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Super Mario Holiday
Super Mario Sunshine (GC)
Member Name: illogicology
Super Mario Sunshine (GC)
Advantages: Excellent gameplay, graphics, sound, nice length, good fun.
Disadvantages: Isn't Super Mario 64,
Super Mario Sunshine hit the Gamecube in a dazzle of high review scores back in 2001, it had been five years since our last Mario platformer and expectations were high. It was a big seller for Nintendo and much fun was had by all. A few years on, however, and history seems to be suffering from a bit of a rewrite. Around the time Super Mario Galaxy turned up, Sunshine began to carry the label of "the disappointing one." Time has seen it turn from one of the Gamecube's most successful and beloved titles into an albatross around Nintendo's neck. Which is strange because it certainly doesn't match my experience at all.
Super Mario Sunshine is a 3D platformer following Mario as he takes a holiday on the sunny Isle Delfino. Unfortunately, once he arrives he discovers that the island has been defaced by a Mario impostor and soon finds himself in the clink. After a dubious trial, Mario is sentenced to a stretch of community service and must clean the entire Island with his brand new FLUDD; a water pump that functions as your weapon, a jet pac and a hovering tool.
Gameplay is strong throughout and while the traditional platforming skills from Mario 64 are relatively unchanged, the addition of the FLUDD makes for a far more flexible experience. This is helped by the fact that the control system is absolutely flawless and in very little time it's easy to turn Mario into a leaping, wall-kicking, hovering action man. This allows the game to experiment with some more innovative level design, as well as to spread the levels out and make them feel free. One early level you'll revisit frequently is a small village covered in windmills, the wider range allowed by the FLUDD means that it can actually be laid out like a village. While a few playthroughs reveals a tightly designed structure, the level must first be explored and understood before you can work through it. This is one of Sunshine's biggest strengths, each level feels like a real place and not just an obstacle course, the island is a habitat that Mario had fallen upon.
There are a lot of similarities to Mario 64 here, the Island presents a hub to all further levels, much like Princess Peach's castle. However, it's fair to say that there really is a lot less to discover on this island. While there are the secrets and revelations to uncover as you unlock new abilities, there's never that same feeling of diversity. Mario 64's greatest strength was that you could return to different rooms many times for years and still uncover new tricks, Sunshine is less effective and often things to unlock later are explicitly identified as such.
It also borrows a lot in terms of level structure from Mario 64, each level has 8 red coins to retrieve and a race to be won. However it deviates here also and presents all the "shines" in their own level. While Mario 64 wold scatter 8 red coins around a zone for you to find at your leisure, Sunshine boxes it off and forces you to do it to move on. Not a winning decision but minor in the grand scheme of things.
Graphically, I remember being stunned when Super Mario Sunshine was first released and it's still looking good now. It is very bright and colourful with models that reflect and flourish in the sun, it represents a major step up from Mario 64. While it's fair to say that Super Mario Galaxy is a pinnacle of the Wii's graphical achievements, it doesn't really look that much more advanced then Sunshine. The improvements are there but we're clearly playing in the same ball park.
In total Sunshine will probably take even the best gamers a long time to complete, it offers over 100 shines to collect and these come not only from levels but from exploration of the island. Furthermore, the levels have certain rewards for replaying (though not as many as Mario 64) and do offer a lot of fun. It's fair to say that the game doesn't drag and that you'll still be enjoying the levels as you unlock new ones. It plays well, it looks good and it last a good length of time. So, why the bad reputation?
Well, firstly a lot of criticism has centred on the FLUDD. Criticised for being gimmicky and overused, I happen to disagree. The FLUDD element of Sunshine adds to style of play established in Mario 64 and allows for new approaches to level design. Secondly, criticism has fallen on Isle Delfino for not being so charming as the mushroom kingdom. While I have some sympathy with this opinion, can we really write off an otherwise excellent game because the setting isn't as nice?
Of course this won't sway anyone because really it comes down to that same old story. Gamers don't enjoy Super Mario Sunshine because it isn't Super Mario 64. As fickle as gamers can be, they are also clingy. We sing huge praises for the tiniest innovation but really we don't want to see anything change and I'm certain the only follow up to Mario 64 that people would accept is a high-polygon remake. Of course, now Super Mario Galaxy has landed in another flurry of great review scores; it's really not that much better and yet the fans have taken to it. Why? Because it's not Super Mario Sunshine.
Of course, if we judge all games in those terms, very few are any good. Super Mario Sunshine, judge on its own merits however, is very good and should be regarded as such.
If you're a Wii owner who owns and enjoys Super Mario Galaxy, Sunshine is a great game in the same vein that will run perfectly on your Wii. It requires a gamecube controller but those are still pretty easy to get a hold of. It's a great game for kids and adults and will last a good few months at least.
Summary: Luigi is nowhere to be seen though.