Replace the current creative team for the Paper Mario series

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Years ago, there was an RPG spinoff to the Super Mario Bros. franchise by Nintendo. Its name was Paper Mario (or Mario Story for the first game if you lived in Japan). Many people, including myself, were taken in by its simple yet furbished & mostly refined gameplay, unique characters, unusual look, unorthodox storylines (chapter and gamelong- big and small need each other, after all), and chuckle-inducing writing.

Unfortunately, after Super Paper Mario in 2007, something bad happened to the series. Namely, its identity- from basic staples to defining characteristics- was stripped away from it.

Instead of many visually different named NPCs of many different species, there were only generic adult male Toads.

Instead of an engaging explicit story for every chapter and the game overall, only World 3 and a single level in World 4 had anything resembling such.

Instead of the storybook look adding to the timelessness, the many Toads and even other characters explicitly brought up the paper style, undermining the impact of many moments and in place of actual jokes.

Instead of a fair challenge, even basic information for playing the game was withheld, and clues for obstacles (most involving one-use Things) were given too late or never given at all.

And instead of a gameplay experience made for modern days, the mechanics were more akin to an NES era game, with the most outdated of ways to “pick” a target (the exact move on the exact enemy in the exact order), infuriatingly strict trial and error gameplay, the helper character Kersti not actually offering hints most of the time, even when asked with her dedicated button (on top of being an awful character), and little quality of life in general.

Not helping this was the huge flaw of the game’s components not “flowing” into each other in a way that made them all undeniably contribute (battling offers no unique reward type, making fights with non-boss enemies and non-story enemies completely skippable). This is referring, of course, to 2012’s Sticker Star for Nintendo 3DS.

At first, it was thought to be the fault of Mario franchise creator Shigeru Miyamoto forcing his views on the development team. It was also thought there was miscommunication and a misunderstanding of some dubious surveys for Super Paper Mario.

Unfortunately, even 3-4 years later, many of the unpopular traits of Sticker Star stuck around for the Wii U game Color Splash. The crossover game with the Mario & Luigi RPG series, Paper Jam, also suffered a major part of Sticker Star’s lingering existence, with most of the game’s low points (character cast choices and the writing style for the Paper characters) being traceable to Sticker Star, or things that didn’t exist until Sticker Star. Oddly, though, Shigeru Miyamoto helped with Paper Jam, and recommended a fix to the new running feature. Stranger still, his name was not brought up during the Miiverse interview when it came to the absence of original characters.

Eventually, when Color Splash was released for the Wii U console, many of the problems from Sticker Star had not been fixed. In fact, Color Splash (and by extension, the creative team) seemed to twistedly celebrate the fact they hadn’t really fixed anything wrong with the previous game. From the nameless Toads themselves now mentioning how there were only Toads as friendly NPCs local to the setting of Prism Island, to the paper jokes now being forced to the point they actually made no sense even in context, to the game making Replicas (extra Things) useless for boss weaknesses and actually mocking the player for it (when the developers themselves programmed it in), to the producers actually shafting the blame onto the contingent Mario & Luigi RPG series for why Paper Mario isn’t an RPG anymore (when this wasn’t a problem years ago, and isn't a problem)…

Rather tellingly, despite using the Super Paper Mario surveys as the reason for the changes, the producers have mentioned they jumped right from Sticker Star to Color Splash, with no mention of the Club Nintendo surveys for Sticker Star. Also rather tellingly, even though Kensuke Tanabe says he went to Shigeru Miyamoto because “Mario wasn’t the producer’s intellectual property”, the simple fact Nintendo gave the producer the Color Splash project at all indicates this wasn’t a problem for the higher ups.

Basically, the current creative team for Paper Mario (producer Kensuke Tanabe, co-producer Risa Tabata, and writer Taro Kudo, as well as whoever the current head game designer is), are what’s wrong with the current Paper Mario franchise. They refuse to really improve their ways, and don’t really appear to embrace or emphasize quality of life design choices (as seen with their mockery of Replicas).

Therefore, in order to have a chance of restoring the Paper Mario series to its prime and regaining its full identity and respect, this petition and I are asking you, the reader and Mario fan (not just Paper Mario fan) to ask Nintendo alongside me to replace the producer, co-producer, writer and game designer with other, more proven Nintendo employees. This is not to have the people currently in those positions fired, especially as Japanese culture is averse to the idea of firing people- just relocated and switched out with other employees.

As for who in particular could sub in for at least one of these positions, there are a few candidates. The first choice, of course, would be to reassign former director Ryota Kawade from his position in the Fire Emblem trading card game (from what recent research tells me) back in charge of Paper Mario.

If Mr. Kawade is not willing to return to Paper Mario for whatever reason, there is another choice in mind- Yoshiaki Koizumi, the producer for Super Mario Odyssey and the Nintendo Switch console/handheld hybrid. The reason for this nomination of Mr. Koizumi’s tutelage over Paper Mario is simple- his work on Super Mario Galaxy, as well as its sequel, indicates he is incredibly creative in adding completely new characters while giving old ones a spin. In addition, several aspects of Super Mario Galaxy and his later games, from Bowser’s speech patterns to the Grand Stars as collectibles and the font, are reminiscent of Paper Mario. Finally, even when Shigeru Miyamoto enacted a “storyline minimism” clause similar to Sticker Star, Mr. Koizumi still kept the characters and style he enacted. This also applies to Yoshiaki Koizumi’s pupils and students.

Therefore, if Yoshiaki Koizumi and his team replaced Kensuke Tanabe and his team for Paper Mario (preferably after Super Mario Odyssey is released and/or finished), there is good faith he would provide a closer experience to the original Ryota Kawade trilogy, original formula or not. Even if Mr. Koizumi were forced to creative restrictions and couldn’t negotiate or migitate them, we at least wouldn’t see so many Toads, and would have a much more diverse cast.

And even if not Kawade or Koizumi themselves, someone who thinks like them (young, fresh, assertive) and isn't one of the current crew would suffice in replacing the current "problem members".

It’s important that you, the reader, sign this now, rather than later. Remember- the current creative team lead by Kensuke Tanabe jumped right to Color Splash. It’s also worth mentioning Tanabe’s implied the current team has ideas for the Switch game. Given his team’s attitude, its best they’re switched out as soon as possible, before any major work begins. Because players and Paper Mario fans (N64, Thousand Year Door, Super Paper Mario, and even Sticker Star & Color Splash fans) deserve much better than what the current team is providing. Honestly, I should have started this petition months ago, after the recent Color Splash interview GameInformer had with Tanabe.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning that there’s far, far graver injustices in the world happening to many individuals, people and places right now than a mere video game spin-off series. I do not contest this- the reader has the power, authority, and unquestioned right to sign as many petitions as they want, regarding whatever issues they feel most urgent, both including and excluding this one. It’s just signing this petition could lead to a better product that gives readers and players some happiness and rest as they figure out the best way to solve those much bigger problems. Because you deserve the best.

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