Super Mario Sunshine
All right, let's cut right to the chase: Just what in Hades has Nintendo's biggest star been doing the past six years since his last steady platforming gig, Mario 64? Playing Mario Tennis and Golf all day, then Mario Partying with friends all night, that's what. "Aay, why for you a-blaming me, eh?"
Mario asked in an exclusive interview with EGM. "I say to Nintendo, I say, 'Please for-to-be giving me the new game!' They say the 'No! No until we getting the new ideal' So I wait for new idea, and I take the mushroom...and the more mushroom." But Mario's mushroom habit and no-work-and-all-play lifestyle took its toll: He was too out of it to star in the Nintendo 64 RPG Paper Mario (an old 2D stunt double from Donkey Kong filled in), and he put on so much weight, Yoshi refused to give him rides. Eventually Mario hit rock bottom. "Once, I hitting Luigi so hard in the Smash Bros. I almost really a-kill him." Mario told us. "Luigi, my own brother! Mama Mia! It-a not so happy time in my life." Luckily for Mario, Nintendo finally got that new idea.
"We actually started off with the idea of creating a game where you were writing and washing off graffiti," says Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto. "You could spray ink up and then use water to spray and wash the ink away." Eventually that concept would become the major new game-play feature in Sunshine--a water-pumping backpack the plumber can use to get around, attack enemies, solve puzzles, and more (see sidebar below). As for the game's name and tropical setting, Miyamoto had more practical concerns in mind. "I had promised we were going to release Sunshine in the summer," he says, "so I figured, well, if we make it a hot, summery theme, then the staff will feel obligated to hurry up and get the game done in time laughs."
Mario 64 Part Deux?
But even with Sunshine's new water pump and beach-front properties, many have joked that the plumber's GameCube adventure looks so much like Mario 64, it should be called Mario 65. Miyamoto himself doesn't deny that Sunshine is an evolution, not a revolution, from his genre-defining N64 platformer. "Sunshine's system is essentially based off of Mario 64" he says. "It's an expanded version of that."
The overall premise, for one, is the same. While in Mario 64 the goal was to amass stars, in Sunshine you perform various tasks--collect coins, win races, kill bosses, etc.--to uncover and grab golden sunshaped icons called Shines. But, as Miyamoto explains, within that framework Sunshine has been designed to give the player much more freedom to explore. "In Mario 64, when you choose an area, there isn't a lot going on in the level. There is just the main focus of the level and that's it," he says. "Whereas in Mario Sunshine, we've got some very large areas with a lot of stuff going on in them all at once. You can even stand on one end of a level and look to the far side and see things going on there. I think that's going to be the big distinction for Sunshine." All we needed was a few minutes with the playable version at E3 to see what Miyamoto was talking about. Right from the start of the first level, we had the choice of following tightropes up to a series of tower rooftops, searching out and erasing graffiti, exploring a giant lake, or tracking down the source of some giant boulders tracking mud in their wake.
Another subtle but key alteration for Sunshine is the game's camera. Most Mario fans agree it wasn't always easy keeping an eye on the main man in Mario 64, especially indoors and around tight corners. While it's too early to tell if Sunshine solves these problems, we do know Miyamoto has made progress. For starters, a silhouette now appears whenever Mario gets stuck behind an object, giving you an idea of where he is until the camera catches up. And using the GC pad's C-stick to zoom the camera in (by pushing up), out (push down), or around (left or right) is easier and faster than before.
Ready to Shine
Ultimately it doesn't matter what's new or what's different from Mario 64. What matters is if Super Mario Sunshine can give GameCube owners a good time this fall. Our play time at E3 left us hopeful, but at least for one man, Sunshine is already a success. "Work on the game save-a mi life", Mario told us on the phone from Kyoto, Japan, where he is currently busy on his next title, a GC Mario Kart. "I lose the weight, and no touch-a the mushroom in a year. Finally I can look myself in the mirror again for-to-say, 'Ay, it's a-me, Mario!"
Download Super Mario Sunshine
Nintendo fans, we know what you're going through. Sure, you may try to cover it up with marathon Resident Evil sessions or blot it out with nonstop Smash Bros. Melee battles, but let's face it--the lack of a new Mario game has left us 'Cube owners with a lonely hole deep in our hearts.
Before you sign up for that 12-step program, though, we've got good news: Mario Sunshine is less than a month away. Think of it as Mario 64 after taking a power-up mushroom. It's got the same basic premise (now you collect Shine sun coins instead of stars) but with larger worlds crammed with more challenges. It's got the same basic moves (triple jump, butt stomp, etc.) but more of them (like slide, fence climb and tightrope walk).
It's got similar graphics, but they're much sharper and more detailed. Plus, Sunshine introduces the all-new water-pump backpack Mario can use to attack enemies, solve puzzles, or give an extra boost to his jumps. So don't give in to depression or binge eating just yet--Mario's almost here.