This weekend, my friends and I got to talking about video games, as we are wont to do. The conversation drifted towards Mario games and, in particular, how flippin’ hard these titles tend to be. When my roommate said that the only Mario gave she’s ever completed is Super Mario Galaxy, I gave her statement some thought and realized that I myself have never actually beaten a Mario game.
Strangely enough, I subsequently realized that my never beating a Mario game didn’t lessen my enjoyment of these games in the slightest. In fact, one of my favorite titles for the GameCube is a game that I’ve still yet to finish: Super Mario Sunshine.
Released in America in 2002, Super Mario Sunshine, like Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64, allows the player to navigate in three dimensions through various worlds. The mission is familiar: save Princess Peach from Bowser by going through several sets of levels. The new element here is the F.L.U.D.D. (Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device), a water jetpack that allows Mario to clean up the multicolored graffiti that a mysterious figure has left all over Isle Delfino (Mario’s would-be vacation spot).
True to the Mario game genre, Super Mario Sunshine is rather difficult at times. Completing the myriad levels requires precision, skill, and patience. One level in particular stands out in my memory for its difficulty: “The Caged Shine Sprite.”
This challenge takes place in the bustling Ricco Harbor and requires the player to climb what would be hundreds of feet into the air and navigate across increasingly narrow balance beams in order to retrieve the elusive Shine Sprite. The towering structure you have to climb lends itself to rather punishing results should the player lose his footing. One misstep near the top of the structure sends Mario plummeting into the water below, and the player has to climb the whole thing all over again.
When I mentioned this annoying aspect of Sunshine to my compatriots, one of my friends offered a counterpoint: “But the scenery is so beautiful that you don’t really mind.”
To a certain extent, I’d agree. I’m not saying I don’t get frustrated when one mistake undoes meticulous attempts to nab a Shine Sprite, but the worlds of Super Mario Sunshine offer a heck of a lot of eye candy to compensate for the rage-inducing bits. Actually, one of my favorite ways to play the game is to revisit my favorite levels and wander about rather than immediately completing the level’s objective. The combination of the F.L.U.D.D. (which I fervently wish I owned in real life) and Mario’s acrobatic abilities allows the player the joy of vaulting off walls and scampering over rooftops, all the while surrounded by picturesque landscapes.
Isle Delfino is made up of several different cities, each of which sports delightfully unique scenery to feast your eyes on. Whether you’re soaking in the vibrant whites and oranges of Ricco Harbor, the calm, verdant greens of Bianco Hills, or the cool teals and purples of Noki Bay, these locations are sure to delight you and more than likely will make you wish you could visit these places in real life.
Because Mario games aren’t known for their riveting storylines but rather for the sheer fun that is stomping enemies and exploring colorful worlds, playing Sunshine to completion isn’t nearly as important as simply playing the game. Since I’m what you might call a casual gamer, I am particularly thankful for games like Super Mario Sunshine that allow the player to simply have fun and take in the sights.