July 26, 2002

Article at Gamers.com

My Week with Super Mario Sunshine: Mario Chat

Day 6: A real-time chat between Super Mario Sunshine experts.

Because we're nearing the end of my week with Super Mario Sunshine, I decided that today would be a good time to just sit down with a couple of other editors (Electronic Gaming Monthly's James "Milkman" Mielke, Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine's Sam Kennedy, and Gamers.com's Nich Maragos) to discuss the game more casually. You've read my impressions and you've read some of theirs-but now check out a real conversation that we had about the game earlier today. Just please don't take everything Milky says seriously-he's just like that. 

Ravi: OK! Let's get the thing that everyone seems to hate most out of the way first: the camera.

Milky: The camera sucks. Worse than Super Mario 64.

Sam: It's bad. You have to fix the friggin' thing every minute.

Nich: I don't care about having to fix it, but you can't ever fix it all the way.

Ravi: I like the camera control more here -- but yeah, you have to move it more to get any sort of decent view of the action.

Sam: Why wasn't it so bad in Mario 64?

Ravi: Probably because there's less stuff in the way. I hate the friggin' palm trees in the first level that clutter the view and confuse the camera.

Milky: The camera is so bad....it made me mad.

Nich: It gets hung up on walls a lot, which I think should never be allowed to happen in a 3D camera.

Sam: Well, in any case, the camera apparently is going to lessen the experience for a lot of people.

Nich: It's not awful, but it's the most striking problem with the game

Ravi: Yeah. The "shadow" feature is not an adequate fix for that. It's like... we can't make this camera any better, so just get around it!

Nich: The shadow feature's a bit useless though, because it doesn't matter where Mario is except in relation to what's around him, which isn't shadowed.

Ravi: Yeah. The most you get is a generic question mark... but the question mark applies for NPCs, coins, and enemies.

Sam: Actually, speaking of that, what'd you guys think of the plumber tunnels, or whatever they're called? I was glad to see they're back, but it's kind of odd you can't actually SEE Mario in them -- the camera is still from above land.

Ravi: Well, it's the sewers -- not sure I want to be looking down there anyway... But those tunnels are so simple that it really doesn't matter.

Nich: Yeah. Since they're so narrow and short, the camera would have been even worse if they'd tried to put it down there. So I think for that part, they made the right call.

Milky: You can see his silhouette, kind of, and you can zoom in.

Sam: Oh, I never really tried to zoom in.

Ravi: That reminds me -- I kinda like how you can zoom the camera all the way back. Mario 64's was a lot closer...

Milky: Yeah. It's almost like playing Populous!

Ravi: With a bad camera.

Milky: "If you pull it all the way back, you can see Mario from space!"

Nich: I enjoy leaving the camera zoomed out for the most part. The only time I need to have it in close is during those obstacle courses, where you really need a detailed view of what's going on.

Sam: Those damn obstacle courses.

Nich: Like that one with the rotating cubes you have to stay on top of, I died so many times with the camera zoomed out on that cause I couldn't tell which way it was going until it was too late. Once I put it in close, it was easier.

Ravi: Actually, I zoom them back in the obstacle courses.

Nich: Yeah, I usually zoom them back, I just mean for that one rotating cube part.

Sam: In that one, I'd manually move the camera around so that it would be level with each block, so I could make out exactly where I'm supposed to jump to and from.

Ravi: The game is a lot harder than Mario 64, and I rather like it this way. It's actually a challenge. You should see some of the later obstacle courses.

Sam: They get even harder? Yikes.

Ravi: They get really, really hard. You really have to master all your moves to get through some of the later ones. And remember, no water pack for 99% of them

Nich: Oh, you do get a water pack for a few?

Ravi: Yeah... the early stages aside, but don't breathe a sigh of relief, because they're even harder

Milky: So when does Mario become fun? I'm not sure I like both him and Luigi having first person shooter controls for everything.

Ravi: I don't think it has FPS controls. Yeah, you can stop and aim the waterpack, but that's almost a secondary function to the regular jumps, hovers and sprays...

Nich: The only thing that confuses me from time to time is remembering to use the main control stick for aiming, since Luigi's Mansion used the C-stick for that. But I'm getting better at it with practice.

Milky: Well, considering you have to shoot your load for half the game the "press down to aim up" controls start to work my nerves. If the aiming was done on the c-stick you could move and spray at the same time. Doing it this way is less than optimal.

Sam: I think Milky's just missing a lot of the more typical Mario gameplay.

Milky: Miyamoto is a hack!

Sam: Oh no, here we go. 

Ravi: Does Sunshine "feel" like the next Mario? The true successor to Mario 64?

Nich: I don't think it does. But then, I didn't think that Mario 64 "felt" like the "true successor" to Super Mario World. It's a different direction. I think a lot of people who say they want the "true successor" are really saying they want the same game. And I'm kind of glad that's not what we got.

Milky: It feels like a gaiden to me.

Sam: Isn't that what it is?

Ravi: You won't catch Nintendo saying that, if it is. They're not exactly going to say, "This isn't the next big Mario game! It's just a little side-story!"

Sam: Well, they want it to sell. It's similar to the way Final Fantasy XI probably ought to simply be called Final Fantasy Online. It definitely does feel more like a gaiden to me -- but that's exactly bad.

Ravi: No, not at all... Majora's Mask was a gaiden, too, and some rate that higher than Ocarina of Time. Like EGM!

Nich: What should it have been called, out of curiosity? "Mario's Island"?

Sam: "Mario Get!"

Milky: "Mario Cleans the John, Just Like a Plumber Should."

Ravi: How about... Mario Sunshine?

Nich: That's what it is called, Ravi.

Ravi: Oh, cool.

Sam: What does everyone think of the music in the game?

Milky: It varies, but overall it's very good. It's better than the camera.

Nich: I really love it, although I can see where some people wouldn't. The obstacle course theme is a little a-capella sounding, and my roommate last night was talking about how it "made him want to die." But I think that might be my favorite piece.

Ravi: It's catchy, but the only really memorable tunes are the old Mario theme remixes. Those are good.

Sam: It's like Mario 64's. Lots of catchy tunes, all definitely solid. Only a few really stand out, though. What's with the Parisian flair in the music on the main island, though

Nich: I think it's a lot better than Mario 64's, actually. I wasn't too impressed with the music in that game, but everything in Mario Sunshine feels to me how Mario music should.

Milky: Yeah, that cartridge-based PCM never really did it for me, either.

Ravi: I played Mario 64 again about a month ago -- the game only really had a few themes anyway recycled for all the levels.

Sam: How about the graphics?

Nich: I like 'em a lot. Apart from the floors and walls.

Milky: Graphics are fine. It's weird. They're not super smooth shaded, but they're not cel-shaded either. It's like in-between.

Ravi: I don't think there's anything wrong with it at all. It's very smooth and very colourful -- which I like.

Sam: I think the game just looks awesome. I wish Nintendo would remake Mario 64 with these graphics.

Ravi: What about the level design in this game? It's packed with stuff but there's a little less freedom than Mario 64, because you can't just go off and find other shines...

Nich: I kind of like it better this way, because since each level has one and only one goal, it can post signs toward that goal so you don't get lost. I got lost a lot in Mario 64. I also like the way that the level changes between goals, so you don't trek through exactly the same environment for every Shine.

Ravi: It's funny, after E3 everyone was saying how alive the levels were and how there were so many things to look for and see and do... but when you get into one, there's really only one goal. I agree about the way the levels are really tailored towards a certain shine, but I have to say I'm rather missing going off in my own direction to explore and stumbling across a new shine.

Nich: Well, just because you can only get one Shine per level doesn't mean there's nothing else to do. You can explore underground, track down blue coins, talk to villagers, all that stuff.

Milky: Talking to villagers is my favorite....because I've never done that in a game before!

Sam: Why are all the villagers fat?  

Ravi: They're all lazy, that's why. There's a total of 4 guys who try and clean up the mess.

Nich: They're more suited to sitting in chairs and sentencing Mario to do it.

Sam: Fat Island.

Ravi: Even when they're covered in sludge, they just kinda sit there waiting for Mario to give them a free shower.

Sam: Are there lots more story sequences later on, Ravi?

Nich: Oh, that reminds me. I really, really don't like the story sequences. I think the game is excellent, but Mario shouldn't have a narrative. And if it has to, please make it skippable--I just don't care.

Sam: Amen. I doubt there are any people who will really dig the story sequences.

Ravi: Then you'll be happy to know that they pretty much stop after the first 4 levels. The story is pretty short, though. It's not like you're sitting through MGS2-length cinemas. I'm somewhat bemused by it because it's all a bit... surreal.

Milky: I want a talkin' water tank, though. I like how quickly it switches between forms. It's fun to just sit there and press X.

Ravi: You are easily amused, Milky.

Sam: Every big platform star needs to have a smaller talking counterpart. Mario has his water tank, Jak has Daxter, and Ratchet has Clank.

Ravi: What does Sly Cooper have?

Sam: No one. That's why the game is going to crash and burn.

Milky: Maybe I could make a platform game about myself with my talking penis on my back.

Ravi: Can your penis transform at the touch of the X button?

Milky: It transforms at the slightest breeze. 

Nich: Uh…new topic, guys. I love how many boss fights there are. I wish every stage had a boss.

Sam: Ooh yes, bosses.

Ravi: The bosses are awesome. So unique and diverse. I hope the last boss doesn't ruin it all by being crap, though.

Nich: They're definitely my favorite part of the game. They've got such great personality, and the way of defeating each one is pretty creative.

Sam: Even though the game makes you fight some over and over again, it's still fine by me.

Ravi: Sam, you mean the piranha plants? After the first level, they're basically gone.

Sam: No, more like that big octopus guy. You pretty much have to beat him twice to finish him the first time, then you have to do it all again later on too. I mean, okay, you only fight him twice, and twice within each battle, so it's not over and over. Still, it's pretty much just a cheaper way to extend the game's length. But my point is, that this didn't bother me at all. And it's not as if fighting bosses again is new to the Mario series.

Milky: You know what? Personally, I'm a Zelda man. It's either Elvis or the Beatles, Mario or Zelda-I go with Zelda.

Sam: Naw.

Nich: Well, me, I like good music, and I like good games. So I'll take either one.

Milky: I'm going to make Nich listen to the new Nelly single again.

Ravi: I prefer Mario, but I love Zelda too. It's like asking which kid is your favourite! Not that I'd know anything about having kids...

Sam: Some final impressions about Mario then.... it's really great so far, and darn addictive. Camera is kind of weak, though.

Nich: This discussion has been a little negative, but that doesn't really reflect my feelings on the game. It's just the kind of thing an objective journalist has to mention.

Sam: I think the main reason we're picking things apart is because we expect so much from a Mario game.

Ravi: Yeah. I mean, it's Mario. Running, jumping, sliding, bouncing on enemies' heads, it's all there and it's damned fun.

Nich: Subjectively, it rules.

Milky: It's good, clean, camera fun.

Ravi: It's not perfect, no.

Sam: No matter what, a Mario game is going to be in that "awesome" range. We're just debating whether or not it's in that "$@#& awesome" range.

Nich: I don't know about "$@#& awesome." I think I'd only give it a "#$@ awesome."

Ravi: Camera aside, I'm a little disappointed there isn't more variety in terms of worlds. Not that I want to extend the cliches of "ice" and "desert" worlds in platformers, but...

Sam: I haven't seen the later worlds yet, I have to agree so far. Mario 64 was so cool with its many worlds.

Milky: A 'bad' Mario game is still better than a thousand Jak and Daxters, but this game is far from perfect.

Ravi: And is this a bad Mario game by your estimation?

Milky: I don't think it's bad, I'm saying even if it was "bad," it'd be better than 1,000 Daxters. Do your own math.

Nich: So you're saying Mario is Missing! is better than Ratchet and Clank?

Milky: Never played that one, I was too busy getting laid.

Nich: ... I played it all the way through.

Ravi: I had high hopes, and aside from general worries about the length of the game -- despite the fact that it looks like there are a hell of a lot more shines than first thought -- I'm not at all disappointed, really.

Sam: I don't know, overall I guess I'm just bummed that Nintendo couldn't wow us again like they did with Mario 64. But I guess that's not possible. Then again, you have to give them credit for trying something new. They could have just made a new Mario 64.

Nich: Yeah, that's what makes me really respect the game. They had a proven formula that worked, and they were willing to take chances with it. I really admire that.

Sam: Like I said in yesterday's impressions, it's going to be kind of hard going back to Mario 64 now, because of the missing water pack.

Ravi: The water pack is fun. Milky, when you order yours, get an extra one for me, okay?

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