Super Mario Sunshine

Release Date: July 19, 2002
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Directors: Yoshiaki Koizumi / Kenta Usui

Rating: 5/5

Mario takes over the summer with a super soaker, water slide, and a jet pack.

Starting from the demo, I immediately and energetically started figuring out all the ways to move around as this new Mario without explanation. There wasn’t a line for the demo in contrast to my first experience with Super Mario 64 where someone was hogging the controller for so long that we, the linegoers, cheered when he, quite angered by this, was removed. Back then moving around in the ambience of the courtyard with the physics engine behind Mario even without doing any sort-of advanced maneuvering was a big event. With Sunshine the big event was figuring out this new water pack: Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device (FLUDD).

The demo drops you into the first episode of Bianco Hills and, more importantly, allows you to figure out Mario’s new moves on your own. No tutorial/user instruction. When I played the demo spraying water was mesmerizing. It is done in multiple eye-pleasing ways: from a jump, while running, while in a 360° sprinkler spin on ground or the air, and most impressively when airborne in a tumbling motion from a triple jump. With water everywhere I learned beforehand on how to fill up the water tank. FLUDD also did the following: spin fans, spin Mario on tightropes, allow Mario to hover, spray enemies, and clean pollution.

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The game starts off with a small intro cutscene and then shortly after gaining control of Mario you walk into a dreaded minute-long unskippable tutorial. Since I already discovered all the moves explained in this “how-to-play” video its presentation was seen as a recap for me. Then after another short moment of controlling Mario you’re hit with a significantly longer wait time as a cutscene explains the plot. This front-loading the game’s beginning, and only there, is necessary as stepping foot into Delfino Plaza is vastly different.

Delfino Plaza is a big outdoor hub that is constantly changing (e.g. the change in sunlight, the introduction of new people and stages, the different news feed messages that scroll across the screen, the great flood). The hub is an extraordinarily designed level. It allows for rooftop running, corridor running, cabana roof bouncing, running underground in sewers to pop out of manholes sky-high into the air, etc. — all of which is closely spaced together.

There are a lot of inhabitants to talk to. And the lines of text that pop up are the most stylish text display in videogames I’ve seen. There is a cinematic quality of producing a 45° angle when talking to someone. The text box now has the most personality of a Mario game. It’s my favorite text box, but it’s not exactly a text box; there are 3 blue curved elongated ovals arcing over one another with a small space between each. Each oval unwinds sequentially fully expanding to the right side just as if painted on with an inkbrush dipped in blue. Encased is white text running from the top oval to the bottom — very appealing and unique compared to other videogame textboxes.

While the game is ultra stylish in communication there also is a nice straight-forward mischievous element to interaction. Running up and spraying the locals or bopping on top of Toads’ heads never gets old. All the above makes running up to someone an enjoyable compulsion. It also gives the population an extra life-like feel.

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Mario has lost a lot of weight since the last time he saved the princess. Mario is less bulky and has more sensitive movements. He can dive and side somersault from a standstill now, of which the latter felt a bit touchy on a few occurrences on my first playthrough when meaning to simply turn around and do a regular jump but doing a side somersault instead.

FLUDD enables a lot of actions: turning mechanisms, propelling Mario, growing and shrinking objects, spraying enemies, launching projectiles, filling containers, cleaning pollution. At some point early in the game I discovered an immensely enjoyable mechanic that is not spoiled or explained in the tutorial. The FLUDD spray nozzle would not be worth protecting behind closed doors from game designers eager to steal a game mechanic if not for this one new addition to Mario’s core move set: water sliding.

This friction mechanic is done by spraying water on the ground and diving, which makes Mario slide very fast along the ground. This ability can be used everywhere and is useful for anytime a lot of ground needs to be covered; this is quite beneficial in these spacious levels and would be perfect for an open world Mario game. The end of the water slide is never in sight, and getting off is a matter of bailing out whenever necessary. The linear movement of water sliding ensures that its function does not totally consume getting around a stage as if Mario was to be steered like a race car. It does have different gears though as you hit top speed after a second or so. It gives fast momentum to slide off an edge. Triple jumping off the edge of a huge drop in a spraying spin and diving right before impact to hit the ground speeding is truly spectacular.

Another discovery is that Mario can charge up hills by front somersaulting out of a dive on them. His triple jumping can be sped up from 64; Skip the 2nd jump input and go straight to a triple jump by jumping as soon as you hit the ground from a spin jump or bouncing off something. Also, if you drop down off a platform and jump right as you hit the ground you go to a 2nd jump instead of having your jumps reset to the 1st jump.

Mario is ready for whatever terrain is thrown at him: to leap over hurdles, to dart up hills, to water slide speedily across large planes, to climb up trees, to hang and shimmy across ledges, to bounce up walls, to slide down walls, to front somersault over gaps, to jettison through vast stretches of water, to walk on tight ropes, to whirl, to throw, to pound, to perch up high looking down.

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Water slide through hub to a stage portal in less than 10 seconds. Enter stage almost immediately by doing some action, usually spraying water on portal. Portal jumping has become matter-of-fact than magical like it was in Super Mario 64.

Red graffiti M’s and shapes abound on stages thanks to Shadow Mario’s handiwork. Having wall graffiti be sprayable to administer blue coins in various ways, which way depends on the type of graffiti design, is clever and also makes it so floor space isn’t clustered. There is plenty variation to how blue coins are presented rewarding players for good observation, curiosity, speed, and more. If all the blue coins were all boringly placed in plain view or as a do this for person, the game would lose a lot of its charm. New to the game is a shopkeeper that lets you purchase Shine Sprites; 10 blue coins per Shine. With how blue coins are presented (see below), collecting is not chore-like or fetch-questy.

Blue Coin Types and Ranking List:
1ST PLACE: Blue coins for removing X or triangle graffiti – Distant timed coin dispense
2ND PLACE: Blue coins for targeting blue wildlife (i.e. blue birds)
3RD PLACE: Blue coins floating in plain site easily reachable, caged or those that are placed in hard-to-get area
– Blue coins for removing M graffiti – Regular coin dispense
– Blue coins reward for helping (i.e. talking to people after cleaning them)
– Blue coins found in nooks & crannies
– Blue Coins found in destructible stage elements
LAST PLACE: Blue coins found by activation of some invisible design. The ones under the sand are neat as are the ones behind secret passage sprayable walls. The type I don’t like of these pop out of lackluster non-descript areas. These devilish coins are hidden to those not privileged with lots of luck, time, or being a member of the development team for Super Mario Sunshine. BUT, for perspective there are only like 2 or 3 of these coins in the whole game.

This isn’t your standard Mario game. The wackiness is upped. There are roadblocks. There are spikes in difficulty. There is a one-off boss fight that goes all out in aesthetic mayhem inducing slow down. There is far less time spent to get to the challenging levels ala athletic levels (also known as the void levels). What’s this an a capella? Come back for more and you get challenged with a timed secret episode collecting 8 red coins with FLUDD.

Are you a NINPRO? This game is not afraid to show the player the ‘GAME OVER’ screen. Reveal skill level as there is built up control from 64 now with handling the camera in the air while hovering and moving around in general, which makes for essentially two camera systems: ground and air. Player switches frequently from 2D-esque locked motions and 3D analog controls. Doing so is enjoyable, especially when challenging oneself to do so to maintain a consistent and high-rate of speed. Repeated takes let you enhance your abilities; e.g., racing Piantissimo again, trying out an athletic course with all the nozzle attachments.

Long after in the game you unlock Yoshi. Yoshi is cleverly summoned out of his shell by bringing him fruit he is thinking about. While Yoshi more or less acts like a key than a platform enhancing vehicle getting him to the needed area is fun. His hunger gauge makes you act quickly and amusingly he changes colors by eating different fruits, which in turn changes the platform properties he turns baddies into. It would have been great having an athletic course devoted to his platform creating spray ability. To be able to create numerous platforms in a singular color over a black void. As it stands it was a natural implementation of Mario’s favorite dinosaur.

Buying shines with blue coins starts becoming harder as the easier to spot blue coins go away. The world is carved into by Mario removing blue coins, which leads to some visual disappointment not seeing a resplendent blue coin hovering over a vertical yellow coin stack.

In conclusion, the execution of blue coins was probably around 95% good and 5% bad. The full blue coin experience will end on a sour note finding the latter without supplementing in guidebook use. My recommendation, which is what I am still doing, is to slowly chip away at finding the last coins over a long period of time. Delayed gratification. Isle Delfino is a place to relax and take in the sights — blue coins give the world more discoverable depth that prolongs the experience, but refreshment has to come from a source that defies depletion.

CONCLUSION

Sunshine is a proper sequel. It does a lot of daring feats for a Mario game that challenge both the player and the hardware. The theme of a tropical vacation is excellently adapted throughout the levels, and the ability to look out at other levels while inside a level is a nice touch of world cohesion. Water as an infinitely replenishable source of fuel and ammo smartly takes the genre beyond the doodad stage filling and collecting depletion. Looking at any map and thinking how fun it would be to control Mario in it is accomplished with Sunshine as it is now the top physics engine of platforming.

A truly fantastic game for the summer. I played through it as fast as I could. With a physics engine this fun in controlling Mario I often look at other game worlds and think of placing Mario on any map. But he’s here to stay only on Nintendo GameCube.

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IMPROVEMENT LIST

Work in progress.

GAME COMPARISON LIST

Super Mario 64, Sonic Adventure, Pac-Man World 2, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory, Jet Set Radio, Donkey Kong 64, Ranger-X, Rayman 2, Jak and Daxter, Mega Man Zero, Gunvalkyrie

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