This is a translation of the Paper Mario Developer Interview from the old Nintendo Online Magazine website that Nintendo used to run in Japan. The interview is with Toshiyuki Nakamura of Intelligent Systems and Hiroyasu Sasano of Nintendo. Toshiyuki Nakamura is actually the president of Intelligent Systems now, but started his career as a programmer.
Paper Mario Developer Interview
– To start, could you explain your roles on the Paper Mario team?
Sasano: My role is like the bridge between Intelligent Systems and Nintendo. I summarize feedback, gather data and materials, and work as the point of contact.
Nakamura: I work as the project manager for the entire team, but I’m essentially a director. I have a programming background and have been supervising those sorts of things as well.
– What’s the appeal of Paper Mario?
Nakamura: It started being made as a sequel to the Super Nintendo’s Super Mario RPG. As for the genre, you could call it an action RPG. One of its defining traits is the fusion of 2D and 3D visuals. On top of that, the action commands are being expanded and it’s being made as a game more suitable for the N64.
– The backgrounds are 3D, but the characters are 2D?
Sasano: That’s right. The reason we went this direction is we thought players might be getting tired of the 3D CG look on the Playstation and other consoles. It’s hard to bring out cuteness with characters made from polygons, right?. Even Mario was made with polygons in Mario 64, so we thought it would be nice to offer something different and came upon making Mario’s world with a pastel touch. However, making an entire 2D world like a Super Nintendo game and releasing it for the N64 would be pointless, so we gave the field depth and made it 3D. I think it’s been thoughtfully crafted.
Nakamura: The production of the title has taken around 4 years.
– 4 years?!
Nakamura: Yup. It’s a huge title that’s taken a long time to make, so it’s packed with screens and events.
– It’s an RPG with Mario as the main character, but who else makes an appearance in the game?
Nakamura: Tons of characters from the Mario series are in the game doing all sorts of things. by the end, you’ll be adventuring with 8 other partners. In the story, Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach and Mario sets off on an adventure after them. Goombas, Bob-ombs, and Koopa Troopas are in the game as well. And you also get to control Princess Peach at points along the way.
– What’s the composition of the map like?
Sasano: There’s a big central town and you use a train to go to various places like villages and mountains, so you explore various areas.
Nakamura: It has elements you see in RPGs like solving puzzles to find items, but there is action involved when enemies appear on the field. In a regular RPG, enemies are encountered involuntarily, but in Paper Mario you can initiate the battles. If you start the battle, you get a one turn advantage. On the opposite end, if you see an enemy, you can run away. You also get advantages in battle for well timed button presses or pressing a button over and over. That’s a big difference when compared to other RPGs.
– So you don’t just enter a command and wait?
Sasano: Nope. You always have to be holding the controller. If you let your guard down, you can lose to enemies from early on in late stages of the game.
– Does it have experience points like a typical RPG?
Sasano: There are Star Points which stand in for experience points in the game. There are also Flower Points which are like magic and are used to activate special attacks and moves.
Nakamura: On top of that, Mario gathers badges throughout the game. Badges are used to increase the types of attacks Mario can do. Depending on which attacks you choose, you develop a different Mario. This means that play styles can be totally different depending on the player.
– How many stages are there?
Nakamura: If you put it in terms of stages*, there are 400. A regular playthrough will take around 30 hours.
*Translator Note: This might be referring to screens? Like a section of Toad Town is a screen, the inside of a shop is a separate screen, etc.
– 400! That’s awesome. What’s the target age range for the game?
Nakamura: I’d say the target age is 1st grade and up. There’s quite a bit of text, but only kanji through the second grade level is used. We’re also aiming to make the content easy to understand. The puzzles are much easier when compared to something like a Zelda game, so elementary school students should be able to solve them without getting stuck.
– Are there any spots in the game you want the players to pay extra attention to?
Sasano: Things like snow and flowers… There are beautiful areas in the second half of the game. There are lots of hand drawn animations so please take a close look at those.
Nakamura: I think just swinging the hammer and jumping are fun. It’s designed so that early grade school students can enjoy it, but on the other end, there are also puzzles and things more experienced players can enjoy. I hope all different kinds of players enjoy the game.
If you enjoyed that, you may also like some of our other translations like this one with Sachiko Kawamura of Sega. You can also check the Translations page for a list of all of the translations on the site. And if you’re also studying Japanese, check the Vocabulary section for tons of vocabulary lists made from various games!