I Love 'Super Mario Sunshine', But I Forgot How Much I Hate It
I've always loved Super Mario Sunshine. While regarded by many as a serious misstep for the Mario franchise, the 2002 GameCube title was my introduction to the mustachioed plumber. As an eight-year-old kid faced with a colourful 3D world, funny-looking characters to jump on, and a backpack-turned-water gun to blast away funky looking graffiti, how could I not fall for it?
And fall for it I did. If I squint hard enough I can recall hazy memories running through Delfino Plaza, battling Petey Piranha, and watching Princess Peach relax in a hot tub with Bowser and the lovechild he claimed they conceived together.
In my mind, these were halcyon days spent with a Mario game that gets a lot of hate for seemingly no reason. I never really understood why people were so willing to attack a Super Mario game, especially when Nintendo always ensures such a level of quality in regards to its main IP... right?
That's what I thought, right up until I downloaded Super Mario 3D All Stars for Nintendo Switch. Super Mario Galaxy is one of my all-time favourite games and there isn't a person alive today that doesn't think Super Mario 64 is damn-near perfect, but I was most excited to rush straight back to Sunshine. As a game I hadn't played for near a decade thanks to a misplaced GameCube, I was eager to chart a return course to the sun-soaked islands I'd enjoyed as a wee lad. What a fool I was.
You know when you bump into someone you used to go to school with while you're at the pub? And for the first five minutes you're just really happy to see an old friend? But after ten minutes you realise they're actually really boring and you never had much in common with them anyway? That's how I felt diving back into Sunshine. The problems began almost immediately, and the game's suite of annoyances both minor and major came flooding back to me. Like a man presented with images of traumas long past, the fact that Super Mario Sunshine is actually quite crap slapped me right in the face.
Don't get me wrong, Sunshine has all of the charm of Mario's very best adventures... it's just that it has none of the polish. Constant bugs, gammy controls, horrendously designed levels and a camera that appears to have been possessed by Satan himself slowly ground me down.
What's incredible is that I was slowly, painfully reminded that I'd always hated Sunshine. It was my memory choosing to focus on the few positives offered by the game - combined with the fact that young me got my dad to beat any levels I got stuck on - that convinced me its critics were being unfair.
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Levels I used to think were just too hard for an eight-year-old to beat were in fact too broken for anyone to beat unless they were willing to roll with the considerable punches. With hellish glitch-filled wastelands like the pachinko nightmare, janky-ass platforming challenges, and that motherf***ing sandbird, I learned to detest what once I had loved. How did I ever convince myself that a game capable of such sloppiness was top-tier Mario? It's not that Sunshine is the worst game of all time, but it's alarmingly far from Nintendo's best work.
One level that particularly cut me deep involved NPCs that you need to talk to so that they can throw you from platform to platform. With no way to control yourself once in the air, and zero way of telling how far or hard they'd throw you until after they grabbed you, I found myself wondering (after my 10th trial-and-error attempt) why I grew up loving Nintendo so much if this was one of my first experiences with the company.
WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED??? pic.twitter.com/IUetVoRIF9
- Milkshake:tm: (@Mikochhi) September 21, 2020
screw me for exploring i guess #SuperMario3DAllStars #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/piJOD3zd9K
- Oliver Brandt :flag_white:️:rainbow: (@Chocobalt) September 21, 2020
MIYAMOTO RETIRE #SuperMario3DAllStars #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/f2hwhxZHZj
- Dave is :b:️ald (@OThreens) September 20, 2020
Going into Sunshine I was an optimistic newborn babe ready to get stuck in to a childhood favourite. Around halfway through, after countless little glitches and inconveniences, I was a sweary mess calling for Miyamoto's resignation. By the time the credits rolled after besting a horrendous final level - fittingly called Corona Mountain - I was just glad the damn thing was over and I could properly get on with enjoying Galaxy.
That's what really stings most of all - that I was relieved to see the credits roll. I picked up all 120 stars in Galaxy and will soon be doing the same in Super Mario 64, but am I going to go back and nab the last 60 or so Shine Sprites I need to 100% Sunshine? Absolutely not. I can't put myself through another second of it right now. The best I can hope for is that after another ten years I forget about my experience with Mario's GameCube outing and transform it, once again, into nothing more than a harmless memory of simpler times.
Featured Image Credit: Nintendo