When it comes to ROM hacks, you’ve got to expect the unexpected. Whether it’s Castlevania Dracula X in Super Mario World, a parody of Doki Doki Literature Club or even Bill Gates driving a tank in a Half-Life inspired setting, the community has some created some truly bizarre things over the years, with many of them making you question what sort of crazy fever you last stepped out of.
And today’s interview subject is a great example of that too. Why? Because as it turns out, not only is there a project intending to remake Sunshine in Galaxy’s engine, but there’s also one aiming to do the complete opposite in development at the exact same time! Named Super Mario Solarshine and developed by modder UncleMeat, this one aims to recreate much of Super Mario Galaxy in Sunshine’s engine, complete with new mechanics, enemies and even levels based on a variety of other Mario games.
It’s an incredible looking project, and one that shows a lot of promise based on its latest trailer:
So today, we’re gonna talk to its creator and learn all about it! Are you ready? Let’s a-go!
Let’s start with a personal question, shall we? Who are you? Who is ‘Uncle Meat’?
Hello, my name is UncleMeat or you can call me Nate. I’m a 25 year old guy from Texas who just really likes games and creating mods for them.
And where did that name come from? It’s an interesting one for sure!
The name came from my best friend’s 3 year old daughter who could not say Nate properly. So she instead always said Uncle Meat instead of Nate. I thought it was cute and funny and my old username (Natedog720) I had for 15 years was getting old. So I changed it.
What was your first video game?
If we’re talking about the very first game I think it would be Reader Rabbit 1st Grade Capers On Cloud Nine. Of course a learning game my parents got me.
How about your intro to the Mario series?
First Mario game tho, would have to say it was Yoshi’s Island on Gameboy Advance.
What games are you playing at the moment?
Currently playing Zelda Link’s Awakening, Spiderman Remastered, Bowsers Fury, and Sonic Frontiers like everyone else.
Onto 3D Mario games now. What are your thoughts on Super Mario Galaxy as a game?
UncleMeat: Galaxy is another great game that I enjoy greatly. It’s up there with Sunshine for sure, however there are plenty of other flaws but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most artistic and beautiful Mario games of all time.
I let Wade put his part in as well since he helped a significant amount with Soarshine and loves sharing his Galaxy opinions. It doesn’t have to be included, but might make for a good laugh.
EpicWade: While following up a tropical themed adventure with a space themed adventure is an amazing idea for a next entry in the series everything about Galaxys execution is subpar.
Take Ghostly galaxy for example. While sunshine takes it predecessor’s ghost house concept and gives it the tropical vacation spin making it a hunted hotel, galaxy does nothing to make its ghost stage more space themed. It could have been anything. It could have been an abandoned space station with only the souls of the crew remaining as Boo’s but nah its just a ghost house BUT IN SPACE!!!
Galaxy completely flops on theming where sunshine excels. Each world feels like it has significantly less character and charm put into it. Same can be said for Mario 64 but it was a first of its kind and was what really set the groundwork going forward for the seriese. The movement of Galaxy was also a major step backwards.
Sunshine has many hidden techniques and subtleties to its spinjump that gets overlooked by most players. Sunshine has real depth to its movement mechanics while Galaxy feels slow and clunky in comparison. While this more focused and slowpaced moveset matches Galaxys more linear small enviorment level design quite a lot it makes the moment to moment gameplay a lot less involved.
The stage design being linear also makes it a lot less interesting to explore in comparison to previous 3D entries. It almost feels like one of those WarioWare micro games. Not only are the levels linear but their also split up into bite sized chunks.
However the actual gravity mechanics and music of the game are really amazing. I feel Galaxy leens more into a beginner friendly approach in these regards. Level design where its hard to get lost, set cameras so you only need to focus on player control, slower movement for more leniency on reaction time. Then they made a sequel and somehow it was even worse than the original. In galaxy 1 each galaxy has 6 unique missions. You can see plenty of planets in the distance that you’ll travel to in later missions. It gives you a grand sense of exploring a true galaxy. Galaxy 2 on the other hand has stages with about 3 missions. Instead of feeling like a real galaxy its feels less grand as if your exploring a few astroids in the middle of nowhere.
During Galaxy 2’s development it was intended to be WiiWare DLC packs for the original. This would make a lot of sense why the levels in Galaxy 2 have less to do since they were meant to be expansions to existing stages. Haunty Halls could have been another mission within Ghostly Galaxy. The game could have had nearly double the content of the previous instalment, what a selling point!
Instead they decided somewhere in development to shift plans and just make it a sequel. A lot of these design decisions from back when it was DLC plague Galaxy 2 as a sequel. Galaxy 2 Fails to innovate on Galaxy’s gameplay and only does more of the same because it was quite literally meant to be the same game at one point. There are so many interesting things they could have doen with a sequel to Galaxy like actually letting you chart your own path without launch stars, but launch stars are still glorified cutscenes in the sequel.
How about Super Mario Sunshine, given you’re remaking Galaxy in it?
“Sunshine is a perfect game with no lag, bugs, or glitches” what do you mean? Haha, but seriously. Sunshine is very unique compared to the other 3D Mario games. No other is like SMS with FLUDD and an entire Mario game around big blue oceans, sunny beaches, tropical resorts, ect. It’s a fantastic Mario getaway and like many others it has a special place in my heart. Mario 64 was my first 3D Mario like many others but to me, has nothing compared to Sunshine.
What got you into game development?
I just recently kinda got into it. I am not a game developer by far. I have a hard time coming up with original maps unfortunately. But I’m really only able to do what I do from my prior Blender knowledge. I made many 3D art pieces starting in 2013 when I first started using Blender. So all those years help plenty with making new Sunshine/Galaxy models.
And how about Super Mario Sunshine mod development? What made you decide to make a mod for that game?
I wanted to make my first mod on Mario Sunshine because it’s a long time favourite game of mine and growing up I always pictured having new maps and new adventures with the same game because we all love the FLUDD mechanic. Having it in new situations makes for some interesting gameplay.
Why a Super Mario Galaxy remake? It’s a very interesting concept for a Mario Sunshine hack for sure!
There really is no for sure answer as to why. I just thought of it as a cool idea given the file types are very similar and the Galaxy style I think fits perfectly with Sunshine. Also kinda thought of maybe if there is a story to the mod, it would be like an early visit to the Galaxies in the timeline. Taking place directly after the events of Sunshine. I don’t know tho. It’s all still a wip.
Either way, Galaxy is a very different game from Sunshine, with all kinds of unique gravity mechanics and setups. How are you keeping the feel of these in Sunshine’s engine?
So obviously not having the gravity mechanic is tough to work around. However, the stages I am pulling and using for Solarshine are mostly the flat ones. All the galaxies that don’t use gravity all that much. Because of this a lot of stages have to sometimes be altered to fit with the always down gravity. Tall Trunk Galaxy for example has parts of the slide that have you go upside down. This had to be untwisted visually which is not as easy as it sounds. But overall some stages just fit perfectly with Sunshine like Starshine Beach so every now and then it just feels like Sunshine still.
Are there any major technical challenges you’re encountering there?
Yes! There are so many. For starters, the Gamecube. Yes it’s similar to the Wii but still doesnt make it more powerful. With SMG the game had these “Zones” that dynamically load different areas of the map as you get closer (LOD). This is what helped the Wii and SMG run so well. However with SMS I don’t have that anymore. Everything in the map regardless of distance is loaded into memory making it hard to get some bigger stages to run properly without crashing.
Another big technical issue is object materials. SMG uses .bdl for its visual models where SMS uses .bmd. .bdl is basically the same as .bmd, just slightly newer. So when converting a lot of models to bmd some effects get lost and then I have to go into .json files and fix or substitute my own material. Just a long and tedious process all to be worth it for that sweet shine to things.
How are you balancing Galaxy’s levels around the use of FLUDD? It feels like that changes the mechanics a lot…
FLUDD is more of a powerup then just having him all the time. Some people don’t like this change or are confused as to where FLUDD is. As development goes on further the placements of the nozzles and FLUDD will be changed around to be more obvious and in places that make much more sense. In place of not having FLUDD, new moves were added exclusively to FLUDD-less Mario like the long-jump and upcoming Galaxy spin move.
What’s the plan for dealing with powerup heavy sections here? Is everything going to use FLUDD nozzles?
For right now yes. Everything powerup wise will be through FLUDD and the nozzles. The only idea that might be coming is a new ice nozzle that can freeze water. Very similar mechanics to the ice flower from SMG.
What custom elements does Super Mario Solarshine have? Like enemies, items, mechanics, etc?
As stated before there might be an ice nozzle as well as possibly returning the unused sniper nozzle. Movement wise there will be plenty of new things. There is long-jump and galaxy spin while fludd-less. With FLUDD you’ll have hover sliding, hover bursting (basically a double jump) and backflipping for both FLUDD and FLUDD-less. I also plan to make it where you can wall jump out of this new backflip. Enemies have been difficult to replace without crashing the game. As of now everything is just normal sunshine enemies but I do have the fire shooting FLUDD thing from Galaxy working as a fully custom hazard. Enemy replacements are sure to come once I can figure out how.
And what about bosses? Are you going to remake them, or use Mario Sunshine’s equivalents where possible?
It will probably be Sunshine equivalents as coding a custom boss is serious time and work and the Sunshine community just isn’t there yet I think.
Does Super Mario Sunshine have enough level/room slots to remake Galaxy? Or will some levels have to be cut out here?
Yes. Sunshine can have pretty much as many level slots as you want. However because of the lack of gravity if the stage is too reliant on switching gravity then it will probably not make it in Solarshine.
Are any new levels being added here?
Yes! There will be a good handful of other ports being added as well as a small amount of custom ones. I plan on remaking the entirety of the outside and inside of Luigi’s Mansion, some Mario Kart tracks will be included, Mario 64, as well as some custom Galaxy style stages made by myself and some others from the Galaxy community.
What do you think of Super Mario Starshine, the Mario Sunshine remake in Galaxy 2’s engine? Do you find it amusing how SPG64 is working on the exact opposite project to you here?
Yes it’s quite funny but really cool at the same time. I love the idea and it’s a load of fun to play. I actually didn’t even know about Starshine until after I came up with the idea and started Solarshine. Now never even spoken to SPG64 before we are mod partners and talk frequently, sharing assets and helping each other out with our opposing games. We are what you could say somewhat of a bridge bringing together the Sunshine and Galaxy communities.
Do you think we’ll see any more similar remakes in future? Like Sunshine in Odyssey’s engine or something?
After Solarshine is released I do want to continue supporting the game by releasing patches and “DLC” that adds more content to the game. But eventually that will also end and the final version will be out. Plans for after Solarshine? Not too sure yet. I’m heavily thinking of cracking into Bowser’s Fury modding. But if that doesn’t work out, I’ll probably just make another Sunshine mod.
What aspects of the project (levels, mechanics, etc) are you most proud of so far?
The Observatory. That has been the most challenging stage to get working and is my most prideful I would say. How the model was alone was terrible being split up into several pieces that had to be put together again. With all the moving objects and animated things, it’s tough to run on the Gamecube but somehow I managed it.
Are you ever worried that Nintendo will try and shut down the project? What would your backup plan be?
Yes, that’s always a worry I’m sure with most modders. Like some others it wouldn’t bother me too much. Yes it would suck tremendously but it is what it is. At least it was fun while it lasted. I’ll probably continue modding anyway just on different things.
Do you have any other mod or indie game ideas planned out for when Solarshine gets finished?
There is an indie game that the founders of the Mario Eclipse mod would like to develop for after Eclipse is finished. I would probably be a stage designer or lead if that were to happen. If not, more mods will come like the Super Mario Sunshine Beta Restoration project I’m very slowly developing at the moment to focus more on Eclipse and Solarshine.
Finally, what advice would you give someone wanting to get into Super Mario Sunshine mod development, or game development in general?
I can’t really speak much as a real game developer as I am not one. But if you want to get into Sunshine modding I will say it is not easy. The game engine is bad to work with and be prepared to have your game crash over and over again with no real reference as to why. The tools we have now are also not up to speed at all. However, JoshuaMK the founder and lead coder of Mario Eclipse is making brand new easy to use tools to mod the game better than before as well as creating the Better Sunshine Engine. A modder friendly change to the game making it easier to code for and much more. Which Solarshine is currently migrating to from the before called Eclipse Engine. Overall I would say just wait a bit longer to jump into Sunshine modding. Once the new tools are out and the new Engine is made, Epicwade and I will be making new Sunshine tutorials that’ll cover pretty much everything known to Sunshine hacking.
Thanks Uncle Meat! Yeah, that makes sense to us, the tools just aren’t stable enough to make Super Mario Sunshine modding a good idea at the moment.
But we’re happy to see things will get better there nonetheless, and super excited about what you, JoshuaMK and the other Sunshine modding experts have in store for the future. It definitely seems like real progress is being made there, and based on the amazing work done on games like Super Mario Solarshine and Super Mario Eclipse, we’re looking forward to what the future may bring.
Still, if you want to learn more about Super Mario Solarshine, check out the social media links below…
Then leave your thoughts on the game (and Super Mario Sunshine mods as a whole) in the comments below, on social media, or on our Discord server today!
Super Mario Solarshine and UncleMeat on Social Media