With the game already out in Europe and Japan and coming to the US on the 22nd of January, you may be wondering what went on in the development of Mario & Luigi Paper Jam. Why was Paper Mario introduced? What’s the point behind the papercraft battles? What led to the lack of the original characters in the game?
Well if so, you’re (somewhat) in luck, since Nintendo Dream (a Japanese Nintendo magazine) had an interview with producer Akira Otani, director Shunsuke Kobayashi and battle team director Jun Iwasaki about the game! The original was in Japanese, but a great website called Nintendo Everything translated parts of the interview, which we’ll be commenting on below. Let’s see what went into the development of Paper Jam!
On Paper Mario’s inclusion
The layout of controlling Mario with the A button and Luigi with the B button has been established in the series, but this was the first game in which we decided to add into the formula and use three buttons, even though the controls may became a bit complicated…
The Y button is the easiest button to reach after A and B buttons, and we looked for characters that can perform actions by using these three buttons. Although it would be attractive to use a character that has already appeared in the series, I thought that it probably wouldn’t feel fresh, and then it came to my mind that it would be interesting if Mario and a Mario-like character coexisted.
Above: Note that some parts of the quote have been skipped over. But the point remains the same.
So there’s that word again, ‘fresh’. As someone who’s read about Donkey Kong Jungle Beat and its development, I’ve learnt to read between the lines and see ‘fresh’ or ‘original’ as a Nintendo code word for ‘more New Super Mario Bros please’.
Seriously though, it’s interesting that they talk about ‘looking for characters that can perform actions using these buttons’, since we’ve already had just that. Partners in Time had you control the baby Mario bros with X and Y, and Bowser’s Inside Story had you control Bowser with them. So hasn’t the mechanic of a character being controlled by these buttons already been done before in the series?
Above: Note the presence of the X and Y buttons in these instructions…
Above: Bowser also uses the X and Y buttons when attacking or dodging.
The only difference here is that Mario, Luigi and Paper Mario are on screen moving about at the same time.
I also wonder why they talk about a character who’s already appeared not being ‘fresh’, yet decide to use another form of Mario instead of… I don’t know, a totally new character we’ve never seen before. Or a more well known, interesting Nintendo star, like Wario or Donkey Kong or the likes. So… not quite getting the whole logic behind Paper Mario here.
That said, there is talk of a ‘contrast between three dimensional and flat’, which seems more likely a reason than any ‘newness’ the idea might have.
Otani: Some people who played the previous game commented that movement on the field felt a bit slow, and it was decided in an early development phase that we’d introduce dash instead of increasing the movement speed. Originally if you didn’t push the A, B and Y buttons with a good rhythm within a fixed time, you couldn’t dash and you’d stop soon if you couldn’t keep up with it. We created this system as we thought the continued input was interesting even though it was a bit complicated, but when we brought it to Miyamoto, he said: “That’s too much trouble, one button is fine.
Seems fairly reasonable. The last couple of games did feel rather slow to control and a dash button is definitely something that was needed in the series.
And oh, I’m definitely glad they went with just using one button. I mean, Mega Thwonk is a great attack, but something like that for simply moving around the field quicker would just become very annoying fast.
Above: Mega Thwonk in action. It’s rhythm gameplay is fun, but only for short periods of time
On the concept of the game…
I thought a festival-like feel would be nice since characters of two worlds appear. I think perhaps the biggest concept was how to express festive feeling during the fun adventure of two Marios and Luigi.
Shame we didn’t get more interesting characters from the Paper Mario side of things. If characters ‘of two worlds’ are appearing, why aren’t Kammy Koopa or Mario’s partners or the Star Spirits or Merlon or whoever appearing in this game?
Above: This is also Paper Mario you know.
Since when did ‘Paper Mario’ equate to ‘only Sticker Star’?
On a more positive side, there’s a neat point about the papercraft battle concepts a bit later in the interview:
Otani: The base form of papercrafts was drawn in an early proposal that was made by AlphaDream, but it was sort of like portable shrines [which are carried in festivals] crashing into each other.
So it’s a bit like the floats in say, the Macy’s Thankgiving Day Parade fighting in gladiatorial combat. Which, let’s face it, would make these parades a whole lot more exciting than they are at the moment. That said, it’s definitely an interesting change from the giant battles in the last game, though the atmosphere needs improvement in these battles. I mean, what gets you more excited for a battle… these two themes from Dream Team or these two from Paper Jam?
Giant Battle Themes
Papercraft Battle Themes
Above: The former two are like ‘I’m going to die horribly’, the latter two are ‘this sounds like a somewhat exciting mini game’.
Aside from that, this comment about the Paper Toads confuses me:
In the beginning Toads really said “Heave-ho!”, but when we tried our luck and showed it to Miyamoto, we were told “This can’t be introduced outside of Japan.”
Why couldn’t Toads say ‘heave-ho’ outside of Japan? There’s nothing wrong with the phrase as far as I can see, even the dictionary just says it’s ‘a cry emitted when doing actions that take physical effort’.
Were they scared that people would think the Toads were talking about people getting fired? Or was something lost in translation here?
Either way, it’s an interesting read, though the interview carefully seems to leave out questions about the difficulty curve, the NPC character choices, the lack of ‘deep’ storyline or anything else that people might actually be wondering. If you want to see the rest of it (or at least, whatever bits that Nintendo Everything decided were worth translating), you can read their translation at the following link:
So what do you think? An interesting look at Mario & Luigi Paper Jam’s development? Or did you think the questions asked weren’t perhaps the best choices?