Paper Mario

In the lead up to E3 we'll be doing a series of features covering game franchises that we want to make an appearance at the show, and what we'd like to see out of a potential next entry in each series. In this article Nintendo Life editor Tom Whitehead makes the case for a particularly popular one in the Rumour Mill, Paper Mario.

If you like perusing unsubstantiated E3 rumours in some dark corners of the internet, you'll have seen Paper Mario for Wii U mentioned an awful lot. Anyone fabricating a Digital Event script typically slots it in about mid-way through, also known as the Yoshi's Woolly World spot from now on - middle of the show, a big game to catch attention while not being quite thrilling enough to work as a grand finale.

There's plenty of logic behind Paper Mario making an appearance on the Wii U, which explains its ever-present nature in the rumour mill. Some key factors:

  • Three consecutive home consoles have had a Paper Mario game since its Nintendo 64 début
  • The 3DS already had Paper Mario: Sticker Star in 2012
  • It's now been eight years since Super Paper Mario arrived on Wii, so we're due a new entry

On the flipside series developer Intelligent Systems has been incredibly busy in recent times, primarily on 3DS titles. It brought us the sadly poor-selling Code Name S.T.E.A.M., has recently completed Fire Emblem If for the Japanese release and also brought us Fullblox / Stretchmo on the 3DS eShop. It's been a packed period for the studio.

Such is the nature of Nintendo's teams and those of its subsidiaries that multiple projects are undoubtedly underway at once, and it's certainly possible that a separate team within Intelligent Systems prioritises Wii U titles. There's also the potential - though perhaps unlikely in this case - that the franchise will be moved to another studio; Next Level Games is one example, a company focused on un-named Nintendo projects that's proven itself capable of producing terrific results on established IPs.

Paper Mario Sticker Star

In any case, I think a Wii U entry in the franchise is probably more likely than a second 3DS arrival, especially as it'd help tick a box in the home console's library and keep a group of fans happy. It's an IP arguably best-suited to home consoles, in any case, and fans of quirky RPGs on Nintendo's portable should probably be checking out Mario & Luigi: Dream Team anyway. Sticker Star, it should also be noted, wasn't universally loved, in any case, criticised for a comparative blandness compared to its predecessors and also the occasionally un-balanced sticker mechanic. I for one liked it, but it did lose me as the hours wore on, with some of the sticker 'puzzles', in particular, getting increasingly illogical and frustrating as it rolled on.

If Paper Mario does come to Wii U, what should we expect? That's a trickier one to answer, as the Wii entry ditched the turn-based battles of its predecessors in favour of real time platforming, its main gimmick being the ability to switch from 2D to 3D. It was certainly clever and creative, but I for one would welcome a return to turn-based battles - the release of the original Paper Mario on the Wii U Virtual Console served a reminder of how solid those initial foundations are. Let's not forget that Sticker Star brought back turn-based battles, too.

A mock-up we produced in early 2014
A mock-up we produced in early 2014

A fresh idea or twist, like in that Wii entry, would nevertheless be a smart move. This is a franchise that's relatively young at four games, and a clever hook would certainly help it to distinguish itself and captivate a decently-sized audience. We've actually contemplated this in the Nintendo Life team in the past - we once published a Nintendo Games We'd Love to See in 2014 feature which had a mix of recognisable fan-demands and few ideas we tried to make up. When considering the capabilities of the Wii U graphically, and its control options with the GamePad, we proposed Paper Mario: Origami.

The Paper Mario series is typically associated with lengthy RPG adventures, so we're suggesting a slightly more free-form, shorter quest. Taking some cues from Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive! but being far superior, this would include a fun adventure where Mario and chums solve puzzles and take on challenges not with stickers, but by crafting Origami on the GamePad screen. While the main game would be structured and help gamers along as they master touch screen crafting — it would be like a puzzle game when forming shapes — a custom option could allow for new Origami shapes and models to be formed from scratch or begun from templates representing the Paper Mario universe. A true Virtual Paper adventure that could make great use of Miiverse, too.

In hindsight I no longer like our pitch for a 'free-form, shorter quest', but the general idea of puzzle aspects through crafting and folding paper still appeals to me. A full-length Paper Mario adventure with a mechanic like that, and a fun creative name, could be a treat on the Wii U.

Artistically, this sort of concept would also play into Nintendo's modus operandi with Wii U - its games often blend a Pixar-style approach to chunky models and bright colours, while in games like Splatoon and Yoshi's Woolly World it's thrived on recreating interesting textures in HD. Woolly World - following on from the lovely Kirby's Epic Yarn - is a notable example, and though it's a Good Feel project, the expertise throughout Nintendo in creating attractive textures continues to grow.

Alternatively, and in the interests of trouble-free development and a nippy turnaround, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems could serve up a back-to-basics adventure that sticks to the established strengths of the series. More of the same, but in HD, and by that token those creating fake footage of Paper Mario on 3DS could also have a point; why work on a Wii U game when the Sticker Star engine can be re-purposed for a release on the significantly more successful portable?

Whatever the case, this E3 could have a lot of Mario in it. It's the 30th Anniversary of Super Mario Bros., so thoughts naturally turn to another full Mario title - either 2D or 3D. There could be a place for Paper Mario, however, to bring a slightly different dynamic to the Wii U.