Paper Mario's gameplay is a blend of traditional Japanese role-playing games and Mario-esque platforming features; Mario has the ability to jump in both the overworld and in battle, and jumping remains one of the most important actions in the game. The player controls Mario and a party of followers as they journey through the Mushroom Kingdom, exploring dungeons, managing stats, and battling enemies. The title refers to the game's arts and crafts aesthetic; nearly every character in the game is drawn as a flat 2D sprite, revealing itself as paper-thin when turning around, and many elements of the environments are also depicted as 2D sprites.
Paper Mario started development as a sequel to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and production was initially handled by staff that worked on the game. Ryota Kawade was brought in as the chief director and designer, with Shigeru Miyamoto co-producing the game. Early in development, it was decided to divorce the project from Super Mario RPG and the developers took a year and a half to experiment with character and graphical style ideas, including pre-rendered sprites (like Super Mario RPG) and polygons. Although development was initially done with Silicon Graphics workstations as with most first-party Nintendo 64 games, the final game's graphics were done with internal Super Famicom tools. Art director Naohiko Aoyama was responsible for creating the series' distinct paper-like style for character graphics, taking inspiration from the graphics of the PlayStation's PaRappa the Rapper and traditional animated films, such as those in the Disney animation canon or the Looney Tunes franchise. Aoyama believed that players would prefer a game with "cute" paper-like character designs over one with low-polygon 3D graphics. 2b1af7f3a8