1) Why Paper Mario?

I first encountered Paper Mario as a rental game—I don't know if anyone still does that anymore, and I haven't done it myself for years, but apparently it seemed worth it at the time. I hadn't played a whole lot of RPGs prior to Paper Mario, but I had played Pokémon Silver to death and back multiple times, so I was at least familiar with what an RPG is supposed to be—HP, attack, defense, taking turns, accuracy, speed, critical hits, special attacks, battle mode versus being in the field, limited attack uses (in Pokémon, these are called Power Points, and each specific attack has a specific number of them). Anyway, from the very first moment that I grasped how Paper Mario worked, I was fascinated, captivated, mystified, and several other synonyms, all at the same time. The fundamental difference between Paper Mario and any other RPG in existence can be summarized thus: you can actually understand the numbers.

Not just understand them, but do the math in your head, without a calculator. Paper Mario's battle system is usually praised most for its utilization of action commands, a concept first implemented in its spiritual predecessor Super Mario RPG, but which appears in a refined manner in Paper Mario (by which I mean the game actually gives you any indication of what you are supposed to do). But to me, the numbers deserve far more recognition, and they get none whatsoever. I have never heard anyone who isn't severely related to me say anything at all about Paper Mario's number system—granted, I don't get out much, but I still think that it is heavily under-appreciated, in the same sense that this website is heavily over-explanatory. Paper Mario was the first and only thing of any kind that made me see beauty in numbers—and they are beautiful, the numerical interactions of that game and its sequel. Not only can you understand them, but the way that the Attack Power increases of Mario and his partners play against the HP and Defense Power values of enemies is just magical.

I am not a very excitable person, and the moment when I called my cousin Orphic Okapi to tell him that they were making a sequel to Paper Mario is the only time that I remember truly acting like a fangirl non-sarcastically for an actual length of time. (I am male, but "fangirl" seems an appropriate term nonetheless.) The sequel didn't disappoint, either: it had the same numerical ideas, but added some innovations and made greater use of Defense Power. The first game entirely eliminated speed, accuracy, and critical hits, but it quite nearly featured no Defense Power as well; the sequel (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door), again, used it a bit more. After years of self-debate, I have been forced to admit that, must I choose between the first two Paper Mario games, it would have to be the original, but the sequel is still my second-favorite video game of all time.

The third game in the series, Super Paper Mario, came and went; while I personally enjoyed the plot quite a bit, it probably being the deepest of any Mario game, it forfeited my beloved battle system and was not even turn-based. This, however, was widely assumed to be a temporary change in the series, and therefore was not overly upsetting. When I heard of a fourth game in the series set to be released on the 3DS (and that it would supposedly return to the same turn-based battle system), I thought that all was well in the world and that it might not be as dark of a place as things had previously indicated. Then I looked more closely at a few screenshots and videos.

To these I suppose I overreacted a little, but justifiably so. What they had done is gone back to turn-based battling, but changed the numbers. I was very close to tears at first, and I went on like that for some time. This was before I began making the Arpeggio system, although I had tried to make some other RPG systems that didn't work out. I believe that I originally started making Arpeggio as a form of protest—another form was buying Pokémon Black even though it hadn't seemed like it would be much of an improvement over Diamond and Pearl, and I had previously decided not to buy it. What I eventually realized, of course, after Arpeggio took off, was that, really, I was doing the very same thing—changing Paper Mario's numbers. I had a bit more justification for doing so—I was working in a different medium whereas they were doing a direct sequel—but still, it made me a pretty big hypocrite, and I settled down about the fourth Paper Mario game, though still refused to buy it.

Douglas Adams, the late author of five of the six books in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, once made a point about some of the best inventions involving the subtraction of components instead of the addition of new ones. This is exactly what Paper Mario's battle system does: it takes the idea of turn-based battles and subtracts all the horribly complicated gunk until it has become something that is not only sleek and shiny, but that anyone can pick up and use without instruction. This, among many other reasons, fuels my great love for the game, and is the backbone ideal of the numbers found in Arpeggio: although I add lots of aspects to the game system to account for lots of possibilities, the math is still relatively easy to understand—if you don't think so, then I apologize, but it is a comparative statement rather than a quantitative one.

Arpeggio is, numerically speaking, supposed to be a text-based version of Paper Mario, with some additional elements to allow players a greater variety of playing methods. Whether or not it achieves this is, I suppose, a subjective call, but so far, players have seemed to enjoy it, and allegedly for the same reasons that I enjoy Paper Mario.

0) Prehistory | 1) Why Paper Mario? | 2) Paper Dungeons and Origami Dragons | 3) So where does Fire Emblem come in? | 4) Odds, Ends, and Updates | 5) Overview - What is a character? | 6) Final Note | 7) Thoughts on Color Splash | 8) Bugs to the Rescue | 9) Ostinato 2.0