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Ralizah

Ys I & II Chronicles Plus
Platform: PC
Playtime: 6 hours for Ys I; 8 hours for Ys II. All weapons and items found in both games.

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Today I'd like to talk about a duology of JRPGs I recently completed: Ys I & II Chronicles Plus (2013), which is an upgraded port of a similar collection that has been released on the PSP some years before called Ys I & II Chronicles (2009). These are, of course, only the most recent collections of Ys I & II from veteran Japanese developer Nihon Falcom, which are some of the oldest games in the medium, with the first game in this collection (full title: Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished Omen) dating all the way back to 1987 on the PC-88 in Japan (the West wouldn't see a version of the game until a Sega Master System port, localized as Ys: The Vanished Omens, in 1989). While we're talking about the historical stuff, it's probably worth mentioning that the TurboGrafx-CD port of the Ys I & II collection was the first RPG ever committed to CD-ROM in North America. Yeah, there's a LOT of history here.

The Ys (pronounced "eese," like "geese," but without the g sound) series has grown more prominent recently with the 2017 PS4 release and 2018 Nintendo Switch release of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana worldwide. This was also my first exposure to the series, and I absolutely loved the game. Now, while I wait for the PS4 followup Ys IX: Monstrum Nox in 2021, I thought I'd go back and revisit older games in the series to get a sense of how it has evolved over the years, starting with the original two games.

I don't usually review two games at once (I'm going to do this with another set of games for one of my next reviews, actually!), but it's important to note that, unlike any other set of games in the Ys series, Ys I & II are essentially one game split into two parts. In Ys I, you first meet the now iconic Adol Christin, a 16 year old adventurer with flame-red hair and a burning passion for discovery and adventure in his heart. We open as Adol heads to Esteria, an island nation that has been isolated from the rest of the world by a "stormwall." Adol (wordlessly, like Link from The Legend of Zelda, even to this day in modern entries) eventually helps and befriends a young woman named Feena, slays demons, and discovers a vast supernatural mystery related to the Kingdom of Ys, which vanished from the earth previously. What follows is fairy tale-esque high fantasy involving ancient goddesses, magical books, prophecies, and people discovering their magical bloodlines as Adol faces off against increasingly difficult foes over the course of the game. Ys II begins with Adol having been teleported to what remains of the Kingdom of Ys, which we discover is actually floating above the Earth. I won't say more so as not limit the amount of spoilers, but it's all fairly impressively story-driven for such an old game (even if these extremely faithful remakes probably increased the amount of dialogue and introduced more cutscenes and whatnot to modernize the presentation a bit).

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The most immediately notable aspect of Ys I & II is the battle system. Ys games are "action-rpgs," so combat takes place in real time on the map, and success in battles is mostly down to reflex and player skill. Technology didn't allow for tremendously complex battle systems in games back in 1987, however, so the first two Ys games adopt was is now called the "bump system." Essentially, Adol has no attack command. Rather, any time he touches an enemy, they exchange blows automatically. Attacking an enemy head-on leaves Adol vulnerable and is a good way to get him killed. So the player has to bumrush enemies from unusual angles: diagonally, straight on from an angle, so that they're barely touching the enemy sprite, from behind, etc. It sounds like a supremely awkward system, and, admittedly, I'd never play this way over having an actual attack command (something that was actually added to the Nintendo DS port of the original Ys game, but I digress), but it works surprisingly well! Part of that is the speed of gameplay. Sort of like Doomguy, Adol seems to be in his element when he's mindlessly charging around the battlefield, rushing enemies and making them hilariously explode into clouds of gore (it sounds nasty, but the cutesy art style doesn't really allow for graphic detail at all).

This system worked less well for me when it came to bosses. In Ys I, bosses are generally simplistic in design to allow for this style of combat, and thus devolve into irritating spectacles where you spend most of the match running from attacks that follow you around the battlefield before desperately running at the enemy for the second or two he'll expose himself at a time. The nadir of this approach actually came with the final boss of the first game, Dark Fact. This jerk ping-pongs around the stage like a crack-addled chipmunk, shooting projectiles out of his body pretty much constantly. So he's hard to hit as is. Once you figure out how to predict his movements and hit him, you discover that, every time he takes damage, a floor tile disappears below him. Thus, over the course of the battle (which typically lasts ten seconds or less, because the battle itself is an embarrassingly unbalanced spectacle), it's easy for the player to accidentally pin themselves in by destroying too many of the floor tiles in a single area, but where the player ends up destroying the floor tiles feels mostly like chance, because so many projectiles are constantly assailing the player that they die if they stay still for more than a second or two, and are constantly taking damage. So it's a battle of attrition between the player and the boss until the player happens to get lucky enough not to destroy too much flooring in particular patterns. I've heard this boss isn't too bad in the PSP version, but, for some reason, the frequency of his attacks and speed of his movements is tied to the framerate the game runs at in the PC release. So, when the framerate is unlocked, he bounces around at near lightning speeds and fills the stage so full of projectiles that the player never really has a chance. I actually had to put a third party application on my PC to limit the game's framerate to 60 to make it playable, which seems supremely dumb oversight on the part of the developers.

Boss encounters in Ys II broadly work better thanks to the introduction of a new element: magic attacks. Adol, very early in the game, gains the ability to use magic. This has a variety of non-offensive uses (including disguising himself as a demon to sneak past certain enemies, freezing time, warping to previously visited locations, and so on), but he ALSO gains the ability to damage and kill enemies by shooting fireballs. This spell is also very easy on the MP meter, so it's clearly designed to be well-used by the player. Most of the bosses in Ys II are designed to be attacked with magic, so the fights can afford to be a bit more complex and creative.

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Ys II, in general, is just a flat out better game than the original. The story is more fully realized, and it ties back to Ys I in some cool ways. The game has a larger number of distinct locations to explore, making it feel more like an adventure. Combat, as mentioned is better, including a far less frustrating (and maybe too easy, but whatever) final boss. There's more dialogue. And the final dungeon, while still confusing, doesn't make me want to rip the hair out of my head like the original game's final dungeon, Darm Tower.

Both games also suffer from drawbacks, however. Primarily stuff that's baked into how the story progresses. Anyone who plays really old video games that aren't level based knows they often tend to have infuriatingly cryptic puzzles and progression logic, and the first two Ys games are, while hardly the worst examples of this, no exception either. Receiving critical items and moving the plot forward often depends on engaging with NPCs in unique ways that require some guesswork. The player will also frequently have to return to old locations to do or find something, often with very little direction on the part of the games. None of it is unguessable, of course, but it's not signposted nearly as clearly as it would be in a modern game, and this could lead to hours of frustration on the part of the player. Just read a walkthrough if you end up feeling lost.

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The worst aspect of these games are the dungeon design and lack of maps. These games LOVE to throw the player into dingy, barely visible labyrinths filled with monsters, multiple floors, environmental puzzles, etc. So that makes them hard to navigate right off the bat. Now consider that these games don't support any form of in-game automapping of any kind. There aren't a tremendous number of locations in either game (they're shockingly small, actually; particularly the first game), but all of them are confusing and a pain to get around. Even the towns are large and dense enough that, even late in the game, I found myself wandering around them blindly, looking for plot-relevant NPCs or special locations.

I mentioned that I hated the final dungeon in Ys I, and it's primarily because of this. It's this hours long (seriously, half the game is spent climbing that %^&$#^* tower!) slog where everything looks the same, certain floors are filled with teleporter puzzles, and one particularly egregious bit of cryptic old-timey video game bullpucky is involved. I spent so much time lost in that dungeon.

The strongest point of this collection is the music. The original PC-88 OST, as basic as it was, was an early set of compositions by the legendary video game composer Yuzo Koshiro, who would compose the music for several of Falcom's early games. These tracks have been completely re-orchestrated a few times over the years for various re-releases (like, 5 or 6 times in Japan), but the soundtrack in this latest re-release is probably the best version of the music in these timeless games.

The forementioned fairy tale vibe of these games is immediately reinforced by the dreamy title theme for Ys I when you first boot it up:

The soundtrack is fairly diverse. You have your happy town themes:

More chilled out location themes:

The fantastic dungeon/region themes, which tend to be up-tempo and exciting:

And then the flat-out rock music, which often accompanies tough boss battles:

Also thought I'd link this very pretty track. The original composition was cut from the PC-88 version of the game, but they managed to squeeze the remade version into more recent versions of the collection, including the one I'm reviewing:

Impressively, Ys I + II Chronicles Plus supports alternative soundtracks and character designs - a set original to this version of the game, and a set that dates back to the earlier, non-localized PC re-release of the game in 2001 or so. You can mix and match these settings: I opted for the lush instrumentation of the Chronicles re-release, but the very charmingly retro character art found in the game's earlier PC re-release. You can even change the music to what was in the primitive PC-88 version (although, unfortunately, there's no accompanying graphical changes to go alongside that).

Here are a few screenshots to compare the differences:
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As it stands, then, while the games can be a bit hard to get into from a modern perspective, I think they hold up marvelously well given their age and the relatively minimal changes brought to the remakes. This classic JRPG duology struggles to hold up to experiences originating from modern hardware, of course, even within the same series, but they compare favorably to other games from that area (I'll replay Ys I & II any day before I subject myself to the rough contours of the NES-era Zelda or Metroid games again, for example). Adol Christin, despite being rather little known to most people, has enjoyed a storied history of gaming adventures that go back to nearly the dawn of the medium, and I'm excited to continue on this journey with him through the various Ys games.

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Fun fact: The opening for Ys II featured in this game was animated by Makoto Shinkai, who also directed other openings for certain Falcom games and would go on to become a sensation in the anime world with his masterful 2016 romantic-comedy-fantasy film Your Name

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Fun fact: There was apparently a fairly decent anime adaptation of both of these games in the late 1980s. And they're watchable for free on youtube!

ACTIVELY PLAYING
Persona 5 Royal (PS4)
Monster Hunter Rise (Switch)
Switch FC: SW-2726-5961-1794

Shadowthrone

The Talos Principle on PC
I really didn't know much of this before I started. I got it on a Steam sale a long time ago and it sat in my backlog until recently. I quite enjoyed it. Sometimes I like a game to make me think like this one did.
The story was decent. The delivery of it was better than the story itself. It's just that it became pretty obvious early on what was going on, so the 'good' ending reveal wasn't a real shock or anything.
It's also a very pretty game, I especially loved the Egyptian theme of the 2nd world.
Everything else takes a backseat to the puzzles, though. The puzzles were great, and they peppered several red herring items in quite a few of them, causing me to overthink, even. Some were a real challenge to get to work right. Now....most of the normal and red puzzles I burnt my brain out doing myself, but I admit I had to go online to get help a couple times. The stars however, I needed help with almost all of them (they're not required unless you want the hidden 3rd ending). These are crazy to figure out and I know even after seeing the solutions online that I never would have gotten them myself.
Fantastic game, all in all, I really enjoyed it.

Star Wars - The Force Unleashed on PC
A game I heard a lot about and meant to play years ago, but never did get around to it. I liked it for some simple action, hack n' slash. Simple combo and leveling system. Fun to play as a Force user that uses Sith abilities. There were a couple frustrating moments that were out of the normal hack n' slash (like the Star Destroyer 'boss') that weren't as enjoyable. This game also suffers from making you repeat dialogue and cutscenes when you die (why, why, why was this ever a thing).
Good Star Wars action, though. Being a first time play through 10+ years after it's release, I think it's held up pretty good.

Shadowthrone

Bankaj

Clawed my way through a tedious, buggy and frustrating experience of beating Star Wars Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast on the Switch.

Average playtime online is recorded as 15h, but my Switch booked more than 35h, 200+ saves & deaths and over 50 game crashing bugs and errors.

But man did I enjoy slicing stormtroopers after you finally get that lightsaber. Despite unbelievable choices to progress in levels, the design overall was a treat and I really felt as if I'm playing a game again as I did in the N64/GC era. It also scrathed my Star Wars well, so I'm good for a while.

A love/hate relationship with this (aiming was the worst!) glad it's over, but I enjoyed the heck of it!

Bankaj

Balta666

Just finished darksiders 2 on PC on Monday (since I finished also one DLC and two to go but not sure I will go though them all).
It is a good Zelda like game but it got a little bit too much of a delivery boy too the end and could easily end 5h sooner. Still enjoyable

Balta666

LatsaSpege

I recently beat Kirby Battle Royal! I had the game for a few years but just did not get around to playing it.

Oi that DeDeDe Fight was hard.

I play way too much Smash Bros, and other games and stuff
The best Animal Crossing Villager is Cheri
I hope you have a nice day!
¯(ツ)/¯ can't think of anything else to put here 🤔. Bye! ^_^

Switch Friend Code: SW-0370-6056-2926 | 3DS Friend Code: 3755-1656-4298 | My Nintendo: LatsaSpege

ryobi85

Devil may cry 5 is the most recent but been playing a lot of golfclash on android! Addictive game and quite fun.i still have botw to get into as played a few hours only. Also oddessy and really want to start hollow knight. So many games to play and free time is a rarity!

it's smash time people

Magician

Rolled the credits for the first time in AI: The Somnium Files after ten hours. Unfortunately, AI is one of those games that requires multiple replays through various sections of the game in order to flesh out the whole story. I'm just not the biggest fan of games that choose this delivery method. For me it's more laborious than it is interesting.

Never mind the pixel-perfect examination items you have to locate in a couple sections in order to progress the story.

Switch Physical Collection - 687 games (as of April 6th, 2021)
Currently playing: Hades (Switch)
Favorite Quote: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." -Arthur C. Clarke

Bankaj

Got the credits rolling for Bastion. Fun game if you wish to enjoy a story in Action-RPG style for a couple of nights or just a weekend. The game's of high quality with a unique artstyle to my opinion (at least how the world builds up).
In the end my preference was the combo of the Dual-Slinger + Machette + Distract Special. Easy recommendation and often on sale!

Edited on by Bankaj

Bankaj

Tyranexx

I finished Grim Fandango Remastered last week. I picked it up on sale this past summer and decided it would be my Halloween game this year. That was my first time playing this gem; I missed out on the original PC release as I was too young to know about or play it at the time. The music, unique premise/setting, characters (Glottis is one of the best companions ever), plot (weird as it gets sometimes), and voice acting are all phenomenal. The graphics aren't top-tier (heck, this game originally came out in 1998), but I found the game to be perfectly enjoyable with all the still images and slight jaggies.

My only major complaint, and the one that made me resort to using a walkthrough, is how obtuse and obscure many of the puzzle solutions are. I thought I KNEW puzzles in most games quite well, but late 90s action/adventure games are a new level entirely. XD A few I did solve on my own or through trial and error, but I guarantee that without a walkthrough 1. my playtime would have either more than doubled or 2. I wouldn't have finished the game.

Definitely not one for the young'uns (language, some themes, some violence, plenty of smoking, booze), but I think this one is enjoyable for a teen audience on up. Especially if you don't mind a unique noir story and working your way (or cheating your way) through some wonky puzzles.

Currently playing: Pokemon: Let's Go Eevee!, Trials of Mana/Seiken Densetsu 3 (CoM/Switch)

Switch Friend Code: SW-3478-2466-4791 | Nintendo Network ID: Zelda_By_Night

Dogorilla

@Tyranexx That's how I feel about Grim Fandango too. It's a fantastic game, just let down slightly by the confusing puzzles. When I played it I found this website which has clues for the puzzles without immediately giving away the answers, so that helped me get through the game while still having some sense of accomplishment. There are hints for quite a few other games on that website as well so it's worth a look if you ever play another obtuse 90s adventure game

Dogorilla

Tyranexx

@Dogorilla Thanks! I'll keep that site in mind for the next obtuse 90s adventure game (Apparently this was a trend then? XD) to roll into my backlog...and for other games too. The walkthrough I resorted to using (over on Eurogamer) was mostly sufficient, but it did pretty much tell you the solutions outside of a couple of puzzles that required experimenting. I was playing mainly for the setting and story, and there WAS a sense of accomplishment still, but I would've liked less help lol.

Currently playing: Pokemon: Let's Go Eevee!, Trials of Mana/Seiken Densetsu 3 (CoM/Switch)

Switch Friend Code: SW-3478-2466-4791 | Nintendo Network ID: Zelda_By_Night

Ralizah

Super Mario Sunshine HD Remaster (via the Super Mario 3D All-Stars package)
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Completion status: 120 shine sprites and 240 blue coins; a 100% run, as far as I can tell

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Super Mario Sunshine (henceforth SMS), originally released worldwide for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002, has always occupied an awkward space in the series. Released as a platform exclusive on one of Nintendo's lower selling consoles, the game itself never saw a re-release or remake until now (unlike the other two games in this collection: Mario 64 has enjoyed re-releases on Wii and Wii U, as well as a full remake on Nintendo DS; the far more recently Super Mario Galaxy has, itself, been re-released on the Wii U) and has long suffered with the reputation of being the black sheep of the series, whose odd design choices and reported glitchiness made it unworthy of being talked about in the same lofty tone as the (almost) universally acclaimed Super Mario 64. I myself played it in the early-to-mid 2010's and enjoyed myself at the time, but never fully completed it (collected all the shine sprites, I mean; I, of course, beat the game). I thought it would be fun to continue my collectionist streak with this game and see what I think about it years on in its new HD remastered form.

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SMS is, no doubt, a very unusual game in the series. It begins with a fully animated cutscene of Mario, Peach, and her trusted steward Toadsworth (who I previously encountered in Paper Mario: TTYD, also on GameCube) flying to the Isle Delfino to enjoy a vacation. When they arrive there, though, they discover that a mysterious, shadowy entity shaped like Mario, known as Shadow Mario, has used a magic paintbrush to defile the island with goop. This defacement is so profound that the Isle's guardians, the shine sprites (sort of a living power source), have retreated to various parts of the island, throwing the lives of the local Pianta people into havoc. Mario is locked in a jail, sentenced by a local court for Shadow Mario's crimes, and then sentenced to clean up all the goop that ruined the natural beauty of the Isle Delfino. Thankfully, Mario has the aid of the FLUDD, or Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device, an apparently sapient device that Mario wears on his back and uses to manipulate the power of water.

Although there are multiple kidnapping attempts through this game (life must be hell for the Mushroom Kingdom princess), the most apparent distinction from older Super Mario games can immediately be seen: while still light on plot, it has an actual narrative. This is all fairly rudimentary, of course, and the bulk of the game's storytelling happens at the very start, but after Super Mario 64 (the plot of which can be summarized as "Peach invites Mario to her castle for 'cake' before getting kidnapped"), it's nice to have some narrative grounding to enjoy. The game actually has around 14 minutes of cutscenes! There are some minor plot twists related to the Shadow Mario villain as well.

The cutscene that opens the game is actually rather surprising, because this is one of the few Super Mario games where characters actually verbally talk to one-another. It might seem funny to non-Nintendo fans, but when Mario characters are prone to only uttering a few, very basic voice clips over and over, it's rather shocking to hear them speak in complete sentences. Mario himself is exempt from this, unfortunately. The cutscenes also have a cinematic quality to them that was surprising when I first played it as well.

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The naturalistic quality of the presentation extends to the level design. Everything feels very... organic in SMS, especially coming from the very abstract levels in 64. Like that game, Mario returns to a hub world that connects him to various levels where he will need to complete various tasks to find and return the Shine Sprites. The hub, Delfino Plaza, is large, open, and fairly dense, with various buildings to enter, ports, beaches, fruit vendors, towers, and nearby islands to explore. Most of Delfino Plaza's secrets can be unlocked as the player unlocks upgrades to their FLUDD, with a few being locked by story progression.

The levels themselves also follow this trend insofar as they're all just different parts of Isle Delfino. As such, the entire game is steeped in a tropical/beach theme, which some might find tiring, but I actually really enjoyed how the world in this game felt coherent and less explicitly gamey than in other Mario titles. It also allows for unique level themes I've not seen in other Mario games, as he explores sea ports, large beaches, hotels, theme parks, and so on. The crucial thing is that all of these locations feel like they could reasonably be in the same broad landmass, and it brings a sense of cohesion to the adventure.

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One of the immediately controversial aspects of this game has always been how dependent Mario's moveset is on the FLUDD. Sans Mario's creepy talking water backpack, a few things have changed about his moveset: the long jump is gone, as is the (pointless) punching, kicking, and crawling. In their place is the spin jump, which allows Mario to go spinning up in the air, allowing for greater verticality than the usual jumping movement. Most other movements from Mario 64, such as the triple jump, backflip, etc. are still here. With that said, on his lonesome, Mario feels a little bit gimped with his long jump, which is an issue during challenge levels (more on that in a bit). Thankfully, the FLUDD is available during the majority of the game, and it adds tremendously to Mario's versatility of movement. The FLUDD comes by default with the hover nozzle, which allows him to shoot water at the ground and keep him suspended in the air for a short period of time. Nozzles unlocked throughout the game will give him a high-speed dash (which he can use to cover large distances quickly, as well as smash into doors to access secrets) and the ability to rocket high up into the air. Additionally, Mario can shoot water out of the nozzle at enemies, which tends to be tremendously helpful during the game's boss encounters (which are much more frequent than they were in Mario 64, thankfully). He can also shoot water at his environment. One tremendously helpful move is to shoot water at the ground and then to immediately send Mario into a dive, which allows him to slide large distances on his tummy. It can take a bit of getting used to coming off of other Mario games, but the FLUDD really does add a tremendous amount of freedom to Mario's moveset when it's combined with normal Mario platforming, which is often necessary to find some the VERY hidden collectibles in this game.

Nozzle upgrades become available throughout the game as the player advances the plot by completing various episodes in each world. The more plot-driven nature of this game means that, unlike Mario 64, the player is basically required to engage with almost all of the game's levels before they can head to the final boss confrontation. This sensibility feeds into the design of the hub level as well, since some levels, and many secret shines available in the hub, aren't accessible until the player is able to use one of the unlockable nozzles, or until a plot event changes in the environment in some way. It's probably worth mentioning that the game has a significantly smaller number of levels to explore versus Super Mario 64 (7 levels with 8 main episodes each, versus 64's 15 worlds with 6 episodes each), which might have motivated the move away from player freedom in this regard. I definitely think I prefer SMS's approach to content, however: while it has fewer environments to explore, and fewer episodes overall. environments tend to be denser and more thematically engaging. Mario 64 often felt like a level pack to me, with almost no plot progression or sense of continuity between environments.

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I mentioned that Mario feels a little gimped without his FLUDD, and that exact aspect of the game crops up every now and then during episodes where Mario is tasked with entering a secret level and retrieving the shine sprite at the end of it. At the beginning of a secret level, Shadow Mario temporarily steals the FLUDD from Mario, forcing the plumber to get by purely on his own ability. These levels are abstract, utterly linear, and focused entirely on platforming across large, rotating shapes and platforms. I believe I mentioned these levels in my review of A Hat in Time, because their design is incredibly similar to the Time Rifts in that game. With that said, it can be easy to become too comfortable with the safety net afforded by Mario's FLUDD (particularly the hover nozzle, which has saved me from certain doom more times than I can count), and you can easily end up feeling incredibly naked and vulnerable without it. They're usually decent challenges, though, and the platforming is never too enraging thanks to the changes in how Mario moves in this game. The horrible little pivot that plagued Mario's turns in Mario 64 is gone. Surfaces are no longer slippery unless you're on a proper incline. Frankly, even without the long jump, Mario is much more of a joy to control in this game, as he feels weightier, and I almost always felt like I was in controls of his movements.

I also want to briefly mention how much better the camera is in this game than in Mario 64. While it still has an unfortunate habit of getting 'stuck' on scenery at times, it still allows the player almost full control of the camera at all times, and, in general is incredibly responsive. It might be a little disappointing in a more modern game, but given the age of the experience, I think it works fairly well.

Before I transition away from talking about the game design, I do want to discuss what is perhaps the most often criticized aspect of this game: the blue coin collectibles. 24 of the shine sprites needed to get to this game's total of 120 are locked behind collectibles Mario will find throughout the various levels called blue coins. There are 30 of these coins in each level, and every 10 of them unlocks a shine sprite. Some of them are easy enough to find, as they're either openly visible and can be found in any of that world's episodes. But a surprisingly large chunk of these coins are an absolute nuisance to find, as their placement is often obnoxiously random (blue coins have popped out of tiny, seemingly ornamental background fixtures that the game provided no reason to interact with, for example, or even just random spots in the environment that are totally unremarkable otherwise) and, even worse, some coins can only be found in certain episodes in a level. Of course, the game doesn't tell you how many coins are in a given episode, which leads to a potentially dreadful amount of tedious trial-and-error gameplay as you hunt around already cleared episodes with no clue at to whether you even have a chance of finding them there. The endgame grind of hunting around for various blue coins is a total drag. I ended up using a guide to find a few that I just could not seem to find anywhere. I recommend others use a guide way sooner if you want to fully complete the game. Or, better yet, don't bother 100%ing the game, as you get nothing for it apart from a different splash screen at the very end of the game.

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I feel like my discussion of this game has been broadly positive so far, and, indeed, my experience was broadly positive, but I do want to highlight how infuriating some of the levels in this game are. Beyond Tick Tock Clock-levels of infuriating, frankly. During my initial GameCube playthrough, the hidden pachinko machine and lily pad levels were my bugbears (and, indeed, a level where you're on a moving object, are forced to collect red coins, and die the instant you touch any of the water surrounding your tiny lily pad vehicle is still utterly worthy of my scorn), but I was surprised to discover how many of the normal episodes in this game also hinge on design choices that can only be described as ridiculous bullpucky. I'll highlight a handful: two from Gelato Beach and three from Pianta Village.

The first particularly annoying episode in this game, for me, was The Sand Bird is Born, where the player is tasked with entering a special level where they have to platform across an enormous bird made of sand and collect red coins as it passes them. Sounds simple enough, right? Shadow of the Colossus without being able to grab hold of the colossus. Unfortunately, the level is pure misery from beginning to end. Mario is constantly being knocked off-balance by the flapping motions of the bird's wings, and sometimes just by the rocking of its movements in general. So even interacting with the thing normally is annoying. The level becomes particularly dire once the bird decides to start turning mid-air, forcing the player to awkwardly try and hover their way onto the side of the bird, and then back again when the bird repositions itself. Oh, and, as this is happening, the player is forced to try and collect tiny red coins that are easily missable.

Things get worse in The Watermelon Festival, an episode where Mario has to safely push watermelons to a Pianta on a tiny, rickety pier without breaking them. Two things massively complicate this mission. The watermelons themselves control horribly. The player basically has to just barely nudge them in order to maintain any semblance of control over their movements. This is especially fun when you're trying to move them across thin planks of wood and prevent them from falling in the water. What makes this even worse, though, is that the stage is literally riddled with these horrible enemies that all try to send your watermelon flying into the air. The watermelon, of course, breaks upon hitting the ground again. You can spray them with water to very briefly incapacitate them, but you're pretty much surrounded by the horrible things the entire time. And you can also say goodbye to your watermelon if you allow one of them to get too close to you, because they'll send you flying across the stage before also destroying the watermelon you've spent several minutes very deliberately moving across the huge beach. The experience is horrible from beginning to end.

The frustration and anxiety are amped up in an episode titled The Goopy Inferno. In this episode, the entire level of Pianta Village is covered in magma, and the player is forced to try and navigate across and underneath it in order to retrieve their FLUDD after it's again stolen by Shadow Mario. I lost count of how many routes I tried to take before discovering the right path. And once you do, you still have to contend with these horribly grate-climbing sections where you're left defenseless as enemies skitter after you to try and knock you off to your death. You have no recourse against them, and god help you if an enemy in front of you takes any level of interest in Mario, as he's effectively done for at that point, and you have to start over from the very beginning of the level and spend several minutes getting back to where you were previously. I can't count how many times I died in this level, and even going back to it to look for episode-specific blue coins (thanks for that, Nintendo) was pure misery.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the special level in Pianta Village where you have to get chucksters to toss you between tiny platforms. The slightest little change in angle in terms of how Mario is positioned when he talks to one of these jerks is the difference between survival and being tossed into the abyss. Frankly, whether the player gets to the end feels a LOT like luck: if they keep trying their hand at the level enough, EVENTUALLY the chucksters will toss Mario onto the platform where the shine sprite is located.

OK, so that sound intolerable, right? Now imagine that level... but with red coins and a very strict time limit that allows for no mistakes. One of the shine sprites in Pianta Village is locked behind this challenge, and it's every bit as miserable and rage-inducing as it sounds.

Thinking about it, Pianta Village could be removed from the game entirely, as far as I'm concerned. Solidly half the episodes feel poorly-designed, like something out of a rage platformer designed to inflict suffering on the player.

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These aren't, for sure, the only annoying bits in this game. I could also mention how, to even get to the secret lily pad level in this game, you're forced to ride a yoshi across a variety of boats in order to get to the island where the level is located (yoshis can't swim, apparently), which means undergoing a profoundly tedious process of spending ten literal minutes largely just waiting for boats to slowly ferry you to other boats. Of course, the boats are small, so if you slip and the yoshi dies near the end of the ride, well, guess what? It's ten more minutes of tedious waiting time for you, buster! Same thing happens if you don't eat enough fruit and your yoshi runs out of energy before you reach the island. I should also mention that, when you lose a yoshi, you also have to repeat the process of getting a yoshi in the first place, which means trudging to the fruit market to find a piece of fruit and then slowly trudging back to where the yoshi egg spawns in Delfino Plaza in order to convince the louse to hatch in the first place. So screwing up even once during this process ends up penalizing you fifteen minutes or so. It's aggravating as hell. Thankfully, I discovered that you can skip a huge portion of this sequence by manipulating some of the glitchy physics in this game.

This theme of not respecting the player's time recurs throughout the game. The Pianta Village level, for example, is an absolute chore to get to, as it requires the player to locate and equip the rocket nozzle before dragging themselves all the way to the top of the town to rocket themselves up toward where the entrance to the level is. While I really like the expansiveness of some of these environments (especially considering how much verticality there is to Mario's platforming this time), it really sucks how much time I had to spend effectively re-treading my steps over and over again.

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If my review hasn't provided any indication, the game is a bit weird, but that sometimes works in its favor. I mentioned before that there were more boss encounters in this game than in Mario 64. They're not just more frequent, however, but sometimes wildly creative. I can't think of another Mario game that would have a setpiece where Mario is riding around in a roller-coaster, firing missiles at an enormous, robotic version of Bowser, for example. One boss was repeated too many times, though, and I feel bad every time I beat it. At least three separate times you'll have a face-off against a giant squid called Gooper Blooper. In reality, this thing is usually laying around minding its own business, and, to beat it, the player will have Mario begin savagely ripping its tentacles off one by one before nearly ripping its face off. It's seriously the most grisly, disturbing thing I've ever seen in a Mario game, especially considering the dismembered tentacles will flop around briefly after you rip them off its body. I felt even worse when I was informed that the player can technically defeat Gooper Blooper without slowly, methodically dismembering the poor thing. The game made me think otherwise, however, as the FLUDD effectively instructs Mario to rip its tentacles off before attacking the face. Not cool, Nintendo. Even cartoonish animal cruelty still turns my stomach.

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The Super Mario 3D Collection has gotten some flack for being a low-quality set of remasters, and I kind of defended Mario 64 from that charge a bit, but SMS is less defendable. Let me explain.

Image quality-wise, the game looks pretty good on Nintendo Switch. It was always a looker on Gamecube, and the in-game image is being rendered at 720p in portable mode and a crisp 1080p on the TV, respectively, which makes it feel a lot more modern than Mario 64, which caps out at 720p on the TV. Another impressive aspect of the game at the time was how far the draw distance extended: you could climb up on a building and see collectibles pretty far off in the distance, or get a sense of what challenges awaited you before you ever got to them. And those fine details are even easier to spot now given the boost in resolution. Before getting into my complaints, I'd like to note that the art direction still looks fantastic in this game: colors are bold, environments are surprisingly detailed given the age of the game, and the water was and remains flat out gorgeous, which is good, since you'll be seeing a lot of it. I'm not as big of a fan of the Pianta designs, but you certainly can't knock for his game for a lack of visual identity. Every single aspect of this game FEELS tropical.

I do have one big technical gripe with this game, though. Unlike other people, I don't mind so much that this game is running at 30fps, as I figure the game was built with that framerate in mind, and so doesn't really need to be 'fixed' to run at higher framerates. I do expect a smooth framerate in a remaster of an 18-year-old game, though, which makes it frustrating that, just like in the original, the game is constantly chugging in Delfino Plaza. I'm not a framerate snob, but it's distracting when the framerate is dipping into what must be the mid-20s constantly in the hub area. This is, thankfully, less of an issue in other environments, but it's unacceptable given the age of the game, in my opinion.

I'd also like to point out that Nintendo 'fixes' the aspect ratio issue with the in-game cutscenes by cropping and stretching them, which means you're missing out on the outer edge of the image during cutscenes. This is more understandable, though, given it'd be impossible to properly remaster these cutscenes. Nintendo would have to just re-create them for this release.

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Musically, while Sunshine isn't exemplary like certain later 3D Mario titles (mainly due to a lack of diversity), its OST is still fun to listen to.

I really like the relaxed tropical vibe of the music that plays in Gelato Beach. It really sells the low-stakes vacationey vibe of the game. This feels like it belongs in a game with the word "sunshine" in the title:

I'm also a big fan of the arrangement of the World 1-1 theme that plays in the secret levels:

While I'm not a fan of the boss music in this game, the music that plays when you fight Mecha-Bowser is OK. Reminds me of something from a Pokemon game, frankly.

Although, arguably my least favorite track in the game is the one that the player will hear the most. I wish Nintendo had opted for a more complex arrangement for the music that plays in Delfino Plaza. It's... a bit repetitive.

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I did some complaining, but I did come out the other end of Super Mario Sunshine still really enjoying it for the most part. A handful of its levels are frustrating, but it represents a MASSIVE step up, both technically and artistically, over the painful Super Mario 64. Visually, it still holds up well. The music doesn't make me want to scrub my ears off. The camera works well (mostly). The overall feel of the controls is great. It has more of a sense of narrative and progression to it than the random assortment of worlds in Mario 64. The FLUDD is a lot of fun to control. It's a good time. I'd just recommend ignoring the blue coins and playing the main eight episodes in each level. Not an immortal classic, necessarily, but I'm glad a new generation has the opportunity to experience this.

ACTIVELY PLAYING
Persona 5 Royal (PS4)
Monster Hunter Rise (Switch)
Switch FC: SW-2726-5961-1794

Diddy64

To add a little bit which I consider important on the Super Mario Sunshine's review, the last level is the most cruel, as not only it is very hard, but obviously obligatory to clear if you want to fight the last boss and to see the ending cutscene (In my opinion, you are better watching this on YouTube or other video apps, if you don't want to experience misery like never before you have experienced).

This is the most unfair level (imo). Just like other levels, you have to start from the beginning if you fall or die (if this was changed, please let me know). But, there is section where you cannot hit any wall while you are in a (SPOILER ALERT) boat that's hard to control, and if you hit a wall, you lose a life (I cannot answer why you lose a life as that will spoil the level. But it isn't difficult to figure it out) (END OF SPOILER). As the reviewer said, it is still a good game and I agree with him/her.

Just wanted to help those on the fence about trying this level. If you think this level (and others) would seriously anger you and you no longer enjoy it, don't feel bad about stopping playing this game. I no longer play Dragon Ball Z: Super Sonic Warriors 2 (DS) because the AI computers are literally perfect (more than in Smash Ultimate to be more precise). I am from the SNES/64 times but I believe enjoying a game is more important than trying X or Y challenge. Of course if you like challenges, good on you.

Undergoing games:
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Megaman X Legacy Collection 2
Fire Emblem Awakening
Zelda BotW
Smash Bros Ultimate

ToadBrigade

@Diddy64 To be fair, a good number of the most difficult levels are required to beat the game. In fact, that’s one of the biggest downsides of Sunshine’s system of progression. TBH, I really don’t think Corona Mountain is anywhere near the worst level. The key is just to use tiny movements with the boat, and be patient.

Hollow Knight for Smash!
CURRENTLY PLAYING:
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Splatoon 2
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

Diddy64

@ToadBrigade If only many of the new generation kids/teenagers were as patient as us but, you know 😅
I was never good with the boat controlling. Since I have struggled with that level more than Goofy Inferno, The Watermelon Festival, The Sand Bird and even the Fluddless Pianta throwing episodes, I have always view the last level as the hardest. Even being careful I end up losing a life. Perhaps my precision was bad in those years.

Undergoing games:
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Megaman X Legacy Collection 2
Fire Emblem Awakening
Zelda BotW
Smash Bros Ultimate

Screen

Just Beat a Hat in Time in about 10 hours. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than Odyssey because it just felt more cohesive, like the world was designed around the move set given to the player given you the freedom to explore without completely breaking the natural progression.

Color Splash is underrated!

Ralizah

@Diddy64 Corona Mountain wasn't too hard for me (you can squirt water out in short amounts to micromanage the movements of the boat, which helped a lot), but collecting all of the blue coins in that last section, and getting sent back to the beginning of the level when you eventually fall into the lava, is exceedingly tedious.

@EngineerMario It is, indeed, a very interesting game.

ACTIVELY PLAYING
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Monster Hunter Rise (Switch)
Switch FC: SW-2726-5961-1794

Diddy64

@Ralizah I see. Maybe my experiences as a teenager with less gaming experience has blinded me. I may find it more easy if I try it now. Kudos to you for obtaining the blue coins I can imagine how tedious it must have been for you.

Edited on by Diddy64

Undergoing games:
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Megaman X Legacy Collection 2
Fire Emblem Awakening
Zelda BotW
Smash Bros Ultimate

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