Paper Mario’s Russ T. Isn’t Truss T.!

I was on Twitter and spotted this post by @MrCheeze_, and thought it would make a good article! In it, he shows an interaction with Russ T., an NPC from the first Paper Mario game on the Nintendo 64. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a small-numbers RPG designed by Intelligent Systems (also known for their work on Fire Emblem and Advance Wars). It’s well-known for its charming design and dialogue, and I imagine this site will be coming back to it a lot!

Russ T. offering his translation services to Mario.

Russ T. is a Toad who lives in the game’s hub city, Toad Town. Like most Toads, he has a name ending in ‘T.’ that forms a small pun in English. Also like most Toads, his name was different in Japanese! Russ T. is described as 物知りのキノポン (monoshiri no kinopon), or “the knowledgeable Kinopon.”

In Japanese, Toads are called kino, which comes from the word kinoko, meaning ‘mushroom’. So, Kinopon is just a portmanteau of the Japanese name for Toads and pon, a variant of 本 (hon), meaning ‘book’. Pon is also a common way to end a name in a cute way, kind of like how Tim can become Timmy, or Russel can become… Rusty!

A screenshot of Arakwa Miho's Twitter, inviting her fans to call her whatever they like, and noting her many nicknames.
It’s common if your name has the 本 kanji, like 本田 (Honda), but also to make idol-type women’s names more “gentle.” Here’s VA Arakawa Miho—who you may recognize as Velour from Fire Emblem Fates and Sonia Nevermind from Danganronpa 2—listing her many nicknames, including Mihopon.

Names changing in localization isn’t that strange, particularly in the N64 era. In fact, Russ T. was not the only Toad to be renamed in this way:

Tayce T. in her kitchen.
Tayce T. was named キャシー (kyashii) which can be read as Kathy, Cassie, etc. This might be a play on okashi, meaning ‘confections’ or ‘sweets’. A lot of her recipes were named after her, too.
Fice T. cowering in the guardhouse that borders Forever Forest.
Some Toads didn’t even have names in Japanese. The fearful Fice T. was simply known as “the forest entrance’s guard.”
Minh T. and a Bub-ulb hanging out in Toad Town.
The flower-loving Minh T. was originally named リップ (rippu) in reference to Lip, the flower fairy from another Intelligent Systems game, Panel de Pon/Tetris Attack.

As for Russ T.’s dialogue, it’s pretty strange. He references a feature that doesn’t exist at all in Paper Mario: icons that indicate what kind of attacks an enemy can do. Let’s take a look at both the Japanese and English text, and see if it was like that originally:

A side-by-side comparison of the text in question.
JapaneseOfficial EnglishDirect Translation
バトルのときの ちょっとした
You may see symbols above
enemies in the battle sequences.
Here’s a little tip for during
battles, though.
目を回してきたり ねむらせてきたり
なっかまをよぶ てきが いるだろ
These mean that the enemy can
make you dizzy, put you to
sleep, or call in some
You will probably encounter
enemies who can make
you dizzy, put you to sleep,
or call in reinforcements.
そういうヤツに であったら
こっちが先に てき全体の 目を回したり
ねむらせたりしてやると いいよ
When you see those enemies,
you should try to paralyze them
or put them to sleep before
they do it to you.
When such a foe
approaches, it’s good to
make the lot of them dizzy
or put them to sleep
before they can do it to you.
てきを うごけなくしてやると
バトルが ラクに なるからね
The battle will be much easier
if you can make it so your
enemies can’t move.
If your opponent is unable
to move, it’ll make battles
A Dark Troopa has the Shrunk status effect. An icon appears over it with a constantly-shrinking circle. An X with the number 2 indicates how many turns the status will last.
This is pretty good advice, except for the fact that those icons mean the enemy is actually the one suffering from a given status, like this Dark Koopa who’s been shrunk!

I’ve seen suggestions that Russ T.’s name indicates that his knowledge is also a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure this is the only thing he’s wrong about in the entire game. So, much like the name itself, the error seems to be an invention of the localization. The gist of the Japanese text is that status effects are powerful, so you should try to use them more effectively than your enemies.

Aside from misinterpreting the Japanese term for the Dizzy status— 目を回す (me wo mawasu), to faint (lit. to spin one’s eyes) ⁠—as Paralysis, the biggest error I can see is skimming over コツ (kotsu). While its literal meaning is ‘bone’, it can also refer to something like ‘trick’, ‘know-how’, ‘knack’, or ‘secret’. Combined with ちょっとした (chottoshita, slight/minor), it basically means ‘a little tip.’ The Japanese text doesn’t make any reference at all to symbols or icons, so I’m not sure if they confused it for something else or just made something up when they didn’t understand kotsu.

Goombario giving a description of Russ T. in Spanish. Here, the Toad is named T. Russ.
Since the French, German, and Spanish localizations are downstream of the English one, I guess this error must be in all those versions, too.

It’s also possible that this line was changed at some point in development, and the localization team neglected to update it accordingly. Perhaps the feature did exist at one time, but got removed for whatever reason. I know some enemies indicate what statuses they can inflict via their animations, like Bloopers giving off electric sparks. It’s possible that was indicated with an icon at some point and given unique animations later for polish.

I think at this time Nintendo was doing localizations concurrently with development in some cases, so Western releases would be faster. In fact, PM‘s localization was handled by staff that would go on to become what is now Treehouse (Hiro Yamada, Tim O’Leary, and Bill Trinen might ring a bell for localization nuts). One of the big changes with Treehouse localization was more simultaneous or near-simultaneous worldwide releases owing to concurrent localization.

So, if the feature got removed, it’s possible they just missed this little tutorial NPC’s dialogue in an update. They may also have just quickly skimmed over this rare line from an NPC most players won’t even talk to more than once or twice. Mistakes happen in translation, especially for such a text-heavy game as this one.

If there’s other tips you think might have gotten lost in localization, from Paper Mario or otherwise, let me know! You can leave a comment or reach out to me on social media. I always post new articles on Twitter, so feel free to follow me there for updates! And if you’re interested in more localization mysteries, here‘s a list of all the articles on the site.


  1. I stumbled upon this article by chance and that is actually very very interesting. It made me curious so I checked both the German and French translation on my PAL copy and the line about the symbols is in both of them as well, so it wasn’t noticed or changed there either. Thanks for the compelling read!

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