Nintendo shared the original design for Paper Mario during the latest Iwata Asks. In the build up to the release of Paper Mario: Sticker Star this week, Nintendo went back to the beginning and revealed how they came up with the concept for the plumber's RPG series.
Super Mario RPG had been released in Japan and the US in March 1996. A collaboration between Square and Nintendo, Kensuke Tanabe remembers the original concept: "At our first meeting, Square presented us an image of Mario wearing a cape, riding a horse, and holding a sword!"
However, Miyamoto vetoed it. "I remember how the first thing (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san said when he saw that was, "That's not right." He started with how Mario wouldn't have a sword, but might have a hammer."
Yet, when it came to making a sequel, Nintendo wanted to make a game that stood out from Super Mario 64. Intelligent Systems' Kenji Nakajima remembers: "After it was decided that IS would make a second Super Mario RPG, we ran into trouble deciding how it should look in order to bring out a different theme than in the main series."
So it was left to designer Naohiko Aoyama to produce a different concept and this is what he came up with:
"While the design remained undecided, I naturally spent a lot of time waiting," said Aoyama. "Then, during that free time, casually for my own interest and totally apart from the course the team was taking, I made a rough image. I hoped it would somehow serve as a kickoff point and submitted it.
"Then they called me to a planning meeting saying, "Bring back that picture," and this is what I presented.
"It's made of 3D polygons, but I drew it to have an atmosphere like that of a picture book transplanted into a video game - with paper-thin 2D background and characters.
"I think about that time there was a trend of going for realistic 3D in home consoles, but I thought it might be an interesting twist to make use of those capabilities to use 3D in emphasizing a 2D appearance."
It's a style Nintendo has used from Paper Mario to Super Paper Mario and Paper Mario: Sticker Star.