When it comes to criticism of Paper Mario Sticker Star and what it did wrong, there’s a lot of talk about how Shigeru Miyamoto supposedly screw it over with his ‘no non Mario World characters’ demand. This then usually extends to commnts about how the guy is out of touch, should retire for demanding less story in a Mario RPG and a ton of other similar stuff. But am I the only one who thinks that many of the game’s problems aren’t purely his fault?
For instance, take the ‘no new characters’ thing. Is this a terrible demand to make of a development team? Sure. But to be perfectly honest, it shouldn’t have damaged the game too much.
No you didn’t read that wrong. Sticker Star’s limitations could very well have been worked around and not actually been a big issue for the game.
Above: A game which did very little ‘new’ character wise, but still worked much better than Sticker Star.
How? Intelligent Systems could have actually made use of the tons and tons of unique characters, bosses and species that played a big part in Mario history. Because believe you me, there are hundreds of them. I mean, it’s not stated exactly what Miyamoto meant by ‘only characters from the Super Mario World’, but it’s most certainly not the lazy reaction that this guy mentions:
But being unable to use new characters is pretty strict. Of course, we could not make any new enemy characters, and as for allies among the Super Mario characters, there’s really only Toad in various colors!
Seriously, they had 20 years worth of characters and species to use, and yet they only thought there were different coloured Toads they could use?
I call shenanigans on that. Do Piantas not exist to these people? Nokis? Professor E Gadd? Toadsworth (a unique Toad)? Penguins like in Super Mario 64 and Galaxy?
Above: Because E Gadd isn’t part of the main Mario series… wait…
It’s all like Intelligent Systems just could not think of any Mario characters to use whatsoever. Like they can they only come up with ‘new’ stuff and know sod all about the main platformers released from Super Mario Bros 1 to Super Mario Galaxy 2.
And the limited selection of enemies and bosses is even worse. Oh sure, they included Gooper Blooper, Petey Piranha and a different Mr Blizzard, yet somehow they couldn’t be bothered to include any other characters, enemies or bosses from Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine? Heck, let’s look at all the enemies and bosses they could have included within this ‘guideline’ that would presumably be allowed by Miyamoto (all the following are from games he personally supervised)…
Above: What about these guys?
And that’s a tiny fraction of the things that could have been in this game as enemies or bosses! So don’t just say ‘they were too limited by the no new characters thing’, since that’s quite honestly only half the problem. The rest is how they were functionally incapable of bringing back enemies, bosses or characters that rather easily DID fit Miyamoto’s criteria and that could have made a massive change to the game.
What’s more, each of these characters/enemies could have been given new lines and new attack patterns. That’s no limitation of Intelligent Systems imposed by Miyamoto either, since there was no indication Kamek was a hipster in the main Mario franchise or that a certain Mr Blizzard was a tragic villain either.
Oh and that’s not all. How about Luigi’s Mansion? Yoshi’s Island? Super Mario Bros 2 (the US version)? All of these games are arguably ‘main series’ Mario universe titles that have a lot of interesting characters and enemies in them. Each and every one. They were also all made by a Nintendo EAD team, all have Miyamoto as a producer (likely the head one) and all have a ton of things that could be added to the Paper Mario franchise. The Enigmansion or whatever? Could likely have been made in a Luigi’s Mansion themed area with King Boo as the boss quite easily.
But no. Intelligent Systems apparently couldn’t think outside the ‘well known New Super Mario Bros cliches’ box and took zero advantage of the years of history and interesting characters making up the Mario series. Oh wait, that’s too insulting to New Super Mario Bros, which has an enemy list about twice the length of that in Sticker Star. Couldn’t they have at least just took the whole New Super Mario Bros DS and New Super Mario Bros Wii enemy and boss list and shoved them in? That alone would have doubled or tripled the amount of enemy and boss variety in the game. Instead, these ‘masters of continuity and throwbacks’ took the very first 30 odd characters/enemies people associate with the word ‘Mario’ and didn’t bother with the rest.
Above: Chargin’ Chucks in Sticker Star? Nah, that’s too ‘non Mario’.
Additionally, Miyamoto’s decisions theoretically didn’t affect what they could have done with the level/gameplay design that much. Did Stickers have to mean no partners or normal attacks? No. Did they have no choice but to remove the level up/stat progression mechanics? No. Did they get forced to hide stickers in ridiculously far out the way areas and to make boss battles dependent on reading the enemy/game designer’s mind? No again. All of these terrible decisions come down to Intelligent Systems and they damn know it.
Finally, there’s also the way how Intelligent Systems were seemingly happy to go along with all these restrictions instead of actually complaining like any other team would. Were they too terrified of Miyamoto? Maybe, but that didn’t stop AlphaDream from telling him to back off and refusing to bow to his ridiculous demands when they were making Mario & Luigi Dream Team. Intelligent Systems went meek and cowered the minute someone high up criticised them, AlphaDream actually stood their ground and ended up making a better game as a result.
Above: What you get when you stand your ground (aka a good game).
Iwata: I doubt those of you at AlphaDream always agreed with Nintendo’s opinions. What did you do in those cases?Maekawa: We’d take it back and work it over. We could accept some parts, and then we’d hash out those parts we couldn’t accept face-to-face in a meeting.
Paper Mario Sticker Star was a disappointment, but it wasn’t just the fault of Miyamoto. Intelligent Systems could have made something interesting under their restrictions, they just didn’t. I think this quote kind of sums things up well:
Creatively, restraints aren’t necessarily a bad thing. A lot of new attractive features come out of that
It’s just that IS apparently can’t work under any kind of creative restraint without making a half assed product.