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Mario: Then and Now

Super Mario Galaxy looks way better than Super Mario Sunshine! Or does it? You be the judge.


Super Mario never gets old, but as Nintendo's Wii is about to prove with Super Mario Galaxy, it sometimes gets very new. You'll run upside down within the gravitational fields of tiny planetoids, hurl yourself through space on the cosmic rays of blue dwarf stars, and trounce Bowser in a bid to rescue the Mushroom Kingdom from his evil clutches. You'll get to do all this while solving brain teasing puzzles, bashing behemoth bosses, and searching the celestial skies for mystery, magic and fun.

It seems like Mario sure has come a long way since his last adventure in Super Mario Sunshine, but is Super Mario Galaxy's starry sojourn a quantum leap beyond his last adventure or simply the next logical step? To answer these questions, we entered the dangerous waters of graphical comparison, and what we found astounded us. Indeed, Super Mario Galaxy is a great-looking game, but Super Mario Sunshine was too. While Galaxy may far surpass its predecessor in some areas, it's graphically part of the same Super Mario tradition; one that proves it's not the size of your graphical processor that matters, but what you butt-stomp with it.


Mario packed extra weight in Sunshine thanks to his handy water blaster called FLUDD - a strange device that let him clean poluted surfaces, stun enemies, sprint and briefly hover. In Galaxy, on the other hand, he has a tiny star called a luma, which grants him the power to spin punch, pelt enemies with star bits, soar through gravitational fields and not die from a lack of atmosphere. Most importantly, the luma lives in Mario's stomach, so he no longer looks like a wannabe ghost buster.

Mouse over the default Super Mario Sunshine screenshot to see the Super Mario Galaxy comparison image.

It's a-he, Marrrio!


We don't know what was going on in some of Sunshine's space levels. After all, you could simply look up at the night sky and see that there were no train tracks. Still, it's important to note that Sunshine's disembodied space levels provided the seeds for what would grow into an awesome new game devoted to the outer limits, Super Mario Galaxy.

Boldly going where no plumber has gone before.


When Mario inexorably fell from the aforementioned space levels in Sunshine, he simply fell and fell, then we assume, fell some more. For all we know, he fell for five years before landing back in the Mushroom Kingdom, just in time for Super Mario Galaxy. Sunshine's deaths lacked closure, but Galaxy's do not, and closure comes in the form of giant black holes that suck Mario circularly into their fatal embrace, presumably squishing him into a fine Italian space paste. What a good-looking way to go.

Now featuring black holes!


Mario's alleged profession is plumber, but ever since Super Mario 64 he's been a dedicated star catcher. He always gets very excited when he finds one and even does little dances. In Sunshine, these are accompanied by the cryptic word "Shine!" On the other hand, Galaxy is super obvious with the message, "You got a star!" Neither one actually compliments you for defeating the giant boss or figuring out the tricky puzzle, but at least they both look nice and happy.

In both cases, victory looks sweet.


Speaking of stars, they employ brilliant lighting effects in both games. It's easy to just run up and grab 'em, but if you take a second, you'll notice that these heavenly bodies received quite a bit of graphical attention and care. Aside from their slick gold surfaces, each has a radiant halo, pierced with subtle beams of light and rainbow sparkles. Nintendo's art designers deserve a gold star.

Star light, star bright, you won't get either, without a fight.

Are you surprised by what you see or did you expect it all along? Come out of your turtle shell and tell us what you think!


Toads should riot. Did you ever notice that they're dressed like eunuchs? And they're tasked with guarding the Princess (eunuch work), except they're uncommonly small, so they couldn't protect a cat from a mouse. They even get the short end of the graphical stick, looking equally pedestrian in both Galaxy and Sunshine. Oh well, at least they aren't Goombas.

Mouse over the default Super Mario Sunshine screenshot to see the Super Mario Galaxy comparison image.

Down with the aristocracy! Up with graphical fidelity!


The first measure of a game's graphics is almost always its water, and by that standard, Sunshine looks great. For one thing, it has gallons of it. For another, its rippling effects and subtle deformations of swimming characters look awesome. The water in Galaxy looks just as wet, but that game isn't quite as invested in slick-looking surf as Sunshine, and it shows.

Sunshine did for water what Galaxy does for space.


Both games, however, are equally invested in surfing, which looks much better and much crazier in Galaxy. While surfing is kind of a low point in both games, you can see from the screens how much more conventional the sport is in Sunshine as opposed to the antigravitational, wave-rippling course in Galaxy.

No doubt about it, Galaxy rides the better wave.


A big part of any Mario game is its assortment of cute enemies with silly names, such as Pokey the evil cactus. But unlike side-scrolling Super Mario adventures where Pokey was a real obstacle because of his height, he isn't such a problem in Sunshine or Galaxy, though he's always a pleasure to see. If you look carefully, you'll notice that Pokey looks a little grittier in Sunshine, like he went on a tequila bender with a wiggler and a shy guy before reporting in to the level. Maybe that explains his combat technique of banging his head into the ground. Really, who is he trying to kill? In Galaxy, he looks much better on several different levels.

Pokey looks a little sharper in Galaxy.

Giant Piranha

OK, so this favorite first boss goes by many names (Petey in Sunshine or Dino Piranha in Galaxy), but whatever you call him, he clearly looks much, much better in Super Mario Galaxy thanks to several factors, such as lighting, texturing, and probably scale. This guy just looks a lot scarier when you're stuck on a tiny rock with him.

Galaxy clearly has a stronger visual bite.

Now you've seen it all! Share your thoughts, opinions, and quips with the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom.

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