Review by GavLuvsGA
Even Mario's vacation gets ruined
There was a lot of hype about this game, and I was keen to buy it as soon as I got a Gamecube, just to see what it was like - and I was lucky enough to have a gift voucher for one of my local videogame stores. At first, I was a little disappointed, but felt that the game improved the more I played it.
Gameplay - 6/10
At first it got on my nerves a lot, as Mario seems to constantly have to run around killing Piranha Plants without actually entering any of the main levels. Here, Mario is equipped with a water pack named Fludd, who helps him by killing enemies and helping him to hover. In all honesty, a lot of the time, the traditional kicks and punches are more fun, but Fludd does help you if you have trouble with jumping. Fludd's abilities include extra nozzles that allow you to blast off like a rocket and speed up considerably. Oh, and he can also steer a boat; yes, that's right - steer a boat. Unfortunately, steering boats using Fludd in the game is so irritating that it's just as well you only rarely have to do it.
Unlike Super Mario 64, to closest similarity to this game, there are not a lot of levels, and - a little disappointingly - they are largely set around the theme of a "holiday resort" (not surprisingly, considering that this game is about Mario being on vacation), nearly all of which have an Italian theme. I was rather hoping for something with the variety shown in Super Mario 64 (Dire, Dire Docks, Shifting Sand Land, Cool, Cool Mountain, Lethal Lava Land). The more you progress though, the more interesting the levels become. Noki Bay is one of the first levels that makes you actually feel like you have stepped into another game, with a sudden Japanese feel to it, and Sirena Beach's hotel (which almost seems like something out of The Shining is fun just to explore, though here and in Pinna Park, it becomes annoying that once you enter certain areas, such as the hotel, the doors close and Mario is prevented from leaving. Pianta Village seems like some sort of Hawaiian resort, and actually changes between night and day with each shine you get.
What are "shines", you ask? These are the equivalent of stars in Super Mario 64 and you must keep collecting these in order to progress in the game. The system for getting them is somewhat different to that in Super Mario 64, where you often had to use your special moves to reach them. Here, there are a number of different tasks you have to complete, and some can be quite enjoyable. For example, knocking a number of enemies off a mirror, getting a watermelon to a smoothie stall, and getting a large Chain Chomp to take a bath, but at times it gets repetitive. There are a number of bosses who you need to beat to get shines and a few of these seem to be gluttons for punishment. I was none too pleased when, shortly after vanquishing a character called "Petey Piranha", I came upon a Chapter entitled "Petey Piranha Returns". Another of the annoyances for me was having to chase "Shadow Mario" through every single level, which suggested to me a lack of imagination on the part of the programmers. But the number one annoyance for me was the number of red coin challenges. Getting eight of these in every level was one feature of Super Mario 64 that I liked, but in this game they went into overkill mode in a big way, as you find yourself doing it repeatedly on some of the levels until it isn't funny any more.
One of the good features, though, is the inclusion of "secret" levels, where Fludd is stolen, and you have to make your way through using Mario's traditional moves. You then get to return to them, but with Fludd intact.
There are a number of secret shines to be found; for example, by getting 100 coins in every level, as was the case in Super Mario 64. However, virtually all of these involve going back into the secret levels and doing even more Red Coin challenges, which get annoying very fast, especially considering that now you have a tight time limit to adhere to. For some annoying reason, the programmers decided it necessary for Mario to drop dead if he failed to do any of the game's timed challenges, and the same is true for the races he does against the mysterious "Il Piantissimo". The overworld, Delfino Plaza, has a number of secret levels, and shines, itself, which can range from very easy to find, to obscure and frustrating. In one case, you have to trek over to an island with Yoshi for him to remove some goop so you can access what proves to be one of the hardest challenges in the game.
Huh, what's that? Yoshi? Yes, Yoshi is in this game, and he plays a considerably bigger part than in Super Mario 64. Here, you will need to get a specified fruit to feed to Yoshi, and he has a cool - but occasionally screwy - jump. Riding Yoshi is great fun - until you try to go underwater, and you realise quite what a disappointment Yoshi is in this game. For some reason, Yoshi has not only lost his ability to swim, but contracted a deadly allergy to water that causes him to disentegrate when he falls into it, a far cry from the cool moves he performed in the original Mario games. Yoshis vary in colour depending on what fruit you feed them, and have an ability to turn enemies into platforms, but this is used very rarely, and you will spend most of your time cursing the fact that Yoshi cannot go in water (save for using glitches to your advantage).
One of the other "sidequests" in the game is getting all the blue coins, as a raccoon has decided to make a living selling shine sprites, but these are remarkably annoying to get just because there are so many of them.
One final point - the classic Mario enemies in this game are virtually absent here, with the exception of the Piranha Plants, Boos, a few Chain Chomps and one Wiggler, although there are some enemies that bear a passing similarity to the Koopas and Goombas, but are ultimately a poor substitute. Out of the new enemies, the best are the Cataquacks, extremely territorial birds that remind me of a seaqull who attacked me on my last vacation, that will flip Mario into the air if he gets too close.
Story - 6/10
Now, the story isn't bad, but it isn't particularly great either. A character called "Shadow Mario" decided to show up at Delfino Plaza, a place where Mario happens to be going on vacation, and sprays paint everywhere. Despite his attempts to clean up the place when he's only just arrived, Mario is arrested and put on trial and forced to clean the island, even though he did not do it in the first place. Shadow Mario's behaviour also causes all of the "Shine Sprites" to flee and Mario is forced to search for them as the weather from the island turns from sunny to rather gloomy and dreary. Peach is also on hand, and it should come as no surprise that she gets kidnapped very fast (she really needs to sack all those Toads that are supposed to look after her). Don't even expect Mario to receive a public apology for the way he is treated, and young, sensitive, kids, may get very upset at the way Mario is spoken to by random villagers near the start of the game ("This is all your fault, blah, blah).
There is an interesting plot twist a little way into the game, but it should come as no surprise to you as to who decides to pop up and further interfere with Mario's vacation. Overall, this game seems to try a little too hard to be serious, with very little humour (aside from a little in-joke reference to the less-than-impressive Lugi's Mansion), and it is a bit hard to take the often very cartoonish characters seriously. If you want to play a cartoonish game that actually manages to be serious, you should try the Sonic Adventure Games.
Graphics - 8/10
They're very nice, and very colourful, and the Piantas are an interesting addition to the Mario series, but their appearance is a little childish. Mario and Peach are nicely drawn, as is the Italianate style of the game.
Sound - 6/10
The sound is very hit-and-miss. First of all, the character "voices" are feeble, and you are likely to get sick of the weird sound effects that you hear every time you talk to someone. The music is likely to get on your nerves at first, with a monotonous, unremarkable, tune that seems to play just about everywhere, but it gets better in later levels. The classic underground music (heard in Super Mario Bros, Super Mario 64 and Mario Party) makes an appearance as Shadow Mario's theme, and the remix of the classic Mario theme for the bonus levels is great; the same applies for the theme heard within Sirena Beach hotel.
Play Time/Replay Value - 7/10
This game may take you a while to get through, especially with all the blue coins. The only trouble is that, chances are you will give up trying to find all the blue coins long before you get them all. A few of the challenges are so annoying that you may not be able to face playing again.
At the point when this game was made, there seemed to be a number of Mario games that just weren't a patch on the classic ones (Mario Party 4, Luigi's Mansion, Wario World), and this is unfortunately no expection. However, if you want to be able to play this fully, you should probably buy it. If you're not a big Mario fan, rent it first.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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