What happens when a plumber and a princess go on vacation to a tropical island known for its beauty and wonderful tourist attractions? Well, if you are Mario, then it can only mean its time to get wrapped up in yet another adventure and hopefully, save the day.
This time around, Nintendo sends gamers to Isla Delfino, home of sun, fun and a nasty brown sludge. Well, the brown sludge is a rather new feature added by someone who suspiciously looks like Mario. Its because of this resemblance that gets Mario accused of the sludge and graffiti crimes, leaving him with the duty to clean up the island. Of course, being the good gent he is, Mario agrees and heads out to solve this mystery of the other Mario.
In the process of cleaning up, Mario must also find and collect ‘Shines’, the islands own personal sunshine devices. Naturally, these are collected through any number of means and as collected, allow you access to other areas of the game. Of course, you do not need every shine, as there are a lot, just enough to keep opening the right areas for you to progress the game.
Sound like Mario 64 or any number of other platformers? That’s because it is. Mario Sunshine follows many formulas laid down by both its predecessor and the genre. However, as any good Mario game does, it also has a lot of innovation, and even manages to turn old ideas into fun enjoyable ones along the course of the game.
The biggest addition to Mario Sunshine over its early counterpart is the new WaterPak Mario gets to use called FLUUD. With the waterpak you can squirt all the sludge away that must be cleaned, but its usefulness far from ends there.
FLUUD adds many new tricks to Mario’s arsenal, including hover abilities, a rocket jump and a speed burst. Combining these abilities with others becomes essential to completing tasks and progressing your way through levels. FLUUD also has other methods of handiness such as squirting water in front of you to do super belly slides or using it spin fast on ropes to throw yourself far. Again, that’s not all as the game is designed with FLUUD in mind and there are plenty of extra spots to use it. This includes defeating enemies, turning objects in levels and knocking things round. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to squirt everything you see, as it may react in some form or another. This all really opens the game up with some variety and gives you plenty of ways to accomplish tasks, as well as makes discovery of FLUUD’s uses fun.
Mario has an arsenal of his standard moves available as well throughout Mario Sunshine. This can be a simple as stomping an enemy, to super useful moves like the triple jump or flip. Mario has some others though, like the ability to crawl on chainlink in old Super Mario World style. This similar approach is also present in the controls, which made Sunshine incredibly easy to pick up play. The controls are simple, with only a few tricks needed to learn, and kids to adults should find Sunshine an easy learn.
As I said, Sunshine borrows heavily from its predecessor, which includes your level advancement. As I said, as you collect shines, new world areas open up, each one with multiple tasks to acquire shines. Shines can be found elsewhere as well, such as by collecting Blue Coins or performing tasks for citizens in the main world area. Not all shines must be gotten for a finished game, but they are still fun to hunt down and completists will have plenty to do. Nintendo even included the fact that the more Shines you get, the brighter the island becomes. Just another quirky detail that is really fun to watch unfold.
Levels themselves are very well laid out and include plenty of variety throughout. A harbor, a beach, an amusement park, a village — all and more are present, each with different parts to it and even levels within the levels. These mini-levels are rather pointless, but some of the most enjoyable as well, as they are usually a form of obstacle course with a Shine at the end. This varies from running and timing courses, to slides and even my favorite, a Mario-sized pinball machine. Between these and the regular levels, which have all kinds of secrets and fun little tasks to do, there is a massive amount to explore and do and one can find themselves running around just looking without getting bored.
Enemies that show up in Sunshine are both of the old and new, with an surprising amount of variety in their abilities, strengths, weaknesses and ways to beat them. Bosses are the bread and butter though, with some incredibly hard, incredibly fantastic and very cinematic battles. Even within the early parts of the games you will have already faced a giant Wiggler (and I mean giant) and a Mecha thing, battling it from a rollercoaster car. Battles like these continue and really thrill and entertain.
Despite what some may have thought, Sunshine’s graphics are not just like Mario 64‘s. Although they could have certainly been better, they are still very well done with plenty of vibrancy to them and some great animations. Some areas really stand out as well, such as water effects and sludge. The game simply looks like Mario should and is done well enough to be very pleasing to the eye.
The only graphical drawback is the camera. While some say the camera is Sunshine is bad, I found it to only get in the way on a few occasions. It is true it does not always want to work the best for you, but you have a nice level of control over it, both zooming and rotating, which should help in just about any situation. You may still get “stuck” behind a wall or some such with the camera at times, but the game at least is designed to show you a shadow of Mario, allowing you to know what is going on. In fact, for all the important tasks, I had no camera problems, once I learned to control it fluidly, so unless you hate controlling cameras as well as moving, it should be just fine.
Sound is as expected mostly well done. You get good music and sound effects, all very appropriate of a Mario title. Nintendo even threw in some classic music for a nice area of the game that should please all old-schoolers. Sadly, the voice acting is not so great, but not in the game enough to distract you at any point.
As I have been saying, Mario Sunshine is much like Mario 64. This almost insures those who enjoyed the original will enjoy this next installment. Sunshine goes further though and is really a great platformer all around. Anyone looking for the next great thing on the GameCube should take a look here and give it a whirl, and it is one of those titles which can easily bridge the age gaps as well. Sunshine is full of fun, plenty of innovations and Nintendo quirks, and just comes off as a very enjoyable way to spend some time gaming. I have enjoyed my time so far and continue to do so and find that my money was well placed in the trust of Nintendo, as Sunshine is and will remain a great game.