Paper Mario Resurrecting the RPG Story/Gameplay Debate


What with all the other games coming out around this time of year, unfortunately Paper Mario: Sticker Star is one of the games that got left behind on my gaming schedule this fall. The discussion over Nintendo’s decision for a light story in the game however is still relevant to my experience with the franchise I think.

I did get a chance to rent Sticker Star had play it for a few hours. What I played was enough to convince me to eventually buy it, but for probably every reason other than story. On 1up I did quite a few blogs in the past about how RPGs seem to value deep storylines a lot more than any other video game genre and how in some ways I disagreed with that double standard. Looking back at all the RPGs I’ve enjoyed during this console generation though, it’s honestly been sort of a game-to-game case.

In generations before, most people I talked to who regularly played console RPGs only considered them good if they had deep storylines. Oftentimes I encountered people who thought this even if the gameplay was boring, and looked down on any RPG with a light story even if it had great gameplay. Nevermind how the very separation of story from gameplay is something that probably shouldn’t exist in an interactive medium; Sticker Star has, at least briefly, brought back the question of which one is really needed.

According to Iwata Asks and Gamasutra, the decision to largely cut the storyline out of Sticker Star came straight down from Miyamoto himself. If you look at his past work, particularly how he’s treated discussions on the Zelda timeline, I think it’s pretty apparent that he really doesn’t care all that much for storylines in games. He’s probably very much for games just being… well games.

I can’t really go over how well this may or may not fit with the Paper Mario franchise because I haven’t completed a single one of those games other than Super Paper Mario (or really any of the Mario RPGs). I tried out The Thousand Year Door a few years ago, and despite the game’s excellent writing and visual style along with good gameplay, put it down because of its incredible amount of text. I’m all for good writing, but in my opinion The Thousand Year Door had just way too much of it, to the point where it was getting in the way of… well the game.

Part of the reason I eventually intend to buy Sticker Star is in fact because of its light focus on story compared to The Thousand Year Door. In my opinion the game chooses to focus on one core gameplay concept — the pulling and utilization of stickers, and make a fun game out of it, plain and simple. Most first party Nintendo games do this and I don’t think it should matter if it’s an RPG or platformer or whatever.


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