Review by rgw

"Is Sunshine the king of the hill?"

One thing is expected out of every Nintendo system: a Mario adventure of some variety. Nintendo broke a long-standing tradition last year, opting not to release a Mario game at the Gamecube’s launch. Thankfully the wait was worth it. Nintendo has finally given the world the first true sequel to Mario 64.

Super Mario Sunshine had big shoes to fill since we saw the first clips of the game. Many feared that the new contraption on Mario’s back would send this game in the direction of Luigi’s Mansion. Others saw the game’s graphics as sup-par. While Sunshine is not as groundbreaking as Mario 64, it puts any doubts about this game to rest after the first few minutes.

The most obvious change to Mario since the N64 is his new backpack like tool on his back. This pack is a water-shooting device called FLUDD. FLUDD comes with a basic water gun like nozzle and a hover nozzle that allows you to hover after jumps. The hover nozzle will become your best friend because it adds some extra distance to Mario’s jumps. The squirt nozzle can be used to attack baddies and clean various objects. Not only does FLUDD give you liquid on the go, but it provides hints too. It works kind of like Zelda 64’s Navi.

The water pack actually isn’t the whole basis of Sunshine. Many levels you have to complete solely without your pack, which really brings out the traditional Mario platforming. The pack is successfully meshed into game; old jumping abilities are taken one step further with the pack’s various nozzles. While many thought this would be Luigi’s Mansion: just subtract the ghost and add pollution…it is not. The nozzle just adds a few new twists to Mario’s old exploits.

Sunshine’s gameplay remains very solid throughout the game. From classic platforming to bosses and races, this game remains fresh until the last shine is collected. Though each level has a reoccurring stage goal or two, Nintendo does in such a way to where it never becomes monotonous. Nintendo added more bosses this time around, too. Each level has one or two stages devoted to a ‘boss’ enemy. No longer does spinning a Koopa by the tail going to cut it. Sunshine’s bosses are infinitely more complicated then Mario 64.

Nintendo also enjoys throwing a few curve balls at you. A couple of stages in each level can only be completed without FLUDD. Believe me, the further you get into the game the more attached you get to that pack. The rub is that the stages without the pack get harder the further you get into the game. This is when Sunshine flaunts its platforming heritage. The stages have a Mario Bros. feel to them that makes this game great.

Gameplay wise Sunshine’s only bad spot is that this game actually has less levels then Mario 64, by a good number, too! The game technically isn’t any shorter: both have 120 stars/shines to collect. Plus, Sunshine’s levels are infinitely larger then even the largest Mario 64 level. Sunshine also seems to be a little bit more difficult then its predecessor. Tackling this game without outside help should provide hours of gameplay for even the best gamer.

I have passed up talking about the story for a few paragraphs just because anyone should be able to figure out what’s going to happen in this game. Mario and Peach are taking a little vacation to the beautiful island of Isle Delfino. On their arrival they discover that the entire island is in disarray because of a person polluting the town dressed as Mario. Mario is convicted of polluting the island and is sentence to clean it up. The bigger problem is that the island’s ‘Shines’ have disappeared because of the pollution, and a dark shade is upon the usually bright island. Mario’s mission is to stop the fake Mario and retrieve the Shines. Of course, Peach has to find a way to get kidnapped along the way. Though the story is cliché and simple, at least Nintendo tried to put some meaningful dialog into the game. Don’t expect too many cutscenes past the opening and closing of the game, which is what we expect from a Mario adventure anyway.

Graphically Mario is average when compared to the other games on the market. The textures look like they were made for the Nintendo 64, not the Gamecube. They simply aren’t as detailed as Nintendo’s other upcoming offerings. That is not to say that Sunshine isn’t eye pleasing because it is! Every level has a perfect color palette that range from bright pastoral scenes to beach sunsets. Sunshine runs at a solid framerate, never slowing from its standard pace. While not technically advance, Sunshine is graphically solid.

No one can complain about this game’s sound. The effects and music are excellent. I don’t see how any one can be disappointed after hearing original Mario music with a tropical feel to it! Audiophiles will be glad to hear that this game supports Dolby Pro-Logic to add to your Mario enjoyment.

Graphics: 6
Mario Sunshine is a truly average game graphically, but we don’t buy games for graphics, right? Two good things are that the framerate is solid and the levels look ‘pretty’.

Sound: 9.5
Nintendo can’t go wrong in this department as long as the old staples are there. Sunshine doesn’t have much voice acting, but it all sounds just like we expect it to sound.

Gameplay: 9
Sunshine might not have as many levels as Mario 64, but every level is huge and has a ton of objectives to clear. This is probably the longest adventure on the Cube so far.

Replay/Lifetime: 9.5
120 Shines, enough said.

Overall: 9
Super Mario Sunshine is yet another great Mario experience by Nintendo. Creative level design and stage objectives make this game a step above the rest of adventures out there. The levels look beautiful and gigantic to boot; though they're not as technically impressive as Star Fox Adventures. Throughout the review I compare this game to Mario 64. It is unfair to expect Sunshine to do the same thing Mario 64 did gaming, but Sunshine is worthy of being compared to such a great game.

This is must own for Gamecube owners. It doesn’t ‘define’ the cube like Mario 64 did for the Nintendo 64, but it is a flagship title for the 2002 holiday season.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/07/02, Updated 12/07/02

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