The Paper Mario franchise has evolved quite a bit since its debut 20 years ago. The N64 and GameCube entries were RPGs, but ever since then, Intelligent Systems has been shaking things up. Each new entry has overhauled the battle system of the last, with mixed results. Speaking with PCGames, producer Kensuke Tanabe discussed the risks involved with this level of experimentation, including harsh criticism from players.
When we implement a new or unique system into a game, we have no idea if the players will like or not until the game is released. As such, there’s always a certain amount of risk when implementing new systems. However, when you try to avoid such risks, it’s impossible to surprise or impress players, in my opinion. When you fail, you will be criticized harshly – something I’ve experienced myself lately. Still, it’s one of my core principles as a game designer to take on challenges, even if they’re associated with certain risks.
Despite occasional waves of harsh criticism, Kensuke Tanabe is not deterred in his approach. As he explained in the interview, he looks to make each Paper Mario game unique and innovative. This includes reworking the battle system for each new release, for better or worse. Origami King has the highest average review score of any game in the series since The Thousand-Year-Door, so it seems the series is finally starting to trend back towards a positive and receptive fan base. That said, it doesn’t sound like those hoping for a true return to form will ever get their wish.
If you’re not married to the RPG mechanics of old, Origami King is a solid Paper Mario game. If you’re looking for that classic experience, you should check out the stellar indie game Bug Fables. It is not shy at all about its goal of being a true successor to The Thousand-Year-Door.