Let’s Interview: Paper Soul Theatre Developers Otyugra Games!

When it comes to indie games in development, some are more well known than others.

On the one hand, you have stuff like Shovel Knight, Shantae and the various Kickstarter disasters that have been released in the last year or two. These games are heavily promoted, have lots of articles written about them and usually end up with a decent amount of information about them online. They have hype behind them.

Paper Soul Theatre is not like this. Instead, some may almost consider it the exact opposite. Why? Because despite it being announced a while back and advertised on Paper Mario fan forums, almost no one knows much about the game itself. The game is like some sort of strange enigma. A phantom game we know exists, but know nothing about.

Until now. Because thanks to a bit of careful persuation, we’ve now managed to get a full interivew about the title courtesy of the folks at Otyugra Games. This includes real concept art, details on the story and mechanics and a ton more besides!

So if you’re interested in the game and wish to know exactly what it is, keep reading. Because this is one hell of an interesting game…

Let’s start with the personal stuff first, just to get it out the way. Who are you? Who is on the team at Otyugra Games?

My name is Matthew Kordon –thank you for interviewing me. Game development has been a hobby of mine for about seven years, and is now transitioning into an occupation. I became interested in game design as a kid when I discovered Super Mario Flash, a browser level editor that had a big community around it in its heyday.

Super Mario Flash
Matthew Kordon previously designed levels for Super Mario Flash in the past

Since then, I’ve worked to become a writer and music composer. I’ve also been drawing my whole life, and as a college student, I’m majoring in computer science.

Okay, sounds good. Anyone else working on the game? Because your site mentions a team…

Otyugra Games as a group of people has changed in size aggressively and repeatedly since the start, but momentarily, the people who help on the team are all what I would call Directors of Game Design who are mostly game writers secondarily.

Including me, there are 4 members.

Right then. Moving on a bit now, how did you first get interested in video games?

My first experience with video games was a 2003 leapfrog edutainment handheld system when I was about 7-years-old. I immediately fell in love with gaming and soon after, I began to play early 2000s kid-friendly computer games and got a Game Boy Advance. My first interaction with the Paper Mario series was in 2007 when Super Paper Mario came out, which was also my second experience with RPGs, the Pokémon series being the first.

Ed: Huh, that’s pretty interesting. Didn’t expect your first Paper Mario game to be Super Paper Mario…

Oddly enough, Super Paper Mario was the game that made me appreciate what videogames are capable of, but it wasn’t until I played TTYD a few years later that I wanted to make a game inspired by the original trilogy. Yeah, for a Nintendo game, Super Paper Mario had an arguably-surreal and very complex story with mature moments, which was a cut above the kind of stories I was used to at the time.

Yeah, it certainly had a unique story for a Nintendo game. Quick question on game development now though. Did you make any games before Paper Soul Theatre?

You betcha. I’m head Game Director, so naturally I’ve had practice. One of my early games is an unfinished point-and-click sci-fi game that was going to deal with the ethics of business on a galactic scale. What’s cool about that game, Everlasting Night, is that it was the inspiration for the 3 RPG classes that you choose between at the start of Paper Soul Theater. As stated before, the class you choose helps determine Aponi’s personality and dialogue options.

Additionally, I made a game called Meat Quest, which is like a tiny, comedic, postmodern version of Myst. Of all my games, I think that one had the most striking art. I made it for a competition and it did really well. I’ve also made a little puzzle platformer, and a strategy game that is basically a Chess-Fire Emblem hybrid.

A past game
A past game from Paper Soul Theatre lead developer Matthew Kordon

However, what exactly is the main gameplay setup in Paper Soul Theatre? Because the description on your site doesn’t say much about the game is actually played…

Paper Soul Theater is a subversive 3D turn-based RPG/platformer/survival horror video game, modelled after “Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door,” about a girl in a surreal fantasy world, and the allies she gains, who use peaceful communication, violence, spiritual help, and the power of ancient totems to stop crusaders from beginning a devastating war with her weak confederacy.

And the newer description isn’t really a whole lot clearer in that sense:

Paper Soul Theater: …is a 3D role-playing/ economics/ action-adventure videogame, modelled after “Paper Mario: Thousand-Year Door,” about a troubled girl and her nomadic allies, who use peaceful communication; violence; powerful ancient artifacts; and spiritual help to return home, all while discovering the true history of her world

Okay then. That’s something. Can you explain it in a slightly clearer way? Like, a way the average Joe on Reddit or NeoGAF can understand?

I think the clearest way to describe how Paper Soul Theater will play is by building off of Thousand Year Door’s gameplay description. Just like in TTYD, you move around “in the fields” to go from town to town, or from town to important location. Along the way, your party battles the corrupted “half-souls” who are cursed to walk the planet. Combat relies on weapon type advantages and Action Commands (interactions required of the player to land an attack or defend, often more complex than simply pressing buttons at the right timing).

Because the setting is a cross between medieval-fantasy, and indigenous-tribalism, melee weapons and magic are used to settle turn-based battles. However, there is a major twist. There are two win conditions in most (if not all) battles; all characters in a fight have both a health total and a Willpower total. If a foe’s Willpower reaches zero, they end their aggression often by running away (if they are unintelligent) or by surrendering (if they can talk).

Paper Soul Theatre mechanics
A general illustration of the battle system in Paper Soul Theatre.

Aponi Oru is the playable character, who you start the game with one of three RPG classes (defense expert, illusionist, and divine dancer). As Aponi, you can choose to fight physically, or use your RPG class abilities to make your opponent back down. The RPG class you choose at the start unlocks new content and changes Aponi’s personality, and it also doubles as a difficulty setting.

Three classes
The three classes you can choose in Paper Soul Theatre

Like in TTYD, and Paper Mario 64, you acquire partners on your journey who help you “in the field” and in battle. The player gets to choose Aponi’s dialogue and actions during slow moments and is capable of buying and selling with not just shop owners, but nearly half the people you meet. Trading goods (whether items useful in battle, food ingredients, or valuables) is a larger focus in our game than it was in TTYD. Just like TTYD, the world is broken up into a bunch of tiny sections as a way to curb our ambition. Lastly, our game features a textlog, which allows the player to see how Aponi’s thoughts and feelings. In battle it records information, like how much damage an attack did. Our game is expected to have systems nearly identical to TTYD leveling up, badges, and Flower Points.

Buying and Selling
Buying and selling items is a bigger focus here than in Paper Mario

Ah, that makes a bit more sense now. The willpower mechanic sounds like a really unique mechanic.

However, does it let you play the game as a pacifist, like Undertale?

That’s an excellent question. The team and I have pretty diverse and intense feelings towards both Undertale and pacifism. Believe it or not, the original concept for Paper Soul Theater back in mid-late 2015 was very similar to what Undertale turned out to be.

At the time, that was only a demo and a recently successful Kickstarter, so I and everyone I told about my concept had never even heard of Undertale at the time. Both games coincidentally star young girls in fantasy interactive-turn-based RPGS in which you can, as that character, choose to be nonviolent or violent to get your way. When Undertale was first released, I was extremely bitter but eventually I looked closer and started deeply appreciating what was new and excellent about it.

Regarding pacifism, I would say Paper Soul Theatre is a response to Undertale, rather than an echo. I’m going to leave it at that as to not spoil anything.

Onto another question now. Can you tell us a bit more about the game’s cast? Who does the game focus on?

Paper Soul Theater centers around Aponi, a troubled 14-year-old girl, and three friends that she makes on her journey back home. At the start of the game, she already found a friend in a nonhuman named Tuari. He follows Aponi at first because he’s deeply concerned about her safety, and the two of them are about the same age. Aponi’s land is governed by a pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, as well as the souls of the not-currently living, known to humans as paper souls. Two of these paper souls play a significant role in the story, but how is a spoiler. There are many species (races) living on Aponi’s planet who live desegregated. Any of these people can choose obedience to one of the many gods, and in that way, the gods play a significant indirect role.

Aponi, the main protagonist of Paper Soul Theatre

One thing we haven’t seen much of with Paper Soul Theatre is the art style. What kind of style are you going for here? Is it cel shaded? Paper Mario style sprites in a 3D environment? Something else?

It’s true that much of the art we’ve shown is of different styles, since we’ve been more loose about how we make concept art. Our game has two art styles. Environmental graphics (like the ground and sky), and stationary things (like trees and houses) all have a watercolor, soft, detailed art style, while everything else (like people and animals) have an art style similar to The Thousand Year Door, but with flat colors.

So it’s basically a bit like Skyward Sword’s backgrounds meet Paper Mario’s characters?

That’s a good comparison. We’re aiming for a mixure of Paper Mario’s cute simplicity, and a bit of realism/ detail.

And what interesting looking locations are you going to have in this game? Because one of the biggest things people like about Paper Mario is how each chapter has a unique style to it. Like Twilight Town or the Boggly Woods in the Thousand Year Door…

The imaginative places of TTYD are undoubtedly memorable, so I doubt Paper Soul Theatre will be able to match such an incredible accomplishment, but our plan is to maintain that each place is atmospherically distinct, and filled with interesting sights.

There is one point in which your party ventures through a forest beneath the surface of the planet filled with glowing life, strange stalagmites and albino creatures. I got that idea both from Iroquois Mythology and also the indie RPG Space Funeral.

The locales of TTYD have left a huge impression on all of us, but unlike for that game, the locations in ours will need to look as though they could exist near each other; Thousand Year Door was more of a story anthology than a single narrative.

At one point, PST was going have the entire art style change depending on where you are, but that was immediately scrapped.

Continue Reading…

New Sonic Mania Zone Spotted at Vegas’ Licensing Expo

When it comes to Sonic Mania, we’ve seen a fair few levels already. There’s been a desert level, based on a scrapped zone in the classic trilogy. A new take on Green Hill Zone, which is basically law for the franchise now. A city level set on skyscrapers called Studiopolis Zone.
Basically, we know about a decent amount of the levels. But now it seems another one has been seen too!

Yes, as the title suggests, footage of a mysterious new Sonic Mania level has been spotted at the Vegas’ Licensing Expo. This was found by a user called BionicBuzz on Twitter, who forwarded it onto BlueParadox to share the news online.

So here’s the latter’s tweet on the subject:

Plus a cleared up version of the pic courtesy of Source Gaming’s Nirbion:

As you can see, it seems to be a sort of… castle type environment. This is unusual for the Sonic series (especially in 2D), and has led to some interesting speculation about what exactly it means. These possibilities for the level include:

  • It being a hotel, based on the old fashioned décor and colour scheme
  • Or a water palace/temple.
  • Perhaps a laboratory of some kind, set in an old building. I mean, Eggman has certainly taken off lots of old structures like this before, hasn’t he?

Heck, I’ve even seen suggestions of it being a greenhouse or floating temple. Either way, it’s a unique zone concept, and one that wouldn’t fit too out of place in a Castlevania game. Like the one likely to be announced to go with the TV show!

But hey, what do you think? Does this mystery level interest you?

Post your thoughts on it here or on social media today!

Netflix Castlevania Show Gets First Trailer!

Remember that Castlevania TV show Netflix announced a while back? The one that was meant to be a tad edgier than the games themselves?

Well, it seems we’ve now got a trailer for it! Here it is courtesy of a tweet from Netflix LATAM:

As you can see, it looks absolutely brilliant. Yeah, there isn’t much footage there. But the stuff included really matches the feel of the series, and translates it to an animated TV show brilliantly. Heck, it’s certainly a far cry from the olden days of this:

Simon Belmont in Captain N

So yeah, the series looks promising now. Let’s just hope it maintains that promise with some interesting plotlines, well written characters and neat battle scenes too. And some music too. Can’t forget the classic Castlevania tunes here!

Still, what do you think? Are you impressed with what you’ve seen of the Castlevania TV show so far?

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle Proven Real, Artwork Released

A while ago, there was a rumour going around about a Mario/Rabbids crossover that Nintendo and Ubisoft were making. Set in the Mario universe after a Rabbids invasion, the game was apparently going to be an RPG/party game hybrid that pitted the Mario cast against Rabbids with designs based on them. It was silly, it was ridiculous, and if you were like me… you didn’t believe any of it.

Guess what though?

It seems like it’s actually real. Yep, as the title suggests, actual artwork, screenshots and details have now been leaked from this game showing it to be an actual thing. Here’s a general bit of art showing the characters along with their Rabbid counterparts:

Kingdom Battle Artwork

As well as a character list:

Kingdom Battle Characters

And a diagram showing some extra game details courtesy of Nintendo World Report:

Kingdom battle details

It all looks pretty interesting really. But how does the game actually work? How does it compare to Paper Mario or Mario & Luigi, Nintendo’s previous two Mario RPGs?

Well, isn’t that the million dollar question? Some aspects here suggest a more action based game. Like say, breakable terrain, dashing and unique abilities.

Others on the other hand suggest a more tactical game. Characters aren’t controlled directly, with Tuttorio being the playable avatar. Upgradable weapons indicate some serious RPG customisation elements. And well, with terms like archtypes, it seems very traditional in that sense.

So it could go either way. Still, some other interesting aspects include:

  • The upgradable equipment. This is very new for a Mario RPG.
  • As is multiplayer co-op. It’s in the platformers sure. But it’s never been in a Mario RPG either.
  • And if character abilities apply outside battle, that’s unique too.

So there are some intriguing new additions there.

Less intriguing though, is the possible lack of variety. That’s because according to the description, only 4 world environments exist in the game, along with ‘7 enemy archtypes’. This seems pretty low for a game like this, though might be made better by more unique seeming environments or enemies. Which admittedly, the blurry upscaled screenshot seems to show:

Upscaled Screenshot from Kingdom Battle

But either way, it seems like the Mario/Rabbids crossover is real. So what do you think of it? Are you interested in this game, based on what you’ve seen of it? Or is the concept itself still something that puts you off?

Post your thoughts here, on social media or our shared Gaming Latest forums today!


New Details About Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Nintendo World Report)

Recent Doctor Who Episode References Mario Series

A while ago, we mentioned an interesting Doctor Who reference in the recent Christmas special. But now it seems that’s not the end of the video game references in the series!

Oh no, in the latest episode of series 10 (Extremis), the Doctor is trying to explain why people are killing themselves in the illusion the episode is set in. He says that once they figured out reality is fake, they ‘rebel’ by ending their own lives, as a way to screw up the simulation.

And guess what he uses to illustrate this? Yep, none other than our favourite plumber Mario! Here’s a video showing the scene in action:

As well as the Doctor’s comment in the episode:

It’s like Super Mario realising he’s not real, and deleting himself from the game. Because he’s sick of dying.

As you can tell, it’s a pretty vague reference. Nothing quite as obvious as ‘flooding downstairs with Pokemon’ like in The Return of Doctor Mysterio.

But it’s an interesting one none the less. What would Mario do if he realised he wouldn’t real? I mean, on the one hand life isn’t that bad for him in the games. He doesn’t die anyone near as often in current era Mario platformers, and the party life must be quite fun.

So in that sense, I guess he would want to keep going. Why stop with the kart races and parties?

At the same time though, you then have the hellish bonus levels and extra modes. Super Mario Maker’s 100 Mario challenge is brutal, especially on Super Expert Mode. Heck, imagine being the poor soul having to die tens of times going through this virtual meat grinder:

It must be like what the Doctor himself went through in Heaven Sent. Either way, it’s an interesting little shout out, and one of a fair few in the episode itself. Definitely an episode to watch if you haven’t seen it yet.

Still, what do you think about it? Did you find it amusing? Or did you prefer the more blatant Pokemon GO one from the Christmas special?

Post your thoughts here, on social media or on the Gaming Latest forums today!