It’s no secret that I am a fan of Mario video games. It the only series so far to get multiple perfect scores and most of the ones that weren’t perfect still got pretty high. It’s a series almost without equal when it comes to both overall quality and recognisability. However, there is one game in the main Mario series that I consider not up to level. I am talking about Super Mario Sunshine for the Nintendo Game Cube.
Now, normally at this point a sound effect would play and I dissect the games, talking about graphics and audio, story and/or game play. However, this is a special case and I have to approach it in a slightly different manner, so bear with me.
First off I have to point out my biases. I can say that this was the first time that I felt disappointed to the level of anger with a game, and that leaves a big impact. This is the game that made fear hype and consider not buying new games anymore, something I still haven’t quite recovered from (though the straw that broke the camel’s back will come another day). The fact that I had paid so much for a new game I thought was going to be amazing (it was MARIO, it was a safe bet!) and I later ended up hating has left a deep scar at an age where it really mattered.
However, none of this answers the question “WHY do I hate this game?” I had forgotten the reasons for a long time, but playing it again makes it all come back to me, so it’s not just my bad memories. The first thing I have to put the blame on is the poor controls. For those of you that don’t know, Mario gets a water shooting backpack called the FLUDD in this game. You can use it take down sludge based monsters or use the water to propel yourself in interesting ways. Unfortunately this relies on the camera being great, which the ones in Mario games have never been. The game mechanics in this game makes the camera inexcusable. It becomes much more difficult than it should be to squirt water in the direction you want, or to make yourself fly a target.
It doesn’t help that you don’t really feel directly in control of the FLUDD either. This game feels like you’re trying to control Mario trying to control the FLUDD, which gives you an extra degree of separation that gets in the way. It also feels too different from the standard Mario game play, so it doesn’t mix well with it (much like the use of guns in Shadow the Hedgehog).
The FLUDD is an icon of another problem with the game though, and that is the theme. The reason why it suits the game is because it was part of the whole “island/beach” motif the game has. I have to ask though, is this theme strong enough to carry the game? I may be spoiled by the games surrounding it: Super Mario 64 was in a castle where every weird world was possible, and Super Mario Galaxy was a grand space adventure. An Island getaway seems tame in between those. It doesn’t scream “adventure” at all, and you kind of have limitations on your surroundings. Furthermore, the theme just doesn’t work well for a game. When I think of an island resort, I’d like to think relaxing, taking naps, soaking in the sun and other stress free activities, not a full wacky, constant go-go adventure. Bottom line, the island stuff might be good for a world, but using it as the full Mario game is really stretching it.All this being said, what made me decide to make this review in this different format was when a question was posed to me concerning Super Mario Sunshine: Would I consider it a bad game? The answer to that question has to be no. Let me be clear, I don’t like Super Mario Sunshine at all, but I’ve pointed out before what I consider to be a bad game, and Super Mario Sunshine does not meet that definition. It isn’t a flawed game by execution, but I just don’t like any of the choices. I’m not a fan of the theme, but Nintendo decided to go with it. I think FLUDD was a terrible idea for a game mechanic, but Nintendo decided to go with it. I think the level missions are very frustrating, but Nintendo decided to go with them. Really the only thing I can complain about without it being much a matter of taste is the camera and controls, and Super Mario Sunshine is far from the only Mario game with this problem. It doesn’t get a recommendation from me since there are still obviously problems, but it’s the type of game that I can understand that people still like. It’s still a Mario game which means there are many good things about it, but I still don’t like it. Sorry Nintendo, I know you can do much better. I give Super Mario Sunshine 6.5 levels out of 10.