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Mario Sunshine Preview (GC)
game: Mario Sunshine
posted by: Jason Frank
publisher: Nintendo
developer: Nintendo EAD
date posted: 09:10 AM Tue Jun 11th, 2002

We have been waiting years for a new Mario game. The plumber has sought to appease his fans by making appearances here and there. A couple of times a year he'll show up at events like a golf tournament, kart race, or tennis match. Rather than focusing on being a star, it's like he's spent time using his star power to help out some of his family (How many people played Luigi's Mansion just for a glimpse of Mario?). Despite the absence of a new Mario adventure in the last seven years, his popularity hasn't waned. Nintendo is more than happy to point out that Mario Advance 2 for the game boy color was the first game to unseat Grand Theft Auto 3 from its seemingly unassailable number one position on the charts. Some may wonder why we haven't seen more of him, but I completely understand why Mario has been so hesitant to step out into the spotlight again with new material. How do you follow up a game like Mario 64-arguably one of the most influential console games of the last decade? Mario 64 redefined a genre and raised gamer's expectations to a level that still hasn't been met, that is, until now. Mario Sunshine promises to have everything a Mario fan could want and a few things we never would have thought of.

I need to begin by saying that I did not get enough time with this game. Fifteen or twenty minutes with Mario Sunshine can only give one a brief glimpse into the possibilities of the game; such short game play can only hint at the level of detail contained therein. The premise is pretty basic: Mario's on vacation and is soon interrupted by forces seeking to pollute his newfound paradise. Never one to shirk responsibility, Mario takes it upon himself to clean up the island and set things right. Apart from his powerful jumping and stomping abilities, Mario is armed with a water canon backpack that is used to hose away pollution in the land of sunshine. It will also both hose down offenders and act as a sort of short burst jet pack.

The first thing I need to talk about with this game is the control. Within seconds you're running, jumping, and sliding (my favorite mode of transportation) around the island. This is a game that my four-year-old son will have down in his first sitting. The button configuration is very intuitive and the on-screen icons work as effective prompts. With a lot of the Gamecube games that I play, I tend to forget about the X,Y, and Z buttons--not so here.
Mario Sunshine feels much more open than Mario 64. It really feels like you can go anywhere and do anything. Any object on screen seems to yearn for interaction with Mario. What's more, the stages are incredibly intricate, with level upon level of places to go and things to see. The game looks fantastic. There's really no way to describe it other than having you take a close look at the screen shots, and even they don't do the game full justice. There are a lot of little flourishes with this game that will have gamers pointing at their screens with their mouths agape. There is a segment shown in the demo where Mario fights a baddie on a precariously balanced, highly reflective mirror that is phenomenal. My personal favorite is the mud that gets on Mario's outfit that will only wash off with a swim. You've got to see it to believe it.

Mario Sunshine isn't going to revolutionize gaming in the same way its predecessor did. In fact the game feels a lot like Mario 64, just better, bigger and more detailed; Miyamoto isn't holding anything back with Mario Sunshine. It's like he's finally been given a system that frees his imagination rather than limiting it. Mark my words: August will be Mario's month. We're going to see a sharp rise in used PS2s and X-Boxes on the market this summer as gamers try to drum up enough cash for a Gamecube and Mario Sunshine.

Jason Frank (06/11/2002)