This Video Games Chronicle interview with the Paper Mario: The Origami King production team has been making rounds on Twitter recently, specifically this quote from producer Kensuke Tanabe when asked about designing the game’s villain:
Since Paper Mario: Sticker Star, it’s no longer possible to modify Mario characters or to create original characters that touch on the Mario universe. That means that if we aren’t using Mario characters for bosses, we need to create original characters with designs that don’t involve the Mario universe at all, like we’ve done with Olly and the stationery bosses.
The conversation around the game has mostly been a circular argument about RPG battle systems up until now, but this quote touches on something that’s been frustrating in the newer Paper Mario games, where there’s a tangible limitation placed on what the writers can do with the characters and story. Color Splash was an improvement over Sticker Star with snarkier and punchier dialogue, but it was still using the stock-standard Mario characters (mostly Toads).
Mario Odyssey has been brought up a lot, as an example of a recent mainline Mario game that goes way outside of the traditional series imagery by introducing tons of unique character design and even letting you put Mario in wildly different outfits. It reads like a Disney situation, where the company headquarters is allowed to be weird and divergent with the character imagery, but everyone else needs to play ball with the established designs.