Before I buy any game, I usually get a chance to read a bunch of reviews, either online or in magazines. Oftentimes, the reviews are biased towards one system or genre, and I have to read 5 or more reviews to get a full picture of what the game has to offer. I read a bunch of online and print reviews of Super Mario Sunshine, and some were less than impressed with the newest entry in the fabeled Mario franchise. After popping in SMS for the first time, I could already tell that I would love the game. And now having completed a good percentage of the game, I can full appreciate the masterpiece that Shigeru Miyamoto has thrust upon the unsuspecting video game audience.
Super Mario Sunshine is set up very similarly to Mario 64, with a main hub where Mario begins, and smaller worlds accessed from the hub where “shines” (as opposed to stars in 64) are collected. There are again 120 shines to collect, but not all of them are needed to finish the game, giving novice gamers a chance to see the ending, but also allowing hardcore gamers the opportunity fully experience all the glory of Mario Sunshine. Access to the worlds is gained by performing a task on the hub, which opens up each world in succession. A certain amount of blue coins need to be collected to get to newer areas with more advanced worlds.
When Super Mario Sunshine starts up, a too-long cinema brings Mario onto the island, and introduces the storyline. The story is weak and the movies are unimpressive. But that’s not really important. More than anything else, it’s the gameplay that elevates Super Mario Sunshine from an above average 3D platformer to legendary status.
Most of the moves Mario had at his disposal in Mario 64 are back in Mario Sunshine, including his wide range of jumps, butt bounce, and more. Controlling Mario is like a dream ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬” Nintendo has tweaked the controls to such a degree that the player will never blame poor control or imprecision for a death. This is what separates Mario and Nintendo games in general from the rest of the pack ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬” the extra few months of gameplay refinement that fix all the little bugs and glitches that are the most frustrating to gamers.
In Super Mario Sunshine, Mario has been given a water pack to wear on his back. It has two primary functions (with cool upgrades later in the game): Mario can use the pack to spray water on enemies, the game environment, or anything he chooses. Mario can run and spray forward as he runs, or he can stand still and spray in any direction, using the C-analog stick to control the direction of the water. Then, Mario can change the function of the water pack to be used as a rocket pack, propelling Mario slightly upwards and also allowing Mario to float in air for extended periods of time. The inclusion of the rocket pack allows for less precision in platform jumping, something that does reduce the difficulty of some shine tasks. Hardcore gamers will be happy to hear that there is one part of every world where Mario loses his water pack, and has to fend for himself in a platform-jumping obstacle course.
The tasks themselves to gain access to shines are varied and mostly enjoyable. Some do get a bit tedious, and many are reminiscent of tasks in other platforming games or from 64, but by and large the tasks are fun and keep the game moving forward. Of course there are side tasks and fun stuff to do that don’t exactly impact the completion of the game, but its these things that give Mario Sunshine its depth and make it a fully engrossing game experience.
The use of Yoshi in the game is different, and at first disappointing, but overall is well done. Unlike in oher games, Yoshi does not suck in enemies and spit them out as eggs. Instead, Yoshi is used in a new manner where he sprays fruit juice. It is incredible that Nintendo can reinvent characters like Mario and Yoshi and maintain an entertaining, compelling package. It’s a credit to Nintendo that none of the gameplay gimmicks Mario or Yoshi used in former Mario games were used in Sunshine ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬” Mario doesn’t use fireballs, or a cape, or even a Raccoon suit. Nintendo keeps the series fresh and innovative while introducing fun new play mechanics.
The graphics in Super Mario Sunshine are vibrant and colorful, and create imagery of a world the likes of which we have never seen before. The artists at Nintendo definitely had a vision for what the world of Super Mario Sunshine should look like, and seemed to set out to make something different and memorable.
Mario himself is an intricately detailed character model. Whereas in Mario 64, the characters were somewhat blocky and the seems of the polygons were visisble, the models in Super Mario Sunshine are rendered to perfection. Much like the characters in Super Smash Brothere Melee, Mario, Yoshi and the enemies in Super Mario Sunshine all look spectacular, particularly Mario himself. The characters are so well done that it is difficult to notice a difference between Mario in the cut-scene cinemas, and Mario in the actual game.
The crown jewel of Super Mario Sunshine’s graphical attack is definitely the water. More than in Waverace Blue Storm or any other game that featured realistic water, the waves and motion exhibited in the water in Super Mario Sunshine is stunning. The shimmer of light off the ocean, the spray of water from Mario’s waterpack, the manner in which the waves ebb and flow. All facets of the water are breathtaking, and again show the attention to detail that only Nintendo seems to bring to the table.
Some might argue that Super Mario Sunshine doesn’t have the technical shine of a Halo, but the two games are different and had varying artists ideals. Whereas Halo set out to create a realistic, futuristic world, Super Mario Sunshine aimed to display a colorful fantasy world that brought the game player to a new, unique place never seen before. Both succeed with different uses of their respective hardware.
Sound in Mario Sunshine is a mixed bag. The music is a combination of new compositions and remixes of classic Mario tunes, all done with an “island” type of sound, as if Mario were in Jamaica. The songs are fitting of the environment, and the remixes add a sense of nostalgia to the game that is nice for longtime Mario fans. However, the music is at times repetitive and doesn’t always stand out as extremely high quality compared to the incredible gameplay and graphics.
The sound effects in Super Mario Sunshine are exactly as expected, with some intermitant speech by Mario, and all the great “boing” and related noises are appropriate and not overbearing. The water splashes and effects are also realistic and fitting.
Just a note about the cinema scenes that tie the story together: They have just about the worst voice acting imaginable. And the cut scenes in general are pretty lame. Mario games have never been known for their strong backstory, and Mario Sunshine is no exception.
Many game players define fun factor by what’s in games like Grand Theft Auto 3 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬” how many people they can kill or cars they can crash. Super Mario Sunshine brings games to a new level of fun factor, or back to a simpler time depending on the age of the game player.
There aren’t many games where just controlling the main character is a joy, but the ability to maneuver Mario around the incredible worlds of Super Mario Sunshine is truly amazing. Hours can be spent (and have been!) just wandering around the town of Delpino, interacting with the townspeople, using the butt bomb to explore the sewer system, spraying the water pack and rocketing around town.
Mario Sunshine lives up to the massive hype that all Mario games have to endure. Kudos to Nintendo for waiting almost a year from the Gamecube’s launch to unleash Mario Sunshine, and allowing its full splender to come to fruitition.
Fun Factor: 10