his is aged-in-oak proof that a game doesn’t need to be original to win over the hearts of gamers. When a new Mario game hits the market, there’s an underlying expectation that it’ll revolutionize gaming as we know it. Assuredly, this statement may seem like a stretch, but if you gauge the impact that each Mario release has made, it’s not so crazy after all. Think of this: If Nintendo never released Super Mario 64, what would the shape of 3D gaming be like? It’s a scary thought, especially when you take into account that almost every platformer on the market is in some way influenced by this legendary release. Of course, this was six years ago, and given the lengthy absence, everyone anticipated that Mario’s reemergence would bring about another mind-boggling gaming revolution.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, Nintendo developed the long awaited GameCube follow-up under the philosophy “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Super Mario Sunshine truly is 64-bit at heart. Just the look of the game should evoke a flashback of memories. Ironically, age is on Mario’s side. Rather than experimenting with jet set technologies, Nintendo took the knowledge and experience from the previous game and used it to fashion the perfect sequel.
Super Mario Sunshine doesn’t spur a game revolution, but it can be argued that it is the best Mario game to date. The gameplay mechanics are stripped from the 64-bit adventure, and the visual dynamics haven’t evolved too terribly much, but the variety that has been included far exceeds anything that I ever expected to see, or wanted from a Mario game. I know this may be hard to believe, but there really is never a dull moment of play. Even if you’re just messing around, it’s always exciting and fast-paced.
The biggest difference between Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario 64 is the water cannon that Mario wears on his back. In addition to his arsenal of acrobatic moves, Mario can now shoot out streams of water, or transform the cannon nozzle into a hover device for brief segments of flying. As a whole, the gameplay really couldn’t be much more complex. As is the case with every Mario game, the control schematic fits like a glove. It’s perfect. If you see a ledge several stories up, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to create a jumping combo to reach it. For instance, you can double-jump between walls, spin high into the air, and hit the hover boost at the peak of your jump to elevate enough to grab the ledge and pull yourself up. The diversity that the water cannon brings – whether it’s topping off a jump combo or hosing down a prairie covered in gunk – gives the game a fresh look and a style all its own. I don’t want to spoil the surprises that Sunshine continually throws out, but I will say that you will find yourself hosing off plaque from the teeth of a gigantic fish; extinguishing blazing Chomp Chomps; spraying water into the mouth of a dehydrated Piranha Plant; and watering eggs buried beneath the soil. These actions may sound asinine, but you’ll have the time of your life completing them.
In the previous game, Yoshi made an appearance; but other than handing over a bundle of free lives, you couldn’t interact with him. This time around, you’ll actually have a chance to ride on Yoshi’s back within several of the stages. The fact that he controls and sounds just like he does in Yoshi’s Story is a stroke of brilliance on Nintendo’s part. The overall structure of the game is a little more open-ended as well, which in turn brings about the need for greater exploration and experimentation.
The only problem that I have with Super Mario Sunshine is purely of the mechanic nature. The quest itself has no flaws. It’s that good. The camera system, on the other hand, hasn’t evolved, and considering Mario 64 was one of the first 3D platformers, this speaks volumes. Manhandling the angles will eventually become second nature to most, but it’s still a nuisance to continually to adjust the camera with every move that you make. Rather than working on this aspect, Nintendo tried to hide the fact that it didn’t work as well as it should by making the objects that are hidden from view silhouette images. You can kind of see what’s going on, but it’s a poor solution – especially considering where games are today.
In the grand scheme of things, however, the camera truly is a small complaint. I had my doubts at first, but Super Mario Sunshine is the most addictive and beguiling entry thus far. Once you start playing, putting it down may be the hardest thing that you ever do.