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Super Mario Sunshine – GameCube

Super Mario Sunshine – GameCube

boxPlatform: Nintendo GameCube

Developer: Nintendo EAD

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: August 26, 2002

Genre: Platformer

Nerd Rating: 8/10

Reviewed by Paladin

Let’s save the environment!…is not the best way to preface a video game. Of course nature is important, I’d dare say essential, to humans, but that doesn’t mean Super Mario will benefit from jumping on the green bandwagon. In all fairness, Super Mario Sunshine isn’t that agendized, but the majority of advertising showcased Mario cleaning up pollution with a weird looking water backpack, making this the first Mario game to utilize an accessory for nearly the entire thing.

That was enough to bias some fans against it, but Sunshine also suffered from two other distinct disadvantages when it was released: 1.) It came between Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy and 2.) It wasn’t the launch title for the GameCube. As Nintendo consoles tend to premiere with a Mario game, most fans forget that the first installment for GameCube was Luigi’s Mansion, a good game but it still threw people that Mario’s brother would pave the way and not Mario himself.


It was nice to see Luigi get his own game, but in my opinion people didn’t give Super Mario Sunshine a fair chance. It’s not as if everyone hates it, but the reaction of most is, “Yeah it’s a good, but not great.” Given the opening, it’s not hard to see why. As opposed to Mario 64‘s 1 minute intro, Sunshine hits us with a whopping 10 minute cinematic cutscene to get things going, with a small playable tutorial worked in.

On the one hand, props to Nintendo for giving a Mario game more story. On the other, who plays a Mario game for story? If the plot was more involved that’d be one thing; as it is, nothing here is more in-depth than any other entry in the franchise and certainly not complex enough to warrant a 10 minute set up (and it can’t even be skipped!). Irksome, but gameplay is the draw of this series and Sunshine doesn’t disappoint.

We start off presumably right after the events of Mario 64, with Mario and Peach on an airplane on their way to a tropical island vacation. The island is covered in a mysterious gunk by an evil doppleganger called “Shadow Mario,” the plane almost crashes, and Mario is blamed, forcing him to clean things up with the help of a talking robotic backpack called the FLUDD (Flash Liquidizing Ultra Dousing Device). I’m sure your initial reaction was the same as mine, “Oh God, not another Navi!” However, FLUDD proves to be one of the reasons things begin to progress at a faster rate.

Killing two birds with one stone, he gives hoverinstructions during gameplay without interrupting the flow of the action, although his speaking in cutscenes can still be annoying. A small price to pay for his biggest contribution, which is the added diversity he gives to Mario’s already well flushed out mechanics. A spray of water can help Mario slide, navigate obstacles, and even hover. This allows for some expansive exploration early in the game without feeling like cheating.

Considering the large array of moves at your disposal, the controls are well thought out. Mario 64, for as good as it was, suffered from over use of a single button, such as the “Z” button performing a ground pound, long jump, or backflip depending on the context. In the heat of the moment it was easy to make Mario do the wrong thing. Not a great feature in a 3D platformer, where timing is everything.  Sunshine fixes that problem, largely due to the increased number of, but still easy to reach, buttons on the GameCube controller.

Side and backflips are fun to master, but the level design can force some monotonous, if not tricky maneuvers. Each level looks gorgeous, especially with how wide and open some of them are, but the designers used a lot of that space to simply make obstacles taller or gaps wider. These don’t usually present a rewarding challenge as flipping up walls isn’t difficult and hovering makes any gap a joke. Instead it feels like an unnecessary time investment to punish those who aren’t precise enough, especially when falling from a waterheight into water, forcing a slow, frustrating swim back to the beginning of the stage.

Partly to blame for difficult platforming is the camera. While a definite improvement over the 64, there are times when it will adjust quicker than expected or go to an angle you hadn’t planned on, resulting in a missed jump or a readjustment of the joystick. Other times, the controller throwing comes from tasks within levels. For instance, obtaining a Yoshi by randomly punching out the right kind of fruit from a tree or having to spray an entire beach for a single blue coin become tedious fast and clash with the fast paced nature of the rest of the game.

These problems are annoying, but they aren’t consistent. The good parts of Sunshine far outweigh the bad. In the six years that passed from Mario 64 to this one, a lot of technical advancements were made as far as game mechanics, frame rate, and especially visuals. Isle Delfino looks like somewhere I’d want to vacation. The water, mountains and scenery are all rendered beautifully. Parts feel rushed, but the attention to detail is evident.

Is it the best Mario game? No, but now that so many years have passed I think many who initially dismissed this title would benefit from a second playthrough. I know I did.

Written by Paladin


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  1. This is a great review Paladin! I love the art direction here, with the beachy island colors and awesome matching tunes. But I feel you on the camera angle. I remember struggling the camera angles, especially when you need a top down angle. I missed SO many platforms bc of screwy camera angles and poor depth perception.


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