BY JEFF DICKERSON
Daily Arts Editor
Published September 4, 2002
Over the past 20 years, Mario has become a household name. The famous video game character made his debut in 1981's "Donkey Kong," and has since appeared in countless games of his own. His face has earned Nintendo over $2 billion, an astounding figure most Hollywood celebrities could never generate. In a video game industry bursting with so many notable personalities, Mario is king.
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With the 1996 launch of the Nintendo 64 system came "Super Mario 64," a revolutionary 3D platformer that sold millions of copies worldwide and won numerous "game of the year" awards. Over the past six years, many games of the same genre have come and gone, none matching the quality and innovation of "Mario 64."
Nintendo 64 did not see another "Mario" game during its tenure, and systems sales diminished as their competitor, Sony's Playstation, flourished. By the time 2001 rolled around it seemed as if the once mighty Nintendo juggernaut was on the verge of being overshadowed by Sony's newest behemoth, the Playstation 2.
In November of last year, Nintendo released their latest system, the GameCube. While many consumers snatched up the unit in hopes of playing a new Mario game, they were disappointed to find no such game was available. Instead, the geniuses at Nintendo offered the first starring game for Mario's brother, Luigi. Titled "Luigi's Mansion," the game received a lukewarm reception from the public and press.
Almost a year later, the latest "Mario" adventure is finally here, and not much has changed since the portly plumber's last endeavor. "Super Mario Sunshine" is done in the same style as its predecessor, but thanks to the extra power of the GameCube, the presentation is much improved.
The story focuses on a tropical journey to Isle Defino, a sunshine-laden island ripe with exotic people and places. As Mario and his cohorts soon discover, the once glorious island is the recent victim of strange pollution and graffiti. The plot may be simple, but the gameplay is innovative enough to keep gamers glued to their televisions.
The biggest addition to "Super Mario Sunshine" is a water cannon device called "FLUUD." This backpack enables Mario to shoot water, hover over objects, rocket to high places and dash through the water with pixelated ease. The majority of the time, the device is used to remove ooze around the city to help the island return to its former beauty.
The objective of the game is nearly identical to "Mario 64;" collect shines (they were stars in "Mario 64") to progress through the unique worlds and defeat the vile turtle/dragon/villain Bowser.
"Super Mario Sunshine" is one of the prettiest games ever released, and showcases the technical prowess of the GameCube system. Controls are perfect and the soundtrack pays tribute to several of Mario's previous games. While not as innovative as "Mario 64," "Super Mario Sunshine" is a worthy entry in the lauded series, and one of the best games released this year.