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Added: 29 Mar 2012
This game doesn't get the respect it deserves."
First, let give you a brief run-down of the origin of Mario. The Mario series is probably the most well-known franchise in the video game industry. Mario first started out as ''Jumpman'' in the Donkey Kong arcade game, who had to jump over barrels tossed by Donkey Kong in order to reach the princess at the top. The second arcade game that featured Mario was entitled ''Mario Bros.'', which introduced his brother in the green, Luigi. Then, when the NES first launched in the 1980's, ''Super Mario Bros.'' was released. This was the world's first main platform game. The goal was to reach the end of each level and fight your way through all the castles to rescue Princess Toadstool (later referred to as ''Peach'') from Bowser's clutches. Mario used items like the super mushroom and the fire flower to power himself up. Super Mario Bros. 2 was the next game in the series. Unlike the first one, players could choose to play as either Mario, Luigi, Toad, or the Princess. Then came Super Mario Bros. 3, which is recognized by many as the greatest game of all time. It introduced many new characters, such as Bowser's kids. Mario travelled around each of the 8 worlds running through 96 different stages and defeating the Koopa Kids. There were also a couple other Mario games in-between, like Yoshi's Cookie (puzzle game variation) and Super Mario RPG. When the SNES was released in 1991, Super Mario World was it's first game. It played in a similar way to Super Mario Bros. 3, except with more high-res pixels and new items, like the cape. But most importantly, it was the introduction of Yoshi, the coolest dinosaur ever! Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island was the next Mario platform game on the agenda. Unlike the previous games, Yoshi's island featured Mario when he was just a baby, and the story of how his adventures first started when he drifted down from the sky onto Yoshi's back. In 1996, the Nintendo 64 was released, with Super Mario 64 as one of it's first games. This was Mario's debut in 3-D. Again, the princess (now called ''Peach'') was kidnapped by Bowser. In the game, Mario had to collect 120 power stars in 15 different stages to restore power to the castle. The few years after that, Mario took a break from his platform adventures in games like Mario Golf, Mario Kart, Mario Tennis, Mario Party, Super Smash Bros, and Paper Mario. Finally, many years later, Mario gets an all-new platform adventure on the Gamecube - this time with a bit of a twist. Now, on to the actual review!
Here's how the story goes: Unlike the previous Mario games where Bowser comes out of the sky and kidnaps Peach, Super Mario Sunshine begins on a plane trip to Isle Delfino with Mario, Peach, and her assistant Toadsworth. When they arrive at the Delfino airstrip, Mario is immediately hassled for causing a pile of goop to appear on the runway. Soon after, Mario meets a talking waterpack, Fludd, who introduces itself and gives Mario proper instructions on how to use it. Delfino Island's inhabitants, the Piantas (chubby, rotund creatures with mini trees sticking out of their heads) accuse Mario of littering the entire island with sludge and graffiti. Mario is taken to court and sentenced to a punishment of the inability to leave the island until all the goop is cleaned up and the shine sprites are restored. Peach objects and pleads that Mario is innocent, but the court denies. But what Mario soon discovers is that he's being framed by an imposter - a Mario look-alike named ''Shadow Mario'' who uses his paint brush to scribble goop everywhere. Mario must track down this imposter to find out what he's really up to. Who is this con-artist really? Now that would be spoiling the whole game for you, wouldn't it?
Many people show dislike for this game simply because it doesn't meet the standards of Super Mario 64. True, but in many ways it's a completely different type of experience than Mario 64. It doesn't necessarily feel like a sequel, but more as a different type of platform gaming. Super Mario Sunshine is actually quite different from it's predecessors' themes. Instead of jumping over obstacles and bouncing on Goomba heads, Mario uses a waterpack, entitled the ''Fludd'' to explore the areas. Mario uses the Fludd for many different purposes, such as cleaning up graffiti, hovering over objects, and blasting enemies.
Now to discuss the meat of the gameplay. Most of Mario's actions in this game are featured around his waterpack, which has several different options. At first, it can do two different things. First of all, it can be used as a spray can to either wash away goop and graffiti or blast enemies. Once enemies are stunned with the water, it's time for the classic ''pounce-on-the-head'' Mario action! The second ability is the hover option, which allows you to hover with the waterpack over gaps for a short period of time. The third is the turbo boost, which lets you zoom across the water at an incredible speed. The final one is the rocket boost, whcih lets you skyrocket to places you normally wouldn't be able to reach by reagular jumping. Of course, you will find yourself constantly having to refill your waterpack. Luckily, Mario's on an island, so water isn't too hard to find.
What about diversity? Super Mario Sunshine consists of 7 main stages and one main area to access the stages from. The main hub is Delfino Plaza. The stages include Bianco Hills, Ricco Harbor, Gelato Beach, Pinna Park, Sirena Beach, Noki Bay, and lastly, Pianta Village. Everything starts out in Delfino Plaza, and Mario unlocks new levels and items from there. In the actual levels themselves, Mario must find shine sprites, which are similar to the power stars from Super Mario 64 (yes, there are 120 of them). Also like Mario 64, each shine sprite has a name which hints at where you should find it. Missions vary from solving puzzles, collecting coins, battling bosses, or simply reaching the shines. But the funnest and most challenging ones of all are the platform minigames. These take place in hidden areas where Mario must jump from platform to platform to reach the shine sprite WITHOUT his waterpack! If you crave classic-type Mario action, most of it is found here. Easily the most challenging parts of the game, these are also some of the most fun.
But shines aren't the only things you collect in this game! While the majority of the shine sprites are hidden within the actual stages, many must also be received by collecting blue coins. About 30 are hidden in secret locations in each stage. While these can be fun to search for, they can also be quite a pain. Blue coins can be found in tiny nooks and crannies, atop high ledges, or by destroying enemies. Along with the game's tropical theme, Super Mario Sunshine also brings a fair amount of new characters. The most common ones are the chubby Piantas. There are also the Nokis, little hermit crab people that also inhabit the island. The enemies are also new for the most part. Upside-down mushroom things with giant noses have taken the place of the Goombas. While the goombas and koopa troopas certainly are missed, there are some returning enemies (like the boos).
Unfortunately, this game does have one key problem area. (actually, all games do) The primary down side to Mario Sunshine's gameplay is the lackluster camera view. On occasions, the camera may get stuck behind walls, particularly in the 3-D pachinko game, where you will find yourself constantly adjusting the camera. Fortunately, that's the only real problem place.
Control is quite different from that in Mario 64. Mario's controls for adjusting his waterpack constantly can be quite confusing at first, but after about an hour of play it becomes second nature. Mario is fairly easy to control, and no major tricks are required to make him jump a certain way or direction. Even if though camera does get in the way a lot, it's fairly easy to adjust with the R/L buttons.
Next up comes the game's graphics. The game's tropical environment calls for a colorful scenery and landscape. Overall, the graphics in this game are pretty decent. Like you'd expect from a Mario game, nothing too realistic, but pretty dang solid. As for character designs, they're pretty good as well.
Now on to sound. Typical catchy tunes, like you'd expect from a Mario game, with an additional tropical mix. Most of the themes have a similar tune, but with a different beat and instrumental sound. You really won't get tired of hearing the same tunes over and over again, especially considering that most of them are fairly mellow. The Pianta and Noki voices are rather strange, but at least Mario sounds like Mario, even though his speech is very limited. Most of the time you'll hear ''Yah!'' or ''Wahoo!'' from Mario. Peach actually has some speaking parts in this game, as do some other familiar faces (which I won't be sharing with you at this time).
Lastly, we have to cover the game's replay value and lasting appeal. Super Mario Sunshine is one of those games where once you play it through once, you're finished for a while. But a couple months later, you'll want to jump right back in. After all, you'll kind of be forced to replay several parts of it, since many goals, particularly the platform minigames, will take you several times to successfully beat! There is, however, no multiplayer (not much of a surprise).
So, here's the bottom line. Super Mario Sunshine is a game that deserves much more respect than it receives. At first people said it was overrated, but it may now even be slipping more towards ''underrated''. Though technically this is supposed to be a sequel to Super Mario 64, it doesn't feel like a ''true'' sequel, but rather a new type of experience, which is good or bad depending on how you look at it. From a personal standpoint, Super Mario Sunshine deserves to be in every Mario fan's collection.
Rental or purchase?
If you are a platform game fan of any sort and own a Gamecube, I highly recommend Super Mario Sunshine. Though I admit it feels rather different at first, take some time for it to grow on you.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10, Originally Posted: 04/04/04
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