Super Mario Sunshine was developed and published in the US by Nintendo on August 27, 2002 for the GameCube. (The Japanese and European releases, respectively, are July 19, 2002 and October 4, 2002.) The game (as of this noding) is readily available anywhere that current games are sold. Since there is no emulation of the GC, and pirating has been so far frustrated by the disk format, ISOs or ROMs are not available. The game, at the present, is both sold on its own and as part of a bundle with the console itself.
Super Mario Sunshine is the long-awaited followup to Super Mario 64, one of the few breakout successes of the Nintendo 64. While the game has much in common with its predecessor (you have to collect 100 widgets, similar controls and abilities), it's an excellant measure of the state of the art of 3-D platformers. The game is certainly comparable, if not superior, to the other plaformers (Jak and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy being the best comparison) in both control and graphics.
The same "the princess is kidnapped" plot is actually not recycled in this addition to the Mario series. Mario, Princess Peach, and an official from the Mushroom Kingdom go on vacation to Isle Delfino. Of course, this isn't the peaceful and idyllic rest that Mario and Peach were looking forward to (or else this would be a very short, very lame game). Instead, their plane, as it's landing on Delfina, abruptly stops on the runway before running into a large patch of some colorful goop. After picking up an opportunely-placed FLUDD (a backpack water pump with a voice like Stephen Hawking and more options than a Mercedes Benz, built by the same mad scientist who built Luigi's vacuum), Mario begins to wash away the goop, only to have a a giant, pollution-covered pirhana plant attack him. After dispatching the plant (spray it in the mouth) and cleaning up the muck, Mario encounters a shining little sun token called a "Shine," which he picks up in just such a way that you just know you're going to be doing this all game.
Mario, for his troubles, is arrested, not congratulated, and finds himself on trial for messing up the island. Witnesses apparently saw an eerily similar figure splashing graffiti and pollution all over the island, which in turn chased off the "Shine Sprites," the protectors of the island. His reputation, however, earns him a sentence of being trapped on the island until the mess is all cleaned up and the Shines are returned.
Super Mario Sunshine isn't, on the surface, a graphical powerhouse, but, as you play, more and more details become evident. For example, while different areas of the island are accessed through special graffiti (along with a nifty effect where Mario dissolves into globules of paint), if you look down the coast or from a high spot, you can see all the way into that other area.
Water, as you may expect in a game focused so heavily on it, is amazingly beautiful and detailed, with rolling waves and even tide in some areas. Looking up with the camera underwater gets you amazingly realistic distortion, and even sunlight reflects off of water realistically. While some games trade off that "fun" thing for detail like this, Super Mario Sunshine is no slouch in the actual gameplay.
The controls are set up very similarly to Super Mario 64, with two key changes. First, Mario lost most of his martial arts prowess. No more punches, kicks, etc. Replacing this (and comprising the second change) is the addition of the FLUDD, Mario's backpack water pump. The FLUDD has two modes, each of which corrects one of the key problems of 3-D platformers.
Lining up short-ranged attacks is near-impossible without being hit? The spray nozzle on the FLUDD gives Mario ranged attacks.
Lining up jumps onto small targets is difficult and sometimes frustrating? The hover nozzle on the FLUDD allows for a short time to correct your aim, supported in mid-air for a few seconds by a pair of water jets.
Of course, if you want to trade off the failsafe that the hover nozzle gives you, there's also some alternatives. If you find a box with E. Gadd's face on it, you can break it open and get either a turbo nozzle or a rocket nozzle. (However, you can only have two nozzles at a time, one of which will always be the spray nozzle.)
The turbo nozzle, which looks a little like a propellor, allows for truly prodigious feats of horizonal propulsion. Basically, Mario goes fast. Very fast. Over 50 fast. While this mode uses up water very quickly on land, it's truly amazing in the water, where you have an unlimited supply of your fuel, and no need to run to slow you down. There's nothing like speeding over the water like some kind of crazy Italian speedboat. If there's ever a large distance, especially over water, that you need to cross before even noticing you've started, the turbo nozzle is for you.
The rocket nozzle is something of a novelty. It allows Mario to make one powerful rocket-propelled jump, STRAIGHT UP. Generally, it's really only useful for getting on top of those hard-to-climb towers, as well as occasionally circumventing certain puzzles entirely. Ooops.
Between the possiblities the FLUDD adds and the truly inspired game and level design, the game has a great deal of different things to do. Whether it's playing Mario as a ball in a giant pachinko machine, surfing on Bloopers, watering flowers, or completing massively difficult platform levels without the FLUDD, finding Shines and Blue Coins (which, in turn, are traded in for Shines) requires doing all sorts of tricks that seem perfectly natural to manuever Mario through. Mario is at once an acrobat, a fireman, a sprinter, and a pinball, and it all works perfectly.
Of special interest to any long-time fans of the series is the return of some previously missing elements of Mario minutae. For one, a great deal of the music is remixed or simply resampled version of themes from older games in the series, particularly the memorable dungeon and swimming themes from Super Mario Brothers. (Even some of the backgrounds in the FLUDD-less stages have stylized versions of the original Mario sprites from Mario Brothers and Super Mario Brothers.) Also, some of the less-used underwater enemies from previous games, some dating back to Super Mario Brothers, are back, including Blooper and Cheep Cheep.
The biggest return, though, is that of Yoshi, the dinosaur companion of Mario from Super Mario World. Yoshi handles exactly as you would expect him to (except for the new-found aquaphobia), and sounds exactly as he did in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and Yoshi's Story. Luckily, there's no screaming baby or incredibly boring gameplay, respectively, returning from either of those games.
Super Mario Sunshine is also interesting from a historical perspective. The first "traditional" Mario title after a 6 year drought (as well as successor to the game that revolutionized the 3-D platformer), it is presented as one of the titles to save the GameCube in the key 2002 holiday season, along with Metroid Prime. The game was chosen by many as the best of show at the 2002 E3 (along with such company as the Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, SOCOM: Navy Seals, and Metroid Prime).
Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario and the director of Super Mario Sunshine, had originally envision the game as being about making and cleaning off graffiti, but the goal of the game slowly changed to the final form, cleaning pollution off of a tropical island paradise. The game also intentionally lacks many of the genre tropes, like the traditional ice stage, and has an emphasis on the island and summer theme. Joked Miyamoto (in an Electronic Games Monthly interview), "I gave the game a summer theme, in a hope to get them to release the game on time, before summer ended."