Written By Shaun McCracken

Ah, the Mario series/franchise. It's pretty much the one thing you can count on to not only give you an entertaining game, but innovative game designs as well. In fact, there has been only a couple of misfires in the plumber's 20+ history, and it really wasn't Nintendo's fault (Mario Is Missing is one of them). With the release of each new Nintendo system, there has always been a Mario game available at or around launch, and usually has brought over a whole new way we think about games. But for some reason, we had to wait almost one year before we got an actual Mario game on the Gamecube. Was it worth the wait? Does it bring something new? Does it improve on existing designs? Read on.

Super Mario Sunshine may be one of the weaker offerings in the Mario series, simply because the idea just isn't as strong or compelling as past efforts. I will admit that meeting Peach for cake in Mario 64 was about as ridiculous as you can get in terms of story, but it involves another kidnapping. Here, you're on vacation to a place never mentioned before in the entire history of the series, Delfino Island, and your biggest problem is cleaning up the crap that was left behind from someone who looks like you. In a way, the whole plot is reverse of Sega's Jet Grind Radio. Instead of marking your territory, you clean up a mess you haven't even made. While the storyline and plot is about as thin as a Doritio, the game play elements are very much welcome and entertaining, as they always have been.

Mario is now equipped with a spray cannon called FLUDD, which is innovative at first, but is something that is guaranteed never to make a return in the next Mario game. You basically use this thing to clean up the grafitti and to reach places normal jumping can not get you to. Aside from this gimmick, you have the same moves as you did in Mario 64. The double jump, the sideways jump and the pound. It's all there. These come together for some interesting game play elements, but also manage to become tedious as well. Of course, you can blame the camera more for that. For some reason, SMS does not have a good camera. Why is it Zelda can provide great camera angles, but the Mario games can't? While the camera is not nearly as distracting or atrocious as Sonic Adventure 2 Battle's, it can be at fault for missed jumps. The overall control scheme is fairly tight and easy to grasp, but when the world you move around in is not nearly as dynamic as the controls, frustration can occur. Especially in the special levels.

Speaking of which, along with the seven or so stages you play in, which range from different shorelines, to a haunted hotel and an amusement park, you have these special stages that are more challenging and demanding than the actual game itself. You are placed into these stages that are set up almost like a classic 2-D Mario stage, except there are some 3-D elements. The first few I came across were not that tough, but some of the later ones are brutal. The way the special stages are designed makes me wish that this could have been a separate game itself. I would like to see a Mario game go back to it's 2-D design roots, and mix 3-D elements within that. It could be fun, who knows.

The graphics of SMS are not terribly overwhelming. The textures on land are pretty bright, and kind of blurry and lacking of detail. Perhaps this would have been a better game to use the cel-shading technique on. The water, on the other hand, looks great. It has the specular effects that should have been implemented in Wave Race Blue Storm. The Mario character model is modeled very well, and has very smooth animations. There are also a lot of reflection effects as well as lighting effects to be seen, as well as an overuse of heat distortion. Also, SMS has a great draw-distance. The frame rate stays constant most of the time, where the only real drop-off that occurred was when I went near the three tilting mirrors, and I can imagine it takes some power to get those reflections to work as well as they do.

The sound consists of island music and Mario sound-bites. I never liked the way Mario sounded after Mario 64. I remember the old Super Mario Bros. cartoons back in the late 80's, and he sounded like he was from Brooklyn. I'm not sure if I'm the only one bothered by this, but I just can't stand Mario's squealing a lot of the time. The island music is decent, but not really memorable. The remixed SMB theme works well for the special stages, though.

Many have come down hard on this game simply because it never really advanced passed Mario 64. In a way, they are right. But the game play design is still so much better than other games I have played. It still managed to be addictive, frustrating and fun, despite the poorly conceived storyline. SMS is pretty much Mario not only taking a vacation from his tireless duties, but kind of a vacation from his series as well. We're just along for the ride.





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Perhaps not the best Mario outing ever, but it's still a great platformer, and has a fairly solid design that may be copied at some point in the future.


Grabbed By The Ghoulies


Sonic Adventure 2 Battle

Super Mario 64

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