Just ask Mario. After years of saving the Princess and the entire Mushroom Kingdom over and over again, non-stop, even his job got tedious and tiresome. Being Mario isn't easy, you know, and every so often, the plumber just needs to take a break and go on vacation. Sure, Mario is a fictional character, in a fictional universe within a video game, but regardless, developers never show the behind the curtain of these fictional worlds.
Well, for Mario's one and only outing on the Nintendo GameCube, he finally took his long awaited and much needed vacation, not just from his every day life, but from certain things that Mario games, Mario games. Super Mario Sunshine is the game that took Mario on vacation, and threw conventional wisdom out the window while doing so, implementing ideas and mechanics never to be seen again.
Right off the bat at the start of the game, you know it's not going to be like any other Mario game you've played. For one, seeing Mario kicked back, relaxing on the beach is a new sight to behold, that's for sure. Once you get going though, you are armed with a backpack water gun, an unusual thing for Mario to tote around, as he normally isn't one to pack around gadgets and equipment to get the job done. In this game, though, his job isn't quite like other games, as he is tasked with the dubious task of cleaning off paint that has covered the tropical island, eerily similar to an oil spill. This oil-like paint is making everything on the island wacky and different, taking over harmless creatures and turning them into enemies of Mario and quite simply, putting a damper on the vacation Mario was trying to have.
In his pursuit to clean the island and save the day, he is also searching for magical little sprites, that add sunshine to world and make everything nice and bright. Oh, and there are also a couple of new enemies for Mario to go head-to-head with, one of which is Bowser Jr. who is more maniacal than his pops. There is also Shadow Mario, who is just there to reek havoc and slow you down.
The game takes place entirely on the tropical island and surrounding areas of it, with you playing levels and areas within the island world. All the different locals are fun to explore, as you've never ran Mario around a marine harbor or an abandoned, haunted seaside hotel on the beach. There are residents on the island to interactive with also, who aren't mushroom men, and as characters, they are an enjoyable change of pace. In fact, everything about the game is a nice change of pace, which is why I love this game so much.
Not everybody likes this version of Mario, however. They complain that it's too different from the typical Mario platforming game, and that the water jet pack is just weird in a Mario game. Sure, the camera in this game can get cumbersome at grueling to manage at times, but once you get past that fact, the gameplay remains as fun as any other 3D Mario platformer, before or after. I love the idea of having to clean stuff, and constantly having to find bodies of water to refill the tank of the water pack. I like being able to hover with the powerful stream of water, and finding shine sprites throughout the world.
Basically, I like that it is different while still keeping certain aspects of traditional Mario games in tact. While I wish that F.L.U.D.D. (the water pack) would make its way back into a Mario game at some time, and Mario would return to his vacation island for another adventure, I also fully appreciate that Super Mario Sunshine is a one of a kind Mario game, and will always hold a place within the franchise as being such a unique title.
And after such a big, unique adventure, it's only fitting that the next adventure for Mario would bring him back to familiar places, and bring him back down to size in scale and context, but not necessarily size.