|Athena Hawkins/Paper Zaxina: The Negative Parallels|
|October 11, 2024 (all releases)|
|Media Included|| Nintendo Switch cartridge|
The V² optical disc
|Available Input||Nintendo Switch Joycons, The V² controller|
The plot follows a clinically depressed criminal that committed several serious crimes over the timespan of a few weeks, bringing Zaxinian Lifts lord "Fandraxono" to stop them. He then grants them access to the Negative Parallels so they can be rid of their sins despite warnings from his deity friends. This dimension is where great sufferers of negativity used to go in order to cure their unforgivable reputations. However, everyone that went there was cursed by its judge, becoming shadowy figures with their cheery selves escaping them and living happy lives without them as the shadows writhed forever in misery and remained hollow and guilty. Once the player-named protagonist steps in and pleads, however, they fall for the same curse as all the others, with their masochist psychopath side being splitting them and leaving their body to be a hollow black figure. With a murderer side of them on the loose that's taken their identity and plans on gaining the assets necessary to become a god, the protagonist quickly decides to attempt giving chase while also plotting to put an end of the Negative Parallels now that they know of the truth behind it.
It is from the point after the Prologue that the player can choose to play the story from the side of the shadowy figure, referred to as "Shadow" throughout the game as their identity was stolen, or play as the player-named antagonist that has stolen the protagonist's body and wishes to use it in plans for universal destruction. Both stories have their own partner casts and endings, though the completion of either unlocks a hidden story that is seen as the game's "true ending". Both characters have their own abilities and talents to make use of in the overworld, and their influences on the world may lead to dramatic shifts in their rival's morals and behaviors. There are twenty chapters altogether, with both sides having eight original chapters each and sharing the remaining four. This means that both routes consist of twelve chapters to be completed.
Paper Zaxina: The Negative Parallels utilizes the unique visual style of the Paper Mario series, with graphics being a blend between 3D environments and 2D characters, with both looking like they were made of paper-like elements. However, the majority of the character models in the game are somewhat three-dimensional and are polygon-like origami figures, all the while boasting the same visual aesthetics as the earlier Paper Mario titles up to Super Paper Mario. The game makes more consistent usage of paper-like elements as Sticker Star and Color Splash have done, but opts to not put over-emphasis on the paper theme by simply making such visuals blend subtly into the environment and platforming segments and not distract players from the rest of what the game has to offer. The game's HUD looks are strikingly similar to Persona 5's, but the menus and interface are directly inspired and based on those found in The Thousand-Year Door.
Unlike previous games in the series, there are two story paths that the player is presented with following the completion of the Prologue. They can either follow the shadow-bound protagonist around in the Hero route and work towards clearing their name and regaining their identity whilst putting an end to the Judge of the Negative Parallels, or follow the identity-bearing destructive half of them in the Dark route that wishes to become a God and manipulate others into joining their empire. The name the player types down at the beginning of the game becomes the one that the malicious being claims from its shell-bound owner, whilst the hollow shell is referred to as "Shadow" in their nameless state. The default name of the antagonist, should the player not make one for them, is "Avery" regardless of what gender the player selected for them. Both stories have their own endings which favor the respective halves of the Avery being, but the completion of both unlocks a Last story whereas the player can receive the true ending, which is "canon" to this game.
Within the overworld, the player controls "Shadow" or "Avery" around 3D environments to navigate the strange, obscene settings of the Zaxinian Lifts. They must plow through obstacle courses and solve mind-testing puzzles in order to move forward in the game. Unique to Paper Zaxina is the ability to rotate the camera so that players can view the full landscape around them and move forward through the 3D platforming world. Shadow and Avery have their own individual talents that they can use for their own benefit. Shadow is capable of dissolving into black mass and moving around papery plumbing systems as well as being able to absorb themselves into blank paper sheets regardless of size, which often allows them to hide from enemies via posing as illegible text or allows them to enter rooms otherwise unavailable to them. Meanwhile, Avery can manipulate minds and control them as if they were partners of sorts, and can use their weapons of mass destruction to break into areas they otherwise couldn't.
Both characters gain abilities from the several partners they accumulate throughout their journeys, though the player does not take these partners through the overworld with them due to risks. As such, the learnt abilities effectively replace usage of partners in the overworld. However, the partners reside in pocket spaces that are connected to the Negative Parallels, where the player can control them separately and get them to accomplish tasks that'll aid in the quests of either protagonist. As with the protagonist, these partners can enter battle when they come in contact with enemies and bosses themselves, though no game over will be reached; the characters merely restart their part completely revitalized but with their money and inventories halved. The partner characters are supposed to destroy obstacles found in the Negative Parallels that keep the whole area intact; by disabling parts of the Parallels the resulting protagonists (and other shadowy figures) get subsequently stronger.
The player is in control of a Sticker Booklet and Paint Collection for Shadow and Avery respectively, which are inspired by the Sticker Star and Color Splash entries respectively. Throughout the course of either journey, they can collect stickers or paint cans scattered around the worlds, which translate well into usage in battle. Up to five stickers can be equipped at the start of a fight to give the player advantages for that one specific battle, with said stickers disappearing after a one-time use. They can be used to boost the player's stats or make getting Stylish commands less of an ordeal and not require as much precision. These stickers are passive and are constantly active for the entire fight unless their badge descriptions claim otherwise. Paint Cans, on the other hand, allow Avery to paint her enemies in various shades which can give them negative effects from the beginning of the fight, though certain types of paint may not work on them. Purple paint, for instance, can poison enemies. Avery can only use two paint cans from the start of a fight, but they can be used up to five times before they're dropped from the player's inventory.
Battles in Paper Zaxina borrow elements from many of the previous Mario RPG titles, with elements taken from the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi titles as well as Super Mario RPG. Battles work off of a turn-based system, whereas players must select an attack, defense, or item from a menu. As with The Thousand-Year Door, players can receive additional benefits for using timed button presses on any skill in battle, but now items and defense work the very same way. If the player attacks an enemy and presses the action-confirming button, for example, they will score more damage on the enemy than usual. However, attacks may also be charged up or rely on certain button presses in order to be activated, and more damage is applied to the enemy should the player successfully land each and every command. If an enemy attempts to attack the player, pressing the action confirming button upon contact with an attack will cause the player to take less damage than normal from the attack. Frame-perfect reaction times can fully negate attack damage, rewarding the player for mastering a difficult skill. Using an item and pressing an action command at the right timing improves the value of the item as well, including healing items.
Should an attack hit or miss by the player, they can use the action button at a frame-perfect moment to show off a Stylish animation, after which they can strike the enemy again to deal more damage. If an attack missed, the player can make up for it with a timed Stylish moment, allowing them to get back up immediately and follow up with a surprise attack. An audience is present in the foreground of the stage-like battleground. Should the player perform well in battle and use a multitude of Stylish commands, the audience will cheer and the player will receive benefits from their hard work as well as relish in the fact that fans start filling up the seats in the arena. Full attack blocks also excite the audience. If the player is performing poorly via missing attacks or taking considerable damage from the enemies, however, the audience may throw damage-causing items at them or leave, affecting the player's benefit gains with their fanbase. With every ten levels gained by the player, they will gain more audience members to watch over their battles, and the rewards gotten from good play will become even better -- though poor gameplay with such high audiences means even worse punishments.
In Paper Zaxina, the player calls upon the last two partners that were available in battle with them via portals, assuming the player has received their third partner over the course of their journey. The player must make moves with all of their characters before their turn ends, forcing the player's team to block the attacks that come from their rivals. As "Shadow" and "Avery" do not have jump or hammer commands, they have their own skills to work with. The Shadow character can launch their fists off their arms like rockets to attack the foes, and can punch up to three times in a standard attack move. They can also sink their shadowy appendages under the ground to strike opponents from below and penetrate through any protective layers they may have. Avery, on the other hand, makes use of a staff that allows them to use elemental attacks, and they can gain several abilities for this sole weapon over the course of their travels. All three of these abilities have their own uses in the overworld, so they are just as beneficial outside of battle as they are in battle.
Battles are more combat-oriented than in any previous Paper Mario title, with items and badges becoming less of a focus as the game shifts towards the player mauling and crushing the enemies in their way. An example of new changes for the formula is the introduction of Advanced Techniques from Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, whereas the player can change up the way an attack works if they press the correct button whilst at certain peaks in attack cycles. These abilities are not available by default; Lyric will teach the player how to use advanced versions of any move in their library. Advanced variations of attacks often have bonus effects and changed properties that make them greater assets than the original moves whilst not sacrificing any extra Special Points the player may own with a character. Both the protagonists and partners can learn advanced techniques from Lyric, but they must pay a small price of USA Cash Money to purchase individual techniques or pay a large price for a character's full set of advanced moves. Should a character possess an advanced technique in their move, the screen offers the player two options at a certain peak in the attack cycle, with the second being the advanced technique initiator.
As with The Thousand-Year Door, Shadow/Avery and their partners have their own heart points (HP) but share special points (SP). Any and all characters a player can control can be attacked by enemies and related hazards. Should a partner's HP drop to zero, they will be rendered inactive and the player will have to swap them out with another partner with the assumption they have another one ready to go. If Shadow/Avery's HP drops to zero, however, the player instantly receives a game over and they must reset from the last Save Point they were at. Special points are required for pulling off special moves of any sorts, and a lack of special points means that the player must resort to using offense-based items or basic attacks. Should the player defeat enemies, they will receive varying numbers of Star Points, and gaining 100 will allow the player to level up. The player can then choose to upgrade their HP or FP by 10 or add room for their Sticker Collection / Paint Collection by 5.
Once the player is able to equip a Zaxinian Sage Badge, they can make use of the F*** OFF (FP) stat. These work similarly to Star Power abilities from the first two games in the Paper Mario series. These attacks can only be used when enough segments of the F*** OFF bar are filled, which can be done by getting the audience to go wild with excitement and vigor. Each destruction of a negative aspect (Shadow) or positive quality (Avery) increases the size of the F*** OFF bar segment by one. These abilities are incredibly powerful and are extremely useful in battle most of the time.
|Avery is a criminal with a haul of awful crimes under their belt, having gone down so far in insanity to the point where they pleaded to have their sins erased and reputation cleared in the Negative Parallels. Things backfire, however, when the judge splits them into two halves: a soulful hollow shell and a wicked masochist self that wishes to bring destruction to the world. With their clone bearing their name, the "Shadow" must not make haste in order for them to regain their body!:Role: Protagonist (Hero Story), Antagonist (Dark Story)||This "Shadow" can create shadowy appendages, which can be used to punch enemies from far distances or nab items from afar. It is equally good with strangling foes. They can absorb themselves into papery surfaces and travel around them as free-roaming ink, or seep through them to appear on the opposite side of a wall.|
|"Nega-Avery" has taken on the appearance of Avery prior to having their skin and negativity ripped from them, and possesses all of their good and evil assets! But the twisted thing is that this Avery is using the name "Avery" to bring destruction and chaos to the world, continuing the criminal life of their predecessor to an extreme degree! They are vain and downright cruel most of the time, preferring to behave evilly and showcase their powers of destruction rather than clear their name.:Role: Protagonist (Dark Story), Antagonist (Hero Story)||Nega-Avery can utilize a staff to take advantage of different elements and abilities, or manipulate enemies to help them get to otherwise inaccessible locations. They can also use levitation abilities to go around and make use of psychic energy, though their usage is limited and hurts them.|
|"Whisker" is a rabbit-like wicked wizard / sorceress that accompanies either of the lead protagonists on their travels, being attracted to the one with the greater hand. They are a gender-neutral wisecracking being that oversees the progress of their associated "apprentice", as they refer to either form of "Avery" as. They follow them around in the overworld, giving context as to what the places are and telling them where they should go next if they wish to progress with their plot.:Role: Deuteragonist||Whisker informs the player about where they're at whenever they're asked, and has a chilly laugh that causes enemies to disappear. Apparently, Whisker has strong connections with the figures in the Negative Parallels, able to command actions from them in order to help out their "apprentice" within gameplay.|
|"Verm" is a four-armed slimy alien donning a mask and black outfit that operates the Lightning Express, an illegal transportation system that allows sneaky entry into any of the Zaxinian Lifts' planets. He is vicious and boorish, and behaves pompously when told to transport people in and out of the different worlds. He gets his name from both "worm" and "vermin", with his ability to worm his way around just about any obstacle and be as persistent as a parasitic species both being well-known by his associates.:Role: Transportation Master||Verm is very skilled at operating a flying train, as evidenced by the fact that he can move the Lightning Express wherever he wants with little trouble. While he rarely picks fights with anyone, he is a competent fighter that can make usage of slimy appendages to dispose of foes quickly and without much issue.|
|"Bani" is an adult cat-woman that operates the game's shop, found aboard the Lightning Express. Between her constant meowing and mewling, Bani is more than happy sell off her stock of items to her customer. Despite living in poverty and risking losing her housing on the express, she often puts items on sale in an effort to make the player -- her only customer really -- more likely to purchase her products. Bani is really observant and always makes sure she has items out that the player would need to purchase.:Role: Shopkeeper||Bani is capable of running a shop, though she keeps putting her life on the line just so she can support the player easily. She's simultaneously attempting to balance the money she gets from the player to keep her station running and the amount of sales she puts up on the various items she's in possession of.|
|"Hecé" is a headless swordswoman from ancient times, who fought heroes using her dual swords and intimidated them with her disembodied, yet perfectly functioning, head. She slaughtered countless numbers of people before she was fazed by a male knight named Lance, and ended up falling in love with him despite not him not returning the affection. Hecé is aggressive and really blunt with her words, but she's also easy to fluster and embarrass, which make her appear as more charming than intimidating.:Role: Parallels Traveler||Hecé now resides on the Lightning Express and is the only one that'll allow Avery into the Negative Parallels willingly, taking them there and back somewhat willingly. Hecé is incredibly skilled with controlling her mushroom-infested steed ("Pona"), able to fly them through the universe at high speed without issue.|
|"Gemi" is a vampire heavily interested in gems, searching the world in search for them, slaying the owners of precious diamonds or really valuable gems. He bathes in them every morning, he sleeps with them, his house is made of them...but that doesn't mean that he's just a greedy person. He's actually very aware of his wrongdoings and is very anxious about it all, as well as the lies he tells to everyone. Contrary to his status as vampire, he only drinks tomato juice. He claims to be a Tifft, but this is heavily contested.:Role: Lorekeeper||Gemi knows much of the Negative Parallels, willing to tell Avery about the history of the area as long as he's paid a small fee. He knows his history well and tells no lies, always coming out with the honest truth when he can. He isn't invulnerable to screwing up, however... Avery has to decide if his facts are real or not themselves!|
|"Lyric" was recently recruited to serve on the Lightning Express, having to make beds and serve food to the passengers on the train. She is saucy and can behave somewhat rude, even to Avery, but she's just doing her job and attempts to protect the Shadow / evildoer at all times. She has a strange obsession with chess, with everyone being an individual chess piece in her head. Although a woman, Verm cannot tell due to her masculine look, and as such she's listed as a butler rather than a maid... which she doesn't really mind.:Role: Butler||Lyric has few talents, but can handle her job quite well and can savagely attack her enemies with the broken ends of her bottles. Verm has Lyric specifically appointed to try and keep Avery safe regardless of who they serve or their intents, and they do this with great dignity and a sort of honor... even if Lyric can get tired of Avery at times. Lyric can also teach advanced techniques to Avera's partners.|
|"Kasdeya" is demon serving as a maid on the Lightning Express, being Lyric's personal assistant. What Lyric can't do, she does herself for her girlfriend even if she does a clumsy job at it. Compared to her bitter and saucy girlfriend Lyric, Kasdeya is much more upbeat and sweet and supportive, always dancing around Avery and trying to talk with them when she can. In spite of her harsh working conditions, she loves working on the Lightning Express and enjoys having Lyric around to help her with her duty.:Role: Maid||Kasdeya is a multifacet when it comes to her abilities, but restricts them throughout the course of the game. Her powers were taught in hell by other demons, but the powers she uses are primarily for helping out Lyric with cleaning out the different apartments of the Lightning Express. Kasdeya can send other people to Hell... but she doesn't want to.|
|The "Judge" is the king of the Negative Parallels, responsible for all the people that have been split into shells and identity thieves. He is a cruel, ruthless man that wishes to take all of the identity thieves under his control and use the names he's stolen to partake in governmental polls, in which he would try and receive the popular vote with every name he's stolen. Once he accomplishes this goal, he'll gain deity powers and use his new powers to take over the world! But would you let him!?:Role: Antagonist (All Stories)||N/A|
General Scotch Caramel is the leader of the Vinegar Troops, the army that has dedicated themselves to eliminating threats across Zonar and stabilizing the entire Zaxinian Lifts. Even though being anti-war, Scotch is dedicated towards doing what he truly thinks is right, and sometimes comes across as naive and stubborn as a result. Befriends Avery ("Shadow") out of sympathy and offers to lend his abilities to them. Is very knowledgeable of the Zaxinian Lifts' beasts.
Recruited in Chapter 1.
|Scotch tosses a bomb at an enemy to cause damage; nearby foes also take partial damage from the explosion radius. Adv. version involves Scotch shooting the bomb mid-air to hit airborne foes, which have the same general effects.||Shoot & Scan|
|The general launches a grenade that latches onto an opponent, sends data from 'em to him, and then explodes. Adv. version has the bomb explode across the ground, capturing all grounded enemies' data.|
|Scotch concentrates his mind on his durability, gaining +3 defense for three turns if successful. Adv. version has Scotch share his power with his allies, giving everyone +1 defense for four turns if successful.||Bombardment|
|With this move, Scotch tosses a line of bombs that all cause decent amounts of damage to each enemy in front of Scotch. The bombs ignore defense stats. Adv. version makes all the bombs target one enemy, causing immense damage.|
|Scotch brings out a set of four missiles, which rocket towards the opposition. Each missile is weak, but their power together is strong. Adv. version ensures that the missiles have a less explosive radius, but adds burn effects to 'em.||General's Strike|
|Scotch opens up a machine gun and fires it at his opposition, causing heavy damage and severely denting the other team. Scotch must aim to execute the attack right. Adv. version gives the gun ricochet properties at the cost of power.|
Snickers is a member of the Vinegar Troops, although has never actually been an "official part" of it due to Scotch distrusting him following everything he's done in life. He is an abrasive and aggressive war general who served Mallory's forces instead of following the footsteps of his younger sibling. He is very wanting of revenge and wishes to put his general sibling and the rest of his troops down into the grave. He joins the fake Avery due to their promises to let him rule the world eventually.
Recruited in Chapter 1.
|Snickers jumps forward to slash at his foe and then shoot at them deviously. A strong standard attack, but Snickers takes 1 HP damage via recoil. Adv. version has Snickers bounce up on his blade to piledrive a single opponent without recoil.||Burn & Scan|
|Snickers sends over an explosive grenade, which takes data from the foe and sends it to Snickers as it explodes, leaving the enemy with the Burned status. Adv. version has the grenade explode mid-air with a bullet shot, sending harmful debris down.|
|The general tosses three sticky bombs onto the opposing team with the player's aim. After two turns, they will denotate, causing those affected to take high damage. Adv. version has the first bomb tossed be automatically targetted by the other two.||Muscle Boost|
|Snickers washes a swig of vodka down his throat, causing his strength to increase by +2 for three turns but attacks give him +1 recoil. Adv. version has Snickers give vodka to his partners too, increasing power by +1 for four turns without recoil.|
|The lad grabs his blade and sets it aflame before dashing forward, attacking all grounded enemies with his flaming blade and having the chance to make them "Crumbled" or "Burned". Adv. version has Snickers do a jump, burning airborne foes.||General's Assault|
|Snickers releases an explosion, dealing incredible damage to the opposing side while also forcing his own team to take +3 recoil from the harmful debris. Adv. version allows Snickers to put all his might into attacking one foe, forcing only his recoil.|
- Several concepts and design elements were taken from the scrapped The Negative Wormhole project, but were reused for The Negative Parallels due to interest and "neat" concept ideas.
- The idea of the main protagonist attempting to regain their name and identity was inspired by the Doopliss scenario from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door in Chapter 4.