Saturday, February 20, 2021

Deep Look - Super Mario Sunshine

 Super mario sunshine.jpg

Mario’s Dark Side

Recently, I had the chance to borrow a copy of Super Mario 3D All-Stars for the Nintendo Switch, collecting three of Nintendo’s resident plumber’s adventures in three dimensions, beginning with Super Mario 64, which many critics hailed as a revolutionary achievement in a largely-lackluster gaming library for the Nintendo 64 system. Despite the critical bootlicking the game received, it left me incredibly unimpressed, given its incredible reliance upon typical Japanese videogame cheapness such as the ease of death. I expected the next 3-D Mario for the GameCube, Super Mario Sunshine, to be an improvement, which it was in respects, but it proved to be just as excruciating an experience.

Sunshine opens with Mario and Princess Peach vacationing to Isle Delfino, encountering a goop-covered piranha plant that the plumber battles with a Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device, or F.L.U.D.D., which he then uses to attempt to clear his name, as an entity resembling him known as Shadow Mario has been polluting the island. The storyline adds a little new content to the overall Mario mythos, but eventually devolves to a typical damsel-in-distress plot when Peach finds herself kidnapped. The translation is legible, but messages such as “Shine!” when acquiring one of the plot-centric golden stars somewhat make obvious the game’s Japanese origins.

Thus, it’s up to the gameplay to shoulder the burden, and while the camera is a major improvement over that in Super Mario 64, there are a host of other issues that prevent the gameplay from being even remotely passable. The mechanics are largely similar to those in the preceding 3-D Mario game, with Mario able to go through graffiti to enter other areas of Isle Delfino, each with several sequential episodes, the seventh of each being the pursuit of Shadow Mario. Fulfilling certain gameplay objectives rewards Mario with a Shine Sprite, necessary to advance the central storyline.

Mario can shoot water at enemies and sludge from F.L.U.D.D. and hover in the air for a few seconds with fluid from the sentient backpack, the player able to refill the mechanism through one of many water sources available in the game. As in Super Mario 64, moreover, the plumber can execute three consecutive leaps with each being higher than the previous (although players can turn him around and instantly use the most powerful jump), and do a straight vertical stomp that’s oftentimes necessary to kill enemies. He also has a life meter that regular coins can replenish, with the loss of all life, or a fall into a bottomless pit, costing him a life and kicking him back into the hub of Isle Delfino.

There are also mandatory stages where Shadow Mario steals F.L.U.D.D. from his adversary, and the real Mario must traverse a three-dimensional level where death via falling into the bottomless abyss will happen very, very frequently, and if this happens, the player has to start from the very beginning, with the exhaustion of all lives resulting in a Game Over and the need for the player to retrace their steps to said level. One could have very easily made a drinking game out of the instances where I advanced through one of these areas only to encounter the same exact situation that killed me in the first place, and the repetition is nothing short of maddening.

Unlike in Super Mario 64, the player has to advance through a stage’s episodes sequentially in order to advance the central storyline and see the ending, if that even miraculously occurs, and the overall inconsistent difficulty really hurts the game, bordering on unplayable, even with the assistance of the internet. Many episodes are essentially walls preventing the player from seeing the game from start to finish, and the above-average, oftentimes artificial, difficulty makes Sunshine incredibly inaccessible to mainstream gamers. There are also countless areas when falling off a ledge and the need to retrace steps is necessary, needlessly wasting the player’s time, and all in all, I didn’t exactly find the gameplay a joy to experience.

Those familiar with the controls in Super Mario 64 will undoubtedly find those in Sunshine easy to handle, although the art of firing water from F.L.U.D.D. while keeping Mario still takes lots of getting used to. The plumber’s jumping patterns are also wildly unpredictable, and he sometimes performs his most powerful somersaulting leap when the player doesn’t intend him to, which can make safe landings to be incredibly difficult. While the player can save progress any time, moreover, doing so doesn’t preserve their current location, so they can’t just quit in the middle of an episode and resume where they left off. Generally, the game is fairly user-unfriendly.

Sunshine has okay music, even if much of it consists of remixes of tracks from prior Mario games such as the subterranean theme, and there is a little voice acting, although players will quickly tire of hearing Mario wail when falling into a bottomless pit, along with the horns that blare whilst he loses a life and when the player sees the Game Over screen for the millionth time.

The visuals have actually aged slightly better than those in Super Mario 64, with Mario, Princess Peach, and other character models scarcely being blocky, the colors being vibrant, and the rippling heat effect and water reflection being nice touches, although there are many reskins of Isle Delfino’s NPCs, and some of the environmental texturing is blurry and pixilated.

Ultimately, that I needed to use a guide to figure out how exactly to win the first boss fight in the game should have served as a warning indicator as to the true quality of Super Mario Sunshine, and I hardly had a fun time with it, given its many classic Japanese videogame kusottare such as the ease of instant death and maddening degree of repetition. While it does have areas that Nintendo improved over Super Mario 64, such as the camera, the various other issues this particular entry introduced bring it down, and for the sake of my mental health, I couldn’t bring myself to play it to completion, and certainly won’t touch Galaxy with a yardstick.

This deep look is based on a playthrough of eight hours on the version included with Super Mario 3D All-Stars, borrowed by the reviewer.


No comments:

Post a Comment