A new interview with the Paper Mario: The Origami King dev team has given us a very rare look behind the curtain at Nintendo. A lot of fans have had questions about the direction of the Paper Mario series in recent years, and the tidbits shared in this interview certainly give some insight.
VGC talked to Nintendo EPD/Assistant Producer Risa Tabata to find out why Paper Mario games have been taking the direction of introducing new gameplay mechanics in recent installments, rather than being straightforward RPGs. Here's what Tabata had to say.
The philosophy of game creation that 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.
Nintendo doesn't want to just create new mechanics though. They want to make sure Paper Mario games are welcoming to all. Later in the interview, Nintendo's Kensuke Tanabe elaborates on this.
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.
This approach to casual players applies to storylines in the games as well. The efforts in recent games has been to create stories that aren't too cluttered, and stick close to the Mario universe. Tanabe shares his thoughts on that below.
In Super Paper Mario, the elaborate story led the game away from the Mario universe, so since Paper Mario: Sticker Star I’ve refrained from using stories that are too complicated. Personally, though, I like games with stories. During the production of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, we made use of a system for character settings and real conversations in order to build the story, which was a first for a game in a series. (I also wrote the text for this game.)
To go back to Mario, in Paper Mario: Color Splash, I avoided having a complicated story so as not to veer too far away from the Mario universe, and instead aimed for a game with more memorable events. To create even more memorable experiences for players, in Paper Mario: The Origami King we’ve established some characters other than the partner character who will also journey with players through the game. In particular, I think that Bobby (Bob-omb) has turned out to be just as memorable a character as Olivia.