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Platform

GameCube

 

Genre

Platformer

 

Publisher

Nintendo

 

Developer

Nintendo

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

August 27, 2002

 

 

- Mario has never looked better

- Has all the elements of a classic Mario game

- Lots of stuff to do

- Good sound

- Lots of good fun for everyone

 

 

- Camera is sure to annoy some

- Less open-ended than Mario 64

- Mario, speak to me!

 

 

Review: Starfox Adventures (Gamecube)
Review: Super Smash Brothers Melee (Gamecube)

Review: Luigi's Mansion (Gamecube)

 

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Super Mario Sunshine

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

Before sitting down to review Super Mario Sunshine (SMS) I asked myself several questions.

 

Do I enjoying playing SMS?  Yes.

Would I recommend SMS to a friend?  Yes.

Are the graphics and sound good?  Yes.

Are all the classic Mario game elements present?  Yes.

Does complex and simple gameplay co-exist?  Yes.

Is the camera the root of frustration?  Well…

 

SMS is a good game, even great, but there’s a level of frustration I’ve never felt with a Mario game.  Camera control is in the eye of the beholder – some can grasp any camera control and modify their play style to accommodate it.  Others continually butt heads with the game and might even finish it without figuring out the camera.  With SMS I had a love/hate relationship with the camera.

 

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On the love side, it’s pretty easy to use and it has a few innovations that alleviate some headaches.  Buildings never get in your way – Mario is always onscreen even if he’s just in silhouette.  When an object blocks Mario from view his shadow is present and any other object (coins, etc.) is represented by a shadowy question mark.  If something blocks the camera, the edges of the screen go blue and form a large circle around Mario. (These two are combined when Mario is running through the sewers.)  The camera is also easily modified using the C-stick to zoom in, out, and pan left and right.  However, it also results in a loose camera – I’m not talking Spiderman: The Movie’s diuretic camera, but it’s still loose.  It constantly needs adjustment and makes some tasks harder than they need to be.  There are times of frustration, but thankfully, the rest of the game offsets it nicely and is almost enough to make me forget the problem with the camera.

 

The basic story has Mario and Princess Peach off on an island holiday but arrive to find the island plagued with graffiti and oil slicks.  A Mario imposter has been perpetrating the acts and Mario quickly finds himself brought before the authorities that, incredibly, release him to hunt down the pretender and clean up the island.  Coin collecting and lots of jumping commences and Mario saves the day from… while the identity of the mastermind behind the problems is never in doubt I won’t reveal it here.

 

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The fighting arenas are varied to a point but I found myself wanting more.  Most arenas are set in familiar environs, such as the top of Princess Toadstool’s castle, the outside of Fox’s ship (while his cronies launch missiles at you), and – so help me – a Pokemon stadium.  Each arena is essentially a bunch of platforms suspended in space.  The only way to get a KO (or take a “life” off) is to launch your opponent so far into space they can’t reach the safety of the platforms.  Your health 

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The Mario standards are all here – 12,001 ways to jump – but with new wrinkles afforded by the addition of FLUDD, an all purpose water-sprayer, that Mario uses to clean up the place and stun enemies.  Getting a handle on all the available moves is surprisingly easy.  It doesn’t take long to master the basics and become very good at the more advanced functions of FLUDD.  One of the most useful new moves – for me at least – is running while spraying water then diving to slide.  This method provides a huge speed advantage, especially if you want to move in a straight line.  Another of my favored moves is using FLUDD to gain momentum on rubber band-like tightropes and achieve height like nobody’s business.  Advanced players will take full advantage of the moves to get all the Shines (equivalent to Mario 64’s Stars), while junior players will enjoy getting the Shines they can reach and wonder how they can get the others.  This aspect has always been essential to Mario’s popularity and accessibility – the cartoony feeling and kid-friendly violence belies the complexity that lurks just beneath the surface waiting for those that dive in. (Just try some of the incredibly difficult mini-levels without FLUDD’s to help.)

 

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SMS is less open-ended than Mario 64 – levels have to be approached linearly because the layouts often change completely from one episode (i.e. stage) to the next.  Goals are much more prescribed.  You have no choice but to collect the eight red coins on a level before moving on if that is the goal.  Same goes for pulling the tentacles off a giant squid.  If that’s the goal you have to do it.  Once a stage is completed, it can be revisited but it’s not the same open-endedness of Mario 64 where you had access to practically everything from the start.  However, levels seem easier to gain access to so if you’re stumped one level you can always try your luck elsewhere.

 

The levels are huge and more importantly everything moves at an incredibly smooth rate.  Draw distance is practically eliminated – instead we get gradual unfocusing or blurring.  Even then, the view distance is quite impressive and it allows the whole “How do I get up there?” questioning when coins are visible from across a level.

 

And speaking of the graphics, Mario has never looked so good.  Obviously, the water/liquid effects are front and center.  They don’t disappoint in the slightest.  Nothing else does either.  It’s a big cartoon universe out there and Nintendo finally has the hardware to bring that universe home in full force.

 

Audio is good all-round except for one aspect: speech.  In a word, it's lacking.  I find this incredible given the storage ability of the GameCube discs.  Granted, Mario games have never been known for their drama, unexpected plot twists or gripping character exchanges but I expected to hear more from Mario than “wah-HOOO” as he hits the peak of a triple-jump.  I understand why the numerous island natives only interact with text, but why not give Mario more to say?  It would be a chance to develop Mario's character.  Apart from his exploits, we know nothing about him – he’s like a blank slate.  He’s a plumber with a brother named Luigi and a nemesis named Bowser.  That’s it, that’s all we know.  Where’d he come from?  What union does he belong to?  For all the games he has starred in, you’d think we’d know more.  What speech there is comes mostly from Peach and her breathless delivery is quite annoying – fortunately, she’s not around that much since she has a tendency to get kidnapped.

 

super-mario-sunshine-6.jpg (114602 bytes)          super-mario-sunshine-7.jpg (70280 bytes)

 

Super Mario Sunshine doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground over Mario 64.  But that being said, it’s still darn fun to play.  Although I lament the camera a bit, the Mario-less voice acting, and the linear stages there’s too much to like, too much to enjoy about Mario Sunshine to really bash it.  It’s as simple or as complex as you want it to be, its fun and it looks great.  This purchase is almost a no-brainer.

 

- Omni

(September 11, 2002)

 

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