Editor’s Note: As noted by the lack of shadow under the Toads and other inconsistencies, the Toads have been added to the above screenshot. You can find the unedited screenshot here.
Paper Mario: The Origami King producer Kensuke Tanabe has revealed that “it’s no longer possible to modify Mario characters or to create original characters that touch on the Mario universe” for Paper Mario games.
Some fans of the series had taken issue with how ever since Paper Mario: Sticker Star, there seemed to be less variety in the designs of characters and NPCs.
The first game, Thousand Year Door, and Super Paper Mario had the Toads and other classic Mario characters in unique costumes, along with entirely new races to the Mario universe.
However, in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, all Toads looked identical. Fans found that Color Splash featured more “generic” Toads, and the standard staple of Mario characters in their usual designs. This likely aided the mixed and luke-warm reaction gamers had to both titles [1, 2].
The “generic Toad” has almost become a symbol of the issues fans have with the modern Paper Mario games- accusations of simplified stories and moving away from being a true RPG- compared to the extremely positive reception of prior games [1, 2, 3]
Now, Tanabe has revealed a little more about the shift in design philosophy when speaking in an interview with Video Games Chronicle (VGC). Nintendo EPD’s assistant producer Risa Tabata told VGC how Tanabe learned from Nintendo designer, producer, and director Shigeru Miyamoto.
“The philosophy of game creation that [producer] Mr Tanabe learned from Mr Miyamoto, and that in turn he’s imparted to me, is to challenge yourself to create new gameplay. Games are entertainment, so I want the people who play our games to say ‘Wow!’ My understanding is that if we want to give players these positive surprises, we can’t do exactly the same thing that’s been done before.”
Tanabe explained that attempting to try something new was how this latest Paper Mario game was conceived. This came from the idea of one of the game’s first scenes; Mario discovering Peach folded up like origami. “As soon as that idea popped into my head, I knew we were going to be able to create a Paper Mario game unlike any that came before.”
Later, Tanabe addressed the concerns that some fans had with the direction the games had gone in.
“I do look through the opinions of fans once a game is released. As there are cases where I can’t address those opinions exactly as fans want, I try to challenge myself to other new, fun ideas. What I always keep in mind though is to do as much as I can so that players can enjoy new and unique game experiences. I’m confident that if you play Paper Mario: The Origami King, you’ll understand just how many ideas we’ve managed to pack into one game.”
However, Tanabe explains that Nintendo still listen for feedback, and tried to give something to both hardcore and casual gamers.
“First, Nintendo’s philosophy on game creation is that we don’t ignore casual players in creating our games. This is also true for games such as those in the Metroid Prime series; games that at first glance look like they are only aimed at core gamers. With that in mind, what we’ve done in the Paper Mario series is to put a lot of work particularly into the puzzle solving elements of the games, so that they can also be enjoyed by core users.
So, for example, in Paper Mario: The Origami King, players need to guess the weak points of bosses based on their characteristics and search for the solution to defeat them, otherwise they won’t be able to win these battles.
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.”
Of especial note was how Tanabe revealed that since Sticker Star, “it’s no longer possible to modify Mario characters or to create original characters that touch on the Mario universe.”
VGC: “Mario is famous for its iconic cast of villains. Can you talk about the new villain in this game and how you design a character to stand alongside all-time greats like Bowser and Kamek?”
Tanabe: “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.
Whether a character becomes an all-time hit or not isn’t up to us on the development side; I think it’s more the case that characters that fans truly accept naturally end up that way. I hope that the origami siblings in Paper Mario: The Origami King will stay in players’ memories, even if they do only end up appearing in this title.”
The reason why it is “no longer possible” was not elaborated upon, or pressed by the interviewer.
You can find the full rundown (via Nintendo) below.
A new paper-crafted Mario adventure unfolds on Nintendo Switch!
The kingdom has been ravaged by an origami menace! Join Mario and his new partner, Olivia, as they battle evil Folded Soldiers, repair the damaged landscape, and try to free Princess Peach’s castle from the clutches of King Olly in this comedy-filled adventure, only on the Nintendo Switch™ system.
Mario and Luigi receive an invitation from Princess Peach to attend an origami festival and excitedly hurry to Toad Town…but something’s amiss. After investigating the eerily empty town, the duo finds a fearsome (and folded) Princess Peach—she’s been turned into origami by King Olly, ruler of the Origami Kingdom! With five giant streamers under his control, King Olly binds Princess Peach’s Castle and transports it to a distant mountain as part of his plan to re-fold the world.
On his journey to liberate Peach’s Castle and repair the ravaged paper landscape, Mario meets Olivia, King Olly’s sister, and the two join forces to put a stop to Olly’s origami onslaught. Even Bowser falls victim to Olly’s plot when his minions are turned into origami Folded Soldiers and betray their Koopa king, forcing him to ally with Mario and Olivia!
Battle the Folded Soldiers in ring-based battles that challenge you to strategically line up enemies to maximize damage! Out of battle, Mario can use the arm-extending 1,000-Fold Arms ability in specific spots to interact with the landscape to pull, peel, hit, and more! Join Mario, Olivia, and their companions on a journey of laughter and emotion, thrills, and a whole lot of folding.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is available now on Nintendo Switch.