Super Mario Sunshine

I guess I was kind of spoiled by the games in the Super Mario series. All of them I’d played up until Sunshine were really good. So I was pretty jazzed to finally get a new game in the series after so many years after Super Mario 64 came out.

Once I finally got to play it, though, I was actually pretty disappointed.

Mario games, and especially Super Mario 64 establish that Mario is an acrobat. In 64 he had the ability to run, jump, backflip, punch, kick, and stomp his way through his adventure. In this game, though, he’s been framed for ugly-ing up an island by painting some goop everywhere. So he has to use the conveniently-available talking backpack/water pump to clean up the mess.

I guess the backpack is real heavy because Mario completely forgot most of his moves that he learned in his previous 3D adventure. He can’t punch or kick things any more. He has to either stomp on their heads and or spray them with a not very powerful stream of water, which only annoys them slightly.

Don’t think that Mario becoming impotent in his Koopa dispatching ways is all there is to be annoyed about in this game, we’ve only just gotten started!

You end up using the backpack to enhance jumps by shooting the streams straight down, and it becomes pretty important to your movement. Unfortunately, there are stages where the backpack is stripped from you and you have to go through a stage using only Mario’s slightly unnatural acrobatic skills. There are some enemies in these stages, and they can only be defeated by stomping on their heads. You try to punch and kick them out of the way and Mario just kind of stamps his feet like he really wants to do something, but just can’t. And the thing is, these are the most fun parts of the whole game. They feel like an actual Mario game instead of the rest of the game.

The other big problem that I had was pretty much a deal-breaker for me. The camera in this game is just about the worst camera that I’ve ever had the misfortune of using. Most of the time it’s OK, but if you jump (and really, how often does Mario do that?) the camera pivots upward instead of panning upward. Which looks fine in screenshots and the like, but is so impractical that the game is nigh-unplayable. See, the game routinely has you jumping from floating platform to floating platform several hundred feet above ground level. It’s kind of important to me that when I’m jumping from one platform to the next that I can see where I’m going to land. Without that, I end up misjudging my landing and falling to my doom. Don’t believe me? Go out to your favorite sidewalk and try to jump in the center of each of five contiguous sections while looking straight up in the air. Once you fail, you’ll begin to feel my frustration. You can kind of see what I’m talking about at about 1:20 in the following clip:

And if all that weren’t bad enough, I encountered what I consider to be a pretty big bug. See, you need 70 ‘Shine Sprites’ to open the way to the last encounter. I had 70, but the way was still locked. Even though I had unmasked the evil villain and he told me where to find him. In each stage of the game you have a little ’showdown’ kind of thing with him. I had somehow managed to collect enough sprites to open to open the way to the last boss and he ran away to his not-very-secret hideout. But, there was one stage where I had yet to have the little showdown thing. So I had to figure out which stage I hadn’t played enough to get to that point, go fight him, and then go to the final showdown.


You also get to ride Yoshis in this game, like you could in Super Mario World, but unlike the Yoshis in Super Mario World, they’re just about worthless. The main problem with them, other than the unnatural way they spew a near-unending fountain of ‘juice’ on command, is that on an island, surrounded by water, with canals full of water, and boats that travel on water, your Yoshis literally dissolve when they touch water. So any usefulness they had is immediately negated by the fact that they’re completely and easily destructible by one of the most common substances on the planet.

And don’t even get me started on the boats, made out of mud (which also dissolves in water, albeit more slowly), which you have to steer by shooting jets of water out of the back. Never mind that this is what oars were invented for, but since the boat dissolves and is floating in either electrified water or freaking lava, you only have one chance, maybe two, to master a ridiculously obtuse method to control a boat before you face your doom.

Even with these problems, the game wasn’t terrible. It was passably good, but unlike Super Mario 64 where I felt compelled to explore every nook and cranny of the game world to unearth its secrets, after this game, I felt no such compulsion. In fact, after doing the bare minimum to complete it, I shelved this game and haven’t looked back to it since. I’m still pretty uncertain how it ranked so highly by all the ‘professional reviewers‘, even though in my experience the game was just barely above mediocre. In fact, I don’t remember any of those guys having the problems that I did, or if they did they didn’t mention it in their reviews.

I think it was about that point where I began to distrust professional game reviews almost entirely. And, no, user reviews are no better.

One Response to “Super Mario Sunshine”

  1. [...] last, and that happened because my timing and judgment of simulated 3D space has apparently become highly suspect in recent memory for some [...]

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