A vacation worth taking.
“You mean I have to clean up crap?” That was my first response when I read about Super Mario Sunshine for the first time. First, Link got all cartoony, Fox got out of his Arwing and now Mario got a goofy ass water pack and started acting like a sanitary worker. When Mario Sunshine was released in 2002, I played it for a little bit and quickly decided it was not worth playing, and moved on. However last year, when I decided to play through my backlog of games, I played Mario Sunshine again and found it quite enjoyable.
The story is a little thin, Mario takes an island vacation with Princess Peach, and things quickly get out of hand when Mario gets confused with Shadow Mario, who has been wreaking havoc all over Ilse Delfino. Peach gets kidnapped and Mario has to collect a bunch of star-like things called Shines to restore Delfino's lost luster.
Super Mario Sunshine is a 3D platformer like Super Mario 64 or Rayman 2. You control Mario and go to several beach-inspired worlds collecting coins and the star-like shines, completing objectives to move the game along. What sets Mario Sunshine apart from other platformers is the water pack mechanic. Mario can use his water pack to spray enemies, hover around, rocket jump and move fast over land and water. Mario's added abilities make for trickier level designs and objectives. Despite having the same amount of “stars” as Super Mario 64, you generally have to do more stuff to obtain each star, making the game longer.
In addition, there are mini levels where Mario loses his water pack and must run an obstacle course to get a shine. Gameplay is varied. Mario rides a roller coaster, enters a giant pachinko machine and even gets to ride Yoshi for the first time since the Super Nintendo days. Once you've played the game for a few hours, you'll unlock many worlds for you to explore, it's very rare that you'll be stuck doing a particular thing over and over again. Get stuck? Move on to something else and come back to it later.
The graphics are great, with particularly exceptional water effects and, even though the game was released in 2002, Super Mario Sunshine looks better than a lot of Wii games released this year. The game's music has a Caribbean/Calypso feel to it, very catchy.
The game has some issues however. The camera system fights you a lot, and it required a lot of manipulation via the C-stick to get the perfect angles. Also, after playing the game extensively, I've noticed that the first world, Bianco Hills, is sub-par and a very poor example of what the entire game is. The world is poorly designed and the objectives aren't much fun, WAY too much sludge to clean up. That brings up another point, cleaning up sludge and spraying sludge monsters is boring and tedious. Sludge related gameplay is used about 5 times more than it should have been.
But these are minor issues, Super Mario Sunshine is a great game and I don't hesitate at all to recommend it to Gamecube and Wii owners looking for an enjoyable platformer.