The gamecube launched with some awesome games like Super Monk Balls, Star Wars Rogue Squadron, among others. The launch “Mario” game – Luigi’s Mansion – while fun, just didn’t fill my need for awesome 3D platforming. Enter Super Mario Sunshine – which released almost a year later!
Among the Mario games, this game might have one of the most fleshed-out stories of them all! Mario, Peach, Toad, and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom royalty decide to go on a much needed vacation! Their destination – Isle Delfino! Soon after Mario and friends arrive, they notice that there is pollution everywhere, and the island’s inhabitants think it is caused by Mario! Soon enough, Mario is thrown into jail and let out on one condition – he must clean up the island! Instead of a vacation, he gets to work even more work to do!
In terms of gameplay, think of this game as an upgraded Mario 64! There are numerous large open-world levels, all with a tropical theme. Mario can run and jump in full 3D, and fight with tons of different enemies (both old and new)! The goal of the game is to collect “Shines” (aka “stars” from Mario 64) so that more stages can be unlocked. Gameplay thus focuses on completing tasks, beating bosses, and collecting blue coins in order to collect more Shines!
To accomplish this task, Mario now has access to F.L.U.D.D. – an AI water pump device that he carries on his back, and which allows him to do a bunch of cool moves like floating midair, and shooting water are bad guys and pollution! As Mario progresses in the game, more levels become unlocked and more nozzles for F.L.U.D.D. become unlocked (like new hats in Mario 64), opening up even more cool gameplay opportunities like rocketing into the sky, and blasting quickly over water like a jet sky! These F.L.U.D.D. upgrades kept the game feeling fresh!
The gameplay in Mario Sunshine is overall a lot of fun! Some Shine quests had me moving giant sun plates to warm up a giant bird egg, while others had me racing squids at high velocities, while others had me battling really interesting bosses (more on that later)! The only major gripe that I had with the gameplay was that the camera would occasionally prevent me from seeing what I was doing. This became frustrating a few times, but never lasted for too long. Apart from that, the gameplay was a lot of fun!
In terms of levels and their design, the game utilizes a main hub world in the form of a tropical seaside town. This hub connects to the other seven large levels (to be discussed shortly). The hub world is actually quite large in its own right and has a number of Shines scattered throughout it which really encourage players to explore it! I was particularly impressed with the sewer system (and the accompanying Mario 1-2 underground music) and the various townspeople with simple quests that I could help them with!
Each of the seven main levels – while all tropical themed – all feel unique in their own right. These stages range from harbours, beaches, grass areas, acid lakes, amusement park, and even a tropical haunted ghost house! Many of the stages take inspiration from past games and incorporates the ideas in unique ways. For instance – in the second stage – Mario must climb on fences, and he can hit the fences to spin to the other side just like in Super Mario World! Other mini-levels are also introduced which have Mario loose F.L.U.D.D. so that he must navigate difficult platforming segments without its helpful function! While challenging, I found these stages some of my favourites because it really pushed me to be the best platformer that I could be! The stages (including the hub world) are overall a lot of fun, each unique in their own way, that really help push the gameplay possibilities!
As mentioned previously, there are numerous bosses scattered throughout the game – many of which guard Shines! While some bosses are easy to defeat (like the first iteration of the piranha plant seen below), bosses in the mid to late game can actually be quite challenging which I really appreciated! They can also be really unconventional and fun to fight; for instance, the first major boss blew me away as you battle him on a roller coaster with flying Bullet Bills going all over the place! These bosses are a major step-up from Mario 64 which helped the game feeling dynamic, interesting, and challenging!
In terms of graphics, the game still looks pretty good – even today! The levels are big, there are tons of cool lighting and water effects, and the art direction is excellent. This game really feels like you are in the Caribbean on a tropical vacation! Mario himself looks great with lots of animations, and the many enemies fit right in to the Mario universe.
The sound is also good there aren’t that many new memorable tracks. I think my favourite ones remixed old Mario classics like the underground tunnel music! I was also pleasantly surprised that the game included voice acting for many of the story parts of the game. This gave the game a nice sense of polish! The sound effects were fantastic though; collecting a coin is just as satisfying as ever!
In summary, Super Mario Sunshine is a great 3D platform Mario game that takes our favourite plumber on a tropical adventure! There is great platforming, exploration, and boss battles to be had here – although the camera does become an issues at times! If you liked Mario 64 or other 3D platforming games, this game comes highly recommended. Overall, I give this game an 8/10.
Final Score: 8/10