Super Mario Sunshine (2002)

The red headed stepchild of the Mario franchise. A game heralded by few as a great game or maybe even their favorite mario game in the series. This thought process has eluded me for years after only seeing it first hand a few times and hearing my best friend’s unending praise for the title.

Super Mario Sunshine starts off innocently enough, as Mario and Princess Toadstool (Now going under the name Peach) on a flight to the tropical Island of Delfino for a vacation. Then, suddenly, the plane crashes and Mario has to deal with a island that is polluted with a shadow version of himself  (who more resembles a water like state and not a dark shadowy figure) and is mucking up his good name by painting graffiti and doing just all around no-good-nick type activities.

The Island of Delphino is actually amazingly bright and vibrant. The color saturation is beautiful and it really does feel like a vacation spot. The musical soundtrack consists of jamaican like steel drum beats and the water and sand really do feel like you can throw on a swimsuit and shades and sip Pina-Coladas by the shore and just take in the breathtaking ambiance of the island.

Sadly, I find that the best part of this at times platformer. The levels don’t feel varied enough to warrant a full game set here. You have tropical getaway local, other tropical getaway local, ,tropical getaway local at the boat depot, tropical getaway local at sunset (but basically takes place inside the hotel/casino and an amusement park. The amusement park is easily the best/most fun level in the game. The boss fight against….ugh… Bowser jr. (I’ll get to my absolute disdain of this character later) but fighting Junior on a rollercoaster while throwing rockets at him is an absolute blast. I had so much fun looping and tossing rockets while trying to lead the rocket a bit and make sure it hits it’s intended target while moving in a on-rails cart was just a enjoyable time. It makes for one of the best boss fights in any Mario game in the series.

Beyond that, I just didn’t find most of the levels very fun and really just wanted to be done with the game.

The control of mario was decent but I feel like it was a step...not backwards, but sideways, in a sense from Super Mario 64, its predecessor. The long jump has been replaced with a tummy slide, and the “addition” of Fludd is unenjoyable for most of the game. The hover nozzle is the only real one you use, unless you have to point and shoot or run and shoot Shadow Mario. I struggled with the point and shoot nozzle mechanics for most of the game. Having the pressure sensitive half click/full click of the Gamecube controller doesn’t emulate very well, and after resetting up the controls specifically for that game, it was much easier. Still. Being environmentally friendly Mario: The Game is not really that enjoyable. They lean hot and heavy into the “clean up our town” in the early stages of the game, which is why it drove me off so fast when it launched. But now playing through it, the later stages become much less about that and more about challenging platforming and playing around with camera angles to get a different perspective. I really wish it was more balanced, I feel I would have given this game a better chance had I know “just stick with it, it gets better”.

The controls are a little messy, it doesn’t feel as tight and precise as it did with Mario 64. Fludd adds a few fun elements to the controlling of Mario, but feels a lot like a gimmick more than anything. Hovering helps when you need to platform, but that is only good because the camera is absolutely lousy. I have not had such a hard time with a camera… maybe ever. I’m actually struggling to figure out a more infuriating camera for a 3D game. Resident Evil/Batman Dark Tomorrow comes close, but that is only because I had static cameras that change and cause the controls to invert when the camera angle changes.

The bad guy list…

In what felt like a fever dream of bad ideas, this game decided to throw a Shadow Version of Mario in the mix with Bowser/Bowser Jr.

Shadow Mario: He is not a shadow, he is a Water Mario (since this game feels like it needed to revolve around water) Anyway he is the actual villain of this game, You “fight” him throughout the entire game, And when I say “fight” I say that because you don’t really fight him, you spray him with water until he falls down and walk up to him then he goes away, rinse and repeat throughout the game, then he just straight up disappears and is not heard from again. No rhyme or reason for him to be in this game at all. He, at best, is a minor annoyance, but gates your progress of the game throughout.

Bowser/Bowser Jr: The actual actual villain of this game. This game has no sense of who it’s villain should be. Bowser/jr show up and try to kidnap Princess Toadstool, and then do so and you have to fight them as they take a bath together at the end. Weird.  Bowser’s size changes throughout the entire Mario series, sometimes he’s slightly larger than Mario, sometimes he’s the size of a house, sometimes he’s the size of a small gas-like planet. I actually don’t really have that big of a problem with it, but it’s just weird and inconsistent and is never brought up or explained.