The Paper Mario series was Nintendo’s response to a lack of RPG’s featuring Mario for many years. A series known for its colorful variety of characters and humor, it reached a highpoint during the GameCube era. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year door was a fantastic game with memorable characters and many surprises to be experienced. Nintendo would have been crazy to stray away from this formula. Yet, somehow Nintendo found a way to do it.
Sadly the management in Nintendo determined that Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door was a mistake. Shigeru Miyamoto took the reins from Intelligent Systems and pretty much changed the formula after the first two games. Super Paper Mario which released on the Wii was a side-scrolling platformer with RPG elements.
Sadly it appears that Club Nintendo was to blame for the departure from the style of the first two. Nintendo hosted surveys in the Club Nintendo website. These surveys would reward the players who bought the games with coins which they could then redeem for prizes.
This is important because it appears that a large number of gamers were not even aware of the system. According to an Iwata Asks interview, those that did review the game in the surveys ranked story as low. Whether they failed to take the survey seriously or they were trolling these results affected the future of Paper Mario. Thus upon reading the feed-back for it Shigeru determined that the following Paper Mario should have little emphasis on story.
There are many reasons why PM: SS is such an oddball, but for the sake of understanding lets break them down:
1. The battles are all based on utilizing stickers in order to attack.
2. The story as mentioned earlier is limited and lacks in interesting characters.
3. Boss battles can be beaten by utilizing a single sticker instead of strategy.
4. The director of the first three games had barely any involvement in its development.
5. PM: SS had mostly generic Toads as the NPCs instead of fan favorites such as Merlin.
6. No leveling up system or badges which make the battles yield little to no reward.
7. The locations in the world were unmemorable and felt like padding.
8. Bowser is no longer the larger than life monster we came to know and love.
9. No partners.
I’m certain there were many more reasons why this game was drastically different than the previous ones. But, the overall sentiment was that Sticker Star felt shallow. Nintendo touted PM:SS as a return to the original Paper Mario formula. This information lead gamers to believe they were going to have another Thousand Year Door on their hands. Instead, what they received was a shallow attempt to capitalize on a legacy which had created such magnificent bastards like Rawk Hawk!
There is a sad aspect to all of this though, is that Sticker Star is not without its merits. If Nintendo had decided to make this game into its own series it might not have been as ill received. Sticker Star certainly had some bad design choices. But, who knows where we would be if more players had taken the survey and answered honestly. Perhaps we would have even more Thousand Year Door on our hands. Yet, as it stands Sticker Star is a perfect example of how executive meddling can ruin a game. Especially when Nintendo pinned the blame for Sticker Star on the gamers themselves.
One last note is that Paper Mario: Sticker Star did sell enough to warrant a sequel. Color Splash will be coming to us on late 2016 and the reception has been… bad to say the least. Nintendo appears to have not learned from their past (once again) and made it similar to Sticker Star. I personally doubt this game will sell well since it’s releasing for the Wii U. But, hey a company can dream can’t it?