Video Game Analysis by Christine Chung

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February 29, 2012 by cchung9

Nintendo’s Super Mario Sunshine for the Nintendo Gamecube is the second 3D Mario game, after its predecessor, Super Mario 64. The setting and objectives are completely different from the first 3D game. The game is set in a resort-like island, called Isle Delfino. After Mario and Princess Peach land on the isle for their vacation, it is announced that there has been a Mario-like figure who has been vandalizing the isle and causing Isle Delfino into darkness. Mario is blamed for “Shadow Mario’s” chaos and is sentenced to stay on the isle until it is cleaned and restored. Rather than have the objective be “to save Peach,” this game’s ultimate goal is to clear Mario’s name. There were many aesthetic aspects to Super Mario Sunshine that lured me into the game and also motivated me to finish it, unlike my desire to finish Super Mario 64. I personally think my affinity for keeping things in order and OCD-like cleaning contributed to my liking and success in Super Mario Sunshine. I believe the reason for the continuous success of Mario games, especially Super Mario Sunshine, is through their strong aesthetics.

With aesthetics, Super Mario Sunshine, is better understood through a ludological view, rather than a narrative view. Sunshine, like other Mario games, consistently have shallow immediate plots and overall stories. With the varying settings and goals, the story is basically about the adventures of a Japanese-made Italian plumber who tries to save a blonde princess named after a fruit, from a spiky, overgrown turtle. Despite the strange, yet easily-accepted backdrop, the game proceeds. This is pointed out in Chapter Five of Understanding Video Games when it is defined that games are their rules. A game with some any set of rules can proceed, despite a weak plot. Hence, Super Mario Sunshine is ludologically stable through its aesthetics.

As I write this paper, I realize that I choose to play videogames based on its rules and after having our class discussion on videogame aesthetics, we learned that “a game is its rules” (99). Mario games are a favorite because the rules are consistent in any Mario-related game, and have an element of excitement with learning new things on top of the fundamentals of the original rules. I basically do not enjoy learning a new tutorial for each new game, but with Mario games, the rules with interplay and evaluation are the same throughout any Mario game, with the addition of new details to deem the game different. Going along with the general division of rules with interplay and evaluation rules, Mario is even used as an example: “for instance, in Super Mario Bros. one interplay rule states that Mario will jump to a certain height when a player presses ‘A’ button on their controller; one evaluation rule is that killing enemies by landing on them gives you points” (101). The excitement of playing Super Mario Sunshine is the introduction of F.L.U.D.D. in the interplay and evaluation rules. F.L.U.D.D., an acronym for “Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device,” is an interactive, sidekick-like water pack that helps Mario clean the isle up. Interplay-wise, the water pack can extend its waterspouts to a certain distance, likewise in its distance into the air in the Hover Nozzle mode. Evaluation-wise, attacking “bad-guys” and bosses with streams of water will have Mario earn coins and Shine Sprites.

As with other Mario games, Sunshine is a single-player game with a third person perspective. The third person perspective is especially helpful because it acts a transition from the original 2D Mario games that scroll across the screen. The 2D Mario games must have the player see everything in a god-like view due to its 2D limits. With 3D, however, Mario is able to move through the created space with third person-perspective, allowing the player to continue his/her god-like view of the gameplay. Interestingly, there is a first-person view, but Mario is immobile for the view. Rather than allowing the player to switch to first-person and move Mario in the space, the first person view acts more like a lock-on perspective. The pseudo-first person perspective locks Mario in place and allows the player to view around and about. This is especially helpful when the camera angles are being difficult or when the player needs to lock his/her aim at a target.

Along with the favorite aesthetic values of Mario’s caricaturistic graphic/visual style and motivating soundtrack, Super Mario Sunshine accomplishes successful aesthetics through interplay and evaluation rules, single player over multi-player and third person perspective. The narrative value is weak when it comes to Mario games, but ludologically, Mario is able to hold its own as a videogame through its consistent base of rules, along with novel details for new and different games.

Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Simon, Jonas Heide. Smith, and Susana Pajares. Tosca. “Chapter 5: Video Game Aesthetics.” Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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One thought on “Video Game Analysis by Christine Chung

  1. vreddy92 says:

    Christine, I am really glad that you decided to do your video game analysis on what really is an epically classic game. I agree with you that gameplay is important in this game, and that the narrative, while the driving force for the action (you need the Shine Sprites to advance), is not very significant to the game. Although, the game is basically Mario going through levels seemingly unrelated to the plot, he is also cleaning up the island and collecting the Shine Sprites, which are the driving force of this game. I would argue that narrative is important to this game, because imagine if it was a character not as beloved as Mario. I would argue this would negatively affect the game. Also, having to do every level without having a goal (even if it’s just to collect Shine Sprites) would negatively impact the game. I remember when I was playing this game, the most satisfying part was getting to the end and battling Bowser and Bowser Jr. I wouldn’t completely disregard narrative in this game, although you are right that the gameplay/ludology is both extremely important and extremely well done.

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