Paper Mario Talks — Skills of a Paper Mario Challenge Runner

Coffee…Check.
Fingers and hand stretched…Check.
Paper Mario information…Check.

I think I’m ready.

Welcome to Paper Mario Talks! In this new series, I’ll be exploring various areas of the Paper Mario series as it relates to gameplay, game design, and challenge running! I have a lot of opinions on this series that I haven’t really expressed to, well…anyone! So, what better way to talk about the series I love the most than through blog posts and videos!

Oh, yeah, there’ll be videos, too! They’ll be available on my YouTube channel. Here’s how it’s going to break down: these posts will be more in-depth into various topics of the series that I want to write about, and the videos will be more focused on my favorite/least favorite badges/partners/etc…

Paper Mario Talks will be more focused on Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door; the reason will be a topic all of its own!

To begin this series, I want to bring to light what challenge running is so that you know what angles I’m coming from. Unlike speedrunning, where the goal is to beat the game as fast as possible, challenge running aims to beat the game under certain conditions or with restrictions. This is to force a new style of gameplay or make the game harder. RPG’s are usually pretty great for these, as you can easily restrict certain items/attacks/level ups and change the way the game is played.

There’s a wiki detailing a lot of different challenges in the Paper Mario series to get you more familiarized with what I’m talking about. Check it out if you’re interested!

Anyway, today’s topic is about the core skills of a challenge runner in the Paper Mario series. There are four distinct skills I believe most great Paper Mario players are proficient in – execution, planning, game knowledge, and reactionary theory. Let’s define those:

Game Knowledge: How well you know enemies, their health, their stats, Mario’s abilities, partners’ abilities, boss AI, etc… This is an ever-growing skill until you’ve memorized everything. If you don’t know enough about the game, you can’t really improve the rest of your skills. However, it’s easy to improve this one – ask someone or look it up online. Besides Color Splash, the series is pretty old and has a lot of FAQs/guides dedicated to the other games in the series.

Planning: How well you can plan out a strategy for a given fight. If you know enough about a certain boss, you can plan turn-by-turn strategies around them. You can account for RNG and have a plan of attack no matter what the boss does. You can be adequately prepared for any kind of encounter. Theoretically, you can win fights before you even get to them! Everyone can plan to an extent, but truly remarkable players can optimize their strategies further.

Execution: This is Planning’s cousin. You can win fights before you even play them, but can you execute on your strategies and actually win the fight? Can you guard or superguard every attack you’re planning to? Can you hit all the necessary Action Commands? Planning & Execution go hand-in-hand with each other.

Reactionary Theory: Probably the trickiest of the skills challenge runners need. If your plan goes awry, how can you get back on track? Can you save the fight? If you encounter a certain enemy loadout that you weren’t expecting, can you formulate a plan for success? This kind of on-the-fly thinking is crucial to certain challenges and is great for when you messed up an Action Command or RNG truly shot down your strategy. This is the hardest skill to become proficient in.

These four together form the core of a great Paper Mario challenge runner. How I define these skills helps shape how I view challenge running – and by extension certain facets of the series – so I hope this helps shed some light on how I’ll be approaching the rest of the topics in Paper Mario Talks.

Just Sayin’

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