Nintendo has always been about creativity and consumer fun! From the beginnings of all-star IP on the NES to splat-tastic twists on modern genres, Nintendo has never been one to shy away from taking risks, but one series has been hit with a particular lot of backlash. The Super Mario franchise has exchanged so many hands that it would inevitably become fractured. Mario hasn’t quite hit the stump that Sonic and Pac-Man have, but Nintendo will do anything to keep it that way.
The Super Mario series has never shied away from the wacky. The first enemy you encounter in Super Mario Bros. is a giant brown mushroom with an angry expression! Developed by SquareSoft, now Square Enix, the first Mario RPG, Legend of the Seven Stars, introduced omnipotent beings that possess children’s dolls and a race of frog-people! AlphaDream’s Mario & Luigi series was praised for wonderful worlds and a unique battle system, but remakes of earlier games would remove those crazy characters. They’d be replaced with generic toads or other existing species.
No Mario sub-series will ever again become as split as Paper Mario. The series has always focused on providing a solid RPG experience. The party of colorful partners made up the core of early entries. Beginning with Super Paper Mario, a drastic shift hit. There are no characters like Lakilester or Admiral Bobbery. Towns are now flooded with entirely new species or just a bunch of generic established ones. If you have a city of Sniffits, you’ll find two dozen red, half a dozen green, and a few with unique hats. This has drawn criticism from everyone. Even those who enjoyed Sticker Star and Color Splash have problems with the NPCs.
In an interview with the VGC, series director Kensuke Tanabe touched on this issue. “Since Paper Mario: Sticker Star, it’s no longer possible to modify Mario characters or to create original characters that touch on the Mario universe.” It is easy to infer that Nintendo is limiting Intelligent Systems’ creativity in an attempt to unify the brand. If a brand is not consistent, there’s no point in keeping the brand. Look at Tetris Attack or DMC: Devil May Cry.
Nintendo wants to merchandise and keep characters recognizable, but they’re forgetting a key factor. While Pauline will appear in Tennis and Mario Kart, the tostarenan species will never be seen again. Nintendo keeps introducing new marketable designs, but keeps throwing them away! If you’re going to force toads and koopas, keep around piantas and shiverians. My disdain for this decision doesn’t form from why it was made. I’m sick of seeing cool new characters tossed out before the next sequel. Even within new Paper Mario games, the main side-kick is never seen after that adventure. They’re always written out or disappear. Why can’t Kersti, Huey, and Olivia serve as the party members Vivian, Lady Bow, and Goombaria used to?
I think Nintendo is a little too strict on new spin-offs. I completely understand the decision to keep designs uniform. Brand recognition is the most important asset in a companies portfolio. If something as big as Mario were to sour, in the eyes of the public, Nintendo would be ruined. I simply think they aren’t going far enough with what they have. In my opinion, constantly creating new characters is only going to keep a schism. You can bring back what already exists, even if it only was in mainline titles, and begin to mend.