Super Mario Sunshine
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-09-01 GameCube Action/Platform E (Everyone) Nintendo

Super Mario Sunshine marks Mario's first big foray on the current generation of Nintendo consoles. It's hard to talk about the GameCube and its popularity without mentioning Mario and his numerous titles, and SMS is the big poppa of them all. I had been looking for a copy for quite a long time, and finally found one that I could call my own. Thinking that I had missed out on a great, innovative piece of the video game industry, my excitement immediately rose to its highest point. Little did I know, however, that it would be crushed just as quickly.

Needing a break from the hustle and bustle of life in the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario and Princess Peach take a vacation to the beautiful Isle Delfino. However, things are not as they had hoped, as Mario is wrongfully accused of polluting the island with sludge and graffiti. The Shine Sprites, which give the island its light, have also gone missing, and Mario is sentenced to clean up the entire island and return the missing Shines to the Shine Gate, the source of the island's power. Not to be left out of the spotlight, Princess Peach gets herself kidnapped once again, adding another task to Mario's already full plate.

To help you on your journey is FLUDD, a water tank strapped to Mario's back. FLUDD can either be used like a squirt gun to spray water in front of you, or as a jetpack of sorts, allowing you to spray water towards the ground and propelling Mario vertically into the air. As you progress in the game, more nozzles become available for you to use.

Mario has some other moves up his sleeves as well, things like the ground pound, high jump, various flips and much more. Yoshi also makes an appearance in this outing, but is only necessary for a couple of episodes, which is disappointing at best.

The graphics are definitely not disappointing. Your journey will take you through some beautiful surroundings, with fun and bright colors, tons of baddies and all of the architectural pieces that you would expect from a Mario outing (breakable blocks and pipe systems, among others).

Your adventure takes you through six levels of eight episodes a piece. These levels vary from docks and piers to a resort hotel with a gorgeous sunset on the beach. Water is the largest component in the game, and it is animated beautifully. Waves rock you up and down while you swim, and you can even dive below the surface to collect coins or just to swim with the schools of fish.

As for the music department, it also deserves an excellent rating. The music will change depending on your surroundings, from a simple island melody to a booming track when boss battles are imminent. It was enough to be entertaining, but not enough to cause a distraction. The other sounds in the game are appreciated as well. Enemies will get louder as they approach you, and if you get next to a Shine, even if you can't see it, you will hear its high-pitched melody, which is definitely a plus.

With all of the movement of the water and enemies, along with Mario and other NPCs, as well as the background animation and sounds, I did find a few instances where it started to lag graphically, but only when you were zoomed out to view at a large portion of your surroundings, a camera option that is controlled by the C-Stick.

As for the rest of the camera movements, I was pretty irritated overall at the slow reaction time it displays. You will want to keep your thumb free at all times to quickly rotate the camera to a "behind the player" position, as waiting for the game to do it itself will probably get you killed, especially in the obstacle course levels, which we will discuss later.

The character controls themselves aren't much better. In fact, they're worse. I constantly found myself entering commands, only to see Mario stand there, completely unresponsive. This was especially irritating in the obstacle courses. "Running and jumping" is the key phrase for those sections, yet time and time again I fell off the end of a platform because Mario refused to jump when I entered the command.

Aside from the controls, the obstacle courses themselves range from "Hard" to "I'm about to pull my hair out" levels of difficulty, and rarely did I finish one on my first or even my second try. I've been playing platformers (Mario games included) for as many years as I am young, so for me to have such a hard time at a platforming game must say something about the title as a whole.

Back in the real world sections, Mario's "acrobatic moves", the high jumps and flips don't come across as any easier. To do a 360 degree spin in the air while squirting water (a move that you will have to do if you want the complete Shine count of 120) you have to quickly tilt the Control Stick in two directions, hold R, and tap A. I think it's needless to say at this point, but the responsiveness isn't so grand, so getting these special moves to work takes far too long.

For all of its faults, I would feel as if I was doing the game an injustice if I didn't make a point of saying that when all the controls work the way they are supposed to, you can get a decent amount of enjoyment out of an episode or two. FLUDD itself is an innovative piece of hardware, and getting to float around by using water does give those high-jumping sections a larger feeling of security. However, the major issues with the gameplay itself take away from all the fun that might be had.

While at heart Mario games might seem like purely children's titles, I have a very hard time believing that a child would be able to get through this game, sanity intact. Even if the controls did work as they were intended, they are still complex in nature and far too difficult to master.

In the end, Super Mario Sunshine is foiled with far too many downsides for me to immediately recommend a purchase. However, the beautiful graphics and humorous characters do make it worth a look, as long as you're not the one forking over the money to get it. I?m sad to say that overall, Super Mario Sunshine earns itself a spot in the rental category, but not much else.