Super Mario Sunshine is a Mario action-adventure 3D platformer. It follows Super Mario 64, and is the second 3D Mario platformer. Gameplay features a combination of action and puzzle solving, with numerous stages and multiple episodes to each stage, and plenty of hidden secrets and surprises. This game introduced many recurring characters and bosses in the Mario series, including Toadsworth, Bowser Jr., Petey Piranha, Gooper Blooper, Piantas, Nokis, Shadow Mario, and F.L.U.D.D. Super Mario Sunshine pays homage to Mario's Italian heritage and upbringing, with many of the locations in the game having Italian names and sometimes referencing Italian culture.
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First, I personally adore the FLUDD mechanic and all it's different nozzles. I love not only how each nozzle functions mechanically(some nozzles admittedly being more useful then others via the main episodes), but view FLUDD as a whole as a wonderfully creative gameplay mechanic. I'm on the side that not only welcomes FLUDD, but feel it's a awesome progression/improvement on Marios 64 moveset as unpopular as that may be to say.
Also contrary to what I weirdly see often said(or at least as of late), but Mario himself has never controlled more snappy and responsive, I feel he controls EXTREMELY better then in 64, and I understand why Galaxy was more stiff/weighted with its controls, but none the less feel Mario has never controlled better then in Sunshine. However, Odyssey maybe the best Marios controlled overall(and maybe best moveset), but I feel in Sunshine Mario feels a bit more "electric", I'm unsure quite how to describe it, but Mario feels INCREDIBLY acrobatic in this game(more then he usually is), he feels he runs faster/can get more natural momentum(especially via fludd) then in any other game, he feels he jumps higher examples being his triple jump which feels like it has an extra oomph (jump height + foward momentum) compared to his other 3D titles, his backflip also personally feels more satisfying to pull off then any other entry. His slide/water slide is incredibly fun and amazing for getting speed/travelling in more open areas. Personally Sunshine is tied for my favorite controls/move set in any Mario game.
As for the games setting, Isle Delfino is by far to this day still my favorite hub world in the series, heck it may be my favorite hub world in 3D platformers as a whole. Incredibly, vibrant, creative, and most important of all, fun to explore around. You can start the game doing by simply wondering around Isle Delfino completing missions/getting shine sprites without even entering the first world of the game. Heck even after completing the game, Isle Delfino is simply a blast to run around in like a mad man, this is helped of course by the different FLUDD nozzles, making the mindless traversing all the more entertaining. Seeing the Island progressively get brighter and brighter the more shines/episodes you complete is incredible.
As an avid fan of 3D collectathons, he blue coins as a whole really didn't personally bother me truthfully. The scavenger hunt for these coins scratched that collectathon itch, and felt satisfying to get...However I do feel some of the locations these blue coins were placed in(some in particular episodes), are a bit strange/dumb, and I can definitely see this can make those seeking to 100% the game quite annoyed, this certainly doesn't affect me as I see it detrimentally affect others, but I can see how annoying many of these blue coin placements can be for first time players.
The games structure is more linear compared to 64, also the game requiring you do every episode 7 of each world to unlock the final level, but you can of course unlock multiple worlds all at once and doing the episodes from each world as you please, feel like taking a break from Gelato Beach? Well, try to take a break in Pinna Park and do an episode there.
The worlds themselves are all great, despite all having the core theme of being "tropical" in some form, they all make themselves unique, and are visual spectacles. Noki Bay, Pianta Village, Pinna Park, all these levels are still beautiful to look at, and again, incredibly creative. While I adored a lot of levels from Mario 64 such as Hazy Maze Cave, Lethal Lava, Big Boos Haunt, and Tall Tall Mountain, I found the rest of the worlds in 64 leaving a lot to be desired on multiple aspects. I feel Sunshines weakest locations are far stronger then 64s weakest, and find it's best locations as great if not personally more enjoyable. Like 64, there are particular episodes that can be quite annoying/irritating, Gelato Beach and Sirena Beach being home to some infamous episodes.
Another complaint I notice is the obvious Shadow Mario stages, I found myself frustrated in some of the later occurrences of this type of level, but in the end I could only be mad at myself, very rarely have I ever felt a death in any of these levels was the games fault or atrocious level design, I find a majority of the Shadow Mario stages a fun and admittedly difficult at times, though I wouldn't categorize them as anything to ride home about.
In the end, from controls, bosses/boss design, levels/level design, visuals, enemies, core gameplay mechanics, etc. I found this to be a phenomenal successor to what came before it, personally, this game improved on almost about every aspect. I'll say while the soundtrack is great, I felt myself listening back more on 64s then this game, but that may be nostalgia, either way both have phenomenal OSTs. Great/Underrated game imo.