Let’s Interview: Super Mario Starshine Creator SPG64!

Let's Interview:


Game Developer

Interview conducted by


Let’s Interview: Super Mario Starshine Creator SPG64!

When it comes to video game mods, one of the most interesting kinds is remakes of one game in another’s engine. Whether it’s Super Mario Sunshine 64 or Super Mario Odyssey 64, Super Mario Galaxy 64 DS or Super Mario Odyssey 64, it’s always neat to see fans turn one game into another one like this.

And that’s true of today’s interview subject too. Why? Because today, we’re talking to SPG64, a Super Mario Galaxy ROM hacker in the midst of turning the game into Super Mario Sunshine via his project Super Mario Starshine! Check out the latest trailer for it here:

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It’s an impressive piece of work, and one which really shows just how far the Galaxy 2 engine can be pushed here, with the fully working recreation of Delfino Plaza being one of the most insane of the bunch.

So today, we’re gonna talk to him, and learn all about it! Are you ready? Let’s go!

Starting with a bit of personal info. So, who are you? Who is SPG64?

Yo what’s up! I’m SPG64! I’m most widely known for my modded Super Mario Galaxy content which usually gets posted to my YouTube channel. Super Mario Galaxy was the first 3D Game I’ve ever played, so it isn’t surprising that it has such a special place in my heart.

Where did that username come from?

“SPG64” is a username that is obviously inspired by the one and only; SMG4! SPG stands for SkillzPlayzGames. I just thought the name sounded cool.

And what was your introduction to gaming? What was your first game?

The absolute very first game I played was New Super Mario Bros DS. Definitely the most unique game in the “New” series of 2D Mario Games. I especially loved the Mario Vs. Luigi mode that was available with that game too. Stomping your friends with the Mega Mushroom was so fun.

New Super Mario Bros Box Art

This was SPG64’s first Mario game

Which games are you playing at the moment?

When it comes to games that I play these days.. I enjoy playing Super Mario Galaxy of course, aswell as it’s sequel. I have played every 3D Mario Game too. I love them all. When it comes to games that aren’t Nintendo related, I enjoy playing Minecraft, Friday Night Funkin’ and rarely I’ll hop onto Roblox.

How about your first Mario game? How did you get into that series?

New Super Mario Bros DS was a game that my older sister had owned alongside her Nintendo DSi. She’d let me play it most of the time which was really nice of her. Definitely kickstarted my journey into the Super Mario Series.

What did you think of the original Super Mario Sunshine? Did you enjoy the game a lot?

Super Mario Sunshine is a very interesting game to say the least… It’s still a fun game though! The movement in that game is honestly probably the best it’s ever been in any 3D Mario game. I really like FLUDD and just how snappy Mario is in general. Sunshine also has a really underrated soundtrack in my opinion.

Of course, no game is perfect and Sunshine definitely has it’s fair share of flaws. Most of these flaws only exist seemingly because the game was rushed. I could go on for a while listing some issues but I’ll just share the most notable ones.

The Pachinko Machine just isn’t functional, the method of getting to the Poison River is garbage aswell as the method of beating the level. Then we have the game’s biggest flaw.. Blue Coins. In concept the Blue Coins were a really neat idea but the actual execution of them is horrible. There is no good way of keeping track of how many you have in whichever mission, some of them are hidden in the most ridiculous places and the Blue Coins are required for a good chunk of Shine Sprites in the game too. They definitely could’ve been handled better. My first true experience with Super Mario Sunshine was actually through the Super Mario 3D All Stars collection. Before the release of that game, Sunshine was not very easy to play. Another thing I like about Sunshine is the insane speedrun tricks you can perform in it. It’s just so satisfying to pull them off or watch somebody else do them. I like how Sunshine’s levels all feel connected too. It really adds to the open world feeling of the game.

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Anyways; I’ve rambled about Sunshine for a little while now so let’s move on..

Which of the 3D Mario games is your favourite and why?

Easily Super Mario Galaxy. That game just has a perfect atmosphere, amazing soundtrack, never seen before gimmicks including all sorts of gravity shenanigans and SO MUCH MORE!

Super Mario Galaxy Title

Super Mario Galaxy is SPG64’s favourite game

The way Super Mario Galaxy starts is just straight up beautiful. You immediately notice the step up in graphics since Sunshine upon entering The Star Festival. The gorgeous night sky and the absolutely mesmerising lake next to Peach’s Castle. It’s definitely my favourite video game opening of all time. BUT WAIT! Suddenly Bowser comes along with his fleet of airships while appearing more menacing than ever. Bowser means BUSINESS in this game. This is probably the ONLY Mario game where Bowser actually feels like a true threat. Not even Super Mario Galaxy 2 could nail this feeling.

Anyways, after Bowser lifts Peach and her castle into god damn space, Mario is knocked out into the void of space only to be greeted by a Luma on this beautifully isolated planet. This planet is the perfect way to introduce the player to the game’s gravity gimmicks. The Luma turns into a bunny and runs towards it’s bunny pals only to ask Mario to play a game of hide-and-seek.

After Mario catches all 3 bunnies, they all turn back into Lumas and introduce us to Rosalina. The mother of the Lumas we met previously. Rosalina grants Mario the ability to spin with the Master Luma. This new spin is heavily used throughout the game and is a great addition to Mario’s moveset. After that fabulous intro sequence, Mario travels more planetoids and retrieves a Grand Star. We then get introduced to the Comet Observatory. Which is a beautiful hubworld with a very unique atmosphere. Rosalina asks Mario to retrieve the Power Stars in order to save Peach and the Universe. Of course Mario accepts this offer and the game really begins at this point.

I don’t want to write about everything in the game but I’ll list some more highlights.

  • Good Egg Galaxy is a great intro level.
  • Honeyhive Galaxy introduces Bee Mario almost flawlessly. The part where you climb on the queen bee is still a bit sus though.
  • Megaleg is massive and has amazing music.
  • Space Junk Galaxy is the definition of space.
  • Battlerock has that really cool explosion.
  • Hurry-Scurry is a satisfying level to clear.
  • The first Bowser fight is incredible.
  • Beach Bowl just feels like home.
  • Ghostly Galaxy introduces Luigi, which I personally found to be one of the most memorable moments in Super Mario Galaxy.
  • Bubble Breeze is one of the few levels that showcases the Wii’s incredible motion control gimmicks. I used to hate these gimmicks but have grown to really like them.
  • Buoy Base Galaxy is EXTREMELY GOOD.
  • Bowser Jr’s Airship Armada is awesome.
  • Gusty Garden Galaxy is the peak of Super Mario Galaxy. Not just for it’s music, but also it’s incredibly pleasing visuals.
  • Freezeflame Galaxy is the best galaxy in the game. All the missions are just really fun to play for whatever reason. It also has a really unique theme going for it too.
  • Gold Leaf Galaxy is lazy at first glance, but it’s actually still a pretty solid level.
  • Toy Time Galaxy is a dream come true. The idea of a Mario level themed around toys is just amazing to me.
  • Melty Molten Galaxy is SEVERELY underrated. So many of Galaxy’s best moments take place in that level.
  • The Trials Galaxies are challenging yet fun.
  • Then we have the Final Bowser showdown which is executed perfectly.

One day I want to make a very long video detailing why I like this game so much, but hopefully everything I’ve listed so far has convinced you that this game is really special to me.

Onto ROM hacking now. What got you into modding video games anyway?

Honestly it was just videos on the internet. I saw other people play mods and I wanted to try it too. Of course I was pretty young back then so I didn’t end up modding my Nintendo Wii all the way up until late 2019. The first Super Mario Galaxy mod I played was Neo Mario Galaxy, which is actually a mod for Super Mario Galaxy 2. The reason for this being a mod for the second game isn’t just because of Galaxy 2’s new features however. It’s actually because Galaxy 2 is significantly less hardcoded than the first game is. So most modders stick to modding Super Mario Galaxy 2 since it has more tools and it’s just easier to do overall. Anyways yeah, after playing a few Galaxy mods, I quickly became interested in how the game worked. So then I started learning.

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And why Super Mario Galaxy?

I played Super Mario Galaxy a ton as a kid and there weren’t too many mods for the game at the time. There’s definitely been a significantly larger number of mods released since I joined the community.

What’s the story behind Starshine as a concept anyway? Why recreate Sunshine in Galaxy’s engine?
All the way back in 2012, a modder by the name of Martboo48 released a video of Sunshine levels imported into Super Mario Galaxy 2.

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This video is the main thing that inspired Super Mario Starshine. I just thought the idea of combining the two games really interesting. I was surprised by how well the style of Galaxy and Sunshine meshed together. So since the initial project was cancelled aswell as some other ones, I decided to attempt a Super Mario Sunshine reimagining in Super Mario Galaxy 2 myself.

One thing we found interesting off the bat is how Delfino Plaza has been set up here, as a full hub world with levels branching off of it. How difficult was that to set up in Galaxy, given the games never really had proper 64/Sunshine style hub areas?

At the beginning of development, getting a hubworld to work was hopeless. Any changes I made would almost certainly crash the game since Super Mario Galaxy 2 doesn’t have a ton of memory compared to Super Mario Galaxy 1. Although luckily, a very talented Super Mario Galaxy 2 Hacker known as Super Hackio released a tool known as the Galaxy Level Engine.

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This engine was capable of a TON of new things. The main thing this brought to the table was the ability to finally have custom hub worlds. It also brought me the ability to have 8 Stars in a single level. Just for reference, Galaxy 2 usually has a limit of 3 normal stars and 3 green stars per level. The Galaxy Level Engine even gave us a good amount of extra memory to work with which was amazing! It was also compatible with Aurum’s Super Mario Galaxy 2 Project Template!

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This Project Template included some custom objects as well as a bunch of ported objects from Galaxy 1 that were removed from Galaxy 2. You can check out the video I attached for more information about it. Anyways, I’m getting sidetracked again. After Galaxy Level Engine released, I took a bit of time to learn about how it worked and eventually got a functional Delfino Plaza hub world! After that I just added things to interact with. It’s very convenient how Galaxy 2 already has a ton of things from Sunshine such as the Pianta NPCs. It definitely helps a lot in the long run.

What about the levels? What’s it been like getting those working in this engine?

Getting Sunshine’s levels to work in Galaxy 2’s engine has been interesting to say the least. One cool thing about Sunshine and Galaxy is that Mario is scaled the same way in both games. So for some levels I was able to directly copy the positions of objects from Sunshine. Another similarity both games have is their model formats. Super Mario Sunshine uses the .bmd format while Galaxy uses the .bdl format. Although Galaxy can also use the .bmd format just fine. Even the animation formats are almost the same across both games! The only type of file I’ve needed to manually convert to Galaxy’s format is the collision files.

When it comes to level design, getting the big open world levels to work in Galaxy is very challenging. Not only do we no longer have FLUDD, but Mario is also significantly slower and less snappy in Galaxy compared to Sunshine. Although when it comes to designing the secret courses, it’s actually pretty simple since the secret courses are usually pretty linear anyways which definitely works in Galaxy’s favour for a mod like Starshine.

Are there any major technical differences you’ve had to work around there?

There are some things I’ve had to work around yeah. We don’t have Sunshine’s bosses in Super Mario Galaxy 2 so I’ve had to think of fitting replacements for them all. We also don’t have Blue Coins, which might be a good thing. Instead we have Galaxy 2’s Comet Medals which can spawn comet missions!

Sunshine and Galaxy have very different objects in them, including enemies, power ups and items. How do you recreate the feel of the former’s mission structure with the objects available in the latter game?

I kind of answered this earlier but Galaxy 2 happens to have a ton of things that Sunshine had already. Such as the Piantas from Starshine Beach Galaxy. That galaxy is also the inspiration for the name of the mod. Since Starshine Beach is inspired by Sunshine. Galaxy also has cataquacks too. These guys are heavily used for Gelato Beach in Sunshine. Slipsand Galaxy also literally has a Sand Bird in the level. Of course I’m going to use that!

And how do you balance them? Sunshine’s original levels were unbalanced enough, even without having to take into account a whole different set of objects and moveset…

It’s mostly about using the assets from Galaxy in the most clever ways I can use them. Galaxy has much wider variety of objects which allows me to do some very unique things for each stage. I’ve been trying to fix the most broken levels too. Like the Pachinko Machine I mentioned earlier. I can confirm that I’ve made it much better now.

Has it been tricky getting some of these levels working without FLUDD?

Kind of. I like to imagine that the Bee Mushroom is like the hover nozzle, the Cloud Flower is like the Rocket Nozzle and that Dash Pepper Yoshi is like the Turbo Nozzle. I’m honestly surprised at how similar they all are.

Bee Mario

Bee Mario’s powers make a nice replacement for the hover nozzle

Let’s talk about custom elements now. Is Starshine going to have custom enemies and objects to replicate the feel of Sunshine a bit better?

Super Mario Starshine currently has a few custom elements. We of course have the Power Stars from Galaxy 2 being replaced with Shine Sprites, the small variant of the goomba has been replaced by Strollin’ Stu and we even have the death water from the original poison river level! We plan to have more custom elements going forward.

What about bosses? The original Galaxy bosses are very different from Sunshine’s ones…

I mentioned this earlier but yeah, I’ve been mostly using Galaxy 2 bosses in place of the Sunshine ones wherever I see fit. Some boss missions may be replaced with completely new ones in the future to avoid repeating boss encounters.

Super Mario Starshine Boss

Super Mario Starshine mostly uses Galaxy 2’s bosses in its level

Is Shadow Mario going to appear in this game?

Nope. Although Cosmic Mario is! Cosmic Mario is basically causing trouble around the island just like Shadow Mario did in Sunshine. If somebody ports the Cosmic Mario Race mechanic from Galaxy 1, I’ll definitely implement those in the future. Although for now I have to stick with Cosmic Clone comets. I’m still not too sure how Cosmic Mario will play out story-wise so we’ll have to wait and see about that one.

Cosmic Mario

Cosmic Mario will replace Shadow Mario in this mod

How is the game’s structure going to work here? Is it still necessary to clear each 7th mission to unlock Corona Mountain, or does it work based on the total number of stars collected now?

I think the system of getting every 7th Shine Sprite was pretty ridiculous. So instead, I’m going to require the player to collect around 60-70 Shine Sprites before being able to access Corona Mountain.

Are there going to be extra levels here, outside of the courses from the original game?

Of course! Right now the prologue features an original prison level based on the prison seen in Super Mario Sunshine’s opening cutscene! You can get a tiny taste of this stage in the currently released demo for Starshine but I’ve been adding a lot more to it since. There’ll likely be more original stages down the line too.

Super Mario Starshine Prison

The prison in Super Mario Starshine is an actual level now, not just part of a cutscene

Given Luigi is now playable from the plaza, does that mean there’s a new reward for completing the game?

When you 100% Super Mario Starshine, there will be a final challenge to complete which’ll give you a special message on your Wii Message Board.

What do you think of Super Mario Solarshine, the hack to recreate Mario Galaxy in Sunshine’s engine? Do you find it amusing that there’s a hack with the exact opposite concept as yours?

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I do find it quite funny, yes. I also know the creator of Solarshine too. We’ve been sharing our knowledge of both games during our mods’ development which I think is really nice.

Do you think we’ll see any recreate Mario 64 in Sunshine too? We’ve already seen just about every other combination of remakes…

I feel like that’ll definitely happen at some point. Although Sunshine modding still needs to evolve a bit before we see that I feel. The current tools do work, but Sunshine just isn’t an easy game to mod.

Regardless, Starshine has done really well so far, with plenty of big YouTubers playing and loving the game. How does it feel to see your project catch on like this?

It feels amazing! Even seeing really small channels play it is awesome. I love seeing how people approach the stages I put together and I heavily encourage anybody wanting to play the demo to also record/stream it. I’d love to watch! I’m also surprised by how much people actually “like” Starshine. To me, this project is not the most impressive Galaxy mod. Although a ton of people seem to think otherwise which is mind-boggling. I’m extremely grateful for all the support I have received so far.

What about aspects of the project are you most proud of so far?

I’m very proud of Bianco Hills. It’s honestly shocking that I made that stage work well in Galaxy, but I did. My favourite mission in the stage is definitely the 8th one. Cloud Mario is just really fun to use. I’m also very happy with how Delfino Plaza came out.

Do you ever worry Nintendo will try and shut down the project? What’s your plan if that happens?

I try not to worry about it too much but I can also totally see why people would be concerned about it. As of now, I’m just going to push on with development and see how far I go.

Do you have any other ideas for mods after Starshine? Or other fan games or indie games you want to work on?

I really want to make a completely original mod for Super Mario Galaxy. I’ve learned so much more about how the game works in the last few years and I feel like I’m capable of so much more now. I also want to learn how to model at some point in time, if I ever get the chance.

Finally, what advice would you give someone wanting to get into Mario Galaxy modding, or game development in general?

If you want to start modding Super Mario Galaxy, join the Luma’s Workshop Discord Server!

There’s plenty of talented modders here that may be willing to help you. Don’t expect it to be easy though. It’s very easy to mess something up and make the game crash. So I hope you’re ready to get used to that!

When it comes to game development, try to make sure your levels are fair. Don’t just spam enemies and objects around the place and call it a day. Have a goal in your level. Don’t just make it about running through all the random stuff you placed down. Also if you’re making a long level, be sure to give the player checkpoints.

Finally, don’t forget to drink water. Seriously. It’s good for you. I’d also like to thank CM30 for inviting me to this interview! It’s been nice to sit down and answer some questions. It certainly took a while to do so, but I’d say it was worth it.

As for now, I leave you all with the Super Mario Starshine Demo, which has 20 Shine Sprites to get. So go on! Check it out!

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I hope to release the full version of Super Mario Starshine as soon as possible. I hope you all have a great rest of your day/night and take care! 😀

Thank you SPG! We hope you have an amazing day too, and we wish you the best for Super Mario Starshine too.

And you’re 100% right about having a proper goal in your level, and not randomly throwing in as many random things as possible. It’s way to eaiser to make levels too difficult as a level designer, and spamming objects because they ‘look cool’ is one of the easiest ways to do that in general. Just look at like, the bottom 50% of levels in Super Mario Maker for proof of that!

My First Course (Super Mario Maker)

Or even Nintendo’s own demo courses, as this one shows…

Good level design requires patience, restraint, and the ability to look at your work like a player, not just a creator.

Either way, thanks for the interview SPG. It was amazing speaking to you today, and we’re very excited to see what comes of Super Mario Starshine and any other hacks you make in future too.

However, what do you think? Did you enjoy the video? What do you think about Super Mario Starshine as a project? And what other games do you want to see remade in Super Mario Galaxy 2 in future?

Leave your thoughts in the matter in the comments below, on social media, or on our Discord server today!

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