Paper Mario: The Origami King is so close I can almost touch it. According to a new interview with Nintendo EPD Producer Kensuke Tanabe and others involved in its development, that’s not a coincidence, as the team uses real-world materials to get the feel right on Paper Mario games. Speaking with VGC, the Nintendo veteran discussed a number of things, from making the game feel at home on the Switch to arts and crafts to creative restrictions and more. But his comments about Mario character creation were perhaps most interesting.
When asked about how to make an iconic villain that could “stand alongside all-time greats like Bowser and Kamek,” Tanabe brought up a design prohibition:
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.
This means that nowadays, the team couldn’t create a character like Goombella from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. That’s kind of sad, considering that adding a feature like a hat or some hair can make a mook stick out from the crowd and get us to love them. While they worked extra hard on making Bobby the Bob-omb lovable in Origami King, it’s a little crazy to think that they wouldn’t have been allowed to give him a tacky tie or something.
Additionally, they’re not allowed to create characters that “touch on the Mario universe.” I read this to mean that they can’t create a character who is meant to stay in the main series canon. For example, Ollie and Olivia will never appear in any game outside of the Paper Mario sub-series. It seem that they’re also prohibited from creating, for example, a class of enemies like a purple Koopa Troopa that throws punches.
The logic behind all of this may stem from an old Iwata Asks for Super Mario: Sticker Star, where Tanabe explained: “Aside from wanting us to change the atmosphere a lot (for Sticker Star), there were two main things that (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san said from the start of the project—’It’s fine without a story, so do we really need one?’ and ‘As much as possible, complete it with only characters from the Super Mario world.'” You may or may not agree with Miyamoto’s reasoning, but that’s the way it is.