As one of the most beloved Nintendo titles of all time, there’s no doubt that Super Mario 64 would be a difficult act to follow. How do you take the core concepts of that groundbreaking 3D platform game and build on them, offering something both new and familiar at the same time? As legend has it, even the game development wizards at Nintendo had a difficult time finding a solution to that conundrum, having actually scrapped two potential sequels before finally coming up with the idea for Super Mario Sunshine for the Gamecube. We may never fully know that ideas wound up on the cutting room floor, but considering what a thoroughly enjoyable final product Nintendo finally came up with, there’s no reason to worry about it.
Story (4 out of 5)
Even the most dedicated heroes deserve a vacation every now and then, right? As Super Mario Sunshine opens, that’s the plan, at any rate, as Mario, Peach and her adviser Toadsworth are en route to Isle Delfino, a vacation paradise that promises sun, fun, and plenty of gourmet foods and opportunities for lounging around, which has the full attention of each one of the princess’s travel companions. Things don’t quite work out as planned, however. When the trio arrives at the island, they find an island in turmoil, with goop and graffiti everywhere and dark clouds. Worse yet, there’s a prankster behind it all who looks suspiciously like Mario, and as a result Mario is accused of causing the chaos and is ordered to clean up the mess. Fortunately for our heroic plumber, he is able to enlist the aid of FLUDD, a talking water-spraying backpack, to help him restore the island’s former luster. On the whole, the game is fun and lighthearted, despite its serious sounding premise, and the writing is filled with good attempts at humor that will almost certainly put a smile on your safe.
Gameplay (5 out of 5)
If you’re familiar with Super Mario 64, you already know some of what to expect. Mario can run, jump, bounce on his enemies heads, perform his patented ground-pound butt bounce, do a somersault and even pull off a fancy wall jump. Added into the mix to shake things up is FLUDD, whose water powers can be used to attack, hover, and once new nozzle attachments are unlocked later in the game, launch high into the air like a rocket or speed up using the turbo nozzle. Also, there are different levels that allow Mario to ride Yoshi to overcome obstacles, and others where he (and the gamer) will have to overcome some difficult platforming challenges without the aid of his water-spraying backpack. The ultimate goal in each level and each challenge is to collect Shine Sprites, which are the guardians of Isle Delfino. Each one Mario collects will bring more light to the island, as well as open up new places for the mustachioed plumber to explore. There are multiple ways they can be earned — defeating bosses, collecting eight red coins in a level, winning a race, finding enough blue coins and using them to purchase Shines, collecting 100 gold coins in each level, bringing fruit to the villagers of Isle Delfino, finding them hidden in buildings or buried under the sand, and so forth. This is definitely one game that encourages exploration and experimentation — that, or liberal use of a strategy guide.
Graphics and Sound (4 out of 5)
The game has a charming look to it, which in many ways is a nice way of saying it looks decent enough but it won’t do anything to dazzle you. The visuals aren’t overly flashy, and they definitely pale in comparison to the more recent Super Mario Galaxy, which really isn’t a surprise. There are some solid effects, however, like how Mario breaks apart as he is sucked into some of the levels and the way the goop reacts as it is sprayed with water. In fact, if Mario walks in some of the gunk, he even leaves footprints behind him, and that is kind of a neat inclusions. There is some voice acting in the game, but it really isn’t anything to write home about. The music is a different story, though. It’s fantastic, and seamlessly blends tropical island tunes with remixed versions of classic Mario tracks. The result is a soundtrack that is bouncy, catchy and extremely easy on the ears.
Overall Rating (4 out of 5)
Where does this game rank among the best Mario games of all time? Super Mario Sunshine didn’t possess the same "wow" factor that the game before it or the game after it had, and in retrospect, it isn’t quite as good when compared to other contemporary games as Super Mario 64 was in its day and Super Mario Galaxy is when compared to other Nintendo Wii platform games. Regardless, it is a thoroughly enjoyable Mario title that, while extremely difficult in places, is nonetheless a title that most gamers will have a lot of fun with. The FLUDD gimmick is a neat twist that adds more gameplay depth to the standard series formula, and the plethora of ways that players can earn their Shine Sprites adds a great deal of variety into the mix. Give that the game has earned Player’s Choice status and should currently be available as at a discounted price, it definitely is a title worth picking up, especially since gamers can use an old Gamecube controller to play this 2002 release on the Nintendo Wii.