Super Mario Sunshine
Game Info
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Comic Mischief
The Good

• Huge levels
• Amazing water effects
• Lots to do and find
• Easy, yet deep control

The Bad

• Camera can lead to leaps of faith


The Mario series of games have always been considered a benchmark in the platforming genre and when Nintendo made the leap from 2D to 3D with Super Mario 64 in 1996 for the N64, the title was hailed as the perfect crossover to the world of 3D platforming. From that point, every 3D platformer that followed either borrowed heavily from or was compared to the title. Unfortunately for Mario fans, there hadn't been a true Mario platformer since that title until Super Mario Sunshine's recent release for the GameCube, which will immediately bring back memories of the superb N64 title. In Super Mario Sunshine, Mario, Princess Peach and her entourage decide to head to Isle Delfino for a spot of vacation. Once they arrive, they find the isle defiled with graffiti and Mario is framed for the crime. So, Mario dons a special talking waterpack, the FLUDD, to clean up the isle and clear his name.

After the opening cutscenes, you'll be free to move Mario around the hub area of Delfino Plaza, where you can clean up graffiti and sludge or just explore the massive city, which even has it's own underground tunnels. Before too long, you'll find special "M"s painted on certain locations that you can clean up, which will act as portals to one of the levels. Much like Super Mario 64, each of the levels has a number of objectives, which will net you "Shines", small star-like icons that you collect to progress in the game. Along with the main objectives for each level, you can run Mario around to collect gold coins, blue coins (which can be traded in for Shines back in Delfino Plaza) and red coins (similar to Super Mario 64). The locals, the Pianta and Noki, will ask you to do minor tasks for them, like gathering fruit or watering their flowers, and some will even throw you to locations you may not be able to reach yet.

Mario's repertoire of moves has returned from Super Mario 64, but with the inclusion of the FLUDD waterpack, Mario no longer punches or kicks. Instead, he uses the water nozzle to spray both enemies and sludge alike. And with the various nozzles, Mario can use the FLUDD to hover, launch himself like a rocket or turbo at high speed. Mario himself is a breeze to control and the moves are fairly intuitive. It may take a few minutes to pick up how to best use the FLUDD, but once you do, it really adds to the depth of the gameplay. Being able to perform combos using Mario's moves and the FLUDD in conjunction will really help in getting players to locations they might not have been able to get to before. A lot of the time, you will be using the spray nozzle to remove sludge, which often covers up parts of the levels, like trees or walls, or just to clear a path for the player as the sludge can make travel slippery and dangerous.

I would be remiss not to comment on the heart of the game - the platforming elements. As always, this new Mario title includes elements that have enough variety to keep the game from growing anywhere near stale. Between jumping on platforms, walking on tightropes and climbing on latticework, you'll have to find your way around each level to get to your goal. And, expect to have other "mini-game"-like portions where you'll have to use the FLUDD to alter the level to aid in your trip. For example, in one stage, you'll need to turn a propeller to raise a submarine so you can cross the large oil spill. And to top it all off, you'll get to ride a Yoshi, which can swallow fruit and spit the juice, which is also used to solve certain puzzles. The difficulty in Mario is just at the point of being challenging enough to require skill without being excessive. You will never feel the game is a cakewalk, but at the same time, you'll feel like you've earned your Shines. Almost every puzzle has multiple solutions and every location has multiple paths to get there. If you take time to look around, you may find a better way to get something done.

Visually the game looks great. You have to keep in mind, though, that Super Mario Sunshine is built with a certain style that lends itself to an almost cartoony, carefree feel to it. Don't go into this game expecting super-realistic detail and high-polygon character models, because that would just be out of place. This game is designed and built with that undeniable "Mario" look to it. With having said that, though, the game still spots huge environments that really look great. You'll easily be amazed by the vastness of most areas, and even more so by the vast draw distance. Climb your way to a rooftop and you can look around for miles. And, you'll notice how many things are going on all at once. Isle Delfino is packed full of life, with natives and tourists alike moving around. Even the little things, like water pouring in a fountain and the boats rocking with the ebb and flow of the tide just add to a full-blown environment that will draw you in immediately. A lot of visual effects, like heat distortion, have been added to give the game some nice touches that most people won't instantly notice. Probably the nicest aspect of the game is the water effects and the physics engine used for the interaction of the water and the polluting sludge. Take a walk down to the beachside and you'll watch in wonder as the ocean has a steady flow and the surf breaks against the shore. Run through the water or sludge and take notice of the splashing effect Mario has on the liquids. Also, the sludge moves like it has a life all it's own and everything, including Mario himself, can get covered in it. Many times, you may find yourself grabbing a Shine and in the celebration scene, Mario will still have the sludge splattered on his outfit. Everything from the animations of the characters to the design of the platforming elements is executed well and shows a great attention to quality.

Audiowise, Mario is true to his roots. The world is filled with squawks and grunts and any action illicits the appropriate sound. There's never a misplaced noise and the sound effects are so well done that you'll never have a second thought about them. Musically, the game has charm with it's playful tropical themes and remixes of more traditional tunes. One of the interesting additions is the inclusion of voice acting. It's not as prevalent as in Final Fantasy X, but in the few cutscenes, you'll get to hear Princess Peach, FLUDD and a few other locals talk. The voice acting is decent (I didn't care for some of the choices, but that's merely preference), but to be honest, if you're playing Super Mario Sunshine for the cutscenes, you're in the wrong genre. It's functional and does what it needs to do - move the story along.

There really is only one sticking point I had with Super Mario Sunshine - the in-game camera. While, for the most part, the camera is placed well and if not, you can re-center it with the L Button or move it with the C Stick, but there are times where no amount of coercion can help you. There will be the rare occasion where Mario will be behind or in front of something and all you'll be left with is his shadow to gauge your position. At those times, you'll be left with a leap of faith to see if you can get out of your predicament. It doesn't happen often enough to be a major issue, but if I can find any flaw with the game, this would be it.

Super Mario Sunshine can be completed in roughly 20 hours with nowhere near the 120 Shines hidden in Isle Delfino. Completionists will want to go back and get everything, and considering how addictively fun this game is, I wouldn't blame them. With so much to find and do, everyone except the most jaded of gamers will be glad they got this game. If you don't have a GameCube yet, you owe it to yourself to get one for this game alone.

- - Kinderfeld

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