Vivian in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is Trans

She is! She always has been!

Image from abadidea on Mastodon, who got it from Nintendo Life

I had heard this fact but wasn’t sure if it was actual lore or fan-canon, a character who had been adopted by the community as trans. But as it turns out she always had been in the original Japanese, and in some localizations. Nintendo of America censored that aspect of the character for the US audience.

It’s funny. Those of us in the US who “consume media” that’s been localized for international audiences sometimes hear of those countries where one aspect or other has been papered over, like making Steven Universe’s Ruby a boy so her and Sapphire’s relationship would play better in countries with more homophobic cultures. Show creator Rebecca Sugar pushed against those localization decisions by, when the characters got married, making sure Ruby was the one in the wedding dress. It’s a decision that may have shortened the show’s run (the last season feels rushed), which reflects poorly on producer and airer Cartoon Network.

We in the US can tut at this, and look down upon those “less enlightened” places. Well, here’s a case where it was done for us, to us. And it’s been remedied in the new release, not a change, but the removal of a change. Vivian isn’t a bit character either, she’s an important part of the story.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is the highlight of the Paper Mario series, its gameplay is terrific, and it’s story is hilarious and surprising, much better than a Mario game has any right having. It has many fans, and I’m sure most of them didn’t know either. When they play through this and find out about Vivian, I think it’s going to spark a number of conversations. It may also spark a few realizations.

Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door Obscurities

It’s been some time since we had one of these obsessive quirk videos. I’d been feeling a bit self-conscious about using them a lot I suppose, plus none of them struck my brain the right way. Well, here’s one that’s pretty good, from Youtuber Bringles (21 minutes):

I won’t like this will be mostly interesting to people who are familiar with the game, but I should explain a few things in case you aren’t but still want to watch.

A “superguard” is a special mechanic in TYD. After the concept was pioneered with Super Mario RPG, the first Paper Mario also included a timed reaction move, often a button press, you can do in response to enemy attacks to reduce damage. But singe the first two Paper Mario games purposely keep their battle numbers pretty low, with most attacks doing single digit damage, sometimes even just one or two points, any reduction to that ends up being significant.

Those moves are called guards. Thousand Year Door goes a step further, with superguards. If your reactive button press happens within a three frame window of the attack’s impact, your character will often take no damage. That’s really strong, which is why both the frame window is so slight and way some enemies play cagey timing games with their attacks to try to trick you into guarding early or late.

One of the things the video reveals is that, in Western releases of the game, nearly every non-item attack in the game can be superguarded. The Japanese version, which was released first, has a lot more attacks that can’t be superguarded, making this a mechanic that was un-nerfed.

Another interesting mechanic revealed by the game is how a lottery in the game works. Players draw a ticket and try to match a four-digit number. You might expect that to work randomly, but it’s much less random than you’d think. Instead it decides how many real-world game days (using the Gamecube’s real-time clock) it’ll be before each of the four tiers of prices will be won. The number of days is random, but only by a bit: it’ll still be a while before the wins happen, but within a limited range. The highest prize won’t be won until at least 335 days since the game was started. There is no chance of winning it before then! That might sound unfair, but since it’d be a 1-in-10,000 chance of winning it fairly, it’s more bending the odds in the player’s favor. Although honestly, who would even be playing the same game of PM:TYD nearly a year after beginning it?

One more thing you should know is that TYD has this stageplay aesthetic in its battle sequences, which take place on a wooden stage in front of an audience of Mario characters. Some enemies play around with the stage (like hanging from the ceiling), but the audience also can play a role in the fights. The video reveals that two particular kinds of audience members don’t trigger randomly as one might expect, but react to certain failures of the player’s behalf during combat. X-Nauts throw rocks if an attack hits but does zero damage (like if the target is invulnerable or guarding), and Hammer Bros. throw hammers at you if Mario misses with a Hammer attack, in something like a display of hammerer pride.

It’s an interesting video all in all, concerning a game that’s much deeper than it may seem at first.

Obscure Mechanics in Thousand Year Door (Youtube, 21 minutes)

The Complete Script of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Not only is it everything in the game, including unused dialogue, but it’s not a text file on Pastebin, GameFAQs or Github, but on its own website, at dialoguetree.net! This means, when its domain expires, it’ll be gone from the web. Maybe the Internet Archive can rescue it….

If you’re not familiar with it, Thousand-Year Door is widely regarded as the best of the Paper Mario games. Not only does it update the game system of the original Paper Mario with all kinds of new ideas, but it has a fairly brilliant story given its having to work with Mario lore, and it has hilarious writing and memorable characters. Super Paper Mario, that followed it, has its charms, but a somewhat lesser story. And after SPM, it seems Nintendo decided that they weren’t fond of the branching-off of Mario lore that the Paper Mario games was doing, so games after that didn’t have as much of their own continuity.

This is the game where Mario joins a pro wrestling federation as “The Great Gonzales,” where he solves a murder mystery on a train (with a particular NPC who is slightly menacing somehow!), and has one of the best uses of Luigi from among all the Mario games: while you’re on your journey to rescue Peach, it turns out that Luigi is on his own weird adventure, in the “Waffle Kingdom,” that you only find out about from talking with him. Luigi his own crazy partners that accompany him, who have their own opinions about his adventure. Here is the page on dialoguetree.net that lists that part of the script–needless to say, it is spoilers, and if you plan on playing TYD you probably should experience it there first.

Dialogue Tree, Home of Game Scripts (although so far only Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door)