Random is the spice of life... or a mild sauce at least.
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Super Mario Sunshine, it didn't make launch but did it make our expectations? Well, that all depends on what you had for expectations.
If you were expecting to see another "Mario 64" you got just that in a sense. The gameplay feels within the same realm of magically traveling to levels, selecting a goal and collecting the Star, or Shine Sprite in this case. Upon gaining more and more Shine Sprites, you unlock more areas to explore.
But obviously, it isn't a Miyamoto game unless you do something a little different. In this rendition of Mario's adventures a "Shadow Mario", who is really Baby Bowser in disguise, messes up the Isle of Delfino with dirt, paint, grime and mud; all in Mario's name! In the meantime, Mario is on his way to the very island in search of some relaxation, which he does get very much of in his jail cell. However, the judge goes pretty light on our fat plumber friend and decides to commit Mario to community service - clean up the mess all over the island that he [allegedly] made. With the help of a water spraying backpack, you control Mario and the spray gun to wash away anything messy. You get to use various nozzles; A sprayer, jetpack, booster and rocket that will help you later in the game when it comes to getting to those tricky spots.
To put it sweetly - the idea of doing chores for an island sounds kinda dumb, but plays pretty well. It's nice to see you can shoot things on a screen and not have it be blood or even another living creature.
Obviously, since the setting is very different, the art style has changed up a bit. Mario has a bit more of a "Yoshi" feel (who is in the game for use!) with a child-like wonder and simplicity, but more of a tropical twist. It's a refreshing setting for Mario and I welcomed it with fairly open arms. For the idea that was being conveyed, which is restoring light and happiness to this former paradise, it all works very well. A nice touch that I liked was as you collect more shine sprites, the clouds over the island clear out more and more, letting in bright sunlight rays. You can borrow sunglasses if it becomes overwhelming. The particle effects are full and solid, especially the water sprays and paint gobs. The ocean itself shimmers in the daylight with a clear-blue appearance that'll make you want to dive into your pool, even if it's winter. Though this title may be an earlier 'Cube game, it still looks pretty slick.
Each type of surface has its own, nice clean sound effects, so you won't hear the same footstep sound everywhere. The music is upbeat and really gets you in the mood to "whistle while you work". Given the nature of Mario games being slightly cartoony, you'll still get your fair share of "sproings" and "whirrrs" but everywhere it happens is appropriate. Maybe you won't be listening to this one in surround sound (the option is there), but it sounds good and clean enough to at least try.
Mario Sunshine will take a great chunk of your life to complete. Especially if you're aiming to collect EVERY Sun Sprite, Blue Coin, and hell, even regular coins. Honestly, I haven't finished it and I don't think I will in this lifetime. But if you leave it alone and come back to it some years later, there should still be at least a few goals left to try or levels left to explore. Outside of this, there's nothing much of mini-games and no multiplayer to keep you coming back. What's there is enough to keep you busy for a great while, so don't think twice about the value of the game being equal to its content.
Mario Sunshine lives up to the franchise pretty well, but in a very different way. It's proof that the same formula for old favorites isn't always the way a developer has to go. Granted, Sunshine didn't mix things up enough to call it a departure, but it did introduce entirely new concepts and environments to the Mario universe and does it well enough to be considered at least the 2nd cousin of Mario 64. Pick it up for at least a rent. You'll probably like it enough to buy it.
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