I picked up Super Mario Sunshine this weekend!
Again Nintendo shows the way. Mario is full of stuff you haven't seen in other games. Liquid is everywhere. The water looks amazing. Enemies are covered with paint. You can get paint on yourself and on your friends.
Another thing that sticks out though. It's HARD!!!! I'm sure I'll get used to it but so far that's the thing that sticks out the most probably. The reason is you have this water pack that at the start can be used to hover for a short time or to hose things down like hosing the paint off walls or the the ground or hosing down enemies. The same button is uses for both function with another button switching whether you are in hose mode or hover mode. You often need to switch and you often forget which mode you are in so you take a jump, hit the button expecting to hover and realize you are in hose mode.
Another issue is to use it you press the R key. When you are hosing, if you press the R key all the way down you will stand still and can aim. If you press it only partly down you will continue to run hosing in front of you. It's great idea but it takes some getting used to. But like I said the more I play the more I get used to it. I'm sure it will become second nature soon.
One thing I noticed about Mario vs pretty much all other character action games.
Every Mario is different. What do I mean by that?
Well pretty much, since the original Mario Bros, every version of Mario has changed it's gameplay, what you do, what your main moves are, what you spend your time doing in every new version. That is not true of pretty much all other character action series.
For example on Sonic 1, 2 and 3 you run Sonic around collecting rings. The basic moves are jumping on the back of enemies while you are in a ball hitting them with your spikes. The other is crouching into a ball, revving up and spinning very fast. That same behavior is the main thing you do (other than run and jump) throughout the entire series. New levels in each game, new monsters, a few new bonus games but the main play never changed.
The same is true of the Crash Bandicoot series. You spin to break boxes. That's about it. Throughout the character action series, 1, 2, 3 and 5, 70% of your game play is exactly the same. All that's change is the locations and a few bonus games.
Gex is also similar. I'm sure there are other examples. Megaman for example although that's a shooting game.
Mario though, in each game has changed your basic movies to the point that each game is a new experience.
In Mario Bros the basic move was jump under an enemy to flip it over on it's back, then run up to kick it off a ledge before it turned back over.
This one is what most people might call the first of the series. Gone are the flip over enemies. Now you jump on top of them. New main move, new feel to the game. Also added was big and little Mario which changed the basic feeling of the game. When you are big mario you take chances since you can take a hit. When you are little mario you are more careful and change your focus to finding a mushroom to make you big mario again.
Super Mario 2 (Mario USA in Japan)
In this game the basic move is jump on top the enemy then pick him up and throw him at another enemy. Again, new basic move.
Super Mario 3
Here they added a map so you could pick your levels. If one way was too hard you could try another. As for basic movies, ever level had powerups.
The most common was the tanooki powerup which have you raccoon tail. This let you float down a little and if you got enough speed you could fly.
allowed you to swim easily underwater
let your throw hammers left and right
Shoe/Sock Mario (I forgot the name)
let you walk over spikes
turned you into a statue which the enemies would ignore so you could let them pass by you.
Mario 3 also added items/inventory that you could use in various places on the map making you want to search for them.
The over all effect is that again, Mario 3 is significantly different from its predecessors
Super Mario World (SNES)
Added Yoshi which had his own way of playing and added flying with the cape. Both again changed a signifcant portion of the basic gameplay.
Some people might not call this part of the series but it was the next character action game in the Mario world.
This one was completely different. In played Yoshi protecting a baby mario that road on your back. You could eat enemies and then you'd lay an egg. You'd drag the eggs behind you, up to 8 of them and you could shoot them around the screen using a targeting cursor. If you got hit by an enemy baby mario would go flying off and you had upto 10 seconds to get him back or you lost a life. Talk about COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
Next up was Mario 64. Being 3D made it a completely different game. Now the play changed to exploring and finding stars. 4 to 8 per level. Some were hidden, some required doing special things like carrying a baby penguin back to it's mom.
Now Mario Sunshine just came out and Mario now sports a water pack on his back. He can use the water pack to shoot enemies, to clean up the mess in a messy level, to fly for short periods by shooting water down like a jetpack, to shoot way up in the air like a rocket. The point is again, a very basic element of the game has changed making this a new experience.
Obviously the games are well done just in general but I think one thing that keeps the series so strong is that constant change in basic moves. I don't remember if Sonic added a single move during the entire series. Crash added a few moves over his series but that basic play didn't change, 2 of the moves, body slam and burrowing never needed to be used. 70% to 80% of the time the game play was the same was the first Crash 1. Gex changed from 2d to 3d but I believe his basic move set stayed similar from #2 to #3. I haven't played the Rayman series.
Obviously it's risky to change something that was working. I wonder how Nintendo does it. Are they just geniuses or do they try many different things throwing many ideas away until the come up with something new in the basic move set that's fun.