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When Super Mario was released on the N64 six long years ago it was instantly proclaimed a classic by everyone. The transition from 2D to 3D platformer had been flawlessly implemented: now you could guide the illustrious Italian plumber through dozens of stunning 3-dimensional worlds, doing wall-jump after wall-jump and completing countless puzzles. As time passed numerous developers tried to replicate the winning formula and, while most failed miserably, some succeeded, such as Rare with Banjo-Kazooie and its follow-up. But after the demise of the N64 many began to wonder if we would ever see the likes Mario 64 again. Enter Super Mario Sunshine, the long awaited sequel to the original 3D platformer…
When I saw the first screenshots of Super Mario Sunshine (hereafter referred to as SMS) I was far from impressed. Compared to most current games the visuals seemed to lack depth and detail - it just looked like an updated Mario 64. Bur it was when I found out that the game involved cleaning up graffiti that I really started to worry. My friends, all X-Box owners and with their preconceptions about Nintendo games, called it a ‘children’s game’, not even worth renting: they couldn’t have been more wrong.
The moment I started playing I realised that my reservations had been unjustifiable. While quite simple, the graphics are stunningly colourful and the sound effects and music are spot on. The controls have been refined, and Mario has a number of new moves such as the spin jump. The game is much more challenging than the prequel; clearly Nintendo have realised that we’ve all grown up since the days of SM64.
SMS is set on the tropical Isle Delfino, where Mario is spending a summer holiday with Princess Peach, Toadsworth and the entourage of Toads. However, something is amiss: a crook looking strangely like Mario has been covering the once immaculate island with graffiti and has caused the sacred Shine Sprites to vanish. The islanders blame Mario for the mess and order him to clean it up, while the real villain continues to befoul the island.
The game takes place over seven main ‘worlds‘, not including the hub world Delfino Plaza. These are as follows:
Bianco Hills - A lush community of villas by a lake; surrounded by windmills Ricco Harbour - Delfino’s port city; full of boats and bloopers Gelato Beach - The largest beach on Isle Delfino; spread out under perfect blue skies Pinna Park - Delfino’s theme park; includes pirate ships and a ride-able roller coaster Sirena Beach - A serene beach complete with a breathtaking sunset and a haunted hotel Noki Bay - A huge cove surrounded by cliffs; plenty of wall-jumping opportunities Pianta Village - The ancestral home of the Piantas, built atop a giant tree
In addition to these are Delfino Airstrip, where you start the game, and a final level leading up to the main boss.
Although smaller than SM64, there’s plenty to keep you occupied, with 11 Shine Sprites (the SMS equivalent of stars) in each world, hundreds of blue coins to collect and a host of secrets to be found. There is enough to last for weeks, quite probably months.
One major difference between SMS and SM64 is the inclusion of the ‘FLUDD’ backpack, a device which sprays water and has a number of switchable nozzles, namely the hover nozzle (which, surprisingly, lets you hover), the rocket nozzle (which shoots you hundreds of feet up into the air) and the turbo nozzle (which lets you zoom across land and water at breakneck speeds). The backpack has been executed perfectly - it becomes a part of the character and is indispensable for clearing up goop and attacking baddies (Mario can no longer punch or kick enemies). The long jump from SM64 has in effect been replaced by the hover nozzle, which can be used cross wide gaps and get to platforms which are slightly too high to reach by jumping. One thing which I was very pleased to see is that Yoshi is available to ride, although there are few levels when he is needed.
While these are good additions to the game, SMS does have some problems which have to be mentioned. The camera, for example, is terrible. In SM64 the camera moved automatically to follow Mario, and little manual corrections had to be made. Now, however, the emphasis is on manual camera control, except that a lot of the time you can only move the camera through about 180 degrees, resulting in some leaps of faith which will almost always result in instant death. Objects often get in the way of the camera, which can give rise to more loss of precious lives (and time). I’m divided on the subject of the ‘Secret of …’ levels, which are incredibly difficult platforming levels where if you make one wrong move you have to do the whole thing again. Part of the reason these are so difficult is because your FLUDD backpack is stolen at the start of each, so you must rely on your jumping skills and timing. While they certainly provide a challenge, I found them just a little too frustrating.
GRAPHICS: The textures aren’t very detailed, but it sure is colourful.
SOUND: Overall good, although the voice acting is a little cheesy in places.
GAMEPLAY: Great fun, addictive. The camera can get annoying though.
LIFESPAN: Will take weeks to complete the game. After that you’ll still keep coming back.
VERDICT: Despite some minor setbacks, Super Mario Sunshine is a fantastic game. It offers tremendous longevity and a huge amount of freedom. It may not be quite as innovative and ground-breaking as Mario 64 was in its time, but it certainly comes close. Definitely the best platformer/adventure game out for the Gamecube.