Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)
I came across a translation of a very interesting 2002 developer interview for Super Mario Sunshine on shumplations. The interview featured Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto, the producer of Mario Sunshine and the creator of the Mario franchise, producer Takashi Tezuka and director Yoshiaki Koizumi. The interview contains many interesting insights about the development of Mario Sunshine and game development as a general matter, and I recommend it in its entirety. Here, I will focus on a single quote by Mr. Miyamoto which, with perfect hindsight, appears to have foreshadowed the next main-line 3D Mario platforming game, Super Mario Galaxy.
Before we get to Mr. Miyamoto’s quote, a little bit of background is in order. Super Mario Sunshine was released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002. It was the second main-line 3D platforming game featuring Mario, following the revolutionary Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64, which had been released in 1996. Mario Sunshine is unique among the 3D Mario games on account of its gimmick, the F.L.U.D.D. device. While both 2D and 3D Mario games usually feature Mario navigating the games’ worlds by running and jumping alone, Sunshine gave Mario the aid of a sentient robotic backpack that sprayed water. Mario could use the backpack for tasks such as cleaning goop from the world, attacking enemies, and, most pertinent to the instant article, hovering above ground by shooting water downward.
I recall the F.L.U.D.D. mechanic having not been universally loved at the time. It was certainty different, and it is telling that one of the persistent themes in the 2002 developer interview is pinning down what precisely makes something Mario. While Mario Sunshine inspired what was perhaps a more diverse range of reactions than any main-line Mario game since Super Mario Brothers 2 for the original Nintendo Entertainment System, it was still received with high acclaim, and remains an excellent game to play twenty years after it was originally released.
With the introduction out of the way, let us cut to the quote which inspired this article. Mr. Miyamoto commented on certain ways in which the F.L.U.D.D. backpack made Mario Sunshine more player-friendly than other 3D platformers, likely thinking in part of Super Mario 64, wherein there was no water-powered backpack to save the player from missed jumps:
As a 3D action game, I think Mario Sunshine is something of a breakthrough for us. Jumping from one platform to another in 3D is not easy, but by using the hover nozzle to move around, it’s a lot easier. I think players will enjoy the sensation, it’s like a ‘zero gravity’ platformer. In that sense, this may be the most user-friendly 3D action game out there, especially for new players.”Shigeru Miyamoto (emphasis added)
Note the line which I emphasized in bold: “[I]t’s like a ‘zero gravity’ platformer.” The next main-line 3D Mario platformer, Super Mario Galaxy, was released for the GameCube’s successor console, the Nintendo Wii, in 2007. As the name suggests, Mario Galaxy took Mario to outer-space and introduced some novel gravity-based mechanics (no water pack or other similar contraptions, however). While I doubt that Mr. Miyamoto had in 2002 already planned to send Mario into the cosmos for his next adventure, I am curious if some of the F.L.U.D.D.-based mechanics inspired Mr. Miyamoto and the full team behind Mario to explore playing with gravity in a future game. Perhaps there is a non-intuitive connection between a Mario game which featured a water-cannon backpack on a tropical resort island and a game wherein Mario hopped from planet to planet in outer-space.