Super Mario Sunshine Review
July 17, 2018
Stuck inside this summer? Wish you were at the beach? No problem, Super Mario has you covered. Super Mario Sunshine is the most summer and beach-themed game ever. The turquoise ocean surrounds Mario as he explores Isle Delfino, a tropical island with great beaches. I finally beat the game, and this is my review.
The tropical paradise theme is really cool. Water on the Gamecube looked so good, and Mario Sunshine has TONS. I suspect the game designers at Nintendo purposely made it beach themed so they could show off the beautiful water. A day on Mario Sunshine's beach actually has some advantages over a real beach: Sand doesn't seem to give Mario any trouble while I have a hard time running in real sand, and get stressed out when it gets in my shoes. Mario also doesn't seem to have any problem swimming around in the ocean, the salt water doesn't bother him. And he never wears sunscreen, yet still looks great after many hours exploring the tropical levels. Nintendo really nailed the beach theme. The music fits great, the "hub-world" town was fun to explore. And the hotel level at sunset really did feel relaxing. My one complaint is the lack of sharks. Of course I don't want sharks to be at a real beach, but in a video game, heck yes I want some sharks. Mario Sunshine has none.
There's no looking past it, Mario has a large, talking, water jetpack-backpack on his back for most of this game called Fludd. It really bugged me when I first played it. The previous game, Super Mario 64, was amazing without any stupid mechanical powerups. Fludd really seems gimmicky sometimes. Shooting water to beat boss fights is only cool for about 10 seconds, then it gets old. Mario games shouldn't be shooters or have elements of shooters. After playing the game again 16 years later, I kind of like Fludd more. The jetpack feature is really cool, and the hovering ability it gives you makes the platforming more forgiving, kind of like Kazooie flapping her wings in Banjo Kazooie. The worst part about Fludd is the new controls. Most of the controls are the same as they were in Super Mario 64, but we lost the long jump-one of my favorite moves-and I blame Fludd. I think the game would have been better without it, but it was a fun idea.
Aside from Fludd, the game is really fun. It could never have lived up to its predecessor, which frustrated me back in 2002 when Mario Sunshine came out. I couldn't help but compare it, and it isn't as good. But Mario Sunshine is still a great game. Exploring the main "hub-world" level is really cool. The camera has been drastically improved in Mario Sunshine over Mario 64, and almost never gets in the way. The controls are butter-smooth and tight like you would expect from a Mario game. I often forget that Mario is supposed to be a plumber, and it is cool being able to run around in the sewers of the game.
The platforming levels are excellent. There are a lot of hidden blue coins that are fun to find and get to. They are like mini-stars almost, as it can be a big accomplishment to get them. Collecting the shine-sprites isn't ideal in this game. You have to do each level's shine-sprites in order, and some of them are brutally hard to get, blocking your progress. The "hub-world" is more free-roaming, and you can explore it in any way you like which is awesome. The "hub-world" is a great level and I wish the others were as good. There are all sorts of secrets there.
The challenge levels are nightmarish. Mario usually loses Fludd unexplainably, and must do these levels by himself. The music is a weird acapella version of old Mario themes, and the levels can be super hard. The sand-bird was super rage-inducing. It is a good feeling to beat them, but I think they should have been "secret levels" or something extra for the game, rather than a requirement. They just don't fit with the rest of the game and are more frustrating than fun.
The graphics are stunning, especially when compared to the previous 3D platformer generation on the Nintendo 64 and Playstation 1. Mario really looks like Mario now, he is a smooth 3D character, not blocky at all. The levels are incredibly detailed and colorful. It seems like a lot of time and care went into building each level (especially the "hub-world") and it is fun to wander around and explore. I think these graphics hold up very well today and would look great on any modern system too.
The difficulty in this game is all over the place. The acapella levels can be insanely hard. The worst part about the difficulty fluctuations is that you have to beat each level's shine-sprite's in order. So if there is a part of a level giving you trouble, you don't have much choice other than to keep trying, otherwise you can't play any other parts of the level. The sand bird level is a good example of this. You start out on a nice tropical beach. As you jump through the trees and into a giant egg, you are suddenly transported. The music changes, signalling that it's about to get hard. Then you are suddenly on a giant bird made of sand, flying through the air. The controls get crazy up there, and the bird starts flipping over. It is super hard. There are a lot of levels like this. The hard levels AREN'T FUN, they are just frustrating. Usually my controller would be drenched in sweat by the time I beat them.
The levels in this game are mostly good (except the acapella levels). They have good themes and good places for platforming. The biggest letdown is how few there are. There are only 7 real levels:
- Hub world - awesome
- Grassy town - just ok
- Port - fun, with some good platforming!
- Amusement park - frustrating
- Polluted cliff area - fun-good platforming!
- Haunted hotel with a casino - fun
- Weird town with mushrooms down below - just ok
- Big beach - great vibe
They are all pretty much tropical island themed. I wish there were more.
Overall Super Mario Sunshine is a fun, weird, difficult game. It is the Gamecube's big Mario game, and I definitely recommend it to anyone with a Gamecube. The vibe is great, and it is a fun alternative to going to the real beach.