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Super Mario Sunshine

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  Reviewed by Erich Becker
September 19, 2002
Nintendo of America
Nintendo (EAD)
Six years ago, the video game industry was shown the way: Taking the lead was Nintendo with its pioneering Super Mario 64, which launched the Nintendo 64 into the homes of millions with only two launch games and a lot of hopes and dreams. Here we are, more than half a decade later, and Super Mario 64 is still considered, by many, to be the best game of all time. It frequents many top 10 lists, copies are still on sale, and people still play it even when they know each level backwards and forwards, up and down. That is the power of truly captivating video game. Six years later, Mario is finally back and in touch with his roots. This isnít a party or fighting contest. We arenít playing doctor or being kidnapped by ghosts Ė we are playing Super Mario Sunshine, the reason you need to buy a GameCube.

In an unusual Nintendo fashion, the killer-app to its prized console didnít arrive at launch, but a significant amount of time later. It took 10 months for Nintendo to get Mario ready for prime time and while Luigi filled in for a couple hours of fun and we got to beat Mario down while playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, there hasnít been a true Mario game since Mario 64ís release in 1996. As I stated above, if you ever had any doubts about picking up a GameCube or purchasing Mario Sunshine, you can proceed ailment-free, because Nintendoís latest is awesome, simply put.

Mario, Peach and a group of the Mushroom gang are on a jet to a tropical island, out of the Mushroom Kingdom, and onto the sunny beaches during a well needed vacation. However it seems that our fat little plumber canít get a break in this world. Upon landing, the locals arrest Mario and accuse him of defacing their home and scattering the Shines (the sunlight giving force that inhabits the island) across a variety of different sections and behind a variety of different enemies. It seems a masked marauder has a magic paint brush and is spreading a shimmering gunk all over this island paradise and writing the initial "M" all over the island. So when a short little foreigner with a big red "M" on his hat shows up, you donít turn the other way.

Mario is ordered to clean up the island with the help of a device similar to his brotherís vacuum cleaner in Luigiís Mansion, although Marioís F.L.O.O.D. water pack has much more uses and innovative functions. Armed with FLOOD and the mission to obtain the 120 Shines, Mario sets out on his latest adventure to clean the world up Ė this time literally.

The biggest drawback to the setting/story is the fact that this game doesnít take place in the Mushroom Kingdom, so the familiar worlds weíre used to are no where to be found. Sprawling beaches and bright sunshine have replaced them. The gameís heavy emphasis on water can be to explain for this change. The familiar dark, forest, show, lava, etc. worlds that have been persistent in the entire series up to this point have all been thrown out for beaches, amusement parks and polluted harbors.

Not to say everything doesnít look just as beautiful as we have come to expect from Nintendo, but there are places where you might be a bit disappointed. Everyone remembers the sprite-based trees from Super Mario 64 and their ugliness. Well they arenít necessarily back, but throughout Marioís world you will find sprites along with some less than stellar low-resolution textures that seem to be left over from the Nintendo 64 days.

What you may miss are the subtle effects that show just what the GameCube can do. When Mario jumps out of water, droplets can be seen shimmering off of him for the next few seconds. The water hits the ground and pools up just as it would in real life Ė you can even see Marioís reflection in it for an instant before it evaporates. When Mario is battling monsters spewing gook all over the place, you can see some realistic splash damage, and Mario himself will even get dirty. Jump into the river to clean him off and the water will become mucky and un-clear around him. Itís the little effects that keep the game interesting.

With Nintendoís experience in creating realistic water effects (Wave Race and Wave Race: Blue Storm), you would think this game would have some amazing effects, and you would be correct. Sunshineís water is perfect. From the dousing waves around a coral reef to the splashing in the shallows, the water looks perfect and very, very lifelike. When Mario is swimming you will see the distortion effect of seeing something under water, as through glass. Power up with one of the upgraded nozzles, and "super-Sonic" around on top of the waves leaving a sporadic wake. If the game is going to focus on water, it is good to know it looks good.

Sound is just as good as the rest of the game. With classic Mario themes and new tropical music making its way into the soundtrack, it is a nice change up from the usual. The new remix of the Super Mario Theme that plays during the "retro-stages" is just too cool and the returning sound effects (such as going through warp pipes) make a grand entrance as integral parts of the game. I think it is nice for the series to change itself, but even nicer for it not to completely forget its heritage.

Speaking of the "retro-stages," these stages are classic platforming action just like the good old days when speed, agility, button smashing and lightning-quick reflexes were the name of the game. Some of the levels can be very frustrating to complete, especially since you donít have the F.L.O.O.D. water pack to help you along, as you will get very accustomed to using it to help hover your jumps. The other great aspect of the game is the appearance of Yoshi once again, and just like Super Mario World before it, you can ride them!

The biggest problem, and you will hear this everywhere, is Mario Sunshineís camera. Where Mario 64 did most of the work sizing up the camera and leaving the precise stuff to you with the Nintendo 64ís C-Buttons, in Sunshine you are forced to deal with the camera mostly on your own using the C-Stick. While it is nice to have control, it isnít so nice to see your camera get hung up on walls, or when it wonít spin to give you the best view of the action. While it doesnít hamper the game too much, I do honestly believe it could be better, but aside from that the only other thing that bothers me about Sunshine is a very high difficulty level. Steadily progressing through the game you will come upon puzzles, tasks and objectives that either leave you wondering "What do I do next?" or "What the hell?" or my favorite "F&*# This Crap!" There were a few times when I had to walk away from the game for fear I would damage my GameCube in someway by throwing blunt objects in its general direction. There are some very difficult challenges, but it is nice to see not every company taking the easy way out when it comes to video games.

Super Mario Sunshine is the next step in video games. While it will never be as revolutionary as its forefathers, it is still an evolutionary game that progresses the 3D platformer into new territory. While copycats may try to take away Marioís thunder, the skies will part and there will be Sunshine for everyone in paradise. Mario Sunshine, as I stated before, is an awesome game.

(Click to Enlarge)

Minimum Requirements...
Memory Card 59 or Memory Card 251


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