After Nintendo changed up the tried and true Mario formula with Super Mario 64, the question remained. Where does the series go next? Nintendo made the smart move to take diverging paths with the franchise by releasing more traditional 2D Mario adventures on their new hand held, the Gameboy Advance, and innovating the 3D style of Mario title with their latest console, the Gamecube.
“Super Mario Sunshine” was not a launch title for the Gamecube but it was the first “real” 3D Mario game that Nintendo fans played since Mario 64 came out on the Nintendo 64 almost 6 years earlier. “Super Mario Sunshine” takes the story away from the Mushroom Kingdom (good call in my opinion) and places Mario and the gang, minus Luigi who apparently is still stuck in that ghostly mansion, on the tropical island of Delfino. While on vacation, a evil Mario look-alike, named Shadow Mario, trashes the island and Mario is unjustly blamed for the mess. He is forced to clean it up using a device called F.L.U.D.D. while also having to save Princess Peach from the clutches of Shadow Mario (spoiler alert…it’s Bowser Jr. in disguise!)
Throughout the game, Mario must clean up the island and collect Shine Sprites in a similar manner to collecting stars in “Mario 64”. Collecting Shine Sprites by completing objectives allows Mario to unlock areas of the game previously inaccessible. Additionally, blue coins are valuable to find and collect as they can also be exchanged for Shine Sprites. The F.L.U.D.D. backpack that Mario wears allows him to briefly fly, granting him access to certain areas of the game that cannot be reached on foot. This device’s main purposes is to clean up the sludgy messes that Shadow Mario has left around the island, either by spraying them or dousing them from above, deluge style. This plot mechanic really differentiated “Super Mario Sunshine” from the other Mario games and more specifically, “Super Mario 64”. For those expecting a graphically superior yet similar Mario game to what they experienced with “Mario 64”, they might have been disappointed but my opinion of “Super Mario Sunshine” when it came out was that I really enjoyed the departure from the usual gameplay. The biggest issue I had with the game was the sometimes difficult camera, especially when flying around the island, I would get turned around or lose track of the target while trying to clean off the sludge. Overall, this wasn’t as big of an issue as it might seem to someone playing it again today after 16 years. I do think “Super Mario Sunshine” should have been a launch title, if it was ready to go, as it felt more authentic than “Luigi’s Mansion”. I bought my Gamecube with “Super Mario Sunshine” bundled with, so it was my introduction to the console and 21st century Mario 3D adventures. It was well worth the price of the system.