Super Mario Sunshine? Really? This seems like a random idea for a blog post, but it's been lingering on my mind, begging my attention for several reasons. I knew I wanted to write a post dedicated to the great season of summer, so I began thinking about what I should use to express my love for it. This game immediately came to my mind. It's a video game of my childhood, and it takes our favorite plumber on an adventure during his tropical summer vacation. It perfectly captures the spirit of summer for me. The visuals are gorgeous, especially the water, and it all still holds up today despite being a little old. The music is constantly stuck in my head and captures the tropical orange sunsets, beaches caught in the hot sun, bumbling drums and soothing strings. Not to mention it's a great Mario game with fun levels to play through.
It's not everyone's favorite game. It seems this one is either claimed as being the best Mario game or the worst. I was originally going to do a review on this game, but I decided it would be more fun if I shared what I think are the best levels. That way, I can go more into the vibrant levels of what makes this game so great to me!
5. Blooper Surfing Safari
Ricco Harbor can be a bit of a mess. It's a trading port full of ships and rails. It can be tricky to navigate. Though when it comes to the worlds in this game, Ricco Harbor is quite memorable.
This shine in particular sticks in my mind because of how different it plays from any of the others. The objective is to surf a blooper in a timed obstacle course. It can be difficult to pass the course without crashing, let alone complete it in time. There are three colors of bloopers to choose from, and they are fast and do slow turns. Yet, the course has tight corners and blocks at every turn. The course is challenging, but not impossible to master, and it can be satisfying to win in a single round. The controls can be tough to get used to, but the course is still designed in favor of it, adding it to the overall challenge.
I want to say the colors mean different speeds, but now I think the colors are the only things that make the bloopers different from each other. As a kid, I thought they had different speeds and I would push the control stick forward or back, thinking that also changed it. If it did anything, it wouldn't have been much.
This is the only location in the whole game where you can surf on bloopers, and the race, while challenging, is also very fun. I would often replay this level, so I remember it pretty well.
4. The Manta Storm
This one is the very first shine in Sirena Beach. Interestingly enough, this level is a reference to The Shining by Stephen King, though I'm not sure why a Mario game is referencing something from a horror novel and I've never read it, so I don't know what else to add on it.
What I do know is this area is supposed to be centered on a grand hotel, but there's blue electrifying goop everywhere where the hotel's supposed to be. After listening to the manager complaining about the monster that left the goop behind, he yells that it's back and the screen cuts to the beach. This starts a boss fight with a large shadow of a manta ray.
The main challenge here is that water splits up the manta ray into smaller forms, but this quickly makes the map crowded with faster rays that still leaves trails of shocking goop behind them. It's not very hard until all of them are pretty small, then they become aggravated. Then, it can be difficult to dodge them all, and if you happen to be hit, they can send you in the goop where you'll take damage back-to-back.
I remember this boss because of how ominous it is. (Probably because it comes from a horror book.) It is an easy level to start, but a hard one to finish. Yet, I keep coming back to this one, eager to take on this tough boss again and again.
3. Eely Mouth's Dentist
This is another boss in Noki Bay, but a very interesting concept along with the strange objective. We saw this creature affect the water of this world in earlier levels. In the first shine, the water in the bay was very dirty, though it was speculated it was because the waterfall was jammed. After a few more levels, it was still dirty! Finally, it was revealed it was because of the eel's bad teeth.
The objective here isn't to kill it, which is usually what you do in boss fights, but to clean really bad cavities without accidentally getting swallowed. It's harder than it sounds, really. The eel is huge and swims up to meet you if you're far away. It sucks in currents and spins too, which can be deadly if you're next to the teeth, powering water pressure just a few feet away. You may also need to break away for some coins if you're close to drowning.
If you manage to do all that, the eel will leave the stage, leaving a shine and a heart made up of coins! Besides the boss itself, the underwater arena always stood out to me. It's only used in two stages; this one and a red coin level. (Red coin levels require you to collect eight red coins to reach the shine.) What's interesting is that it's an underwater city of some sort. It seems to be fairly far beneath the water, and it may be abandoned. I thought it would be cool if it was explored a little more, but sadly, it's only an arena...
2. Mecha-Bowser Appears!
Yep, this one is yet another boss. Maybe I should have added more "levels", but this game has some of the coolest bosses in video game history! (Sadly, I wouldn't count the final boss among them. That one isn't great...)
Maybe you'll say I only put this one up so high because you get to fight this boss while riding a roller coaster. And you would be right. This boss appears in the very first stage of Pinna Park, which is a theme park. The objective is simple in execution. Collect and shoot missiles at the large Mecha-Bowser standing in the fountain area.
This boss isn't as hard to beat as some of the others, though you can certainly fail if you don't react in the times you need to. You can only reach Mecha-Bowser in certain points of the ride, and if you miss, you'll have to come back around again. Meanwhile, bullet bills are racing all over the track. The most frustrating thing is dispatching them when that means you have to use your only missile you were saving for the boss. A lot of times, I would just take the hit if I could afford the damage.
And we get to meet Bowser Jr. here! He's not a new character anymore, but this was the very first time we got to see him.
Also, it's a boss battle you fight while on a roller coaster. Do I need any more reasons!?
1. Watermelon Festival
For those who have played this game, this choice is not a shocker. The watermelon festival is a popular choice of many, but why is that?
No, this isn't another boss fight! Rather, it's a level that encourages exploration. It shows you that contestants are lining up to show off their watermelons. The biggest entry wins. So to win, you have to find a watermelon that's bigger than any of the others. It doesn't tell you more than that. Just look around! You'll find a few, but some won't make the cut! Even if you find a good one, you have to take it all the way to the pier without destroying it by running into the enemies or even the ground.
Simply, I think this is one of the best shines in the game because it doesn't tell you where you need to go. If you already know where to go, then you can beat it in a matter of minutes, but if you don't, or want to take your time, then you can admire Gelato Beach in all its summer glory.
The worlds are the best parts of this game. They're big, and for the most part, allow you to explore every detail and secret. It feels more like a world where a lot of events are always happening than a strict level you must run from point A to B.
Another reason why I like it is that there's not much happening outside of a festival in this one. Understandably, most of the levels hover on a crisis you must fix, but this one isn't asking anything from you. The citizens are just enjoying a typical holiday, one you can enter!
Those are my top five shines in Super Mario Sunshine. Even though three out of the five were boss fights, and no, I'm not changing my mind!
Are you a fan of this game? If you like it, tell me some of your favorite shines and why. Let's chat it up!