Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Super Mario Sunshine-The Series' Other Bastard Child.

Controversy typified Nintendo's approach during the Gamecube's lifespan. Whatwith Nintendo trying to reposition itself as a viable host for 3rd parties while also trying to shed its more child-friendly image, and then still appealing to said demographic- The Sega Megadrive/Sonic the Hedgehog approach, if not slightly gorier. This approach manifested itself in numerous ways, be it in first party adult orientated titles such as Eternal Darkness, to slicker, almost Sony-esque marketing campaigns, or in today's case, taking old, established favourites such as Donkey Kong, Kirby and in particular, Mario and splicing their formulas to varying degrees, be it a shakeup into more difficult, 'hardcore' oriented games or indeed, a flatout genre transplant, such as Kirby's Air Ride, being a prime, and very expensive, example. Not coincidentally  this leads quite handsomely to the subject of today's post.

Let's see how long this one lasts.

Mario Sunshine debuted in late 2002 in an effort to combat the juggernaut that was Sony's PS2.Interestingly, the first main-series Mario title to not debut with its system. The game takes place on Isle Delfino, where Mario, Toad and the Princess are vacationing only to find that there's a Mario-like creature terrorizing the island with pollution and graffiti, and guess who gets the blame? This calamity involves Mario being partnered with FLUDD,a sidekick come jet/waterpack that acts as friend, dousing-device, rocket and motor, and then promptly charged with cleaning up the chaos caused by Mario's doppleganger. Fundamental gameplay change- Controversial. Well, by Nintendo standards. It's standard Mario-fare otherwise, with tweaks.

The alienating force himself-FLUDD

FLUDD's addition changes what'd been established previously in Mario 64, a game whose gameplay is mirrored somewhat in Sunshine, except now there's jumps and heights that can only be performed with the help of everyone's favourite nozzle-faced friend. Now, a lot of the negative attention directed towards Sunshine tends to dwell on the FLUDD's inclusion and the incapacity to take it off, which isn't quite true, but more on that later. I must say, its presence did strike me a slightly gimmicky until I got into flow of using it, after which it becomes quite an addictive necessity, to the extent that when playing other Mario titles, I reach for the R button instinctively when I've difficulty on a jump and then fall on my arse into a void. It skews the 3D-era Mario titles slightly, in that it takes the long established game-play of its older brother and introduces something fresh, which I feel adds so much more than it ever takes away.

Oh, shhhhhhhh....

Another criticism launched at this game tend to focus on its difficulty, and how uncharacteristic it is for a Mario title. This is true, but to no extreme degree, it's harder than other Mario games, but really only in line from what gamers were asking of Nintendo at the time, after the bile the Nintendo 64 (much like all of Nintendo's before and after the Gamecube) induced with its supposed bias towards straight-forward, easy titles. There are plenty of bits where FLUDD is taken away from you, and you've to navigate some of the craziest,  attention-hogging pieces of platforming you'll ever see in a game.
It's typical Mario though, in that when you inevitably mess it up, it's only ever going to have been your fault 99 percent of the time. It's for this reason that I've love this game as much as I do, it was everything I'd ever loved in 3D Mario evolving along with my gaming tastes.

Let me just reconsider my choices in life.

Its legacy has always been that of a black sheep, although it has its followers, its impact doesn't really compare to the likes its older and younger brothers: 64 and Galaxy. I can understand this somewhat, as it didn't launch an evolution in gaming as immediate as 64, nor did it heralded a revolution in how we play games like Galaxy. What it did, however, and did beautifully, was present a tough, but fair challenge that perfected the mechanics of its older, slightly-friendlier brother whilst still producing something novel, addictively engaging and most importantly, fun.

Super Mario, Fuck Yeah.

If you've got a craving for more 3D Mario, and, like a lot of people, skipped Nintendo's 6th gen offering, I can't recommend enough that you go out and invest a few pennies in this baby (pretty much all it'll cost you, really). Like all Gamecube games, it's compatible with the original version of the Wii too, so it's not too much of a hassle to invest in either, save a pad and a memory card. 

No, the game doesn't hate you. Not yet, at least. Wait 'til Secret of the Village Underside.

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