Review by discoinferno84

"I'm walkin' on sunshine...."

Let's flash back to late 2002. I remember being engulfed in the hype surrounding Super Mario Sunshine. One of the most anticipated games for the Gamecube was about to be released just in time for the fall semester. It was supposed to be the must-have for any Gamecube owner. After all, with the success of Super Mario 64, how could Nintendo possibly go wrong with another Mario game? Of course, there was an underlying tension with regards to the newer gameplay aspects to be implemented. We were all familiar with the new standard of Mario platforming, but what was this water gun thing that he had strapped to his back? Would this new Mario be a rehash of Luigi's Mansion, except with another gizmo? Praying for something to get rid of my doubts, I bought the game a few months later and visited Mario's latest incarnation.

Almost all Mario games have exhibited cases of simple, yet workable plots. The plot of Super Mario Sunshine offers little, but it fulfills its overall purpose. In this latest installment of the Mario franchise, it seems that our favorite plumber has decided to take a break from his heroic deeds. While his brother is off vacuuming a dirty old mansion, Mario has whisked Princess Peach off to a beautiful island called Isle Delfino. But Mario's romantic getaway is cut short by a mob of angry townsfolk. It seems that someone that resembles the plumber has been spraying graffiti all over town. It's so hard to believe that our hero would do such a thing. Has all the stress from the previous adventures secretly turned Mario into a paint-wielding gang member? But the issue at hand isn't really about defacing public property. All of the paint, slime, and general mess have caused a mass exodus of the Shines. The Shines are the key source of the island's sunlight. For tropical tourist locations, sunlight is an absolute must to attract customers. Thus, the townsfolk completely ignore the concept of a fair trial and sentence Mario on the spot. Mario is given the F.L.U.D.D., a powerful water gun. Mario is basically sentenced to do community service. He must revive his tattered reputation, get rid of the mess he supposedly created, and bring back the Shines.

So you're equipped with a high-powered Super Soaker. But the basic gameplay setup hasn't changed, right? Well, yes and no. Like Super Mario 64, you have to travel to various areas and perform certain tasks to earn your Shine. You've still got to figure out your way around the level to achieve your goal. Thankfully, those aspects haven't changed much. But the key difference comes in the form of the water gun. In Super Mario 64, your gameplay was limited to Mario's capabilities. The levels were designed to cater to Mario's specified moves. All Mario could do was perform some fancy flips as he jumped from platform to platform. But in this game, there is plenty of more freedom of movement. Your trusty water gun opens up a whole new range of aerial acrobatics for our hero. If there's a seemingly uncrossable gap, you can use your device to aid your passage. If there's some rooftop or vantage point that you want to check out, you can use it to get where you need to go. You can convert your weapon into a water-powered hovering jetpack, a propeller, or a rocket. The jetpack is the basic method used to get across gaps and tricky ledges. The propeller is used mainly for speed, and the rocket is best used for increasing the height of your jumps. Since your progress mostly revolves around the use of the F.L.U.D.D., you need to become acquainted with its capabilities and limitations and how they can be used to their fullest extent.

While there is a greater freedom of movement, levels take away much of the appeal. Now, don't get me wrong. The levels here are visually spectacular. The levels are so dynamic with real-time action. You fell as if you're right there in the hustle and bustle of the resort's daily activities. The realistic portrayal adds so much to the presentation. Sadly, the levels are an example of the phrase “too much of a good thing.” Unlike the varied level designs of its predecessor, Super Mario Sunshine features levels that have a distinct tropical theme. Sure, it makes sense considering that Mario's latest adventure is on a resort. But seeing the same scenery, enemies, and certain tasks can get monotonous after a few times through. Your first few levels take place in a small villa near a hill. You'll move onto levels that include sunny coastlines, lagoons, and ship harbors. While these levels vary in overall design and gameplay strategy, everything starts to look the same after a while. Also, certain tasks will happen in every single set of levels. There will always be a level where you chase your nemesis. There will always be a level that strips Mario of the water gun and forces us to make use of Mario's limited abilities. And there will always be a level where you have to go hunting for some red coins strewn throughout the level. In the end, you're basically performing the same task under new surroundings. If you're a perfectionist like me and need to get every last Shine, you'll be spending countless hours searching for hidden coins and other surprises. Although everything presented is fresh with remarkable graphics and detail, you're still apt to give up or get bored.

Also, the sheer difficulty of the levels can add to the aggravation. These levels are built around the fundamentals of all platform games: getting to the next platform or destination by using the character's abilities. Your objectives seem so simple and straightforward, but don't let the peaceful atmosphere deceive you. These levels are designed to keep pace with Mario's maneuverability. Sure, you can blast your way over a gap using the water gun or do an aerial somersault. But if you time your jump badly, or start the jump at a bad angle, you'll likely fall down the chasm and have to start your climb anew. I've spent more time trying to climb a certain ferris wheel than I'd care to share. This game is a true testament to the gamer's patience. Anyone can pick up this game at the start. But some of the later levels require more advanced and technical gameplay. It's up to the gamer to pay close attention to the game's learning curve.

Also, the difficulty is supplemented with some questionable controls. The camera angle problem has been greatly improved since the days of Super Mario 64, but it still takes away from the overall experience. Also, toggling between the different perspectives can be a little awkward at times. Luckily, the controls are quick and responsive, but require some learning on the part of the gamer. After a few sessions with the F.L.U.D.D., you'll be slinging water like a pro. Also, Mario is incredibly agile even without his trusty water gun. He can perform midair somersaults, dives, and spins. But with such a free range of movement comes with a price. Unlike its predecessor, Super Mario Sunshine relies more on intuitive controls as opposed to button combos. What does that mean? Well, take the somersault for example. In order to execute the maneuver, you've got to push the Control Stick in the opposite direction you want to go, then quickly press the A button and slam the Control Stick back into you're desired direction. If performed properly, Mario will stop and somersault gracefully. But the emphasis isn't placed so much on pushing the buttons or Control Stick, it's about learning to do the maneuvers on instinct. If you're in the thick of a boss battle with Petey Piranha, you're not going to be thinking about how you've got to push the Control Stick in whatever direction. If you're faced with a tricky jump that requires perfect angling and timing, you might want to practice you're moves before you attempt the jump. Thus the controls themselves have a learning curve that requires attention.

It kind of sounds bad, what with the repetitive levels, difficult gameplay and a slightly steep learning curve. So what exactly does this game have that can appeal to the regular gamers who won't necessarily put up with all of this technical stuff? As I've said before, these levels all have the same tropical theme. But the attention to detail can't be ignored. I've spent enough time south of the border to recognize a tourist haven when I see one. Isle Delfino is set up to look like a Caribbean port town. The small fruit stands, the dock, the cafes, everything adds to the charming atmosphere. There are birds fluttering around the buildings. The palm trees come with an abundance of fruits. With a nod to Mario's traditional profession, there's a network of sewer pipes running through some of the levels. Although the cobblestones don't look too realistic, the graphical quality of the water is top notch. You can hear and almost feel the water splashing around you. And the Shines are true to their name. These precious items positively glow with the sun's golden rays. If you're sick of trying to get some seemingly impossible Shine, just spend some time in town. There's nothing quite as fun as blasting around town or jumping around rooftops. And lest we forget, there's always our favorite sidekick, Yoshi. There are plenty of random things to do when you need a break from your quest for the Shines.

So, where does this leave Mario's tropical fun under the sun? Super Mario Sunshine is not for everyone. For those of you that hated Super Mario 64, you may or may not find solace in Mario's latest adventure. Ironically, the same can be said for those of you that loved it. If you hate repetition, avoid this as if it were a plague. If you are iffy with platform games, give this game a rental and see how it grabs you. The gameplay demands are not going to appeal to those that can't stand above average difficulty or learning curves. If you want a game that can be taken both seriously and fun, give it a shot. The fun aspects of this game balance out the negative aspects. And if you're into collecting objects and completing certain goals, give this game a look. For some reason, Super Mario Sunshine is a game that caters to each gamer's individual tastes, as opposed to an overall genre. For those of you that show some mild interest in what this game has to offer, give it a rental and see if the game shines for you.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/08/04

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