspiring. Anybody would love to take a vacation in such a beautiful place. The environment is finely detailed, as you can see Mario's footprints on the sand. You can even spray the local residents, the Piantas, and watch their funny reactions!

Being a tropical paradise, wonderful stuff like tropical fruits and palm trees fill the beaches and land. you can pick fruits from some of these trees. Banana's, melons, and more fill the islands. Playing this came is educational, because I have never even heard of a "durian" until I played this game. If you leave Mario idle enough, he will sit down, and even start sleeping! I think this is cool, as it is really funny to watch Mario sleep in unusual places, like roller coasters, on top of towers, or right next to an enemy that can't reach you.

Everywhere you look, there is water. Good thing for Mario too. The water looks realistic, as there are waves to crash the beach regularly, and it almost feels like you are swimming. There is even a coral reef to explore! Nature is at its best in this game, as there is so much scenery in this game that will take your breath away. Looking at the sunset from Sirena Beach for example, is not something every game has. Even more spectacular is looking down at Noki Bay from the highest point in that stage. Simply amazing.

There are movie scenes of course, and the design of these scenes are very smooth and very clear. Even better, they are subtitled for the hearing impaired! The best scenes to watch are when objects like statues and houses that appear out of nowhere when the pollution is all cleaned up. Like the name of the game suggests, sunshine is everywhere in this game. The graphics in general are probably the best I've seen on the Gamecube.

The camera has many different angles you can control with the C-stick and with the push of a button, you can enter a "targeting mode" for the spray nozzle, where you focus and shoot enemies with more accuracy. The camera does move automatically to unusual angles at times, like changing to a view where Mario is blocked by a wall.

If there is a huge puddle of goo on the ground, Mario must clean it up. He can use his jet pack in many different ways to clean up the mess. When the multi-colored pollution is hit with water, it disappeared. You will find different types of pollution as well, like goo that is on fire and will burn Mario to no end, or electric goo which will shock upon contact.

The character models look fantastic, both the heroes and enemies. Peach, I must add, is pretty good looking in this game. Furthermore, the bosses look threatening in a comical way, but have funny reaction when you defeat them. Mario doesn't just stand still when you put the controller down. He turns his head, looks around the environment, and even goes to sleep! The villagers don't just stand around either. They run around, have smooth movements, and even react when you bounce on their heads! Even more comical is doing a dive from a tall tower onto the beach. Mario will get his head stuck in the sand! Overall, the graphics are amazing and exceeds all expectations.

The sounds are actually quite good. The music for each stage fits perfectly. For example, there is an amusement park stage that features a very nice roller coaster tune. The hotel music is a soft jazz that is perfect for the scenery. Unfortunately, you can never buy a smoothie from the guy outside the hotel who supposedly sells soft drinks. The music for the stages are all lively and even change when Mario is low on health. There are also boss themes that are fast paced and appropriate, as well as retro music for non-FLOOD stages. Other mini-games like races have their own catchy tune as well.

There is also some degree of voice acting present. Some of the cutscenes with dialog will be voice acted, which adds to the enjoyment of the scene. Character that Mario speaks too will also utter a couple indiscernible lines. I can never understand what Toad talks about. Enemies have their own battle cries as well. Mario says some stuff himself when he jumps around all over the place.

The other standard sounds of RPG's are here as well, like the sound of running, spraying water, spraying water with an empty tank, and the sound of bouncing. These standard sounds are still well done though, because the sound of Mario jumping into the water is realistic. Overall, the sound department is fantastic and the music is even better!

Just beating the game itself won't take any more than a week of good playing, but if you want to complete the game by acquiring all 120 Shine Sprites, then this game will last much longer, maybe even months. Personally, I still think it's fun to run around levels after you've beaten everything and enjoy the scenery.

Even after all these years, I still replay this game. Although you probably wouldn't want to start over again, it is still amazingly fun to run around riding an oddly colored Yoshi and spray all the NPC's. It would be an arduous task to play through the game again, but it is absolutely worth doing so. In fact, it is one of the few games where playing more is better. FLOOD's water seems to be magical, as the water it shoots can obliterate so many enemies and clean up the environment. In what other game is water the dominant weapons, huh?

This is definitely one Mario game that you must buy. Aside from a few progress stopping levels that will have you chewing on your controller in frustration, this game is perfect for gamers of all ages and provides a spectacular gaming experience. A tropical vacation spoiled by pollution isn't exactly a common theme. I strongly encourage you to play Super Mario Sunshine, as it is never too late to play an excellent game. As an added bonus, this is one of like four games with the word "sunshine" in the title.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 06/20/07

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