Paper Mario was undoubtedly a classic. The N64 game took the lovable companion characters and exotic new worlds of Super Mario RPG and gave it a fresh papercraft aesthetic and a wonderful battle system that balanced strategy with fun. The GameCube sequel, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, was even more impressive as it gave the series a much darker tone with far more memorable moments and worlds. Super Paper Mario on the Wii was quite a departure with the gameplay resembling a 2D platformer and disappointed many fans as a result, but we think there was a lot to love with its writing and exploration.
Unfortunately the later games couldn’t really hold a candle the originals. Both Sticker Star and Color Splash featured overly gimmicky battle systems and more generic worlds. While they did clever things with the paper aesthetic they really did feel tired in comparison to the first three games.
One day we may get a true return to form. And according to some official business by Nintendo this may be a reality. Here’s everything you need to know about Paper Mario Switch.
What to Expect
According to blog Japanese Nintendo, Nintendo have applied for trademarks for the purposes of “video game program” and “downloadable video game program.” Those trademarks are Mario Tennis, Mario Party, Dr. Mario, Punch-Out!!, and of course Paper Mario.
Now this doesn’t tell us much other than the fact that Nintendo is interested in refurbishing their hold on these intellectual properties. This could point to brand new games in these franchises or rereleases of old games. It could be very well that Nintendo doesn’t do anything with these trademarks at all.
Let’s start with the possibility of rereleases of old games. According to Eurogamer, GameCube games will reportedly come to the Switch’s Virtual Console with the first three allegedly being Super Mario Sunshine, Luigi’s Mansion, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. The Thousand-Year Door is without doubt the most beloved entry in the series, so if it is true that GameCube games are coming to the Switch via Virtual Console then it would make sense for Nintendo to take the GameCube classic and put it up there in the next wave of games.
As for the possibility of a brand new game, that’s likely as well. Since appearing on the N64, the series has had exactly one entry on every subsequent console as well as the 3DS. So the Switch would be the next system up.
But the big questions is whether or not the new game will resemble the generic, gimmicky entries of Sticker Star and Color Splash or the classic original and The Thousand-Year Door. But to explore that, we have to dive into why the series became the way it is today.
Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto’s word carries a lot of weight in Nintendo, and why wouldn’t it? He’s a legendary creator and a talented designer. But Miyamoto is often blamed for telling developer Intelligent Systems to make everything look the same and to oversimplify battling for Sticker Star and Color Splash. But as YouTubers Arlo and SuperMarioT explain, that’s not the whole story.
While Intelligent Systems were behind all the Paper Mario games, the projects were all lead by different people. The first three games were directed by Ryota Kawade who is credited with making the games what they are today. Then Kensuke Tanabe took over as producer starting with the third game and is largely credited with introducing the systems that made Sticker Star and Color Splash so infamous. In an interview with Game Informer, he went on record as to saying that he was developing the game for seven to 10-year-olds in mind.
As Arlo explains, while Miyamoto may have told the team to not make the games resemble The Thousand-Year Door and to use only early Super Mario character designs (which Tanabe accepted because they were his characters and he wanted to respect them), he did not say to make all the NPCs toads, to make battling pointless, or to introduce a lot of things that many fans agree were not good decisions. That’s on Tanabe and his team.
In addition, only about 10 percent of the original Paper Mario staff moved on to help develop Sticker Star and possibly even less moved on to develop Color Splash, according to Arlo.
But there is some hope that the series could change. Color Splash may have been more of the same from Sticker Star but you could see an attempt at creating more interesting locales and writing. Tanabe himself in the same Game Informer interview said that if the team has a chance to continue with the series, he think’s they’ll want to create new mechanics. But the biggest ray of hope, at least according to Arlo, is because of changes within Nintendo as they embraced the Switch.
The general producer of the Nintendo Switch and the deputy general manager of Nintendo’s recently established Entertainment Planning & Development Division is Yoshiaki Koizumi. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s pretty much the reason you love Nintendo’s most creative projects so much. Along with helping to create the revolutionary Z-Targeting system in Ocarina of Time, Koizumi was behind the stories for Link’s Awakening, Majora’s Mask, and Super Mario Galaxy. The most memorable moments from those games were thanks to him, from pretty much the entirety of Link’s Awakening’s story including the island and dream concept to the falling moon of Majora’s Mask (which came to him in a dream) and the reunion of Kafei and Anju as well as Rosalina’s backstory in Super Mario Galaxy. For Link’s Awakening in particular, he was reportedly told by his superiors that story shouldn’t play a major role in a video game but he did have the freedom to do what he wanted as long as it “didn’t make Miyamoto angry” so he sneaked in the story elements without them knowing.
His influence can be felt even today. Do you know how Super Mario Odyssey returned to the core 3D Mario gameplay that began with Super Mario 64 and featured some interesting story elements? Well Koizumi was one of the producers for the game. While Miyamoto served as executive producer, Koizumi along with director Kenta Motokura and fellow producer Koichi Hayashida were allowed to go crazy and what we got was not only the best Mario game in years but one of the best games ever period. This is just one part of a bigger paradigm shift for Nintendo as they allow their developers to be more experimental with the arrival of the Switch and create games that their fans actually want to play.
While Miyamoto emphasizes the power of simplicity and fun game design over story, Koizumi clearly recognizes the power of adding story and depth to a game to make audiences engage with games on a much deeper level. Koizumi becoming one of the people most responsible for how Nintendo develops games and runs itself is the best bit of hope for a proper Paper Mario sequel we could ask for. The attitude of returning to one’s roots in a fresh, new way and emphasizing story and depth over weird gimmicks is just the kind of attitude the series needs for a proper reboot.
We’d be remiss to talk about Nintendo’s changing structure and philosophy and not mention how company president Tatsumi Kimishima is stepping down with long time Nintendo employee Shuntaro Furukawa taking the reins. Furukawa has hinted that he’s not afraid to think differently from tradition, according to Fortune. “I grew up playing the Famicom and come from that generation,” he said in a news conference. “Now as a member of management with Super Mario’s creator Shigeru Miyamoto, I have a lot of respect for him. On the other hand, with this new job that can’t just be it, so I expect to say what needs to be said to run the company.”
Now being a second-party developer, Tanabe and his team at Intelligent Systems might not fully embrace this idea of returning to one’s roots while also pushing the boundaries of what those roots can do. He did tell Game Informer that he doesn’t give much thought to how they’re leaving old methods behind in any series and how he prioritizes thinking about how they can build a new methods and elements. But with Koizumi at the helm of development for the Switch it’s possible that his advice and influence could impact the direction of the next Paper Mario. Furukawa could also appoint Kawade the director again or give the role of director and producer to some other people who understand what people want from a Paper Mario game.
When to Expect It
It’s unrealistic to expect a new Paper Mario game right away. Intelligent Systems still have yet to give a full reveal trailer for Fire Emblem 2018 let alone release it. That along with the fact that so many other high profile Nintendo properties are releasing in 2018 from Super Smash Bros. to Yoshi, we’re thinking that an announcement for a new Paper Mario game would happen sometime in 2019. The only Nintendo game confirmed for release so far in 2019 is the 3DS remake of Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story.
Now maybe all of this is wishful thinking. Maybe we’ll never get another Paper Mario game and even if we did, maybe it will be just as boring as Sticker Star and Color Splash. But considering the direction Nintendo has been moving in and the influence of its newly appointed higher ups, there is still hope for a true Paper Mario sequel.
Even during the reveal trailer for Color Splash, people were voicing their disappointment over the current direction of the series and it’s never been louder. It’s time for Nintendo and Intelligent Systems to listen to those voices.
What do you think of our predictions and speculations? Do you think the series will return to its roots? Do you hate us for thinking Super Paper Mario was good? Let us know in the comment section below.