If you’ve been reading reviews of Paper Mario Sticker Star, you’ll probably be well aware of the faults people are criticising it for and the debatable change to only using existing Mario characters. With the battle system replaced by stickers, no new characters at all bar Kersti and a complete lack of partners, some long time fans are already considering the game a bit of a step down compared to the earlier titles.
But is it possible that Super Paper Mario and people’s reactions to it were responsible for all this? That people thought Super Paper Mario was a completely different game to what it was in reality and ended up blaming Nintendo for it, causing the much more conservative change in direction that was responsible for Sticker Star? I think it might be.
And the main cause for this might have been thus; Super Paper Mario looks like a 2D platformer at first glance. It’s got the standard side view known from the classic Mario games and somewhat less classic New Super Mario Bros series, it’s got Mario jumping on Goombas and Koopas and going through what might appear to some people to be traditional settings and classic gameplay. Heck, even the unfamiliar figures of Count Bleck and his minions on the front wouldn’t seem too out of place, the Mario series has used non Bowser villains before. Here’s the box art in question:
Above: Well it’s got Mario, so it’s got to be a platformer, right?
The back does at least talk about dimension flipping and the 2D to 3D mechanic, but that’s not exactly something that might set off warning bells back in an age when only one 2D Mario platformer had been released since 1990. Who’s to really say the 2D Mario games weren’t going to be all experimental and gimmicky just a few years after the original New Super Mario Bros?
Give one guess what happened. A whole bunch of more casual Mario fans who’d never played a Mario spinoff in their life (especially not an RPG) bought Super Paper Mario thinking it was New Super Mario Bros Wii.
Above: Top is what casual players probably expected, below is what they got.
As a result, calamity unfolded. People used to blindly running to the right and jumping over pits took one look at the whole puzzle thing and went ‘screw this crap’. Complaints abounded of too much text, since presumably people expected the usual excuse plot found in most 2D Mario games where Bowser kidnaps Peach in about three seconds. The casual audience who thought ‘arcade game’ when Mario was mentioned ended up pretty annoyed at the whole thing.
Think I’m making this up? Nope:
I bought Super Paper Mario when it was released based purely on the hope of 2d Mario gameplay. I was sorely disappointed.
Not to mention some of the Amazon reviews:
To compare what an effect this mistaken genre thing may have had, note the differences between the sales of this Paper Mario title and the last ones. Thousand Year Door sold about 2 million copies, Super Paper Mario sold about 3.5 million copies. I’d guess a significant amount of the increase came from people who were mistaken about the whole point of the game.
And so when Nintendo did their usual Club Nintendo surveys and feedback related stuff and asked about Super Paper Mario and what customers thought of it, a significant amount probably complained about the amount of text and dialogue and how non Mario like much of it felt (and the rest that it wasn’t an RPG like Thousand Year Door or the Nintendo 64). Hence why Paper Mario Sticker Star is a sort of odd hybrid of the older titles and a New Super Mario Bros game, because Intelligent Systems were told to rein in all the story and new content.
Note: Did you know that only 1% of the responses on Club Nintendo’s survey said story and dialogue was important? I wonder how many of these responders didn’t know what an RPG was…
Do you agree? Do you think that this confusion might be why Paper Mario Sticker Star was designed in the way it was? And that if Super Paper Mario was a more traditional RPG, that Sticker Star might have had more original content and characters?