Imagine this: it’s 2005, you put your copy of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door into the beast that is your Nintendo GameCube. You could drop that thing down a flight of stairs and it would be fine. You’re greeted with the cheery start menu as you name your file save something silly. Life is good.
Paper Mario Was Anything But Thin
Ever since I first played Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, I fell in love. I beat the game at least once a year and every time I do it’s an absolute joy. The game is colorful and so full of cheer. The supporting characters are fleshed out and compliment the silent protagonist that is Mario. From the second I was dropped off in Rougeport, I knew this game wasn’t the typical Mario adventure. The town was slightly run down and even the noose in the town center really seemed a bit serious for a Mario game. There are so many reasons that this game is such a gem. I can’t even describe the lasting impression this game has made on me. I can clearly remember the music from The Great Tree and Twilight Town in my head.
The different areas featured in each chapter are so memorable and different from each other than it feels like you finish an entire plot of a game when the chapter comes to a close. One chapter has you fighting in a tournament style fighting arena while another has you solving mysteries on a three-day train ride which is a clear nod to Murder on the Orient Express. The story of Twilight Town’s For Whom the Pigs Toll, was such interesting source material, that I used it as a basis for a book I once started to write. The battle system took place on a stage and there is a crowd that gives you star power that fills up your special move gauge. The crowd can even interact with you and some of the bosses even use the crowd to get health back or power up. Deep in the sewers of Rogueport are the Pit of 100 trials where Mario and company have to go through 100 different levels of enemies. There is no break and if you die then you could potentially waste hours of your time. There is, however, one thing that makes The Thousand Year Door, so special.
The RPG mechanics of the game.
Paper Mario was at first, a great RPG series. It built on the foundations of the first game so well. The combat was stylish (no pun intended) and fluent. It took some strategy and also some well-timed luck. The partners were quirky and each had a different gimmick that really helped in battle. Star power moves were each helpful in their own way and the crowd/stage system was absolutely brilliant. Managing HP and FP was fun and don’t even get me started on how good the badge point system was. Leveling up was pure joy.
So. . . what happened?
A few years back I picked up Sticker Star without doing any research on the game, and to my dismay, it was not the Paper Mario I fell in love with. It was just another classic Mario game with the paper aspect taped over it. There were no interesting partners and the RPG elements were absolutely gone.
There was no point in actually engaging in battle or collecting the stickers which were used for moves which always felt like a chore and was quite frankly, boring. Once I figured out what the game was, I dropped it. And I’ll probably never pick it up again. But once there was an announcement for a new Paper Mario on the Wii U, my hopes were rekindled. But all hope was once again lost when I check out the new game. It was another gimmicky, flashy Mario game that didn’t have anything left from the franchise I fell in love with. Many people consider the Paper Mario franchise to be one of their favorites and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door to be their favorite game of all time.
So why doesn’t Nintendo listen to their fans? There is so much outcry for this beloved series to return to it beautiful roots. Well, after a quick Google search,
it’s not hard to see that the series hit its peak sales point when Super Paper Mario when the series switched from RPG to more of an adventure game. Yes, one would think that developers would care what fans love and what they want, but money is obviously a huge factor when it comes to games. In the video game industry, people are silently voting with their wallet. A lot of people only buy a few games a year and some people might only buy one or two. Developers and publishers will take their game selling well as people saying they like it and that they support it and the company. Of course, companies listen to fan receptions and critical reception, but sadly, money runs the world folks. There is another fact that, if you’re a huge Mario fan, might be quite obvious. And that is the Mario & Luigi series. After the much loved Mario RPG game on the SNES, the series broke off into two parts, Paper Mario and the Mario & Luigi series. Risa Tabata, assistant director of Paper Mario Color Splash, stated that if we want to play a Mario RPG series, we have the Mario and Luigi series.
Ok, there’s just so much to unpack from this comment.
If Mario Can Play Tennis, He Can Be In An RPG Too
First of all, what’s wrong with having more than one RPG series for something as large as the Mario franchise?
There are 7 series of sports games in the Mario franchise with a total of 26 games along with the upcoming Mario Aces for the Switch. Nintendo has no problem making all these sports titles but is not okay with having 2 RPG series? There have been four Paper Mario games since the year 2000 and five Mario & Luigi games since 2003 for a total of nine. So far, there hasn’t been an over saturation for these games, people view these games in different ways, not everyone who likes Paper Mario, like Mario & Luigi. Just because a franchise or even a developer has the same type of game, doesn’t mean it’s an issue. Take Square Enix for example (the first rendition of their company made the original Mario RPG), they make a load of RPG series and they are always making more. Even games that they make that aren’t traditional RPG’s still, have elements of the genre. Square Enix has Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Kingdom Hearts and many other RPG games but that’s not stopping them from making the franchises that fans love and adore.
Another fact to point out is that the Mario & Luigi series is completely on handheld while all but one Paper Mario games is on consoles. Well, why not just stick to that? Paper Mario can be the console RPG series and Mario & Luigi can be the handheld one. If you’re a fan of both series than that just gives people more of a reason to buy both systems. Yea, its the big titles like the core Mario series, The Legend of Zelda and Smash Bros that are system sellers. But other fans will buy the systems for the smaller titles as well. I didn’t buy a Switch because Breath of the Wild was on it, I bought it because I knew there was a new Fire Emblem game coming out this year and because I knew I could play Stardew Valley on the go. I’m sure putting another Paper Mario RPG game on the Switch would sell a few million copies and would make some fans actually go out and buy a Switch. If Nintendo wants to please fans, I’ve heard some great ideas for what they could do. They could easily have both series and make them RPG’s while keeping the formulas that fans love while changing one certain aspect. Why not make the Mario & Luigi series into Wario and Waluigi? It would breath fresh air into one of the series while also keeping the humor that the Mario & Luigi series is known for as one could argue that Wario & Waluigi are solely in the Mario franchise for comic relief. It also gives a platform for the two characters to be more in the spotlight. Wario is kinda important in the Mario universe and he does have his own game series, but fans have been saying for years that Waluigi needs to star in his own game and this would be a nice compromise. Maybe others would disagree, but I think it would be a fantastic idea.
Peach Stolen By A Cake
When Nintendo and Intelligent systems made Sticker Star, Shigeru Miyamoto actually played it and commented that it just seemed like a carbon copy of The Thousand Year Door and that the story was too detailed. I gotta say… how is this a problem? Unless the game was exactly the same thing, this sounds like what fans want. As for a detailed story, this is one of the best parts of Paper Mario! The story of The Thousand Year Door is much more detailed and thought out than any mainline Mario games. Are fans really begging Nintendo for another game where Bowser steals Peach and he is the main enemy? I’d ABSOLUTELY love a Paper Mario where Peach somehow gets stolen by a cake (because if this is a good enough story for their sidescrollers, than it’s a good enough story for an RPG).
Super Paper Mario was criticized for its strange setting and character design, where the characters weren’t anything close to members of the mushroom kingdom or anyone in the previous games. The characters were creative but they were pretty much just random shapes that were put together to look like people. Nintendo than did a complete 180 in Sticker Star and it’s basically just a world full of toads. Than Color Splash was the same, these games lacked anything that makes the world feel lived in. Toads are not the only inhabitant of the mushroom kingdom. Apparently, a few months before Sticker Star came out, Miyamoto played the game and even called it boring. Was the game even changed THAT much before launch? Because I consider the game boring. Any game with a battle system that is meant for RPG’s but doesn’t give experience and is pretty much pointless and boring. I know I’m being hard on these games but I think that should show how much I absolutely loved the first two games.
If you’re a fan of the first two games and you want this beloved series to go back to its roots, then let your opinion be heard. Comment on message boards, in comment sections and hell, even tweet at Nintendo every damn day so maybe they will listen. You have power as a fan. You’re part of a large group who has the same view and passion and maybe Nintendo might just listen. They seem to be getting creative with some of their franchises like Breath of the Wild, Splatoon, and Arms. We are a community and what we say matters.