Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Jul 172020

Paper Mario: The Origami King is out today… although I didn’t get it yet.

When it was first announced, I considered getting it at launch, but after finally playing Color Splash and learning that Origami King is still definitely not an RPG, I decided to wait. I’ve heard enough interesting things to make me curious about it, but not enough to buy it at launch.

Anyway, with Origami King being another iteration of the “new” Paper Mario series and potentially another step toward having a solid Paper Mario story again, fans have continued to question if Paper Mario will ever return to its roots.

That answer is no, judging by a recent interview the producers and director had with VGC. The fan response to this interview has mainly involved complaints, arguments, and a lot of confusion, so let’s take a look at this strange and perplexing discussion of the Paper Mario series.

First, the interview addresses how gameplay continues to change with each game, and producer Risa Tabata explains how they want to change it every time to surprise players. Then she discusses the paper aspect:

The idea for origami came out of this process of challenging myself to try something new. The theme running through the Paper Mario series is paper, so I was working with Intelligent Systems to think up paper-based ideas that hadn’t yet been used. Intelligent Systems suggested the idea of confetti, and I suggested the idea of origami.”

So if you’re tired of the paper obsession in recent entries, it’s probably not going away. In fact, that sounds an awful lot like the first step in coming up with a new Paper Mario game nowadays is to think of a new paper theme. The emphasis on Mario’s paper world full of paper people who know they’re paper is here to stay.

Next up was the question of RPG elements, although the interviewer framed it as “hardcore” fans wanting RPG elements and “casual” fans wanting it to be “approachable.”

This view is flawed from the start, because there’s nothing about basic RPG elements that makes a game unapproachable. The original Paper Mario games were already “approachable” and playable by kids. Pokémon is another example of an RPG that is perfectly accessible.

Who is looking at the original Paper Mario as some hardcore, unapproachable game?

Producer Kensuke Tanabe handles that question by saying they don’t want to ignore casual fans, and that the puzzles are there for the hardcore fans. He goes on to say:

This is an adventure game after all, so it wouldn’t be right if the battles didn’t also have some kind of puzzle solving element! (Of course, we’ve also added in a system for casual players where they can use coins in battles to get help from the spectating Toads.)

“However, I do think it’s difficult to satisfy certain fans with the adventure game direction if they think of Paper Mario games as simply being RPGs. I hope that everyone will play this game with an open mind.”

In other words, Paper Mario will never be an RPG again. We can stop waiting for experience points and leveling up to return. It’s a puzzle-solving adventure series that for some reason kept turn-based combat and keeps trying to find new incentives for battling without bringing back exp.

(And from what I’ve read online about Origami King, some of the combat puzzles can get pretty difficult and complicated, so why is this considered more casual than if Mario leveled up?)

After some questions about the origami character models and comedy elements, they ask about creating Paper Mario stories… and Tanabe’s basic answer is that he likes games with stories, but Super Paper Mario’s story distanced it too much from the Mario universe, so they’ve avoided complicated stories since then. Instead, they aim for “memorable events.”

But it’s the next question that really stirred people up, as the interviewer asks about King Olly and character design, and Tanabe explains:

Since Paper Mario: Sticker Star, it’s no longer possible to modify Mario characters or to create original characters that touch on the Mario universe. That means that if we aren’t using Mario characters for bosses, we need to create original characters with designs that don’t involve the Mario universe at all, like we’ve done with Olly and the stationery bosses.”


Really, what?

Yes, it’s an extension of what we already knew led to Sticker Star being… the way it was… and it’s once again spurred arguments about whether the blame lies with Miyamoto’s instruction to “complete it with only characters from the Super Mario world” or with Tanabe’s rigid interpretation of that instruction, but either way, it appears the Paper Mario team is under a mandate leading to the generic character designs of the modern games.

And that’s caused a lot of confusion, since you have entirely new characters like Olivia and King Olly.

Here’s my understanding of what they said in this interview: they can create wholly new characters, but they can’t alter established designs or create unique characters related to the Mario universe. In other words, Olly is fine because there are no existing origami people in the Mario world. Kammy Koopa would be unacceptable nowadays because she’s a uniquely-designed Magikoopa.

This seems to tie directly to my biggest complaint about the character designs in Color Splash – not that they were mostly Toads, but that they were all generic Toads in different colors, with no distinguishing features except maybe a hat. Origami King looks a little better in that regard, but still seems to go with the basic design + accessories.

It might even explain why Toadsworth hasn’t appeared in the newer Paper Mario games, because elderly Toads (along with visibly female Toads) are one of the things we’ve lost.

The rest of the interview just discusses hardware and the Samus helmet at the end of the first trailer, so the points mentioned above are the biggest things to take away from this perplexing interview.

Reading this was disheartening and confusing. I don’t know why they’ve made some of the decisions they have regarding Paper Mario. Some of them make no sense to me at all. I really don’t know what to think… except that we’ll probably never see a Paper Mario game that truly returns to its roots.

What did you think of the VGC Paper Mario interview?

If you want posts like this delivered straight to your inbox, enter your email in the box below to subscribe!

  6 Responses to “Making Sense of the Strange Paper Mario Interview”

  1. Normally I enjoy seeing interviews with the people behind the games because it gives me greater insight into their decisions and what goes into making them.
    This interview… left me feeling very sour after reading it.

  2. I think the interview is partly poisoned by the interviewer’s belief that TTYD was a “hardcore” battle system and Sticker Star and on are “casual”.

    I mean, Sticker Star has a very deep and complicated battle system, mechanically, that isn’t even documented anywhere (Mario Wiki is useless for Sticker Star) because much of it is superfluous since the optimal thing is to avoid enemies, and if you do get into battle, the enemies are so trivial that players won’t ever have to learn of the mechanics. Some of them are included in this thread:

    Another example of it being more complicated than its predecessor: There are THREE different ranges enemies can reside in: Ground, Low Altitude, and Air. In PM and TTYD, it was just Ground and Air. What are the properties of Low Altitude? No one’s documented it, really. It’s far from intuitive.

    You also almost need a guide to play through Sticker Star the first time because, as you’ve said before, it’s pretty much moon logic. PM and TTYD were much more mechanically approachable.

    So, yeah, the interviewer’s premise is flawed, though Tanabe’s answer sorta ignored him.

    • Yes, their assumption that Paper Mario and TTYD were hardcore compared to the newer one was an especially baffling part of this interview to me. I was also talking to someone about how an RPG is in some ways more accessible to casual players, because if you’re having trouble with the combat, you can grind levels until you’re stronger.

      • Well, I mean, the Paper Mario games mechanically go out of their way to discourage level grinding, so in this example, I don’t think that’s a valid example of accessibility.
        A casual player is much more likely to quit instead of grind 100 battles where they get 1 exp per battle just to get +5 HP.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>