FIRST PARTY GAME developed by console manufacturing company. (Think Zelda or Mario for Nintendo.) Third-party games created by independent developers not affiliated with the console maker, such as Xbox Series X games produced by Ubisoft. But what in the world is a second-party game? Perhaps the best explanation is in the form of an absolutely fantastic Nintendo Switch now available to play right away on the Nintendo Switch as part of the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack.
Neither completely separate from the hardware company nor entirely from it, second-party game production companies are all loyal servants of a larger company. Such companies may be necessary due to the many technical requirements placed on companies with a global reach, such as Nintendo in the 1980s. Intelligent Systems, originally created to help Nintendo move games Famicom game to America and Europe, is one of these companies.
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Finally, Intelligent Systems took the opportunity to develop their own games. One of them, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, was a role-playing game released in 1990 that received bad reviews but eventually gained popularity through word of mouth. But sales were so hard that Intelligent founder Toru Narihiro was told “not to release another title on home consoles.”
That edict didn’t last, and six years later, the company was given the opportunity to tackle Nintendo’s biggest franchise yet with another RPG: Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64, released in 2000. Initially Nintendo wanted a mighty third part – the Square company that makes the game, Intelligent Systems has succeeded in creating an absolute gem. It’s available right now if you’ve subscribed to Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack.
Paper Mario isn’t the first Mario RPG. It’s Super Mario RPG, which Square has been developing since the beginning. The RPG has been widely praised as combining the various strengths of Nintendo and Square. When it comes to their games, Intelligent Systems decided to stick with what they know best: the world of Nintendo. Ryota Kawade, one of the game’s directors, said in an interview that with the Mario game, “sticking to the ‘main road’ is best. Plus, it feels weird if there are heavy themes like ‘betrayal’ in the overall warm, cozy atmosphere of the Mario world.”
Paper Mario doesn’t feel weird, it’s just like Mario.
The art style is similar to Yoshi’s Island’s hand-drawn style but is extended with the technical capabilities of the N64. Two-dimensional characters in a three-dimensional world feel more like the papercuts suggested by the game’s title and more like Super Mario Bros. 3 wanted each level to feel like a theater, Paper Mario felt like it was made of scissors.
Another way for the game to stay on the “main road” is through its relatively simple storyline. With Super Mario RPG, Square introduced new villains and twisters into the Mushroom kingdom. Paper Mario sticks to a classic scenario “Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach”, deciding to focus on non-plot elements instead. “The reality is that most games on the market today prioritize their plot over everything else, but you know, part of it is our policy at Nintendo not to compete in the same game. arena with everyone,” Kawade said.
Instead of massive plot movement, the game’s characters stand out. It’s a sweet feeling that the people who go to Mario’s party come from the groups he usually goes after, like Goombas or Koopas. There are good Goombas and bad Goombas, Mario learns early on and that’s all anyone really needs to know about the situation. But it’s great when Mario’s frequent enemies team up at once, and fun names like Goombario are fun, too. It’s just a lot of fun.
Paper Mario’s best composite mechanic is Action Command, where an attack can deal extra damage if nailed just right. It’s not that a mechanic can hurt, it can only deliver more.
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