Super Mario Sunshine (JPN) Review
Without a doubt, Mario is one of the greatest franchises in gaming history. As a result, Super Mario Sunshine has quite a lot to live up to. After all, previous entries in the Mario series are ranked as some of the very best games of all time. Fortunately, Mario Sunshine belongs right up there with the best. It has taken the basic elements of Mario 64 and polished them, as well as adding in several new features and some pretty visual effects. The end result is one of the most satisfying games ever released; a game that others in the genre will be compared to for years to come.
Sunshine has more of a story than any other traditional Mario game. There are actually a few cut scenes, and a fair amount of dialogue. The game opens with a promotional tourism video from the tropical paradise of Dolphic Island. The spokesman in the video boasts about the beautiful beaches, breath taking cliffs, and of course, delicious seafood. Itís a nice intro to the foreign land of Dolphic Island, and allows the player to learn a fair amount about the culture of the people there. During the video, Peach notices a shadow jumping around in the background. This shadow looks distinctly like Mario. The plane begins to descend, but has a surprisingly rough landing. Some gooey paint-like substance is covering the rest of the runway. Mario, being the hero that he is, goes to look for help. After a few minutes, he encounters Flood. Flood is a water pumping device, designed by Gadd Sciences.
With Floodís instruction, Mario cleans up the goo on the runway, but is promptly arrested. He is charged with polluting the entire island and is forbidden to leave until it has been cleaned from top to bottom. Itís not long before Mario discovers what has happened. An imposter, armed with a magical paint brush, has disguised himself as Mario and is destroying the Island. Flood then informs Mario of the Shine Sprites, beings whose power allows the natives of Dolphic Island to have such a peaceful and careful lifestyle. The Shine Sprites have been chased away by the pollution, and only the cleansing of the island will bring them back.
At this point, Mario is free to explore the city. Dozens of natives populate the town, all of which can be spoken to. There are also numerous buildings Mario can enter, and tons of secrets to find. Of course, the main purpose of the town is to give Mario a way to access the various worlds. New worlds open up after a certain number of Shine Sprites have been collected; they work the same way as Stars did in Mario 64. Once inside a world, Mario is given an objective. There are several different styles of objectives, all of which are very entertaining.
Each time Mario enters a world, it changes depending on which objective he is currently tackling. In the first world, for example, the first objective is to clean up a large amount of goo. Once this is completed, the next time Mario enters the world, the goo will be cleared, and the environment that the goo destroyed will have regenerated. There can be several other changes, as well, such as new enemies, new platforms or even new areas to explore. It makes the world feel like a brand new level, adding a tremendous amount of variety.
Most objectives involve a combination of puzzle-solving and platforming, just as in Mario 64. The beauty of Sunshineís design is that there are many ways to complete each task. For example, if Mario needs to reach a very tall platform for some reason, there will be several different routes. There might be a tricky route, with a series of difficult jumps, but there could also be a much easier way to do it. Just looking around and examining the area will often reveal another path. Once the player has a full grasp of Marioís moves, many new routes open up. In this way, the game is remarkably non-linear.
Among the objectives for each world are special action stages. Before these events, the imposter Mario shows up and steals Flood, making tricky jumps all the more difficult. There, mini-levels play very much like the Bowser stages of Mario 64, except much more difficult. These stages will truly test the skills of the player, as they require lots of precision jumping. Of course, one slip-up and Mario plummets to his death. These stages may take quite a while to master, but the satisfaction in completing makes them the most enjoyable levels.
The camera system is unique in Mario Sunshine. Basically, the camera is only as good as the player. It is the player who must maneuver the camera around. The only time the game takes over the camera work is when Mario is spraying water; it will position itself behind Marioís shoulder. This generally works fine, and it doesnít take long before moving Mario and the camera at the same time becomes second nature. The c-stick handles the job wonderfully. The only problem with the camera is that it occasionally becomes stuck behind objects. A simple tap of a button can usually fix the problem, though.
Mario Sunshineís gameplay focuses on liquid, and as such, the developers made sure that the water effects would be top-notch. Water and goo splatters as they should, and the distortion effect that water has on the camera is spectacular. The environments are varied, and quite large, with an incredible draw distance. Mario can see coins and creatures on the complete opposite side of the levels. The frame rate is also quite steady; it does stutter occasionally, but itís rare and goes away immediately. The only downside to the visuals are some unimpressive textures. The fantastic water effects and draw distance more than make up for this, though.
The music in Sunshine is fitting. Steel drums and other tropical sounds make up the bulk of the soundtrack; itís very catchy stuff. The greatest audio treat, however, is the occasional retro track. Themes from the original Mario Brothers game, nicely remixed, pop up now and again. Even some classic sound effects have returned, such as the block bashing and pipe noises. The voice acting is a mixed bag. Marioís classic noises have remained intact, and the voice acting on the villain is quite good. Peach, however, sounds like a robotic Barbie. Fortunately, she doesnít have many lines.
Overall Value -
Marioís quest isnít exceptionally long; it should take the average gamer about 20 hours to complete. However, thereís much to do after the main quest has been finished. It only takes about half of the total Shine Sprites to finish the game, so those determined to collect everything will be kept busy for ages. In addition to that, the game is simply fun to play again. Like Mario 64, gamers will be playing this one for years.
Sunshine improves upon Mario 64 in much the same way that Mario World improved upon Mario 3. It contains many of the same ideas, but is more refined in every way. Like Mario 64 before it, Mario Sunshine will likely be the best platformer of itís generation. Itís an incredible game, and no GameCube owner should neglect adding it to his collection.
Review by Joe Mackie