Paper Mario Vs The Traditional JRPG (Structural Breakdown)

September 24th, 2009


Originally I’d planned to write an extensive and thorough analysis of Paper Mario‘s RPG system in contrast to the traditional JRPG. I’m still going to do that, right now, albeit, in an appropriately streamlined format.


Traditional JRPG

– simplistic problem solving (ie. pushing blocks, switching switches)

/ OR: item dependent problem solving (ie. Lufia 2)

– usually dependent on walking through maze-like labyrinths

– difficulty: mazes before longer and more elaborate

Paper Mario

– simplistic – mid-range problem solving (ie. pushing blocks, switching switches), also includes jumping, hammering mechanics

– dependent on logic puzzles based on abilities of respective side kick

– difficulty: layers side kick abilities to form trickier logic puzzles


Traditional JRPG

– swords, shields etc all raise the players stats and ought to be upgraded at townships

– most items are healing or strengthening items

Paper Mario

– badges provide abilities for both inside and out of battle (predominately inside)

– items heal, strengthen and attack enemies

Battle System

Traditional JRPG

– four party members

– often exchangeable class types between party members

– frequent random battles

– player advancement through linear statistics progression

– customizable via class and abilities (abilities often purchased or learn)

– teach team member gains abilities through a separate, unified system

– single ‘attack’

– ability system is separate from other areas of the character development

– abilities tied to class

– outcome of battle dependent on prior grinding (ie. player time)

Paper Mario

– one party member and a side kick

– one fixed class type for Mario, the side kicks are similar to classes, also fixed but changeable in battle

– enemies appear on screen allowing for preempt attacks and avoiding conflict

– player advancement through selectable statistic upgrades, customizable abilities (badges), discovered equipment (stronger hammer and shoes), special abilities based on progression (Star power)

– customizable via side kick selection and above abilities

– two main forms of attack (jump, hammer), dependent on enemy type

– ability system (badges) affect all of Mario’s ability set (jump, hammer ability set, statistics)

– abilities tied to hammer and jump abilities (Mario) and sidekick’s inherent abilities

– outcome of battle dependent on player skill in sub-games


From this data we can draw a handful of observations:

-questing in JRPGs often requires little interaction or interplay, you simply walk through the dungeon, Paper Mario‘s exploring ties into the skill set of you sidekicks

Paper Mario‘s inventory system is less cluttered with ranging weapons and armor, and doesn’t require constant maintenance. Instead Paper Mario focuses on the streamlined badge system.

Paper Mario‘s combat is skill based, increased difficulty therefore requires the best selections of techniques for the right enemy type (enemy properties (ie. spikes, flames) have a great influence on available move set) matched with good execution of the respective subgames.

-players can choose whether to engage with enemies or not in Paper Mario

-in Paper Mario, the player’s skill and grasp over the battle system improves over play time, rather than simply their raw player statistics

-the ability sets in Paper Mario are tied to the hammer and jump (or sidekick attributes) rather than a class system

Paper Mario has a more rigid customization structure but allows greater degrees of customization on lower level attributes. Tradtional JRPGs allow for a complete overhaul of character through class.