E3 2002Super Mario Sunshine impressions

Nintendo showed off Super Mario Sunshine today at its E3 press conference. Check out our impressions of the game.

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Nintendo unveiled Super Mario Sunshine for the GameCube today at its E3 press conference. The game is a spiritual successor to Super Mario 64 in that Mario has many of the moves found in his 64-bit incarnation, but it expands on the control scheme considerably to create new types of gameplay not yet seen in video games.

The story behind Super Mario Sunshine is simple. Mario arrives on an island for a vacation and soon discovers that it has been vandalized. Falsely accused of the crime, Mario is charged with restoring the island to its former pristine condition. During his journey he will come into contact with popular characters from the series like Princess Peach and Toad. He will also be able to jump on Yoshi's back and take the green dinosaur for a ride.

The most obvious change to the gameplay is a water cannon mounted on Mario's back. The apparatus has many functions and Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto demonstrated several different abilities for those in attendance. The cannon's primary function is to clean up a brown oozing substance that is spread throughout the levels. Spraying the water will cause the brown ooze to contract and gradually wash away. If Mario sprays the water haphazardly, it will affect most everything it touches. Trees will grow and the water will splash realistically off of objects. The water cannon can also be used as a jet pack that will allow Mario to hover, and scenes were shown where Mario also used the cannon to feed a piranha plant water. Puzzles have also been set up around the device. One scene showed Mario jumping on a lilly pad and using the cannon to propel himself across an expanse of water.

The brown ooze presents its own gameplay elements as well. Mario can run and jump on the ooze and will begin to slide on his belly perpetually until he reaches dry land. After sliding on the ooze, Mario will become covered in it and he can jump into the water to clean himself off. Many of Mario's old stand-bys such as the butt stomp, wall jump, triple jump, and his basic melee attacks have returned. He also has the ability to swim and perform backflips or sideflips. New moves that were shown during the demonstration included a spinning high jump, the ability to slide along and spring off of power lines running throughout the level, and the opportunity to ride on small water craft.

From a visual perspective, Super Mario Sunshine looks quite good. The frame-rate looks rock solid and the game plays with an impressive speed overall. The animation is incredibly smooth and the brown ooze is constantly morphing and changing while reflecting the surroundings. Visual trickery such as real-time reflections, a blurring effect for the spraying water, and realistic lighting and shadows round out the game's basic but compelling look. Also, the horizon stretches on for quite a distance and the area that was shown was rife with other characters that were all fully animated. One particular scene showed Mario surfing on a small watercraft and the reaction of the water to boat was complete with image refraction, as sunlight bounced off the wake in an incredibly realistic manner.

The brief demo that was shown of Super Mario Sunshine was more than enough to make us incredibly excited to play it for ourselves. The amount of interactivity in the environments is refreshing, the puzzle design looks to be smart, and the gameplay seems as solid as ever. Look for our hands-on report of Super Mario Sunshine from the E3 show floor tomorrow.

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