Sunshine Camera

Nintendo of America’s George Harrison tells CNN that … games like “Super Mario Sunshine” are too difficult for today’s gamers. Due to Cube’s software sales, Nintendo of Japan and Miyamoto have decided to make games less challenging to sell software to larger audiences.
“Nintendo’s chief gaming architect Shigeru Miyamoto agreed with criticism that the Mario game was too hard. And, in a decision that might anger the hardcore crowd, the word has since come from up high to make games less challenging.” says CNN. Koizumi: There are about 4 times more camera options in this game over Super Mario 64.
Q: Was the [camera] control constantly adjusted?
Usui: Of course. Miyamoto made sure of that. Koizumi started focusing on that just so he wouldn’t have to hear it from the boss.

Super Mario Sunshine has the most sophisticated camera of any Nintendo game, yet reviews on online websites and message boards revealed many criticisms. It was only after an in-depth analysis of these criticisms that I discovered that the majority of the harshest and most vocal critics were those of players with low skill levels. This camera analysis breaks down the camera to the fullest extent. For ease of reference, a list of headings is posted below so the reader can go directly to any of the major camera sections.

1. What makes a camera better?
2. Camera techniques
3. Camera handling
4. Heads Up Display
5. Automated Movement
6. Camera Movement Hindrances
7. Structural Interaction and Obscuration
8. Inconsistencies
9. Explanation For The Camera Complaint

1. What Makes A Camera Better?
Let’s get past the superficial “game has good/bad camera”. What is better? What is best? To add more camera techniques gives the player a better selection to provide himself with an optimal view. The player can further learn and develop skill in recognizing when to switch to better views. Players who do not wish to adapt will do poorly. In Super Mario 64 Nintendo showed the player that they are not simply controlling Mario, but also controlling Mario’s viewing through Lakitu (Mario’s filming crew).

Mario has a better center of gravity than other 3rd person platformers due to tight camera alignment: its centering, tracking, and behind-the-back attachment of Mario. This gives a strong connecting force when moving the character. Camera placement has a profound effect on control of the character. A camera can cause death by altering movement or blinding the player to important visual information such as enemy projectile attacks or environment hazards. Super Mario 64 had a few minor camera issues but triumphed as the best camera in its genre during its console generation. Nintendo addressed all those issues and released a much more advanced camera in Super Mario Sunshine.

In SM64 Lakitu was the seasoned cameraman who gave you some tidbits on camera control. Sunshine has no Lakitu, nor a camera tutorial; you just assume Lakitu’s role. In SM64 the pathways were wide and relatively empty making them easy to voyeur through. In SMS the pathways are narrower and more occupied making them more challenging to voyeur through.

2. Camera Techniques
Super Mario 64
A) Default 1 [Normal Camera] – Camera panned keeping Mario’s back positioned directly in front of the camera. Active in Castle Exterior, certain parts of Castle Interior, Jolly Roger Bay, Hazy Maze Cave, Shifting Sand Land’s Pyramid Interior, Snow Man’s Land, Dire, Dire Docks, and Big Boo’s Haunt Underground and Mansion exterior.

Default 2 [Normal Camera] – Camera panned keeping Mario’s position in the center of the screen (when facing forward or backward). If facing sideways the camera pushes back to increase the scope of where Mario is looking.

B) C-Button Left + Right [Directional Camera Control] – Camera rotates left or right
C) C-Button Up + Down [Directional Camera Control] – Camera will zoom in or out. When not zoomed out zooming in will put the camera behind-the-back, Mario locks in place, and the player can look all around an 180 degree rotation. If zoomed out when hitting zoom in the camera will revert back to the original distance; you have to hit zoom in again afterwards to go to the behind-the-back view.
D) R-Button [Shoulder Camera or Fixed Camera] – Camera will zoom in close maintaining a behind-the-back view, or it will stop in place.

Super Mario Sunshine
A) Default [Normal Camera] – Camera panned keeping Mario’s position in the center of the screen with auto-rotation to redirect behind-the-back.

Default 2 [Normal Camera] – Camera panned keeping Mario’s position in the center of the screen without any auto-rotation to redirect behind-the-back. Active on Athletic Courses.

B) C-Stick Left + Right [Directional Camera Control] – Camera rotates left or right
C) C-Stick Up + Down [Directional Camera Control] – Camera zooms in pointing straight ahead (low angle shot while ascending with wall jumps or turbo nozzle boost) or zooms out with an overhead angle (high angle shot while ascending with wall jumps or turbo nozzle boost)
D) Y-Button [Shoulder Camera] – Mario locks in place with the camera fixed over-the-shoulder allowing for full rotation.
E) L Trigger (Soft Press) – Camera tracking of Mario increases to align behind him.
F) L Trigger (Full Press) – Camera will snap behind Mario. Only works on ground or while hover nozzle is activated.

There are two additional camera techniques to choose from in Sunshine than 64 and the range of vision has been increased on the others. On top of that, Sunshine also gives the option to rotate and zoom at the same time. The changes are below:
A) Maintains Mario’s position in the center.
B) C-stick>C buttons. Smoother handling. Full rotation. No more set angle resting points.
C) C-stick>C buttons. Smoother handling. No more set angle resting points. Zooms out much more. Zooms out at much greater downward angle when fully zoomed out. This is good for providing you with a good view of gaps between platforms. Zooming out will also show what’s directly overhead. An upward angle is possible when airborne, but it makes ascending (i.e. onto clouds) difficult due to not being able to see under Mario’s feet when he is falling.
D) Mario’s mobility is squashed. Functions as c button up does in SM64, but can be accessed at any time without delay as the button only has one function. [Note: You also have the ability to run if you attach the turbo nozzle and slightly depress the R Trigger. Also, allows for mid-air redirection movement] Moving in underwater missions with it activated is possible.

Misc. – No sound effects except on (F)

3. Camera Handling
The camera system punishes poor avatar and viewpoint synchronization. The camera is programmed to readjust itself to stay within a certain range of a straight view ahead that syncs with the forward movement design of the game. Try running sideways in Super Mario Sunshine (excluding athletic courses) and the camera will start to move to be behind Mario so that Mario is at front. So, no, the camera is not going to let you hover backwards to produce forward movement. No, the camera is not going to stay still and let you hover out sideways because that is awkward and that does not produce forward movement.

Modify behavior [eyesight] to take advantage of changes in the situation. Sunshine allows you to smoothly move and rest the camera where you want. It also gives you the option to smoothly follow a turning Mario by slightly depressing the L Trigger (works airborne too!). Camera adjustment while running or hovering is manageable when going in a straight line since its ability to make small smooth movements allow for little character movement disturbance.

When going uphill fast while turbo boosting, Mario de-aligns from the dead center and goes to the top center of the screen, which cuts off visual information. Whether a clear view ahead which minimizes vertical visual info or a short view ahead which maximizes vertical visual info there is a sacrifice being made.

When going straight up fast with a rocket jump it works well to have the camera zoomed out for viewing Mario’s ascent and landing pad from an overhead angle. Moving the camera from being zoomed in fully to zoomed out while ascending is also a stylish option that keeps an effective view.

Having Mario perform an 180° turn and at the same time having the camera perform an 180° turn (L Trigger hard press or Y button) requires a slight pause in forward movement to prevent movement direction disruption; you have to wait on the camera angle change to then switch the analog stick to the opposite direction otherwise you run backwards. Also, in the air the L Trigger (full press) function will not activate unless FLUDD hover nozzle is active.

4. Heads-Up Display (HUD)
HUD size has been reduced
Top Left = coins
Top Right (when hurt) = health
Originally health was in the top center in SM64. This is a good position change since visual information is more important in what lies straight ahead of the player than what is at their side due to the game’s linear mechanics designed around being forwardly positioned. The icon is still too large and would be better to include on the visual info pop ups when standing still long enough.
Bottom Right = FLUDD water capacity

Another good change is having the lives, shines, and blue coins pop up when Mario remains inactive for a short period of time instead of permanently cluttering the screen.

5. Automated Movement
I. The camera moves to be behind Mario naturally. This is disabled for the athletic courses.

I. Squirt Nozzle – When spraying water pressing the L Trigger (full press) will cause the camera to redirect to behind Mario’s back unless zoomed out. L Trigger (light press) does not cause any rotation. Auto-rotation is disabled on boats and lily pads. It’s obvious enough why: spraying is to produce movement that is opposite of the spray direction, so going forward requires you to see what is in front of you, and that the view of the direction ahead is to be kept in focus for that reason.

II. Hover Nozzle – When hovering the camera always redirects behind Mario. This makes sense because if you are turning your direction the camera should too to show you where you are going. You can hover backwards in a straight line only if the camera is directly behind Mario for going in reverse any other way causes camera redirection which messes up your control. To regain steady control tap at the C-stick or fully press in the L Trigger for immediate camera positioning behind Mario. You aren’t going to want to hover toward the camera—it would be feel awkward (demonstrated by the swimming areas in Tall, Tall Mountain from Super Mario 64 in which Mario was positioned to swim towards the camera). If you are bouncing off a wall and want to do a 180 while hovering tap the C-stick to reorient the camera.

When hover is activated the camera will move into a lower overhead angle that is closer to Mario.

I. The camera auto-rotates when going around objects that would block the view of Mario producing a silhouette. It is the same camera functioning as the L Trigger (light depress). Even trees, column structures, and crates will do this. Most recognizable when fully zoomed in. Diminished effect on small structures when zoomed out.—This is most likely due to the camera going overhead which hinders obscuring Mario. Also, visual depth has a strong influence on the wielding and disturbance of a camera; camera rotation speed is linked to the travel distance needed to rotate around the center (Mario). So, bigger shifts are felt when closer to Mario.

I don’t see the necessity of it for the trees. It doesn’t auto-rotate when climbing on them. I was not even aware of it until I specifically studied the silhouette effect. It doesn’t get in the way of doing anything from what I have played. Very subtle due to the desirability and natural-inclination to have the camera follow Mario behind-the-back.

II. One significant place is the large windmill in Bianco Hills. When you are working your way up and circling around it the camera turns. Major importance: If you keep the control stick held up while running on the top Mario will not run off the tower but run in a circle on it.

III. The camera auto-rotates on the spiral shells in Noki Bay.

IV. The camera auto-rotates around corner posts and the totem pole in Hotel Delfino.

On II – there is literally nothing to do up there besides get a 1-Up from a Pianta or a blue coin drop from an enemy. On III – there is nothing to jump out towards that camera redirection would cause frustration for. There is nothing else to do but scale upwards on it.

With all that written, auto-rotation around structures should have been disabled since it interferes with movement. This should have been turned off altogether since user camera control movement is smooth unlike 64. This kind-of camera aiding is unnecessary with such an advanced camera system in place.

I. The camera locks onto and auto-rotates around certain bosses (e.g. the Big Blooper boss on the helipad in the harbor stage, the first Petey Piranha battle, the final battle etc.), which keeps them front and center. This functions as Z-targeting does in Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Auto-rotation should be disabled because the enemies are not hard to keep track of, nor are their weak spots hard to target due to their large size.

6. Camera Movement Hindrances
I. Hotel Delfino – When inside a room a non-zoomed out camera will lock onto outer room walls upstairs blocking the view of inside the room. (You end up looking at a wall and a silhouette Mario.) The camera will not rotate through the wall with the C-stick. To regain inside room view Mario must move inward in the room OR the camera must be “reset” with the use of the Y-button or L Trigger (full press).

When attempting to put the camera behind Mario’s back to wall jump up the totem pole on the 2nd and 3rd floor the camera won’t move unless you L Trigger (full press). The camera will not maintain this forced position, so it should be quickly accompanied with the desired action. This isn’t an issue unless you plan on doing some advanced maneuvering.

Camera is fixed angle on stairwells.

II. Walls or Wall-like Structures.
The camera will not rotate through them with the C-stick. Use the L Trigger (hard press). [Note: having a wall disable camera movement is desirable for 2D-esque segments that require 180 degree turns such as the wall jumping sections on Noki Bay]

7. Structural Interaction and Obscuration
Level design affects camera. It is the walls that restrict camera movement as the camera is designed not to be placed with a wall between it and Mario. So a flat and barren terrain is much easier on a camera than one filled with various wall structures. Camera clipping reveals what is behind doors or otherwise destroy realism by producing transparent models or total view obstruction. In other games the camera will scrunch up close over-the-head of the character to stay within the enclosed space. It may even bounce around.

I. Silhouette Mode
When Mario is obscured by a structure his body becomes a silhouette. This allows you to keep track of your position better. It is great for when your view is partly blocked but you can still see the path to go towards. Doesn’t make much a difference if your view is totally blocked.

II. Walls (low & high)
For low walls zoom out the camera and it will go over the wall allowing for rotation.
For high wall move away from the wall or zoom in the camera to do a small rotation around Mario. If that doesn’t work the L Trigger (hard press) will snap to whatever view you want.

III. Indoor (building, stairs, etc.)
Tends to be static camera anyway due to clipping or wall detection. A zoomed out view works the best.

The above hotel floor will be obscured as black until moving up high enough above the lower floor.

IV. Tightly constricted space & other blocked views by terrain/environment
(sewer pipes, attic, overpasses, crevice spaces)

The camera view will become a large pinhole around Mario in a semi-transparent blue screen when obstructed on a level that boxes the camera tightly in (i.e. sand dune small rooms). Works well as an artistic effect to cover up clipping the camera through structures.

V. Closely spaced platforms

Descending jumps on closely spaced platforms work best zoomed out (over head camera) or sideways view will properly display the gaps. When there are platforms that are of lowered height the higher platform obscures the view of the space between them.

8. Inconsistencies
I. Disabled technique – Athletic Courses
No L Trigger (soft press) function

II. Clipping – Pinna Park, Delfino Airstrip, Athletic Courses, Delfino Plaza
Waterfall in Pinna Park – In other levels the camera hit-detection is enabled to stop upon wall contact, but this level lets you clip the camera through everything. Due to this change the player is caught off-guard; I know I was. If you stay on the guided path flipping the grated tiles there should be no problems on the waterfall. If Mario gets close to a wall the camera can obscure your view depending on how close the camera is to it. If you decide to go behind the grated tiles this leads to a unique camera obscuration of having your view blocked by a wall if you are zoomed out. The best vantage point is to keep the camera panned forward or slightly sideways facing the waterfall wall or zoomed in facing outwards from the waterfall wall otherwise your view will gets obstructed. As always manually rotating the camera solves this problem. There is no inescapable obscuration, just keep your camera movement within the 3-sided box level design.

Delfino Plaza and Delfino Airstrip have one tower that can be rotated through. Oddly enough before the 2nd-shine the hitbox detection on structures is entirely disabled in Delfino Plaza.

Silhouette mode lets you see Mario when obscured, so why disable the camera’s wall detection? It seems to be a difference on how to display the worlds modeled after real world locales and worlds of the abstract type ala athletic courses. There is a different level of realism demanded for each. My theory on Pinna Park despite being the former is that without clipping enabled the camera would lock on to the opposite wall like it did in Hotel Delfino’s rooms which would cause frustration in using the L Trigger (full press) or Y Button to override the wall lock.

9. Miscellaneous
The camera will zoom in and lock Mario at a 45 degree angle to whoever Mario engages communication with.

10. Explanation For The Camera Complaints

We notice things that don’t work. We don’t notice things that do. We notice computers, we don’t notice pennies. We notice e-book readers, we don’t notice books.

– Douglas Adams, “The Salmon of Doubt.”

I. The Difference of Complaints
The most slandered videogame camera of all time. Here is what you will find reading message boards and various reviews online:
(1) It is terrible, (2) It is worse than SM64’s camera, (3) Worst camera ever in game, (4) The deadliest enemy in the game, (5) Simple tasks become a burden because of it, (6) Camera was not properly play-tested, (7) Messy and unreliable, (8) Silhouette Mario is commonplace outside tunnels, (9) There are blind leaps

All of which any player of skill could demonstrability prove to be false.

II. The Difference of Gamers ~Are you experienced?~
How did this person experience the game compared to how I experienced it. There were many ways that Super Mario Sunshine was experienced. For instance:
• The handicap gamer is a person that suffers from visual impairment. Their spatial awareness disability prevents them from properly judging jumps in 3D.

The handicap cannot overcome their disability from what I know:

[Soundtrackcentral member]: “It had one of the worst cameras I’ve ever seen in a game and I found it impossible to judge my jumping.”

III. The Different Handling of A Bad Experience

“When I get to the climbing section behind the ferris wheel, the camera really starts doing what it wants to, which is usually the exact opposite of what I need it to do. I’ve never had more moments where my vision is restricted to that tiny circle due to the camera being “behind a wall” than I have with this particular section of the game right here.”

“That’s the only part of the game where I’ve found the camera to be truly terrible.”

“Yeah, the camera in that section has led me to a few bouts of thumping my controller in rage. Good thing it’s so sturdy!”


Pinna Park – The two words that always come up when one wants to write off all the positive additions the camera system has provided players. While I struggled with that one Pinna Park waterfall mission my first playthrough, as I explained in this extensive write-up on SMS’s camera, Pinna Park waterfall area was a unique situation that had three potential sources of camera frustration unlikely to all be avoided.

While I can realize that I was at fault then with how I maneuvered the camera there, the strength of a camera system and player skill is being able to make improvements. I improved. A lot. Pinna Park went from being a roadblock to a non-issue. Today I consider this section to be rite of passage for players.

IV. The Difference of Vert1
With all that written it is time for me to destroy slander. Witness the power.

Fran Mirabella III: “…but a large part of the design calls for using the C-stick constantly.”
Tom Bramwell [Eurogamer reviewer]: “The camera always needs minute adjusting, and so you feel like you’re playing with two thumbsticks and not one”


When experienced drivers steer, they don’t lock their hands on the wheel in one fixed position; they turn it slightly to the right and to the left to keep the car on course. Even on a straight road, the car stays on course only a small percentage of the time. Drivers must make constant adjustments, many of them almost imperceptible.

The auto-rotation around structures alleviates a lot of manual turning. He should know to make camera adjustments before jumping to improve landing accuracy. Bramwell’s complaint makes it sound like controlling Mario and the camera are like a player doing a double play run of Ikaruga.

If the player is going to move Mario on the ground or air and change camera angles the most reliable method is to keep Mario moving in a straight line (hold down the analog stick in one direction) while turning the C-stick one direction to the side.

Jeff Gerstmann [Gamespot reviewer]: “The game is slow to auto-correct the camera angle when you change direction, and as a result, you really have to stay on top of the C stick to make sure you can see what you need to see.”

“And behave badly it does – frequently the camera will chose to shift about by as much as 180 degrees, playing hell with any care you may have taken to align your perspective on a difficult jump.”

The camera does not move in the direction you are going at a fast speed to prevent jerky camera movement (i.e. SM64’s R-cam when turning). This maintains the Mario feel (more on this later) differentiating itself from Diddy Kong’s jetpack in DK64, which allowed you to whip yourself around. The next part shows that if you want to make life hard for yourself no one can stop you. He later cites how bad the camera auto-rotation is during the final boss battle. The camera is locked on to Bowser and if you turn it away from Bowser (180 degrees) it snaps back the equivalent degree change to face Bowser. Of course having no lock-on is the superior choice, but facing away from the boss to look off out at nothing but air as that reviewer seems to want is poor strategy.

Jason Venter [HonestGamers reviewer] wrote: “. . . or fighting the high-maintenance camera while completing one of the retro stages mentioned earlier. It’s a shame.”

This is from a reviewer who has been playing games for 30 years. Looks like playing games for decades does not automatically equate to the capability of playing 3D platforming games well (i.e. Matthewmatosis’ review of Super Mario Sunshine). Players get increased responsibility over camera handling but at no point will a competent player struggle in athletic courses, which are removed from any cramped space a camera could possibly get stuck in or obscured.


1. Why was the L Trigger (soft press) function removed on athletic courses? Was it due to that being connected to default camera movement to re-orient the camera behind Mario and problems that could occur from that? – ANSWER: Most likely the camera system was limited both with the aforementioned function decrease and camera hit box disabling on structures due to the developer wanting to avoid unintended camera rigidity caused by structural interaction, and because the narrowness of the levels makes automated turning functions less beneficial.

2. How challenging was it managing auto-rotation around structures?

3. How challenging was designing the camera for the Pinna Park area behind the ferris wheel, other tightly spaced level areas, and other complex levels?


Two Wavebird Wireless Controllers set to the same channel; P1 controls Mario as normal, P2 controls the camera (C-stick).

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