Super Mario 64 was a promise that the rest of the videogame industry couldn't keep. That game was supposed to usher in the era of 3D action adventures but no other game since Mario 64 has been able to beat its inventive playfulness or its perfectly calibrated, kid-friendly physics. The Crash Bandicoot games looked and played great but were hampered by the fact that most of the level design was based around linear paths. Sonic's forays into 3D gameplay have so far been very pretty and very fast but have also been plagued by sloppy cameras and suspect design choices. Lara Croft has had (and deserved) plenty of time in the limelight but when one compared the clunky controls of Ms. Croft to the versatility of Shigeru Miyamoto's pudgy plumber, there was just no contest. In fact, with only a few notable recent exceptions (Jak & Daxter, Ico, Rayman 2 and the under appreciated, Ape Escape), the only 3D action adventure games that have come close to the grace and subtlety of Mario 64 have either come from Miyamoto himself (the two N64 Zeldas) or Rare (Jet Force Gemini, Donkey Kong 64, Banjoie Kazooie and Tooie).
Unlike the days of the 16-bit 2D platformer craze, when Mario and Sonic games were copied by every game developer with several truly admirable results, very few game companies have been able to mix the ingredients just right to build a 3D platform game of any real merit. Like you, I played Mario 64 with my jaw on the floor, giddy with the thought that this was only the first of what would surely be dozens of awesome 3D platform adventures. Little was I to know that I would have to wait six years to once again experience the perfect blend of 3D control, presentation, exploration and reward. Super Mario Sunshine, while perhaps not quite the revolutionary product that its predecessor was, is without a doubt, the finest and most enjoyable 3D platform adventure currently available.
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