Super Mario Sunshine is a 3D platformer developed by Nintendo EAD and published by Nintendo for GameCube in 2002. During a holiday visit to sunny Isle Delfino, Mario is arrested for mysterious acts of vandalism perpetrated across the entire island by a shadowy individual that has assumed his identity. After being released from lockup, Mario must use a new water-spraying backpack named F.L.U.D.D. to wash away the harmful sludgy graffiti covering Isle Delfino and liberate the island's guardian Shine Sprites.
Although the basic gameplay of Super Mario Sunshine hews closely to the 3D platforming template established in Super Mario 64, the presence of F.L.U.D.D. adds several new moves to Mario's repertoire, such as spraying objects with water and the ability to temporarily hover in mid-air. Sunshine marks the first instance of pre-rendered cutscenes in a Mario title; the game also features the debut of Bowser Junior, who is introduced as Bowser's son during the course of the story.
Super Mario Sunshine was a critical and commercial success upon its release, having sold 5.5 million copies as of June 2006. However, some critics took issue with the mechanical "gimmicks" of using F.L.U.D.D. and riding Yoshi, as well as the game's finicky camera system.
Sunshine is very similar to its predecessor Super Mario 64 not just in terms of core gameplay, but also in structure and progression. Players explore a series of discrete fully 3D platforming stages, each connected by a central hub world. The primary goal of the game is to earn collectible items known as Shine Sprites by fulfilling various objectives in each stage called Episodes. Shine Sprites can be collected in other ways, such as gathering special Blue Coins scattered around Isle Delfino; Mario can redeem ten Blue Coins at Delfino Plaza's Boathouse for one Shine Sprite. Players can unlock new stages and abilities for Mario by collecting a sufficient number of Shine Sprites.
Like most platforming-focused Super Mario titles, Sunshine adds several new gameplay features to the series' existing mechanics. Arguably the most important of these is the "Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device," or F.L.U.D.D. for short. F.L.U.D.D. is a special backpack worn by Mario which allows players to manually aim and spray water onto objects with its primary Squirt Nozzle function. This is mostly used to clear away the sludgy graffiti smeared across much of Isle Delfino, which damages Mario during sustained contact and limits his mobility. Spraying water is often key to solving puzzles, including revealing hidden Blue Coins; many of the game's enemies can also be stunned or damaged by water.
Players can switch to F.L.U.D.D.'s secondary Hover Nozzle at any time, using the downward force of its twin water jets to hover for a few seconds with a limited degree of mid-air control. F.L.U.D.D.'s hover function can also serve as a substitute for Mario's long jump maneuver from Super Mario 64 (which is notably absent in Sunshine). F.L.U.D.D.'s water supply is limited, so Mario must periodically refill its tank by immersing himself in any number of clean water sources, such as pools, the ocean or even lawn sprinklers. However, bodies of water that have been polluted with graffiti will damage Mario and cannot be used to replenish his water supply.
F.L.U.D.D. is always equipped with the Squirt Nozzle, but two additional secondary Nozzles eventually become available in certain levels. While Mario can gain new abilities by touching a solid red or gray Nozzle Box, this will replace the Hover Nozzle (found in blue boxes) as F.L.U.D.D.'s secondary function. The Rocket Nozzle inside red boxes allows Mario to vertically launch himself high into the air, while the Turbo Nozzle inside gray boxes gives Mario the ability to run at incredible speeds, allowing him to dash across the surface of water or smash through certain objects. Although mastering the use of F.L.U.D.D. is crucial, some of the game's challenges temporarily disable the device and force players to rely exclusively on Mario's basic moveset.
Mario can enlist the aid of Yoshi in certain stages after he is rescued during a story event. When riding Yoshi, he can eat enemies, fruit, and even birds. After eating fruit, Yoshi can spit juice from the fruit. This juice can dissolve large orange blocks, which are obstacles blocking certain secret areas. The juice can also turn enemies into platforms. Based on the type of fruit, the color and effect of the juice are different.
Yoshi can die in two ways that Mario can't: without eating fruit, Yoshi will die, and when Yoshi touches the water, he dies.
The game opens with Mario, Princess Peach and several members of the Princess' royal entourage flying aboard a private plane en route to Isle Delfino, a destination that everyone believes will be a tranquil escape from the every day grind of kidnappings, fire-breathing behemoths, and general mayhem that makes the Mushroom Kingdom such an unproductive working environment. However, the holiday is brought to an abrupt halt as soon as the vacationing group touches down on the runway, when they discover a prominent work of graffiti that bears an apparent resemblance to the mustachioed plumber. Mario travels to the other end of the runway to seek help in clearing the obstruction, and is introduced to a talking, water-pumping backpack nicknamed F.L.U.D.D.
With the help of his newfound semi-sidekick, Mario is able to clean up the runway of all graffiti and restore it to its original state. However, no sooner is this act of goodwill completed than two of Isle Delfino's finest arrive on the scene to bring Mario under arrest for evidently fouling up several other areas of the island. After a fairly unfair trial, Mario is ultimately sentenced to clean the entire island of all of the pollution that blemishes it before he will be permitted to leave. Doing so will quite literally brighten up the place, as a good many of the island's " Shine Sprites" have gone missing due to the rampant vandalism. These "Shine Sprites" traditionally gather at the "Shine Gate" in the center of town, and are the source of the pleasant rays that illuminate the island paradise; but, the malicious work of the real vandal has essentially scared them all away, leaving the island covered, in large part, by a persistent shadow.
By traversing the many areas of Isle Delfino, and working to undo the true culprit's defacement and overall trouble-making, Mario will collect and return the "Shine Sprites" to their rightful place and restore the island to its normal, immaculate state.
Super Mario Sunshine is split into several stages, most of which are initially inaccessible until Mario collects a sufficient number of Shine Sprites and fulfills other special requirements. As new stages are unlocked, Mario can reach them via Delfino Plaza, the game's hub world. The bulk of gameplay takes place across seven episodic stages: Bianco Hills, Ricco Harbor, Gelato Beach, Pinna Park, Sirena Beach, Noki Bay and Pianta Village. Each of these areas contains eight Episodes and two hidden Episodes; completing any Episode earns Mario one Shine Sprite.
In addition to the Episode-based stages, Shine Sprites can also be found in Delfino Plaza, its nearby Airstrip, and the final stage at Corona Mountain. Twenty-four Shine Sprites are purchased at the Plaza's Boathouse with the 240 Blue Coins hidden throughout the game. Finally, Mario can earn a bonus Shine Sprite in all seven episodic stages and Delfino Plaza by collecting at least one hundred Coins in a single life.
Delfino Airstrip: The game's introductory stage takes place on a small airstrip built across a cluster of tiny islets just off the eastern coast near Delfino Plaza. This tutorial area becomes inaccessible for most of the game once Mario arrives at the Plaza; however, the Airstrip can be reached by boat after visiting Corona Mountain at least once. This stage is considered part of Delfino Plaza for the purpose of collecting one hundred Coins to earn a bonus Shine Sprite.
Delfino Plaza: Located at the foot of Corona Mountain, the largest city on Isle Delfino serves as Sunshine's hub world. Several landmarks here are used to access the other stages, such as the Grand Pianta Statue, a Boathouse and the Lighthouse. Shine Sprites tend to gather around the massive Shine Gate at the northern edge of the Plaza. Many hidden Shine Sprites can be found here, though several of these first require unlocking one of F.L.U.D.D.'s two extra secondary Nozzles.
Bianco Hills: The first episodic stage takes place in a rural hillside community at the center of Isle Delfino, where the quaint "Windmill Village" has been built next to a lake. A much larger windmill is perched atop an island located in the lake's far corner. This stage becomes available after defeating Shadow Mario for the first time in Delfino Plaza and is accessed via the Grand Pianta Statue.
Ricco Harbor: A series of catwalks and support beams hang over this large commercial port hosting several ships. The substantial amount of seawater in this stage allows Mario to practice his "Blooper-surfing" using speedy Blooper Racers. This stage becomes available after collecting three Shine Sprites and defeating the Polluted Piranha that has engulfed Delfino Plaza's Boathouse.
Gelato Beach: The largest beach on Isle Delfino hosts a number of strange sand-dwelling plants called Dune Buds that can alter the shape of the surrounding terrain when sprayed with water. Gelato Beach is dominated by its central Shine Tower, a large stone structure containing the Legendary Sand Bird egg. This stage becomes available after collecting five Shine Sprites and defeating the Polluted Piranha that has enveloped Delfino Plaza's Lighthouse.
Pinna Park: Forming the flukes of Isle Delfino's "tail" is Pinna Island, which is divided by a large fence into an amusement park and a beachfront area. Pinna Park contains several rides including a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel and a "Yoshi-Go-Round". This stage becomes available after collecting ten Shine Sprites and is accessed by using the cannon found in Delfino Plaza's northwest corner.
Sirena Beach: Located just north of Pinna Island is Hotel Delfino, the luxurious three-story seaside resort at Sirena Beach. This four-star hotel boasts a state-of-the-art security system and features multiple slot machines inside its "Casino Delfino" area. This stage becomes available after completing Episode 4 of Pinna Park and rescuing Yoshi, who can then eat the giant pineapple blocking the red Warp Pipe on a building near the center of Delfino Plaza.
Noki Bay: A vertically-oriented stage nestled amidst the steep cliffs of Isle Delfino's northern coast. As the name suggests, it's the ancestral home of the Nokis and contains three seashell-inspired towers poking up from the ocean's surface, as well as some ancient ruins submerged in the bay's deep waters. This stage becomes available after collecting twenty Shine Sprites and is accessed by staring up into a column of light at Delfino Plaza's pier (a reference to entering the "Tower of the Wing Cap" course in Super Mario 64).
Pianta Village: The lofty ancestral home of the Piantas is built around the upper trunk of a gigantic palm tree situated in the middle of a wide crater, which helps protect its residents from Isle Delfino's natural predators. A forest of mushrooms grows beneath the village, some of which act as natural trampolines. This stage becomes available after collecting thirty Shine Sprites to unlock the Rocket Nozzle in Delfino Plaza, allowing Mario to reach the red Warp Pipe on top of the Plaza's Shine Gate.
Corona Mountain: Mario's only objective within this lava-drenched volcano is to reach its uppermost peak, where he confronts Bowser and Bowser Jr. in the game's final boss battle. This stage becomes available after completing the seven Shadow Mario-related Episodes from each of the game's seven episodic stages. It is accessed through a small rocky cave located behind Delfino Plaza's Shine Gate.
Special hidden levels separate from the main stages can be found in most of the game's major areas. These levels are typically accessed by selecting an Episode with the word "secret" in its title; Mario must then find the secret level's entrance located somewhere inside the main stage.
Most of the game's secret levels begin with a short cutscene in which Shadow Mario takes away F.L.U.D.D., forcing Mario to complete the course using only his basic moveset. These courses are comprised of a series of platforms suspended in a void; Mario's only objective here is to reach the Shine Sprite at the far end of the course. Falling into the void will cost Mario a life, after which he will restart at the beginning of the course for another attempt. However, if a player exhausts their stock of lives and receives a Game Over while inside a secret level, Mario is sent back to Delfino Plaza, and the player must again reach the secret level's entrance inside its respective stage in order to reattempt it. After completing a secret level once, Mario will have access to F.L.U.D.D. if the player revisits the course.
A handful of the game's secret courses allow the use of F.L.U.D.D. even during a player's initial attempt. These levels can be easily identified by their blue sky backgrounds and alternate music. Some of these courses may also have different objectives, such as collecting eight Red Coins in a single life.