A game design student at the Zurich University of the Arts (also known as ZHdK) is working on an HD mod of Paper Mario, released in North American in 2001 for Nintendo 64.
The student goes by the handle Nelde and calls the mod project an unofficial retexturing of the original game. Dubbed New Paper Mario, it works by taking the game's original textures, enhancing them via Illustrator and Photoshop, and loading them back into the game using an emulator.
Speaking with Polygon via email, Nelde explained that he's always had a soft spot for Paper Mario, thanks to its funny dialogue and story. Although the game remains unchanged in its personality, Nelde is making a few cosmetic tweaks. Larger alterations include some deviations of character designs, like making characters look more like their concept art or updating their look a little.
Others, like changing the star-shaped Twink into a Luma (which first appeared in Super Mario Galaxy), have fans a little miffed. Nelde says he made the change because Lumas are more present in the Mario franchises, and because they're a more unique character design.
"A lot of people don't like my decisions of changing a character but in the end, it is my texture pack," Nelde told Polygon. "As I can't make it right for everyone, I mainly do it for myself. If someone doesn't like a decision I made, they are of course free to take out or replace these textures in my pack once it's released."
The mod has been a long work-in-progress; Nelde started the project in 2010 and works on it in his spare time. Some characters only have a few poses or animations to recreate, while others — like Mario — have "hundreds." Nelde describes the process of replacing textures sort of like reassembling the pieces of a puzzle.
There's currently no release date for the texture pack. The designer hopes to have it finished in time for the game's 15th anniversary, at which point he'll release it for free online. Anyone interested will be able to download it and load it into an emulator.