July 24, 2002

Article at Gamers.com

My Week with Super Mario Sunshine: Editor Get!

Day 4: But what do the editors of EGM, OPM, and Gamers.com think?

I find myself living a strange existence. I work all day, play Mario Sunshine all night - can you blame me? - and then write about it in the wee morning hours. Soon I will be conjuring boss monsters out of Hong Kong skyscrapers and take to carrying a garden hose with me everywhere. I fear the worst, so I'm going to let Sam Kennedy from OPM and Nich Maragos from Gamers.com break down their initial thoughts and impressions for you. 

They're nowhere near as far into the game as I am, but they've played through some areas I haven't. Take it away, Sam and Nich--

Sam Kennedy, Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine:
While I won't pretend to have anywhere near as many Shines collected as Ravi, I have been playing through the game in all my free time over the past few days and am a good ways in. It's that good.

Just like Mario 64, it's near impossible to put down - there's always that one more Shine to grab. Which is great, unless you're supposed to be playing other, lesser, games for review in the Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine, which I am right now. Doh.

In any case, starting up Mario Sunshine, here's what I was expecting: Mario 64, set on an island, with a water pack. Which, in a lot of respects, is what the game is. But there's a lot more to it too, and some aspects really surprised me. The story, for example -- there's a lot more here than in any of the previous Mario titles. 

To be perfectly honest, there was so much at the start that it almost turned me off. All I wanted to do was play! But at least all of the English voice acting is surprisingly good (yeah, there are English voices in the Japanese version of the game). There are also plenty of characters to talk to scattered throughout the levels, but since all of their stories are represented with Japanese text, I have no idea what they've been saying. Probably something about how great Peach looks with her new 'do.

I was also surprised by how cool the water effects look. While I'd previously seen Sunshine at E3 earlier this year, getting to explore its depths at home has revealed many inventive ways to use water... cleaning graffiti, spraying propellers to lift objects, filling creatures' bellies with water, and the list goes on and on. 

I love the water pack and all of the things that you can do with it, and I know it's going to be hard to go back to Mario 64 now. Sunshine's bonus levels - in which you don't have the pack - already demonstrates this. 

My only big disappointment with the pack is that your extra nozzles - the rocket jump and propulsion - aren't available to you at all times once unlocked. It can be a pain to have to seek them out in levels in order to use them, although I guess easy access would make the game too quick and easy.

The Mario Hop-and-Bop
As you've no doubt heard by now, Sunshine is also a lot harder than Mario 64. However, so far - at least for me - this hasn't been the case with the whole game. Rather certain areas simply require finicky actions to get through them. Most of the game is typical Mario hop-and-bop, plus simple water squirting mechanics. The points where I did get frustrated never got me to the point of wanting to stop playing. So I'd say that the difficulty has been pretty fair so far.

My biggest disappointment with Sunshine, though, has been the camera. It requires constant maintenance. Mario 64 was never this bad, particularly because its camera was smarter and because of the way levels were laid out. Sunshine was developed with the assumption that the gamer already knows how to manipulate the camera and even incorporates it into the gameplay at times.

Still, even with the camera issues, I'm loving the game. I love how it looks (don't listen to anyone who picks apart the graphics - it looksabsolutely stunning). I love how it plays, as the water pack seems like it will never get old. I love how the levels are laid out and easily explain your goals. I love the Miyamoto-inspired bosses, and the strategy involved in defeating them. 

But most of all, I love how it feels - this is a Mario game through and through. I love the game so much that all I can do is think about playing it, even while I'm supposed to be hard at work. I just keep thinking about the next moment I'll be able to grab some more Shines. Damn you Nintendo. You've done it to me again.

Yeah, But...

Nich Maragos, Gamers.com:

I hate to say it, especially since I know my credibility as a game journalist will be forever shot to pieces, but my impressions of Super Mario Sunshine are coming from the perspective of someone who never really played Mario 64. I gave it a brief spin in 1996, was bewildered by the whole “3D platformer” thing, and my decision not to buy an N64 was cemented. Of course, a lot’s changed since then. Now that I’m more used to 3D controls in general, I can handle Mario Sunshine, and I’m even been dabbling in a bit of Mario 64 on the side to find out what I was missing all that time.

But the point is, that Mario Sunshine is good even when your devotion to the series isn’t quite so zealous as Ravi's or Sam’s. And as enjoyable as it would be to be the lone guy out there bitterly sniping, the game is far too enjoyable to waste my time on that. That said, I do have a few problems with it here and there.

My biggest problem is with the game's camera. Now, speaking personally, I like a camera that gives me such great control over its positioning. I’m of the opinion that a camera should either be essentially part of the gameplay, requiring you to constantly manipulate it until it becomes second nature, or it should be completely automated and intelligent on its own. Mario Sunshine’s camera falls somewhere between these two stools, and can be a little irritating at times. 

While you can rotate the view to your heart’s content, not to mention zoom it in or out to an amazing degree, the angles the game chooses for these zoom are a little weird at times. Furthermore, sometimes you’ll set the camera exactly the way you want it, only to have it slide back a little bit to where it thinks it should be.

Everything else that I’ve played so far, though, is perfect, and I can’t wait for the introduction of some of the later gameplay elements that Ravi talked about. The control is tight, the bosses are fantastic, and the challenge (at least in the part of the game where I am right now) is just right. 

Why, if Ziff-Davis would pay me more often (hint, hint!), I would be pretty seriously tempted to import this one myself. Maybe I did miss a chapter in the series, but now that I’m back, Mario Sunshine might just have hooked me again for life.

Graphics = Eh
The graphics are great, but I can’t help but feel that the visuals in Luigi’s Mansion and Pikminoutshone this, the star attraction of the GameCube for the moment. That shouldn’t be. To be fair, I'm sure sacrifices had to be made to ensure a draw distance as comprehensive as Mario Sunshine’s, but that’s not much consolation when you look at a floor or wall texture and notice the pixelation.

However...this is only an issue when you’re standing still and staring. And that's a rarity - everything in Mario Sunshine moves in a top-notch way, from Mario’s superb all-around animation to the icky, slimy viscosity of the polluting paint.