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On and Off Paper: The Inner Progressions of Mario’s Paper Thin Series.

Paper Mario’s Progression ~ Source: Nothing But Games

The Paper Mario series has been a unique trek in establishing new roots while promoting older sources, with the famed mustached plumber’s adventures in a 2D scope world. Since its release in the 2000s, the game’s received praises for unique takes on the Mario series through the scope of adventures in a paper-thin universe. It reintroduced Mario to the world for younger viewers, and older viewers saw his newest experiences as a continuation of his adventurous exploits from previous titles.

The original game was well-received by fans on the Nintendo 64 console back in 2000 for Japanese audiences and 2001 for North American audiences. It was a light-hearted, fun, and reactive combat RPG for children of all ages. It’s success promoted a second installment for the series, The Thousand-Year Door (TTYD), which acclaims as the best installment in the series. Furthermore, it’s the one that fans have remembered, cherished, and have hoped would continue to be the traditional formula for Paper Mario games in the future. Despite this, the series has gone through several changes and has left fans questioning its progressive development.

Since its second installment, the series has always presented a unique take to the word “paper” for the Paper Mario series. Through the incorporation of particular abilities that Mario gained through his travels, it allowed him to solve puzzles and traverse the world, which brought a new dynamic element to the games. This mechanic progressively became a selling point for future titles in the series, with its fundamental mechanics tied to a specific innovation, paper or otherwise. While the games released were seen as useful additions to the Paper Mario series and were welcomed despite older fans criticisms of its new direction in game design, the games paper mechanics’ core principle continues to be implemented within each installment. At the time of writing this article, Paper Mario: The Origami King has been well received by gamers since its release on July 17, 2020, and has currently sold 555K digital units since July.

Paper Mario: The Origami King sold 555K digital units in July. While its performance was nowhere near those of the last big Switch exclusives, Animal Crossing: New Horizons (5.0M) and Pokémon Sword and Shield (2.7M), the game did better than Fire Emblem: Three Houses when it launched in July 2019. 

Source: Superdata

The games complement visual prowess with colorful graphics, awe-inspired papercraft designs, excellent soundtrack, and creative takes on turn-based battles. In addition to cementing the mechanics and ambiance of Paper Mario, it has showcases different systems as a core principle for its game design and game development.

Throughout this article, points of interest in the Paper Mario games bring attention to new developments and new perspectives explored throughout the series. These referenced points showcase change for each title in the Paper Mario franchise and its progression from past to present. It will detail how it has achieved new structures from its original release back in 2000 towards its latest title in 2020. By the end of this article, a summary of where the Paper Mario games will lead and how its future titles will gain traction with old and new gamers’ generations shall unfold.

  • The Expansion of Characters (Enemies and NPC’s), Mechanics, and Story

A growing staple found in most Mario games is the increasing roster of characters that Mario meets, whether it’s friend or foe. The Paper Mario games are no exception to this rule. They have transitioned countless characters from Mario’s famous adventures within the Mushroom Kingdom; primarily, notable enemies and species from his most famous outings. The games also established other known species like the Toads, Goombas, Koopas, Boos, etc., and fleshed their lives out in a way that was befitting of an RPG. This exploration of the different species would cement a more robust narrative that fans would enjoy playing other Mario titles.

If not the most important, one of the essential factors lies in the foundation of its mechanics. Each game illustrates something new that’s added to the world of Paper Mario, whether its from the paper dimensions or the level of meta within Mario’s paper world. The narrative design in the stories for each game is equally important. Nintendo continues to make a convincing story that appeals for kids; however, underneath the surface, it can also be relatable to adults; after all, E for Everyone doesn’t mean it’s only for kids sometimes.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Paper Mario (Nintendo 64)

Characters/Enemies: The first Paper Mario supplied 233 enemies for Mario to battle throughout the story and allowed him to fight four additional enemies as optional side bosses making 237 enemies. The game also promotes multiple species as allies to Mario, aside from the essential trio of Goombas, Koopas, and Bomb-Ombs, even giving them a bit of history in terms of how their names come to be. Other characters will share the same development of mixing their species name, or the animal they’re based on, to create their name while showcasing various Mushroom Kingdom species’ culture.

The dichotomy of Mario’s enemies and allies introduced gives substance to their species within the RPG setting. Toads weren’t just citizens but also salesmen, soldiers, and martial artists, proving that the species wasn’t incapable of defending themselves, or their sovereign, and that they have merits in protecting the Mushroom Kingdom; which, at the time, seemed to be solely the responsibility of Mario and Luigi. Enemies like the Goombas and Koopas showcase that they are unwilling participants in assisting Bowser’s army, provoking the idea that Bowser’s anarchy on the Mushroom Kingdom through fear and power might have been the reason for Mario’s rogues’ gallery.

While Paper Mario isn’t the first game to establish this relationship between Mario and the residents living within, around, and above the Mushroom Kingdom, it paints the picture differently compared to earlier games in the franchise. It establishes growth, understanding, and develops the characters found within Mario games. The idea that Parakoopas are excellent at delivering mail, Goombas are inherently peaceful unless threatened, or that Boos pride themselves in scaring people was a notable first in the series. That Bumpties are a different kind of penguin than actual penguins, Shy Guys are mischievous collaborators with different shapes and sizes, Bob-Ombs are gendered, Sparkies are sentient, and that Toads are resourceful was also a surprise. This momentous decision helped shape worldbuilding and character development for future Mario titles in the future.

Mechanics: The Partner System was the first support system for the titled game in the series. Each partner could be related, in a pseudo sense, to HM’s from the Pokémon series; subsequently, they were incredibly important to the progression of the game. The characters that joined Mario’s adventure adds to the expanding world that Mario explored, influencing the story with their connections to the locales.

The Perspective of Story: The original game’s most refreshing take towards a narrative design comes from a storybook. Memorable titles like Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island was known for its storybook progression sequences, and Paper Mario’s story delivers lines that take it from beginning to end. The start of Mario’s journey, successes, downfalls, and the final battle are all accounted for, like a bedtime story for the player.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Paper Mario TTYD (The Thousand Year Door)

Characters/Enemies: The second installment within the series cuts its roster down to 124 enemies, but introduces new species like Caws, Ratooeys, Bristles, Nibbles, Twilighters, and subspecies of Humans (Flavio, Wonkie, Merlon, etc.); furthermore, reintroducing other known species like Swoopers, Squeeks, Piantas (Mario Sunshine), Doogans, and the return of Duplighosts from the first game.

The characters found within TTYD could be considered one of the most relatable characters written from a Mario game. Unlike the fairytale-inspired locals that the Mushroom Kingdom usually showcase, the game’s enemies and NPCs are linked by the troubles in their environment. Rogueport could be considered the ghettos of the Mushroom Kingdom, showcasing the slums and how corruption by turf wars, crime, and the destruction of the ‘former town’ becoming known as the Rogueport Sewers. Almost every town/locale showcases a different threat that affects the townsfolk, which, in turn, is represented by the threat that Mario has to help them conquer.

  • Petalburg: Fear and Endangerment.
    Threat: Hooktail’s attacks promotes fear, lack of confidence, and anxiety for the villagers; furthermore, in addition to his father’s disappearance, this affects Koops’ anxiety.

  • The Great Tree: Harassment, War, and Survival
    Threat: Jabbies (Natural Born Enemies) and X-Nauts threatening their way of life; furthermore, this prompts Punio to stand against their oppressors and rallies his fellow Punies to fight.

  • Glitzville: Greed, Gluttony (Power), and Confinement
    Threat: Grubba’s binding contract forces the Glitz Pit fighters to continuously keep fighting, while isolating them from leaving Glitzville (Mario); furthermore, Grubba entraps potential stars for his own machinations.

  • Twilight Town: Bullying
    Threat: Doopliss’s schemes of turning the innocent Twilighters into pigs, and shaming Mario as he tries to get his body back; taunting/threatening him outside of town, and every time he leaves or approaches it.

  • Keelhaul Key: Betrayal and Isolation
    Threat: Cortez and, to an extent, Lord Crump’s involvement; Cortez’s betrayal and the deceitful actions of Flavio’s ancestors, and Lord Crump’s involvement with the crew before revealing his betrayal.

  • Excess Express: Trust and Deception
    Threat: Doopliss’s deception as Zip Toad, Heff T.’s deception of Chef Simi’s stew, Ghost T.’s trust in Mario (which could also be deceptive), and Pennington’s trust as a detective and as the sanctum holder for the Crystal Star in Poshley Heights.

  • Fahr Outpost: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
    Threat: No notable threat causes this in game, however, the Bob-ombs in various titles are always involved with battle or war in some way (Bobby the Bob-omb, Bombette was a prisoner (Prisoner of war)), like how General White was apart of something akin to the Cold War.

In addition to the town’s circumstances, The Trouble Center expands on characters Mario meets on his adventures and fleshes their stories out. Issues of losing a loved one, mid-life crises, bioterrorism, etc. are just a few examples of how the game tackles serious matters; furthermore, it’s optional to be experienced or wholly forgotten by the whim of the player.

An arrangement of Paper Mario’s most notable partners within the series.

Mechanics: The Partner System continues in the next installment; however, the first paper mechanic introduced via an interesting “curse” that’s linked to the lore of the story. The game utilizes the idea of being paper-thin with advantages. Mario’s abilities with turning into paper airplanes, paper boats, rolled/tubed papers, and being paper-thin, was a creative execution of the title character’s abilities, figuratively and physically speaking, ironically.

The Perspective of Story: TTYD takes from the perspective of a story, a common point in all of the games, and inadvertently makes the game feel like a pop-up book. Every location that Mario travels towards to find the Crystal Stars, a new site is revealed in a way similar to a pop-up book; however, only when it’s necessary. Switch blocks push the initiative to reveal different paths, uncover secrets, and change the landscape in many other areas that Mario visits within the game and promotes the idea that this storybook has additional features.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Super Paper Mario

Characters/Enemies: The third installment in the series provides 200 enemies for battle; however, the complete cast of characters included within this game bumps the total to 234 characters. The enemies that return for this installment are the stapled types from many of Mario’s games (Goombas, Koopas, Pokeys, etc.) with the inclusion/debut of a couple of enemies absent from previous Mario games that couldn’t be fought (Thwomps, Tromps, and Cheep Cheeps).

Super Paper Mario’s take on characters was uniquely executed to imitate the mechanics available for the game. Instead of being one dimensional, a joke in the sense that their from a paper-verse, the game prides itself in showing two layers of complexity for the characters. The game showcases “light” and “dark” personalities through the interdimensional citizens known as Flip-Flop Folk. Flipside represents the light side of things, while Flopside represents the opposite with the dark.

Mechanics: There were two systems implemented for this game that continued the previous system mechanics from TTYD. The first system, The Flip System, allows Mario to transcend his 2D plane perspective and transcends into a 3D plane perspective for a limited time. The addition of the Pixls, additional partners that assist Mario with his main partners (Bowser, Peach, and Luigi), allows access to previous partners and paper moves. With additions in being more of an RPG-platformer, this system made the new battles fun and provided additional gameplay options.

The Perspective of Story: The Pixls stories have a heavy concentration on the concept of life. Amongst “other characters,” the game presents a unique take for the NPCs living in that world, impacting the story with a conservative take on life and how it can be easily lost. This concept, considered to be very dark at the time of its release, plays with the trope of good and evil and subverts the expectation of light and dark affiliate forces within a Mario game; such as the rivalry between Bowser and Mario, Bowser and Peach’s complexities, and Luigi’s inferiority complex.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Characters/Enemies: The fourth installment in the series drastically cuts their enemies down to 83, concentrating their efforts more on the gameplay with the use of Stickers and Paperization techniques. Stapled enemies in the franchise would continue to appear; however, based on Shigeru Miyamoto’s decision to use species from only Super Mario, this increased the catalog of returning Mario enemies. This change included the debuts of Snifts, Ninjis, Scuttlebugs, Scaredy Rats, Spinning Snowmen, Rocky Wrenches, Broozers, and Whomps.

Aside from wanting us to change the atmosphere a lot, there were two main things that Miyamoto-san said from the start of the project—”It’s fine without a story, so do we really need one?” and “As much as possible, complete it with only characters from the Super Mario world.

Kensuke Tanabe’s response to “two main things” informed to him by Shigeru Miyamoto for Paper Mario: Sticker Star’s development.
Source: Iwata Asks

The focus on characters was not as strong as previous installments; however, a specific character does get a bit more shine than others as a pivotal point with in-game mechanics, plot, and being the “voice” for Mario at times.

Mechanics: A system overhaul was requested for this game, allowing the paper techniques to be used more frequently and within battles. This idea was made way by the Sticker System, introducing stickers’ concepts within the paper world. Its mechanics were similar to some Mario and Luigi games with the Bros. Attacks; however, unlike M&L’s techniques, the stickers were collectible attacks and not progressively learned abilities.

The Perspective of Story: The story went back to its roots of generalized Super Mario games with Bowser as its antagonist and Princess Peach as the damsel in distress. Its perspective was still an open storybook; however, it would be negligent if it wasn’t a sticker book with storytelling elements within it. In addition to introducing “Things,” the tongue and cheek of fully realized objects in Paper Mario’s world present humorous results in and out of battle.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Paper Mario: Color Splash

Characters/Enemies: The fifth installment lowers its roster of enemies to 73; however, including different variations and unique takes on enemies, totals the enemy roster to 88. Newly introduced enemies include Bone Goombas, original concept Lava Bubbles, Ptooies, and Dhino Rhinos’ debut within the series.

The introduction of Huey, Mario’s partner for the game, was a well-rounded addition in the catalog of partners that Mario has had throughout the Paper Mario series. His positive attitude, courageous sacrifices, and Mario’s relationship would be fondly received by fans, old and new. This development of a “partner” made the story of Color Splash an enduring tale; however, the combat’s prowess for older fans did not appeal to them as much as the story would for others.

Mechanics: The Sticker System from Sticker Star was revamped into the Battle Card System for Color Splash. Additional tweaks to the system provided a new, yet familiar, overlay of battle within the game; including the added objective of paining the environments and enemies.

The Perspective of Story: In ways similar to the second game, Color Splash introduces the concept of a mystery and how it can be solved alongside Huey throughout the game. As it progresses, the storybook motive is ongoing; however, the idea that Mario’s adventure is now in a paint book would be tolerable from the paper mechanic focal point.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Paper Mario: The Origami King

Characters/Enemies: The fifth and recent installment boasts a roster of 61 enemies, which is currently the lowest count of enemies in a Paper Mario title. What they sacrificed in numbers, they made up for in new additional species. The appearance of GaloombasSidesteppers, Crowbers, Nipper Plants, Chargin’ Chucks, Stingbies, Sumo Bros, and Mechakoopas are welcomed additions to the series.

The introduction of Olivia creates an origin to the Origami King. Though not unique in design, the addition of partners makes its return with partners like Bobby the Bob-omb, Kamek, Professor Toad, and others.

Mechanics: The newest mechanic introduced in The Origami King is a unique take on “turn-based battle systems” that allow for diverse strategies in formatted battles. Weapons return in a system similar to TTYD, where they can be upgraded; however, accessories and artillery can be bought from shops as a first in the series. The origami aspects outside of battle are highlighted with the use of Magic Circles and the 1,000-Fold Arms.

The Perspective of Story: A giant origami project would be the best explanation for the game’s perspective. The game’s use of paper perspectives, highlighted in various ways throughout the game, makes the world feel grand in size rather than linear in its design.

  • Where is the series heading? Will it ever be the same as the first or second games?

The Paper Mario series’s future has been questioned ever since the concept of Sticker Star was presented to fans back in 2012. While different, Nintendo’s direction with the games was not without merit in regard to the continued success of the series. Additional restrictions by Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo’s guidelines in the use of Mario, and the targeted audiences for those games have continued to be a private and public debate regarding the direction of the series. The first generation of fans that grew up with the series remembers what made Paper Mario so memorable for them. Whether it was the concept of partners, the 2D paper-verse that Mario travels, the whimsical soundtrack, or just the fact that it was a new Mario game, those fans were excited to play the game, seeing where Mario’s next, big adventure.

“The game development philosophy I’ve adopted from Mr. Miyamoto is developing innovative and unique gameplay systems. I’m not opposed to the fans’ opinions. However, I view my game development philosophy as separate from that. If we used the same gameplay system wanted by the fans again and again, we wouldn’t be able to surprise them or deliver new gameplay experiences. We always try our best to exceed expectations in surprising ways. At the same time, there’s no guarantee that we’ll always succeed in doing that – so it’s a real challenge.”

Producer Kensuke Tanabe’s response on the development of new Paper Mario games.
Source: NintendoEverything

Applying the same logic that fans love Mario games and are excited to play them is to be noted; however, the reality that Paper Mario is changing should not be ignored. Kensuke Tanabe’s response in developing “innovative and unique gameplay systems” is a statement that continues to hold for all the Paper Mario games he’s worked upon in succession with others. He knows about the core principles that fans loved in TTYD, and he’s worked on every game involving Paper Mario as a producer to implore new ideas for the series creatively.

“Mr. Tanabe is correct about us having complete creative control over the crucial elements of the game. We were constantly checking whether or not our approach was moving too far away from the Mario universe. During development, we were also careful not to disappoint the expectations of fans of the core Mario series. As mentioned, there are strict guidelines related to the use of characters. It’s a challenge to emphasize the unique aspects of the game while still adhering to the guidelines.”

Director Masahiko Nagaya follow-up in regards to Tanabe’s statement on “creative control” in regards to Paper Mario games.
Source: NintendoEverything

In my opinion, I feel that the series hasn’t lost its edge or has gone down the wrong path. As I continue to grow as a narrative designer, hoping to create a video game series of my own one day, the backlash of writer’s block, creative slowdowns, or the lack of inspiration, impedes every project I create. Good ideas will be altered heavily, and perfect ideas will be seriously flawed when revisited later. The concept of creating innovations is crucial to the continuing success of any idea. Whether it’s in advertising food, publishing new stories, designing new fashions, and creating video games.

Whether it’s Super Mario or Paper Mario, the franchise continues to promote creative innovations. Source: Fawfulthegreat64

The continued success of Paper Mario depends on the fans, young or old. After the release of The Origami King, details on the production of Paper Mario games have been made aware to the public. It shows that the team behind the games wants the fans to trust that they will get it right, and even if it’s wrong, they’ll continue to create great additions for the series. Nintendo’s famous franchises have had their fair share of unique games from Yoshi’s unique adventures with crafts, or as crafts material, Kirby’s adventures with yarn and paint, Pokémon’s otherworld adventures (Mystery Dungeons, Pokémon Conquest, Detective Pikachu, etc.), Link’s multiple timeline adventures, and so many more.

In the end, Paper Mario will continue to be a prominent series that Nintendo works hard to achieve. Whether it’s an RPG like the first two games or plays around with the concept of paper from the last three games, Nintendo’s development team will continue to make the games relatable to the fans, whether it’s paper-thin or folded over.

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Marvel’s MCU: What will the X-Men and Fantastic Four bring to the cinematic universe?

For anyone who is a comic enthusiast, a 90’s baby, or just a lover of comics in general, the idea of seeing a great movie about the Fantastic Four and X-Men in theaters has been a dream that most fans have wanted for a very long time. Now, since Marvel Studios has acquired the rights in making their movie franchise with these two series, this introduces a new phase of characters that will now get the spotlight alongside everyone who was, or perceived, as an Avenger by Endgame.

In addition to new characters, villains, powers, and the like, an important question that NEEDS answering is how the two groups will fit into the narrative constructed by Marvel Studios and, to another extent, Disney. At its earliest stage, the Fantastic Four were about superheroes, taking on bad guys that threatened the city, and the world, from chaotic turmoil. On the other hand, The X-Men have unique origins. Those origins, compared to current events, are a powerful narrative that Disney could play around with to make into a pseudo “family-friendly” topic; however, changing that narrative could be both good and bad.

For this article, I’ll be presenting three topics within Phase 4’s possible cycle, including The Fantastic Four and X-Men. The issues I’ll be focusing on will be integrated within the story as a prominent point of focus for these two groups, evolving, and progressively changing the scope of how they’ll present with future plot points. As a rule of preference towards constructive worldbuilding and storytelling, I won’t be including casting predictions or indictive biases. For this idea, let’s imagine that we (the collective fanbase) have received what we wanted in terms of “The Perfect Cast” for these movies. Henceforth, removing the debate of how the characters would look (White, Black, Asian, etc.), body types, and how Marvel Studios/Disney will promote them (Johnny being a playboy, Iceman potentially being gay, the existentialism of The Thing and his powers, etc.).

  1. The Fantastic Four will be the next Captain America ‘Ice Story‘ for the MCU.

Synopsis: The story for the Fantastic Four would start somewhere in 1989. Their account will be linked together with the Quantum Realm, Pym Particles, and Mitchell Carson (The person that Michael Douglas ((Hank Pym)) punches in the first Ant-Man film). Reed Richards and Susan Storm would be recruited by Mitchell Carson to explore the possibilities behind Pym Particles; however, Carson lies to the two of them when in regards to Hank Pym’s participation and continues to lie to them as they work in succession towards using the Pym Particles. Eventually, the experiment leads to the shrinking of our four heroes, in addition to various pieces of tech found within the laboratory. Upon arriving in the Quantum Realm, Reed quickly develops a way to build off of the shrunken tech that’s entered, or is continually appearing, within its space to ensure their survival. Eventually, after a certain amount of time has gone by, the team experiences the first symptoms of their newfound powers and use these powers to build their home in the Quantum Realm.

Since the flow of time in the Quantum Realm is different, explained loosely by Scott Lang in Avengers Endgame, the idea that five hours would equal five years positions our characters in an intricate time frame. The team would’ve been stuck in the Quantum Realm for at least 24 hours, unaware of how to get out of it while experiencing shifts in their powers, until Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne develops a way to get them out.

Unlike Captain America, the group won’t be officialized in the media until their first big fight, or first overall win, against their first villain. As their adjusting to the world, learning about the things that haven’t heard or known about for 24 years, the development of small character arcs would be implemented for the group; such as Reed trying to figure out how advance the world has become, Susan’s grief over the loss of those she used to know, Johnny’s disposition as a Millennial but with a Generation X mindset, and Ben’s grip with being The Thing which makes him feel like more of a mutant than a human. The team will argue, break-up, and nearly come back together for all the wrong reasons – until the right reason comes at the final act, solidifying the group and naming themselves the Fantastic Four after two specific characters, recognized as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, leave a letter behind for the team and characterizes them as “Four individuals that will do fantastic things.

Conclusion: Whenever Marvel Studios decides to release the movie, the amount of time passed within the Quantum Realm, compared in real-time, affects what kind of Fantastic Four team we’ll get in the future. If the story occurs in the ’90s and the movie is released in 2024 (Branding possibilities, it’s going to be significant), that would be the perfect sweet spot for its development. This development re-introduces the Fantastic Four to the present and works as a double entendre for the MCU franchise.

In other words, the sweet spot for The Fantastic Four is to be old but relatable.

  1. Mole Man could be an introduction for mutants and for the X-Men.

This idea sounds blasphemous when you compare the wants of an X-Men movie before a Fantastic Four movie; however, this premise is on the belief that what comes after the Fantastic Four movie is in the interim of the X-Men series.

Synopsis: The side plot found in Avengers Endgame comes from the amount of energy released from Thanos, and the snap felt worldwide. In this interpretation of the character, Mole Man could be one of the many people affected by the wave of power that covered the world from the Snap/Blib. His story would be, more or less, the same with a few adjustments to his character and how he would eventually end up as the Mole Man. His abnormal appearance could be altered much like Oswald Cobblepot’s (The Penguin) appearance has been shifted from fat to skinny in various Batman Origins. His pursuits of finding the Subterranean Realm would lead him to understand his newfound powers. As the world progresses, Mole Man’s complexes could provoke him into wanting to show the world how it’s treated him and decides to use the Fantastic Four as an example by devaluing their abilities when compared to his own.

Mole Man’s story, outside of the Fantastic Four’s, could be structured differently to make him the focus of what he has become, or what others will think of him, as a precedent to introducing mutants. In discovering his powers, acknowledging the cruelty he received before gaining them, his attempts at showing his newfound abilities, his confrontations with the Fantastic Four, and his loss against them, Mole Man could be the start of mutant propaganda. In the movie’s final post-credits scene, Mole Man appears to be in a dream-like area and is approached by someone as they talk about rehabilitation and understanding his pains with having this power. Mole Man refuses his help, stating that he knew what he was doing and doesn’t want to play soldier for someone like “him,” before revealing to the audience the first glimpse of Professor Charles Francis Xavier otherwise known as Professor X.

Conclusion: While Mole Man’s inclusion within the MCU would be a stapling achievement for the Fantastic Four as their first big bad guy, he also plays a part in the development and announcement of mutants within the MCU. It shows off what new mutants, or whatever the safe word will be for them in the MCU, are capable of and how the Mole Man practically starts the Civil War (Comic Book story) between humans and mutants.

  1. Each X-Men film will focus on new members (young and older additions) while exploring unheard events between 2012 and the present.

The idea sounds like a no brainer; however, the image I would like to implement for the movies is that the team is nonexistent at the time of the Fantastic Four’s appearance and has, for the most part, been hearsay from different sources. For anyone who’s read the comics, there are HUNDREDS of mutants within the series. A lot of them don’t get as much attention due to their abilities being too dangerous, not practical, or just irrelevant in a fight. The movies will buildup the initial roster, minus Wolverine for various reasons, and creates the original team that will eventually coordinate with other notable members as the films progress.

Synopsis: The story behind the various films would have ranged in regards to certain characters. The first established members, depending on the storyline and timeline of when and where the initial conflict begins, would revolve around Professor X and Magneto’s public figureheads. Before the snap, Mutants would be the focus of the first film that roughly crafts Cyclops, Jean Grey (Marvel Girl), Angel, Beast, and Iceman. Later movies will see Colossus, Storm, Kitty Pryde, and eventually Wolverine joining their rosters; however, each film is a separate synopsis of a smaller/larger arc that’s interpreted differently by the main cast of characters within that movie.

The first movie will discover the initial five, which roughly takes place somewhere between 2012 and 20?? (Whenever the movie comes out). It’ll be a melting pot of revelations for the group that will start the X-Men with the appearance of aliens, costumed superheroes, vigilantism, the government, and how all of these things shape the MCU version of the team. They’ll start in their original outfits as a way to hide their faces and to essentially avoid being called criminals; a throwaway joke about “wearing ski masks” could be used here for comedic effect. Eventually, through shenanigans, they’ll get a taste for their costumed individuality and create outfits that work for them, perhaps an amalgamation of the original with their more iconic look. Like Wolverine, specific characters would be integrated into later films after his debut film, amalgamating two prominent storylines from a plethora of different characters within the series.

Overall, this sets the tone for the franchise with self-discovery and individuality. Each film will dive into the good and bad portions of the X-Men mythos and highlight a powerful sentiment that is present in most MCU films. Eventually, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters will be a reality in the MCU.

Conclusion: The MCU’s timeline and movies are ever-changing regarding the development/inclusion of a new series. While the X-Men are hopeful stays in the MCU, the ability to craft a reasonable and updated timeline with those characters can be a plaguing problem. By approaching each movie with a narrative that focuses on the characters, as it’s worldbuilding develops with other films, the X-Men movies will be able to fully flesh their names out for years to come in this cinematic universe.

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J. Arthur’s Gaming Workshop: Rival School Games in The Present. (2020’s)

Whether it’s in movies, books, or tv adaptations, older shows from the past tend to be a recurring topic going into the present. When developing new media, some franchises are used divisively to promote new growth within the show’s already durable source material. An example of this would be with the original Twilight Zone and its use of “weird, unusual circumstances and situations” to promote a manner of recognizing real, impactful notices to concerning topics. It presents something new but still invokes the general premise of what it was based on; furthermore, using the context of “weird” and now relating it to “normal abnormalities” creates a more persuasive narrative towards The Twilight Zone’s ominous take on the unknown and informing others about what is obscure; using an old franchise to promote new concepts.

The same works in regards to older video game franchises, and this was made relatively clear in a character announcement for Street Fighter 5. Since its inclusion of Seasons, a regularly attributed notice to new DLC in the form of characters, stages, mechanics, and so forth, Street Fighter 5 has built itself from its initial launch back in 2016. The game was, in a word, “rough,” and fans felt shortchanged by the efforts that Capcom produced with one of their biggest IPs and a staple point in fighting games everywhere. With their announcement of Season 5, the fanbase was surprised and blown back by the sudden appearance of a particular character, a character that hasn’t been seen in years, in the form of Akira Kazama from the Rival School Series.

They said it couldn’t be done….they said it was dead. My god….they were wrong.

Such a character’s announcement was unexpected due to the lack of interest Capcom showed towards their older games, especially towards its fighting games. Titles like Power Stone, Star Gladiator, and Rival Schools are just three of many forgotten fighting games that Capcom hasn’t digitally released or rumored for a very long while despite being popular IPs that fans, young and old, still love in the present. Since her announcement was made in August of this year, fans have been speculating the power dynamics of what Akira’s appearance could mean for Capcom fighting games.

At the time of writing this article, Producer Yoshinori Ono has departed Capcom after 30 years of working with the company. Producer, Shuhei Matsumoto, and director, Takayuki Nakayama, will potentially be responsible for the direction of new content in regards to Street Fighter, Fighting Games, and Capcom’s possibly underused series that still holds a place in older fans memories.

However, in the case that they would revitalize an older series, Rival Schools’ idea as a current fighting game is both exciting and divisively-speaking, a problematic development. As someone who wishes to create new games creatively and narratively, I wanted to try my hand at figuring out how a current generation Rival Schools game would look, feel, and be developed through a gaming workshop. In this article, I’ll focus on four points of interest that are necessary for rejuvenating the franchise and providing new content for players. These four points will be Presentation, Mechanics, Story, and Inclusions. I will be using these four interests explicitly to construct what I think a new Rival Schools game would be like. In adapting multiple references and ideas from previous Capcom games, and other notable fighting games, this is my video game workshop towards a new and improved Rival Schools innovation.

  1. Presentation

    As an older franchise reintroduced into a new generation, the first idea that popped into my head was its presentation. Presentation plays a big part in how it will be received within the media and its community fanbase.

When Street Fighter IV was announced it displayed distinct animations with a flowing display of painted colors and backdrops in trailers. Artistic depictions of strong ink motions with a brush, and calligraphy-inspired movements (Which in turn would be a definitive feature known as “A Focus Attack“) made the characters feel like they were fighting on an artistic landscape. This excited fans about the future of the Street Fighter series. This presentation, first shown in FMV (Full Motion Video), before it was demonstrated in gameplay, made fans excited to play Capcom’s classic 2D fighter as a 3D fighting game.

Regarding Rival Schools, I don’t think the style of Street Fighter IV or V is necessary for their presentation. When I first heard about the Rival School series, I imagined it more like “Street Fighter High” rather than as a full-blown fighter in multiple countries. Because of its local feel, and whatever the story may be within it, I thought that the presentation for the game could be something similar to Street Fighter IV’s approach with artistic representation. Since it also has ties to being like a Marvel vs. Capcom game, perhaps it could also take a page from out of MVC3’s comic popping inspirations, and, lastly, the game itself could be presented as both a throwback and as a recollection of events that occurred within the series – like a yearbook OR a scrapbook.

Imagine it: Rival Schools’ idea as a new game would also be seen as a throwback to various events within the franchise. The game would be presented through pictures, comic strips, and the characters seamlessly walking in cutscenes from one image to another, and so forth. This would build upon the already established comic style inspirations found within the MVC series and would also play coyly with that of the Arcade endings in SFV, and tastefully incorporating the traversing mechanics of an older Sega Genesis game called Comix Zone. The game (Comix Zone) explored the idea of traversing comic panels, going page by page throughout the adventure. The presentation, not so much the gameplay, could be played around with in regards to the cutscenes with fading backgrounds, dropping polaroid frames to connect to another scene, turning the page, etc.

An example of how it could be implemented but NOT EXACTLY like TTYD.

It’s innovated enough to show growth and presents the game in remembrance as a franchise, continuing to play upon the yearbook theme in this title. A yearbook filled with memories about Rival School characters is the perfect setup to include multiple, and I mean MULTIPLE, costumes for the franchise. Whether it involves an entirely new generation of fighters for the series, OR revels in antics made between past and present views from within the series. This level of presentation would not only make the game a standalone fighter for the series, but, in case it isn’t the best game in the world, it provides it with a last ‘hurrah‘ in regards to its comeback within Capcom’s eyes.

2. Mechanics

When it comes to the mechanics for a new Rival School game, I believe it should be a mixture of old and new; however, it should be simple for newcomers and intricate enough for older fans. Given that the game’s last entry was a mixture of tag-team combat and one on one battles, I think that system should stay with new additions to the mechanics that work the 2D&3D fighting perspective:

  • 2D to 3D to 2D Battle Transitions: Justice Transitions

Project Justice’s Sidestep/Dodge Mechanic into a German Suplex

If this particular Rival School’s game was to go in the way of being an MVC fighter, yet still grounded with what makes Rival School such a nostalgic gem, one aspect that I think Rival schools would be terrific in implementing is a 2D to the 3D transitional battle system. When I thought about Pokken Tournament and their use of 3D to 2D combat, this idea came to me, transitioning from a 3D combative phase into a close-quarters 2D phase. The plan would be implemented in a distinctly different manner than Pokken’s and would involve brief transitions to 3D, rather than a full shift into a 3D arena mode.

Let’s call these moves “Justice Transitions” (Like transitioning between 1st Period, 2nd period, etc.), and it could be used as both a dodge against specific attacks with low frames and even some of them could have super armor enabled for them, while others can be used as counterattacks to change the flow of battle. Whenever the action is perfectly executed, it leads to a transitional cut between strips of a comic, or pictures in a yearbook, that turns the arena on a 3D-axis as the opponent is propelled into nearby objects (trash, benches, statues, handrails, etc.). The follow-up can be with the controlled character for extra damage, OR it can be transitioned back into a 2D state.

An inspired take on what a Justice Transition could look like in-game.

Regarding the 2D vs. 3D issue, this issue can be explained through the arena. As fighters are going against one another and use a Justice Transition, bouncing on the object that they would hit, another hit can be executed to turn the stage, showing another portion of the screen and, technically, resetting the stage or getting themselves out of the corner. This system could evolve through updates or new mechanics being added into the game; however, until that beautiful Season 1 update occurs – I believe this should suffice for the first stage of the game’s evolving combat.

  • Versatile Focus Attacks: Hall Pass Kenpo
It can be used to set up faints and counter-attacks.

Hall Pass Kenpo, or evasive moves/counters, could be implemented into the game to give everyone options when dealing with various kinds of matchups. Some of these moves will help their character speed pass projectiles, pushback opponents, initiate feints of some sort, amongst many other things that the game includes in its revamped playstyle. This would also, story-wise, make sense since for most of the characters. The use of particular sports, hobbies, and activities to produce a powerful combat style would make a bit more sense in this game if 1st years, or students that could defend themselves, had suddenly developed particular strengths in this installment. It’ll be treated as a ‘video game rule’ that the students in this game can do because of their love for the “fill in the blank activity” and that this makes sense within the game.

  • Perfect Guard: Grade Adjustment(s)
A perfect guard that can push back OR counter an opponent’s attack.

Grade Adjustment would be the equivalent of a Perfect Guard, allowing the characters to guard and secure further damage from making their HP gauge decrease. While this sounds very similar to the parry system, this idea actually came to me from a concept found in some forms of JRPGS.

This particular idea came to me from games like the Mario&Luigi franchise and Paper Mario series, respectively. A chance to decrease damage, or nullify it completely, sounds like a pretty basic concept since its foundation in many fighting games comes in the form of counters and parries. The idea of being able to counter and have the choice to push back or power through to attack the opponent is only found in some technical 3D fighters; an excellent example of this would be found in Tekken and Soul Calibur as reversals.

Grade Adjustments would give the choice of either being defense or using it to be offensive. In a sense, you’re adjusting your school work/homework and making it into something viable for a better grade. It could also be used to improve your rank at the end of the match; A+ being the highest and D- being the lowest, since F wouldn’t really exist because you have to move and/or do something in these matches.

  • Team Assistance (Support Attacks):
Initiating attacks into an assist attack OR the assist attack that you can use to catch others off guard.

Team Attacks, which could also include specific centered Vigor Combos for each character in addition to them, could be done in three different formats. The first would be the simple assist that comes out when you’re on the ground, the next would be a different assist that occurs while you’re airborne, and the third would be a brand new assist attack that uses the combined efforts of the two assists that you are using.

When used together, it would do something along those lines but as support; not as a super

Depending on the characters you’re using you’ll get different results and, in the case they don’t go together at all, the assists will come out just as they normally would; however, in the fact that they’re relatable to one another, the characters will produce a unique animation and attack, or support, for the fighter on screen.

  1. Story
20th anniversary. Perhaps a re-release or new game is necessary?

In regards to its story, Rival Schools can go in multiple directions with its narrative. Since Akira’s inclusion into Street Fighter 5 is supposedly in the future, where Sakura goes to a university, it could be implied that the adventures in this entry are of the past. By the story’s conclusion, older models of the students could be revealed, and through the season, for both young and old models, costumes could be added for each of the characters; Past and Present versions included.

  1. Inclusions

Now with most of the newly added mechanics implemented into the game, how it will be presented in-game, and a sampled story for the narrative enthusiast, let’s discuss the inclusions within the game. A game like this should have more than just the game (Controversial, I know) so, here’s a couple of ideas that could be implemented, HOWEVER, it’ll be done without a heavy data consumption:

  • Digital Download of Rival Schools (1 and 2)
Sprite Fighters, anyone???

Sweeten the deal with a digital release of Rival Schools OR even redeem codes to download it with the game’s purchase. Gathers the old, introduces to the new, and establishes the communities that love the games.

  • School Life Mode (Arcade mode, Synopsis and History Compendium, Time Archives)

School mode should be unique, maybe even like an arcade mode but with story mode notes and, if the yearbook motive is still active, you can learn more about the past of individual characters as it leads up to their graduation; so it’s sort of like a “fill in the blank” on certain characters history and giving them a synopsis by the time of their graduation, and where they would be in the Street Fighter Universe. It makes it interesting for casual players, and for diehard fans can appreciate the detail made in giving a complete synopsis on characters that haven’t been seen for 20 years!

In conclusion, this is just a possible continuation of the series and one way to pay respects to the franchise. Whether it becomes a thing or appears in the form of a new IP, this is my take at workshopping a classic game for the current generation of fighting games.