Let’s Interview: Super Mario Sunshine DS Developer Hailbot!

Super Mario Sunshine DS Logo

Back in 2004, Nintendo released Super Mario 64 DS for the Nintendo DS. Designed to remake the N64 classic for a modern audience, the game was far from a simple rerelease, and expanded the original with all manner of new characters, items, stars and gameplay modes.

It was a great remake overall, and a fantastic way to show exactly what the DS was capable.

Hence because of that, people started wondering whether Nintendo would give Super Mario Sunshine the same treatmment. After all, it too has plenty of potential to improve. And there’s surely a decent audience who’d want to play it on the go too.

Alas, that didn’t happen. Instead Nintendo called it a day with the 3D Mario remakes, and rumours of a Sunshine remake stayed just that for the next few generations.

But that’s the fans came in! Yep, just like with many other ideas, they decided to go where Nintendo didn’t dare tread, and make the handheld Mario Sunshine remake of their dreams.

With the most notable one being Super Mario Sunshine DS, a game that’s currently in development by today’s interviewee.

So today, we’re gonna talk to its main developer Hailbot about the project, its history and where its heading in future. Let’s get this show on the road!

Starting with a bit of personal background. Who are you? Who is Hailbot?

I’m just a gamer that wants to share and expand upon the joy video games provide! Throughout my life, games have brought me and my friends tons of happiness and fun times and I hope that one day, I can make my own games that bring that same excitement and fun to even more people!

Ah okay then. Where did your username come from anyway?

It actually has an interesting story to it. I used to go by the name Oinkers, but when I started up my YouTube channel, I wanted something that didn’t really sound as childish and silly. I really wasn’t able to come up with any good names at first, but then I remembered this small thing my Mom had told me. She had told me about how when I was born, my granddad wanted to name me after this comet that was passing Earth around the same time I was born that went by the name “Hale Bopp”. My granddad actually passed away a year or so after I was born, so I didn’t really get to meet him, but my Mom always told me about him. In the end, I thought it would be a really cool thing to base my name on, so I put my own twist on the comet’s name and I ended up with the username “Hailbot”.

Surprisingly interesting story there. Still, how did you get interested in gaming?

My Dad had an NES since before I was born so that was my first introduction to video games. The first games I was playing were games like the original Super Mario Bros, Duck Hunt, World Class Track Meet, and PinBot. Then one Christmas my parents got me and my siblings a GameCube with Super Mario Sunshine, Kirby Airride, and Mario Kart: Double Dash!!. While the NES was my first experience with gaming, the GameCube was where my love for video games really started taking off.

What games are you playing now?

Currently I’ve been playing a lot of the newer Nintendo games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Although I’ve also been playing a ton of RuneScape recently as well. I’ve been playing RuneScape for the last 15 years of my life and I really hope someday I can make a game that is like it and has a long life like RuneScape does. I take a lot of inspiration from that game. I’ve also absolutely fallen in love with Nintendo’s mobile game Dragalia Lost.

Are there any games you’re looking forward to at the moment? Like say, those 3D Mario remakes…

Overall, the new rumoured 3D Mario games don’t have me too excited. Mainly because they’re currently just rumors and I don’t want to get excited over them if they end up not being real. However, I’d LOVE it if the rumours about an HD Super Mario Sunshine remake are actually true. There aren’t really too many upcoming games that are announced right now that I am anticipating. Not many new games have been announced recently and this is likely due to the whole CoronaVirus thing and canceled E3. However, Ninjala for the Switch is looking good and unique. It’s also free so I will for sure at least give it a try. I haven’t played a Paper Mario game yet, but Paper Mario: The Origami King is actually looking really promising. It might just be my first experience with the Paper Mario games.

Regardless, onto game mods now. How did you get interested in modding games?

My first experience with game mods of any kind, was with Super Smash Bros Brawl. It was just the coolest thing ever that you could just add so many new characters, stages, and songs into the game. I also loved CTGP on the Wii. I would just drive around and explore all of the new custom tracks that mod added to the game. It was just so interesting to me that if I were willing to put in the time, I too could also make any character or stage I wanted for all of my favorite games.

What about Super Mario 64 DS in particular? What made you choose to mod that game rather than say, the original Super Mario 64?

To be honest, I grew up playing Super Mario 64 DS without even knowing the original Super Mario 64 existed at all. I’m one of the few people that like the DS version more than the original. When it came to modding it though, Super Mario 64 DS is just incredibly easy to mod, at least when it comes to making your own custom levels.

Did you make any other mods before this one?

I started off making custom weapons and cosmetic mods for Team Fortress 2. From there I messed around with Super Smash Bros Brawl modding a little and then I moved to helping Skelux out with his Super Smash Bros 3D project. I made a few of the stages for Super Smash Bros 3D. The Metal Man’s Stage I made from scratch for the project. I also put together a few models for characters for Super Smash Bros 3D like Sonic, Kirby, and Fox but Skelux never got around to using them. Finally, I moved on to my very first big project which was Luigi’s Casino Chaos.

Caption: Super Smash Bros 3D tried to convert Super Mario 64 into a Super Smash Bros title

Were there any other ideas for mods you had before starting on Mario Sunshine DS?

The only thing that I was really working on at the time was another Super Mario 64 DS hack called “Luigi’s Casino Chaos”. It was a fun idea and I had put a lot of work into it. I’m not really sure if I would call it scrapped though. I may go back and finish it after Super Mario Sunshine DS is all completed. I was also working on a Luigi’s Mansion First Person VR mod before Sunshine DS as well, but I actually finished and released that last October.

Caption: Luigi’s Casino Chaos was an… interesting idea

Caption: Luigi’s Mansion in VR is also a creative idea

What Super Mario 64 hacks you looking forward to at the moment?

As far as hacks for Nintendo 64 Mario 64 go, I don’t even know of any being currently developed. Super Mario 64 DS on the other hand has a good number of hacks I’m super excited for. Gota7’s Shining Stars DS and ShaneMGD’s “Journey Lane DS” both are looking really good! RedPoisonDragon’s Super Mario Galaxy DS is looking great behind closed doors! Josh65536’s Super Mario 256 and Skelux’s Super Mario Star World are both looking amazing and better than anything I could ever make. Some new SM64DS hacks that are in their early stages of development that might be worth taking a look at are Snowy’s Super Mario Onward DS and Night Gamer’s Mario’s Unlimited World. Shugabush’s Donkey Kong Jungle Climber and The Best NSMB’s Super Mario 64 DS: The Adventurous Journey look really promising too. Finally, it isn’t a 64DS hack, but Super Game Cube’s GameCube Grand Prix hack for Mario Kart DS is just looking incredible! Luigi’s Mansion Extra Tangy is a Luigi’s Mansion mod by Portable Productions that has done some really impressive things as well!

Editor’s Note: We made a mistake there, and forgot to put ‘DS’ in the question. Hence why Hailbot mentions not looking forward to any Super Mario 64 hacks (since he focuses mostly on Mario 64 DS ones).

Either way, what made you decide to pick up development for Super Mario Sunshine DS after Fiachra abandoned the project?

I had actually been following Fiachra for Sunshine DS for a very long time at that point. When I saw that he had shared all of his work and that nobody in the 64DS hacking community had really picked it up yet, I figured I’d pick it up myself and see if it were something I was capable of completing. Things were rough at first but with the help of people in the SM64DS hacking discord and some of my own knowledge, the project was set on the right track and it felt like something I would be able to complete.

Did you have any idea of the complexities involved at the time?

I had somewhat of an idea as to how difficult it would be going into the project, but it still ended up being a lot tougher than I thought it would be. I had been previously working on another Super Mario 64 DS hack called “Luigi’s Casino Chaos” so I already had the basics of SM64DS hacking down, but there were still many new challenges to face for things such as the custom life meter and custom music. Things that I hadn’t even touched with Luigi’s Casino Chaos yet.

What’s the situation with you and SolarZ? At one point you were both seemingly working on separate versions of this mod…

Caption: SolarZ makes his own demos independently of Hailbot’s ones

To my understanding, it was just the result of a misunderstanding. SolarZ didn’t really know that I had already picked up the project and that I had been working on it for a year at that point. Now that he does know though, I believe that his goal is to just make his own Sunshine DS demos and he doesn’t really have plans to do a full release. His build is mostly his work and my build is mostly my work. The builds actually have many differences between them. However, we do share assets and have helped each other with each other’s versions in the past. For example, he is responsible for short sleeve Mario and Luigi in my build and I gave him the music for his most recent demo. I think he has mentioned wanting to start working on a new SM64DS hack project, but I’m not entirely sure on that or what his future plans are. To put it simply though, we are on good terms with each other and we just hope that the whole situation isn’t too confusing for everyone.

Still, now the project’s in full swing, it’s looking amazing overall, with stunning levels, some really solid FLUDD mechanics and all kinds of neat touches (like the custom health bar). Are you impressed by how much of Super Mario Sunshine you’ve managed to port over so far?

Yeah, I honestly never thought I would be able to fit in as much as I have. As far as I know, nobody has really done a full out custom life meter in SM64DS yet so that one on its own is a really neat addition. At first it felt like FLUDD would really be the only thing I could fit in, but I’ve slowly been able to better optimize everything and I keep being able to fit in new neat little things here and there. Shines might just be added in soon as well.

However, I have heard the FLUDD setup is causing a bit of grief right now, with the model’s complexity making it tricky to add as much stuff to each level due to DS limitations. Do you sometimes regret using it because of that?

FLUDD really helps this game stand out from other Super Mario 64 DS ROM hacks and also just helps the game feel a lot more like Sunshine. I think that the extra pain has been worth it in order to keep FLUDD in this game. Even if it doesn’t leave much room for other fancy additions to the game.

What’s it been like working with Fiachra’s code overall?

It has been a blessing and a curse to be honest. It is nice to have a lot of this code available, but at the same time, Super Mario 64 DS hacking has come a long way since he has made this code and his code no longer works in a lot of cases. It also isn’t very efficient compared to how we would have made the same code now. I’ve been able to edit a lot of his code myself and get a lot of it working again so not all of it has been lost. Unfortunately, there still may be a good chunk of his original code we may never be able to use, at least in Sunshine DS. Other talented people in the community like Gota7 and Pants64 have written new custom code to help fix missions and other parts of the game where Fiachra’s code was needed though.

Caption: This Petey Piranha boss has apparently been a tricky one to work with

Either way, it’s clear that Super Mario Sunshine DS isn’t going to be a 1:1 remake, simply due to console limitations overall. How accurate to the original game is it overall?

At this point, it is just better to not compare Super Mario Sunshine DS to the original. I think people will get the most enjoyment out of Sunshine DS if they go into it expecting it to be its own thing instead of expecting it to be Super Mario Sunshine. It just sets the bar way too high and I don’t feel like my own work even compares to the original. Most of the missions are new and it just wouldn’t be fair to compare Sunshine DS to the original with all of the hardware limitations that have to be dealt with for Sunshine DS.

Are many of the enemies, items and mechanics going to be ported over here? We’ve seen FLUDD, Petey Piranha, Cataquacks and Bloopers in previous trailers, but not much more outside of that…

Blue Electrokoopa
It’d be neat to see these Blue Electrokoopas in Super Mario Sunshine DS

There are a few more things that I’ve been trying to get working, but I can’t promise that any of them will happen. The hack is packed to overflowing with the amount of stuff that can be fit into a SM64DS hack. The space mostly being taken up by the large stage models. However, I am trying to get things like Il Piantissimo working for at least one mission. Again, I can’t promise anything, but I think it is safe to assume at least one or two new things will be seen ported over that haven’t been shown off in a video yet.

How are the game’s bosses going to work anyway? Eely Mouth and the Phantamanta are likely a no go for obvious reasons, but is there a chance we might see Gooper Blooper or Super Mario Sunshine’s version of Wiggler make an appearance?

Gooper Blooper
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely we’ll see Gooper Blooper in Mario Sunshine DS

I think it is safe to say that most of Sunshine’s bosses won’t be showing up in this game. Many of the bosses were really just huge in size and the DS just can’t handle bosses like that on stages that are as big as what is in Sunshine DS. I’ve messed around with Gooper Blooper a lot actually, but everything I was coming up with just wasn’t fun to play. I figure in pretty much all of these cases, it is better to just not have a boss at all than to have a version of the boss that is just not fun to play at all.

What about Yoshi? Super Mario Sunshine implements him very differently to Super Mario 64 DS after all, especially given how his juice spitting abilities factor into the game’s puzzles and level design…

Mario and Yoshi in Super Mario Sunshine
It’s likely Mario Sunshine DS will feature Mario 64 DS style Yoshi, rather than Sunshine’s rideable ones

Currently, Yoshi is just a regular old Super Mario 64 DS Yoshi, although he has been given the ability to wall jump just like the other characters. Yoshi is now actually an unlockable character and you start as Mario. Unlocking Yoshi is a part of one of the coolest and biggest new secrets in the game, so I might change him up a little more IF the DS limitations allow me to. Changing Yoshi up is a little lower on the priority list though, so it is safe to assume he will remain the same for now.

Speaking of Yoshi, how are the game’s four characters going to work in this game? We know they all get one nozzle each, and we know switching nozzles switches characters too, but how do you unlock them as proper playable characters in this game? Is there a Delfino Plaza equivalent to the character switching room? Extra levels where you fight Goomboss/King Boo/Chief Chilly, like in the original game? Or are they just usable in the same way as caps?

Since blue coins act like Super Mario 64 blue coins, the blue coin hut has been repurposed as a place to change your character. A big complaint I saw with Super Mario 64 DS was that people didn’t like being restricted from missions because they either didn’t have a character unlocked, or they had to go swap characters just to complete one mission. The way I addressed this was all stages have nozzle boxes in them from the start regardless if the character is unlocked or not. People might think this makes unlocking the other characters pointless, but that is not entirely true. If you have a character unlocked, it may make some stages that use their abilities a lot easier and quicker to beat. Also, unlocking the characters will go through some brand new stages that I think a lot of Nintendo fans will really like. I don’t think you will want to skip out on these even if you can beat the game without seeing them.

So Blue Coins are still a thing in this remake?

Yes, but they are currently being treated the same way that Super Mario 64 DS originally treats blue coins. So in other words, they’re basically just 5 regular coins. At least for now.

There’s also a fair bit of new content here too, like entirely new secret levels, enemies and mechanics. How do you design this stuff?

Caption: Rainbow Tunnel is a new secret level made for Super Mario Sunshine DS

The only new secret stage shown off so far was made by Nomura. They actually made this stage and one other for Fiachra back when he was still working on the project. There are some stages I have made entirely on my own, but I haven’t shown any off yet. Most of the missions in Super Mario Sunshine DS will be completely new as well. There are a few that represent missions in the original Sunshine, but they still are different. As for how I come up with ideas for the new stuff that I make, I honestly don’t really know how to answer that.

How do you adapt the level design of the original game to fit it the new objectives?

Really the only changes being made to levels are changes that need to be made in order to get it working on a Nintendo DS. Other than that, minor changes have been made for the new and simpler missions that will be in this game.

Toxic Lilypad Ride
One of Mario Sunshine’s most infamous levels, edited for the DS remake

Were there any interesting ideas you had to scrap for technical reasons?

Really the only things that were scrapped were things like boss fights simply because they are just too much. Shines used to be scrapped, but I recently got them working for the most part so they might just happen now. It is just hard to say what is and isn’t scrapped yet since the game is still in development. Just like the Shines, a “scrapped” idea could easily come back during development.

Shine Sprites in Menu
Shine Sprites were added into this mod quite recently

On the other hand, were there any ideas you thought were going to be much more difficult to implement than they ended up being?

To be honest, pretty much everything has been really difficult to add. The only thing that I think was easier than I thought it would be is the custom music. It was difficult at first, but after Gota7 taught me how to import custom music, it was pretty easy once I got the hang of how to do it.

Either way, time to start wrapping things up now. Firstly, do you ever worry that Nintendo might try and shut down this project?

Yeah. I know I’m a small YouTuber so people say it isn’t really something I should worry about, but I still worry that Nintendo will try to do something about Sunshine DS. I honestly just wish Nintendo would work with the people that mod their games. Nintendo game modders are a group of very talented people. It is a shame Nintendo seems to want nothing to do with us and only wants us gone. Especially when the only reason we mod their games in the first place, is because we love their games and are very passionate about them.

Have you gotten much press coverage for this game yet? I know GoNintendo mentioned it before, but I would have expected a bit more hype there, especially given what happened with that Mario Sunshine 64 hack Kaze released…

Nobody really covers my version of Sunshine DS, at least to my knowledge. The only time I’ve seen my version featured has really just been Kaze’s F3 2019 presentation, and that trailer was something that I personally made and submitted. If anyone does see my version of Sunshine DS being covered or shown off somewhere, I’d love to see it though! It’s always really cool to see that sort of thing.

Do you have any plans for other hacks or games once Super Mario Sunshine DS is finished?

I think that just really depends on how well people receive Sunshine DS and where I personally am in my life at the time of completion. I think it would be fun to go back to finish Luigi’s Casino Chaos if people want to see me make more Super Mario 64 DS hacks. However, at the same time, it really just depends how busy my college classes keep me. I’d also like to move on to making my very own game at some point in the future as well. I’ve had a really neat idea for a big game I’ve wanted to make for years now and I might have picked up enough experience to start working on that once Sunshine DS is done. I really hope people will support my original game as much as they have supported me through Sunshine DS’s development.

Finally, what advice would you give someone wanting to get started on your own ROM hack or fan project and why?

Start off with a smaller project. Figuring out how to do everything is a HUGE learning curve. If you start off with a project that is bigger than what you can handle, you are likely going to burn out and give up on the project in the middle of working on it. I have seen far too many really cool projects die this way. Other than that, just stick with your project until the end!

Yeah, gotta agree with you 100% there Hailbot. Overambitiousness kills a lot of fan projects, especially those which need a large team behind them or which try to be the ‘best’ or ‘most technically impressive’ game of their type. Just ask the URA Zelda Restoration Project developers, the Mushroom Kingdom Fusion team, or even some of the people that run this very website. The more you promise/plan to make, the higher the chance your project will blow up in your face, especially if you’re not super familiar with the technology involved or haven’t workd with your team for very long beforehand.

Caption: Overambitiousness and team tensions destroyed the URA Zelda Restoration Project

So start small, get to know more about the medium you’re working with, that up your ambitions only when you’re sure you can finish such a large project.

And as Hailbot says, stick with it too. Game development takes a long time, especially when you’re working on an ambitious project, working on your own/with volunteers or doing everything in your free time.

Get comfortable with that, and be willing to accept that you might well be spending many years or even decades on the same thing if you hope to see it through to completion.

Then, if you’re ready to put in the work, see the project through to completion.

Because at the end of the day, it’s that dedication that separates many of the success stories from the failures. The successful artist or creator isn’t someone who gives up after two weeks once the initial hype wears off, or someone who feels daunted by the lengthy development process ahead of them.

It’s someone who sticks to their guns and finishes their masterpiece, no matter how many days, weeks, months or years that might take them. That might be about a decade, like with Cuphead, Cave Story or AM2R. It might be longer still, like Brutal Mario, Mushroom Kingdom Fusion or Tobias and the Dark Sceptres.

Caption: A brilliant video about developing a single game can take 13 years

Or it might be a literal life’s work, like The Silmarillion, or the Thief and the Cobbler.

So think carefully, learn by making smaller projects, and then, only work on a serious one once you’ve accepted how long it’ll take you to finish it.

Otherwise, your dream game will likely start and end as a bunch of ideas on a forum, subreddit or blog article.

Still, what did you think of the interview? Are you excited to see what the future holds for Super Mario Sunshine DS now you’ve heard its creator talk about his plans for the future? How do you feel the game is going so far?

Tell us your thoughts on the matter (as well as the game in general) in the comments below, on the Gaming Latest forums, or on the Gaming Reinvented Discord server today!

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TheBestNSMB
TheBestNSMB
4 months ago

Really nice interview, really cool to see that SM64DS hacks are finally getting the attention that they rightfully deserve! cheers