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Nintendo’s Kensuke Tanabe explained more about Paper Mario’s character restrictions

Nintendo‘s Kensuke Tanabe, Paper Mario producer, has been busy in interviews explaining the situation with restrictions that are on characters in the Paper Mario series. For example, Tanabe said in an interview with Video Games Chronicle that “since Paper Mario: Sticker Star, it’s no longer possible to modify Mario characters or to create original characters that touch on the Mario universe. That means that if we aren’t using Mario characters for bosses, we need to create original characters with designs that don’t involve the Mario universe at all, like we’ve done with Olly and the stationery bosses”.

Tanabe also said that the restrictions impact the Toads too. Tanabe said in a GamesRadar interview that “from the production of Paper Mario: Sticker Star onwards, we were no longer able to graphically represent individual characteristics, such as age, gender etc., in the Toad NPCs (non-playable characters), and so it has become that much more important to convey their personalities simply through text”.

Lastly, Tanabe said to Video Games Chronicle that “whether a character becomes an all-time hit or not isn’t up to us on the development side. I think it’s more the case that characters that fans truly accept naturally end up that way. I hope that the origami siblings in Paper Mario: The Origami King will stay in players’ memories, even if they do only end up appearing in this title.”

Source 1 / Source 2

30 thoughts on “Nintendo’s Kensuke Tanabe explained more about Paper Mario’s character restrictions”

  1. What an incompetent developer.
    Why do other Mario games have so much individualism and creativity yet Paper Mario isn’t allowed that? Seriously, what a hack.

  2. Gee whiz, who would ever think WHY the origami twins would stick in our minds? They aren’t Toads after all. We don’t want original characters and designs, who’d want THAT in a Paper Mario game?

  3. “It’s no longer possible’ and “we’re no longer able to” sounds still so strange to me. Why would Nintendo want to stop themselves from putting original characters in?

    1. Think about it… if you were made of paper what would be more terrifying than scissors? I guess fire maybe? It’s actually pretty clever.

      1. I agree it’s clever, but it would be better if it was an enemy that wielded scissors instead. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think of scissors when I think of memorable Mario characters

  4. Fine, we’ll make our own follow-up to TTYD if we have to. Hell, I already made my own partner roster ages ago.

      1. Also, a new mechanic of using two partners in battle for three-person teams, as well as combined techniques.

        There. I added a new mechanic and managed to keep the roster fresh. They’re are several Mario enemies that haven’t made it into the Paper Mario Universe yet.

        Also, DLC partners from past games. And because that’s a lot of partners on top of partners, you can only have a total of nine at a time in your party, while the rest stay in their own hub location (which you can customize) and hang out.

  5. This… Makes no sense at all. Other Mario games and series get to make new characters all the time- Sunshine introduced Piantas and Nokis, Galaxy brought us the Lumas, Odyssey showed plump yetis, Mexican Day of the Dead stereotypes, talking cutlery, and literal humans, the M&L series brought the Shroobs, Dreambert, Starlow, and a bunch more… Hell, even Mario Tennis 64 introduced Waluigi of all characters.

    Why, then, is this particular branch of the Mario name exempt from such liberties?

    1. There are some theories about it, though none that are satisfying.

      The more common theory is that Nintendo is putting a lid on how other companies use the Mario IP. Sunshine, Galaxy and such are developed in-house while Paper Mario is made by Intelligent Systems, which has a close relationship with Nintendo but isn’t owned by them.

      Generally, a lot of people believe Nintendo is doing it for brand recognition reasons. No matter how you slice it, it sucks either way.

      1. That would make sense if it weren’t for one other wrinkle: Next-Level Games, the studio responsible for both Luigi’s Mansion 2 (Dark Moon) and Luigi’s Mansion 3. One could argue that LM is a spinoff much the same way Paper Mario is- however, it’s quite clear that LM games occur within the same continuity as other mainline Mario titles such as 64 and Sunshine, as opposed to the separate continuity of the Paper Mario games. Next-Level is also not in-house, being a Canadian development studio.

        So what you have here are two partner studios, each given a different spinoff game but still featuring the same main character and encompassing franchise. The difference is that one is handling a spinoff in a completely separate continuity that does not affect the main continuity (as far as I know) and thus anything they create has no effect on it either way, yet they still are not allowed to. The other studio, however, is handling a spinoff that *is* set within the main continuity, but is allowed to create at their own discretion, even if characters and locations from those games will likely never appear again, which is already disproved by the reappearance of Polterpup. When you take this into consideration, one developer being stymied with creative roadblocks while another studio has none makes even less sense.

  6. You got it all wrong they can make all the original characters they want, they just choose not too, they have been spooked every since Miyamoto asked them not to modify Mario universe characters and now they have been backing off with even the original characters. However, they did have a few in Origami King and since that game is doing so well it will let them know that people appreciate that, because Color Splash sold very poorly.

    However, it is 100% true that they can no longer modify Mario universe characters too much anymore, so no more Gombella type characters anytime in the future. This was an order from The creator himself and the one who holds most of the rights. So they can’t exactly just go against that.

    1. Yes this is true. Since Paper Mario: Sticker Star, it’s no longer possible to MODIFY Mario characters or to create original characters that touch on the Mario universe.

      “Aside from wanting us to change the atmosphere a lot, there were two main things that Miyamoto-san said from the start of the project – ‘It’s fine without a story, so do we really need one?’ and ‘As much as possible, complete it with only characters from the Super Mario world.'”

      “That means that if we aren’t using Mario characters for bosses, we need to create ORIGINAL characters with designs that don’t involve the Mario universe at all, like we’ve done with Olly and the stationery bosses.”

      IMO the only “modifications” you see are on Toad characters, but this is done with generic items

  7. There is definitely something going on behind the scene here. From the vague wording to the logic that makes zero sense, it seems to me Tanabe can’t go into full details because if he did, he’d likely be violating a handful of NDA’s and would likely get fired.

      1. +Kantenstain
        But that was way back in the days of Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Since then Miyamoto has been taking more of a backseat and letting the younger generation move things forward. He’s even stated this publicly so I’m not really sure if this is Miyamoto’s doing at this point.
        Corporate is a complex beast, not everything falls to a single person.

        1. They said what you said: after Super Paper Mario Miyamoto had requested not to make new characters within the Mushroom Kingdom. And they specified that applyed to Origami King and used the Toads as an example where they weren’t even allowed to differentiate them by age or anything visually.

      2. +Kantenstain
        Yeah I get that but are we really sure it’s still Miyamoto pushing for this? For all we know it may have been Miyamoto that pushed for this in the past but after he mellowed out and gave others more power in creating, it’s just Kanabe or Nintendo higher ups sticking to these rules.
        Another thing that I wanna bring up in this is Luigi’s Mansion 3. That game was also produced by Kanabe but was developed by a Canadian Company and from what I’ve heard; That game was given tons of creative freedom. If this really was Miyamoto still being an old man about this, wouldn’t that game also have fallen to the same limits?
        Also, by your own words, you said Miyamoto “requested” they don’t do it. A request isn’t mandatory and it could just be Tanabi using Miyamoto’s guidance as a an excuse to be lazy.

        1. Maybe Miyamoto doesn’t hold the same grip over Nintendo’s Canadian employees compared to Japanese? I only played like half that game, but did they include anything else than ghosts that was new there? Because the restriction placed on Intelligent made them make characters that was not with the Mushroom Kingdom design i mind, like Origami-figures and pencils etc.

          And you must not take my Norwegian’s vocabulary literally, “requested” is a word I used when I recalled the English article. The exact wording was: “As much as possible, complete it with only characters from the Super Mario world…”. I’m not English, but that seems like an “forespørsel” which means “request”.

          But when that’s said; you must not forget they’re Japanese. Asian culture is way more formal and indirect, say compared to American and Norwegian (which shares a lot). Instead of saying a direct “No” as you would in USA, some Asian countries would instead reply “It will be hard, but we’ll see what we can do about it”. That’s considered an indirect “no”. If a boss in Japan would “request” that you did not do a specific thing, h3ll even here in Norway, I wouldn’t do it, and pretty certain a Japanese worker wouldn’t dare. That’s what might have happen at Next Level Games. A request that got lost in translation and they didn’t take it into consideration as much.

          Again, I think there regional differences that decided whatever new LM3 got. I’m not here trying to bash Miyamoto’s reputation, and in the end it really doesn’t matter who said what, but it is specially pointed at Miyamoto, and the end result is less creativity, which is just bad. The proof is in the games. It’s blander than Thousand-Year Door.

      3. +Kantenstain
        Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying it’s absolutely not Miyamoto’s fault, it’s just I try to get as much perspective as possible before I draw conclusions. If this was back in the time when StarFox Zero came out, I would immediately point fingers to Miyamoto because back then, it’s clear he was proving to be a detriment to Nintendo especially when he claimed the rise of tablets was the reason the Nintendo Wii U failed.
        But these days, things seem very different. I mean Cadence of Hyrule straight up exists! Zelda is 1 of Nintendo’s most treasured IP’s and even Ubisoft got to work on Mario and Rabbids while StarLink was allowed to have StarFox characters. I don’t think things like that would have happened in a time when Miyamoto just wouldn’t listen and force things to be the way he wants.
        Paper Mario, from what I can see, seems to be the only exception to this so if it’s still the same after Miyamoto finally chilled out, it makes me believe this is no longer his doing and it’s just Tanabe using old advice as an excuse.

  8. I always knew Miyamoto was the one restricting them. Lets face it he’s the representation of “Original Character DO NOT STEAL” that and he’s hindered and altered development of some games so.. he needs to retire

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