Super Mario Sunshine
Nintendo took the gaming world by storm when they released Mario 64 upon the unsuspecting populous. I’m not sure if there was any one gamer out there that wasn’t amazed by what the game had to offer. It broke the 2D mold (which was the norm at the time) and allowed the gamer to roam freely in a fully realized 3D world. Carrying the platformer scene into an entirely new dimension, the title paved the way for hundreds of titles to follow its footsteps. The extra dimension allowed for big hits such as Tomb Raider and Crash Bandicoot to make a splash in the industry. Without Mario 64’s excellent shine and execution, such recognizable titles may not have ever existed. Pushing the technology envelope to the max (well at the time at least), Nintendo, in true Nintendo fashion of course, redefined an entire genre and changed the landscape of gaming for an eternity. The gaming world was forever changed and even up to this day, hasn’t thought once about looking back. Now the company that started it all is coming back with its second offering, does the Big N still have what it takes to rule an industry, or has its ship sailed?
Nearly five years had passed and people were beginning to wonder where the mustached plumber was hiding. Sure we they had their fill of cutesy spin-offs such as Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Mario Kart and Mario Teaches the Lambada, but they weren’t getting what they truly wanted, a sequel. After all this time, after all the waiting, a true sequel starring the World’s favorite plumber has been born and its name is Mario Sunshine.
I was really anxious to get my hands on this one and to be honest; it was the main reason that I acquired a GameCube in the first place. Let’s face it, chances are that it’s the reason you bought one too. I’m not sure but I don’t think that I can recall anyone waiting in line to buy a GameCube so that they can show off that awesome game of Tetris Worlds to their drinking buddies. There’s just something about Mario that gamers of all ages just can’t resist. Perhaps it’s the way he throws his fireballs or that damn catchy theme song of his, there’s a strange aura about him that makes him irresistible.
As odd as this may seem, the game’s title actually makes lots of sense once you dig into the game’s story. Mario has decided to take a well-deserved vacation to the isle of Delfino and he’s brought his best gal with him. However, once they arrive on the island, it’s learned that a Mario look alike (we’ll just call him the MarPoster) has been defiling the land and in the process, has ruined Mario’s good name. His filth has also caused the land to darken, thus removing the sunshine from the once bright island. Mario actually gets arrested and is sentenced to rid the island of the filth that he supposedly spread, that’s when the game really gets fun.
Right from the start you’ll acquire FLUDD, the multi-purpose waterpack that is heavily featured in all of the game’s advertisements, and not coincidentally, the game’s main attraction. You see, with FLUDD, you’ll be able to do all sorts of cool tricks that really help take this game into another dimension. In addition to spraying water from the standard nozzle, you’ll be able to acquire other nozzles that will allow you to hover over obstacles, rocket yourself up into the air and turbo boost your way across the game’s various landscapes. All of them serve a real meaningful purpose in the game and don’t come across as minor last minute additions. Perhaps most importantly, not only are they fun to use, but quite easy as well.
Mario’s waterpack functions may seem overwhelming at first, but become second nature once you get the hang of it. By suppressing the R trigger, you’ll be able to utilize the waterpack and spray water upon your foes. Pressing the X button will allow you to switch between the four available nozzles, however, you’ll only be able to carry two at a time so you won’t be able to utilize all the functions all the time. Spraying water is a blast and quite frankly, never gets old. The jets of water that are expelled from Mario’s pack are nicely rendered, featuring water effects that accurately parallel those of the real world. The water physics are accurately modeled, so you’ll see the water fly in an arc-like motion as you release it in spurts. Furthermore, the water you see isn’t just some solid and opaque substance, it’s transparent so that the area it travels through is refracted and accurately warped, just like in real life. It’s quite amazing to see the water in action, and you’ll be hard pressed to find another game that does such an amazing job of rendering and modeling it.
Of course there are tons of other signature moves that will prove to be vital in your quest. The slide maneuver returns and is better than ever. When Mario slides on water, the friction beneath him is reduced so that he can propel himself further. Now with the addition of the water pack, you’ll actually be able to soak the ground ahead of you so that you can create a surface with less resistance. This means you’ll actually be able to travel faster thanks to the water pack. It’s not just some cheap novelty either, you’ll probably find yourself using it quite often, especially during the game’s faster paced situations.
The other moves make a comeback, the wall jump, the side somersault, the spin move and the Mario butt stomp of doom®, all of which will need to be mastered if you hope to be successful in this game. There are problems though, due to the 3D nature of the game, you’ll often find yourself making minor mistakes when trying to perform these moves. For example, let’s say you’re on a small ledge in one of the game’s numerous jumping puzzles, you need to side somersault to an adjacent platform so you press left, right then A on your controller. As your character hits the air, you realize that your side-to-side motion was just a bit off, sending your character off his line and plummeting to his death. I can’t really fault the game for this, it’s more of an issue with the GameCube analog stick itself, if you’re having problems using the stick in other games, you’ll probably want to stay away from this one.
Since this is a 3D platformer, you can expect to see numerous jumping puzzles. While some of them make tons of sense and are actually fun, there are a large handful of jumping puzzles that have absolutely nothing to do with the game, and that’s when the game becomes frustrating. Every once in awhile you’ll be taken to some sort of alternative universe where the blocks are suspended in mid-air, these puzzles require precision jumping and one false move can prove to be fatal. Though it’s nice to have a throwback to the old 2D Mario days, it makes no sense for the guys at Nintendo to punish the gaming public like this, especially when the majority of the game is so much fun. If you want an example of how frustrating these puzzles are I suggest you run to the garage, pick out a rusty nail, then proceed to hammer it into your left shin, now do it about fifty times and you’ll understand where I’m coming from. The inclusion of these puzzles don’t really make sense and really detract from the game, but then again, when did a game about a plumber who shoots fireballs and does battle with a giant dinosaur like creature ever make sense?
To add to the frustration, you’ll be faced with levels that beg you to ask the question, “What were these guys thinking?” Most of them rely on sheer luck rather than any sort of skill and are often completed only after numerous failed attempts. While many may say that this makes the game more challenging, I say that this makes the game un-necessarily difficult. They’re (Nintendo) are manufacturing artificial replay as opposed to letting the gamer make the choice for himself. Because this is so, you’ll often find yourself playing a level over and over again, not because you want to, but because you’ve managed to fail yet again.
It’s sad too, because the majority of the game’s levels are fun. You’ll find yourself riding on a roller coaster while trying to blast koopa shaped balloons, riding around on Yoshi and eating un-friendly ghosts and perhaps best of all, cleaning up the goop that the evil baddies have been leaving behind. The variety is excellent, featuring lots of missions that never really become repetitive or annoying. I’ve never had to much cleaning up in my entire life, if I knew that janitorial work was so much fun I would have never spent so much time paying attention in class. Nintendo must be commended for creating a game that is both unique and innovative at the same time. Who knows, maybe kids the world over will want to take up mopping after playing this game.
For the most part, the visual aspects succeed at what they set out to do; create a colorful and vibrant world that is both fun and imaginative. From the onset of the game, you’ll be able to feel the designer’s vision come alive through the GameCube’s hardware. If you have a girlfriend who enjoys bright lights and tons of shiny objects then this is a must buy for you. My girlfriend was having a blast just running around the environments, looking at all the bright and shiny objects that populate the game’s world. Her incentive to collect Shines in the game was that they were “extra shiny!” Everything features just enough detail to appear attractive while at the same time, just little enough detail as to not detract from the main points of the game. You will, however, want to remain as far away from the walls as possible as they feature some of the most horrendous texture work to appear in a game this year. At times you may be asking yourself, “Hey, when did my GameCube turn into a Nintendo 64?” It doesn’t hurt the game too much though because you won’t really find yourself standing still too often.
You’ll see spectacular use of the aforementioned water effects, beautiful sunsets, meticulously detailed baddies and beautifully rendered environments. From afar, this game really shows off what the GameCube hardware can do. Your jaw will probably drop in awe the first time you check out the real time reflections on the surface of large bodies of water. All of the levels are rendered in full, meaning that there is no draw-in or pop-up and best of all, this comes with little to no drop in frame rate. The environments are all fairly large, you won’t be roaming around in some small little area, you’ll run along the shores of the beaches, along the lengths of rivers and along the beautiful bays of Delfino. Each of them has their own distinct look that is both appealing and attractive to the eyes. If there was ever a showcase title on a console it would have to be Mario Sunshine, sure you won’t soon be mistaking it for an Xbox title, but it’s still a beautiful game. Much like Mario 64, the gameplay is open-ended so you can play the levels at your own discretion. The island is divided up into different sections that can be accessed by portals that are scattered throughout the main plaza. In addition to the island being split up into zones, each of those zones contains eight unique levels that make up the game’s infrastructure. Though there are a large abundance of levels, you won’t necessarily need to complete them in order to progress through the game. Certain levels in the game contain trigger points after they’re completed. For instance, after you beat Episode 7 of Pianta Village, the town of Delfino will become flooded, thus advancing the storyline. While I applaud Nintendo for allowing such large amounts of freedom, I feel that it causes a bit too much confusion. At many points of the game, I found myself wandering around trying to figure out exactly what it was that I was supposed to be doing. There was just so much to do that I didn’t know where I was supposed to go to next so I just ended up running around and completing all of the game’s levels. Had there been more clues as to what I was supposed to do, I could have saved myself a lot of time and frustration. As it stands, I had to figure out for myself what to do, this shouldn’t be happening in a game of this caliber.
The frustration doesn’t stop here either; a lot of the goals in the game are accomplished by dumb luck rather than raw skill. In fact, you’ll probably spend much more time wandering around the levels trying to figure out exactly what it is you’re supposed to be doing as opposed to doing it. For instance, there’s a level called Red Coins on the water, on the onset of each level you’ll get a small fly-by that tells you where you’re supposed to go in order to secure the Shine. Well on this level, you’ll see a fly-by that shows you absolutely nothing that will help you in your quest. So what do you do? You’ll wander around the level, trying to figure out exactly where the red coins are that you’re supposed to be collecting. Only after about 15 minutes of trial and error will you realize that you were supposed to butt stomp a switch on an obscure part of the level to reveal the eight red coins you’re supposed to be collecting. This isn’t a problem that arises too often (I’d say about 1 out of every 5 or 6 levels) but it’s still rather annoying and serves to detract from the overall game.
This is a game that has a lot of substance; a veteran gamer can look to spend at least 10 hours to get through the game the first time. Add to that the time it will take to collect all of the hidden Shines, and the time spent messing around with the water pack and you have a game that will last year well over 20 hours. There is so much to do in the game and though much of it is optional, it’s still worth seeing for yourself. For instance, there’s a neat little Pachinko mini-game where Mario must jump through and collect the red coins, it’s completely un-necessary but it’s still cool nonetheless. Of course there are loads of other mini-games, the inclusion of Yoshi and the return of the water pack, what more could a guy ask for?
If you have a Nintendo GameCube then you simply must own this game. There is so much in this package that any sane gamer should not even think twice about passing it up. Everything in the game just reeks of shine and polish and though it's flawed in some areas, it’s still one of the best games to come down the line this year. Sure the final boss battle is a little easy and plot is a little clichéd, but who ever played a Mario game for the plot anyways? The game is different, inventive and a heck of a blast to play. Will it revolutionize the genre? Probably not, but it sure as hell is doing a great job of advancing it.
Nintendo's mascot delivers a fun and innovative game that is a cut above the rest. Beautiful graphics and great gameplay combine to form one of this year's best titles.
Rating: 9.3 Excellent
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile