Interview with Tanabe: Paper Mario, the future of Metroid and Donkey Kong, and More

TBC: Hello everyone welcome to a new episode of black cat books live. I’m your host, the Black Cat, and today I have a very special guest. Kensuke Tanabe of Nintendo.

Tanabe; Hello.

TBC: Thank you so much for joining us today, Kensuke. I know I told you this before the show, but you were behind a ton of my favorite games growing up. You supervised Eternal Darkness, Co-produced Metroid Prime, and were responsible for the reboots of Donkey Kong Country and Luigi’s Mansion.

Tanabe: I’m honored that you play and enjoy my games.

TBC: I’m sure you feel the same way about the fans! Anyway, I decided to reach out to you today to discuss your newest project. Paper Mario The Origami King. I’ve been playing through the game myself and have been really enjoying it so far.

I couldn’t help but notice that Paper Mario has long extendable ARMS. Like in the fighting game.

Tanabe: Oh yes. Yes, ARMS was a huge success for us, one of our best selling games aimed at a traditional fighting game audience. The idea was so unique and appealing, and has won so many fans, that we thought it would be cool to incorporate it into other games. Everyone at Nintendo is incredibly enthusiastic about this IP, and want to see more of it. I main Helix, by the way.

TBC: I was under the impression that the game flopped. That’s what IGN told me.

Tanabe: Why are you listening to IGN? *Laughs*

TBC: Since we’re on the subject of game reviews, how do you feel about the critical reception to Origami King?

Tanabe: We here are Nintendo don’t really adhere to reviews. We find that traditional game reviews are oriented too closely to the widest possible, lowest common denominator audience. For example, Red Dead Redemption 2 got perfect or near perfect scores simply for being an open world game. Games that are comparably smaller in scale, such as 2D platformers like Donkey Kong or adventure games like Paper Mario, tend to get lower scores simply for being smaller. I feel as if critics don’t really understand how a turn based battle system can be appealing.

TBC: Square Enix ruined Final Fantasy to try and appeal to these people.

Tanabe: That’s right. They tried so hard to appeal to people outside of their typical demographic that they lost sight of what made the game interesting to begin with.

TBC: A lot of people are suggesting that you’ve done the same with Paper Mario.

Tanabe: Why? Because the toads aren’t wearing hats? *Laughs*

TBC: The argument I hear from critics is that you scuttled the battle system, stripped all personality from the games, and refuse to give them a real story.

Tanabe: Yes, we’ve been getting these complaints since Super Paper Mario. Unfortunately the deviation from that release has created this demographic of people that will not be pleased no matter what we do.

TBC: You blame Super for the criticisms towards modern Paper Mario?

Tanabe: Of course. We deviated too much from the formula from the first two games. Returning to form with the new Paper Mario games, that is Sticker Star, Color Splash, and now Origami King was quite a monumental task. Plenty of people disliked the 2D segments, and all of the feedback we got at the time complained about the focus on the story rather than gameplay.

TBC: So what you’re saying is that Sticker Star was designed to be a gaemplay focused title.

Tanabe: That’s right. I think players would be surprised to go back to Super Paper Mario and see how much of the game is padded out by exposition and dialogue. I wanted to make a turn based game that wasn’t bogged down by such things. Removing things like the experience points and partners was an important part of that.

TBC: Playing Origami King I noticed that the pacing of the game was blazing fast.

Tanabe: That’s right. The new gameplay formula we established allow us to go crazy with unique ideas and settings that can be built up, played, and resolved in a matter of minutes, rather than the hours it took in the first couple of games.

TBC: So these changes were made to improve the pacing?

Tanabe: That’s right, yes. Super Paper Mario made us realize that the heart and soul of Paper Mario was not in the story or setting, but in the aesthetic and gameplay. So we simply refined the first two games into what you see now.

TBC: A lot of people liked the partners, though.

Tanabe: We got nothing but negative feedback about how they were implemented in Super. It was decided that in order to showcase as many personalities as possible in these, we would incorporate a vast array of NPCs into the world that can all do a variety of different things. So rather than simply having a goomba with a hat who occasionally speaks during story segments, we have dozens of characters in any given area who can help you in a variety of different ways.

TBC: When people praise the partners, they usually are talking about the first two games…

Tanabe: There were no major differences between how the partners were developed between The Thousand Year Door and Super. All of Super’s major problems, such as the lack of exploration and backtracking, have roots in the first two games.

TBC: How is Metroid coming along?

Tanabe: Trying to get me to reveal something, are you? *Laughs* Metroid is fine. Did you play Federation Force?

TBC: Oh yeah, I love Federation Force.

Tanabe: Most real fans did. Well Federation Force was the most excited I’ve been to work on Metroid since the series began. It reminded me a lot of how I felt when working on Sticker Star. And how everything was beginning to ‘click.’ That’s all I can say about upcoming Metroid games.

TBC: Did the fan reaction to Federation Force discourage you?

Tanabe: As I said, real fans bought and played the game. Those who believe that Metroid is meant to be a dark, brooding story driven game don’t understand the core appeal of the series.

TBC: Was that a jab at Sakamoto?

Tanabe: That’s actually Sakamoto-san’s stance on the matter.

TBC: Really? But he made Other M?

Tanabe: Why do you think he hates stories in games? *Laughs* Other M was actually a very educational experience for us at Nintendo. Story driven games are not games. Sakamoto-san found himself creatively limited by the constraints he had set for himself in his outline for the story, and in trying to make everything fit he failed to make a compelling game.

TBC: He didn’t put the gameplay first.

Tanabe: Exactly. That is not a mistake that Nintendo is ever going to make again.

TBC: Newer Nintendo games like ARMS and Splatoon tend to drip feed the lore and information about the setting…

Tanabe: Yes, indeed. For games it’s better to make the game first and create an excuse for it to happen afterward.

TBC: The opposite of what Naughty Dog does then.

Tanabe: Exactly! *Laughs*

TBC: So can you give us any more information on why Metroid Prime 4 was delayed?

Tanabe: Oh, it never actually entered production. We just announced it to get people to stop asking where Metroid was. It didn’t actually begin production until we announced the delay.

TBC: You found to be a necessary step?

Tanabe: Absolutely. A lot of these manchildren Nintendo fans- these twenty, thirty year old unmarried types- they have masculinity issues. They tend to be unemployed, live with their parents, live off of government assistance and have crippling social disorders. To them playing cool games aimed at ‘adults’ is the closest thing they can get to having  a happy or successful life. A lot of these people see ‘hardcore’ franchises as a way to prove their masculinity. Metroid is one of the most common fixations of these people, due to featuring an attractive female protagonist in a bleak, desolate setting.

TBC: My readers aren’t going to like this.

Tanabe: Hey, I said it, not you. *laughs* My advice to these people is to take a shower and get a job. You don’t need a new Metroid game. You need to get a life.

TBC: That’s harsh.

Tanabe: Not harsh enough!

TBC: I think we’ve covered all of the topics I wanted to go over today. Do you have anything more to say to the fans?

Tanabe: Thank you all for your support!

TBC: And thank you for your time!

Original published on



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: