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GAME REVIEW

Super Mario Sunshine: Gaming Get!

Latest Mario Offering FLUDDed with Excitement

By Chad Serrant

Staff Writer

Super Mario Sunshine

By Nintendo

For Nintendo GameCube

$49.99

When Super Mario 64 was released in 1996, it set the standard for all 3D platform games and left a lot of people anticipating the next incarnation. This is where Super Mario Sunshine comes in. It improves every single aspect of Super Mario 64, and it has added enough extras to make it a new experience. Indeed, this is an evolution of a still fantastic game. If you liked Super Mario 64 and still thirst for more, this game will leave you bloated and vulnerable to a ground pound.

The overall objectives are almost identical to those of Super Mario 64. Every stage has eight episodes. Each episode’s goal varies, but most fall into one of four categories: red coin hunt, boss fight, secret areas, or chase. Reaching the goal rewards the player with a shine sprite, analogous to the stars in Super Mario 64. The red coin hunts are pretty straightforward and force you to pay attention to your surroundings. The chases are entertaining: a watery doppelganger of Mario runs around the stage, performing stunts and feats that the player can theoretically perform.

The boss fights are very entertaining, as well. Take the Manta Ray Shadow as an example. At first, it is large and slow. But as it is hit with more and more water, it divides into smaller but faster shadows. Eventually, there’s a hundred little manta rays, zipping and zooming everywhere. In general, the boss fights are fun, but they are pretty easy to beat. The final boss fight is the easiest of them all, unfortunately.

The secret areas, however, are much more difficult. Super Mario 64 experts need apply, as this mode the player must fall back to 3D and 2D old school platforming skills to survive. These stages are difficult, perhaps too much so. In the end, it’s your call to decide whether it is too hard or if it’s the exact difficulty boost games need these days. At least there’s a remix of the classic Mario beat to drive you along.

Mario has a lot of extra moves and gadgets to help him. Most of Super Mario 64’s moves have been retained, except for the sorely missed long jump. These techniques are almost necessary for getting through the game’s tougher platforming sequences.

The game adds new elements when Mario wears a water pack named FLUDD on his back. It has a squirt gun that can be used to spray away gunk, stun back guys, and reveal hidden areas. As well, Mario can reach far-away platforms by using FLUDD to hover in midair. Furthermore, FLUDD can also switch to a rocket nozzle which shoots Mario high up into the air -- even though it’s a bit difficult to see where he’s landing -- and the turbo nozzle that gives Mario a giant speed boost and lets him skate on or under water.

Simply put, FLUDD strikes a perfect balance: it’s used enough to change the gameplay from Super Mario 64, but it is not just a cheap gimmick like Yoshi, who is simply there for fan service. His juice can destroy barriers that water cannot, which turns Yoshi into a dinosaur shaped key you can ride. And speaking of fan service, where’s Luigi?

The camera manages to do what few other cameras have done: prevent confusion. The camera generally works by itself, but the C-stick can be used to manually rotate and zoom the camera. Few other console games actually give this much control. Platform jumping is not difficult because the camera can be moved to get the user’s best possible view. There is even a first-person free look mode to check on any missed details.

The camera is not perfect, however. It fails in enclosed spaces, where it is difficult to get the right angle for the situation. Luckily there are very few tight spots in the game, so this occurrence is very rare. When an object is in front of Mario and blocking the camera, Mario turns into a silhouette and appears where he should appear. Unfortunately, nothing else gets a similar treatment. This makes the “Silhouette Mario” idea an incomplete answer, as it forces blind leaps. Of course, the better answer to those situations is to rotate the camera into a better position.

The graphics for Super Mario Sunshine aimed for water and distance over detail. The water effects are well done. Puddles of water create a reflection, water creates ripples, and the water doesn’t look repetitive, finally. Apparently, all of that work from Wave Race paid off. The draw distance is also very far. You can climb to the highest point in a stage, zoom the camera out, and see everything in the stage moving with no slowdown. There is even a heat haze effect in most of the stages. On the negative side, there is little detail on most of the objects, as most of the objects in the game have single-colored polygons. Whether this was an art style or a graphics engine design, don’t expect any textures to knock your socks off. A more troubling graphical aspect is the lack of shadows under coins and similar objects, which forces the player to blindly guess where the coin is. That shouldn’t happen.

The music is catchy, using a tropical theme. Unfortunately, none of the songs are as addictive as in previous Mario titles. The underground music, Yoshi’s drum complementing the main beat, and the old school Super Mario Bros. music are well done nods to old school gaming music. The voice acting is a tossup, though. Mario doesn’t talk during cut scenes -- wasn’t that Link’s job? -- and the bad guy’s voice isn’t anything like I expected. But few are willing to deny FLUDD’s voice.

Overall, Super Mario Sunshine is definitely the successor to Super Mario 64, and it also beats most of the other platformers out currently. For those who are interested in platformers on the newer systems, I simply say “Shine Get!” I would love to say more, but I have to look for Luigi...