Last Year when I did a 6-part RPG special, one of the reviews that I did was Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64. It is probably the best and only worthwhile RPG the Nintendo 64, a console that was bone dry when it came to having an RPG library, had to offer. It had fun turn-based combat, a fun and silly story, and a unique and creative presentation. It is a shame some people look down on the game because it could be too wordy, or prefer Mario in his RPG adventure on the SNES. While I also love that game, I never got to experience it until years after it was released. My first RPG adventure with Mario was Paper Mario. That is why I hold it in high regard and somewhat look down on people who badmouth this game. I am also very VERY excited to review and play Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the 3DS. I know there is a Paper Mario game for the Wii called Super Paper Mario and I do like that game also, but it was more of an action platformer with RPG elements instead of being a turn-based RPG. It was a cool diversion and the story was more adult, but it’s my least favorite out of the franchise. For a while, I wanted to review the Gamecube classic, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, but it is very pricey online, for what reason I will never know. For the next part of this RPG special, let us take a look at the very game this review is titled. I mean, you should have known I was going to talk about this game from the title, right?
The story starts out with Mario getting a letter from Peach to meet her in a town called Rogue Port. Of course, getting there, Peach is nowhere to be found. Mario then bumps into a female goomba named Goombella who is being harassed by a couple of thugs called X-nauts. After Mario saves her from the X-nauts and goes more into the town of Rogue Port, he shows Goombella a map that Peach sent him that came with the letter. He finds out that the X-nauts are after crystal stars that will unlock a door below the cursed town of Rogue Port that holds a demon spirit that the X-nauts want to use to rule the world! It is up to Mario and his new friends to not only find Peach, but to stop the X-nauts from unleashing this evil demon. There are other subplots happening, like Bowser finding out that Peach has been kidnapped and going out to find her to kidnap her himself, and the little subplots with Mario’s companions. The story is lighthearted and corny, like the other Mario RPG games are, but there are some truly dark moments that really surprised me. I mean, when was the last dark-toned thing that happened in a Mario game for any of you guys? This game was developed by Nintendo’s Intelligent Systems dev team that worked on the Fire Emblem series, Super Metroid, Wild Gunman, and Warioware series.
The gameplay is basically the same as the last game, a turn-based RPG, but with the unique Mario RPG flare. You play as Mario and of course, get one ally partner to help you in battle. Your allies include Goombella, a scholar goomba, Koops, a koopa with a bit of a self-esteem/anxiety issue, Madame Flurrie, a wind spirit who used to be an actress on stage, a spunky baby Yoshi that you can name yourself, Vivian, one of the Shadow Sirens who has left the group, and Admiral Bombbery, a gruff ex-sailor. You can get an optional additional member, Ms. Mowz, an infamous thief. The battle system is pretty much the same where you can choose to attack with a jump, hammer, item, or this game’s new star system, but I will get into that in a little bit. Your allies now have their own health bars and stats, along with their own attacks and abilities in the overworld. All battles take place on a stage area where you can gain a huge audience if you keep doing well in battles and lose audience members if you do poorly or some story event happens. The unique thing about this is that the audience members can actually help or hurt you. They can throw coins, hearts, and items to help you, or rocks and other trash items to hurt you. You will need to press the X button to intervene and kick them out of the audience. They can also help you regain star power if you do the appeal command. The new star powers do different things, like healing your whole party, attacking all enemies, buffing yourself out, and even drawing to hurt enemies….just see that attack, yourself. Of course, being a Mario RPG, you can do more damage if you do a well-timed button press. This time around, you can find black chests to release curses that will give Mario different paper-like abilities. For example, you can turn into a paper boat, plane, and many others that I will let you all find out yourself. Badges are brought back, and you can wear multiple badges to add different attacks, or give yourself custom abilities like not being able to get hit first and stomp on spiked enemies. You upgrade your allies this time by finding Shine Sprites and gaining a certain amount of them to level up your allies to give them more health and a new attack. Items range from attack items, health items, and status ailment items that can help you or hurt the enemy. There is some serious item management here, so no hoarding. You need to get good at the battle system and use your items wisely. Of course, during or after you beat the main campaign, you can take on side quests and go through a 100-level dungeon with a boss that is, of course, harder than the actual final boss. You get a lot of bang for your buck here with a fun battle system and a creative world that will take about 30 or more hours to beat.
The graphics are nice. The colors are varied and bright. The whole paper-look on everyone is a lot smoother looking than the paper-look of everyone on the N64 game. It all looks smooth and crisp. The humor is corny, but it’s enjoyable. I know a lot of younger gamers who want to get into RPG’s will always enjoy the humor in the Mario RPG series. Heck, I’m 22 and I enjoy it. A lot of RPG’s usually have dark, gritty, and overly moody stories, and while that isn’t a bad thing, sometimes you just want to have a smile on your face when you play a light-hearted RPG. The music is once again catchy, as it was composed by the same composer of the last game, Yuka Tsujiyoko. She, once again, has composed most of the soundtracks for the Fire Emblem games, with a few exceptions. There are a few other games she has helped compose for like Battle Clash and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. This game’s soundtrack is light-hearted and cheery.
So, what don’t I like about this game? Well, there are a few things that irk me and make me like the original a little more. I love both games, but I think I might lean more towards the original Paper Mario. There is one section of the game that drove me up the wall. It was the trip to Twilight Town. The way you complete this section of the game is insane. You have to go in and out of the town to get to the boss location multiple times and it drove me nuts, since you have to do it multiple times and it gets so obnoxious. I will not spoil for you all what happens unless you have talked to me about this event already. I guess another thing I don’t like is how the look of the game hasn’t really changed much. Sure, the bosses have a more paper-look, but the buildings haven’t changed that much. The game doesn’t really take the adventure of the whole paper-and-cardboard system properly until Super Paper Mario and the new game that will be out soon. I think this game does perfectly on the last game’s formula, but it doesn’t really go too far and try other things besides the added gameplay mechanics and the curses. You still can only have one partner with you and that bugs me a little since it could add a lot of strategy to combat to have two different partners with you. I also think it’s rather annoying that enemies, that know that you are stronger than them, don’t just back off from you like in Earthbound or Dragon Quest 9. It makes dodging certain enemies like Piranha Plants and other fast enemies difficult. They do give you a badge where if you hit them first, they die, so you can avoid the battle, but they don’t give you any experience when you do that unlike in Earthbound and Blue Dragon where if you do an instant win thing, you get experience. It can make backtracking a bit annoying. My final complaint is that this game is very text heavy. I think it would have done better if there were more sounds to back up the huge amount of text for each character. There are sounds, but maybe if they took a Banjo Kazooie route and give everyone sounds when they talk, I think it wouldn’t be as annoyingly text heavy.
Overall, this is a great RPG and one of the only ones I could highly recommend getting on the Gamecube. The game can go for some insanely high prices that are really not needed. I would recommend getting the game for about 20-25 dollars, and 30 if you have no other choice. I am very excited about Paper Mario: Sticker Star and I have played Super Paper Mario and I love the Paper Mario RPG series. I know it is not as beloved as Super Mario RPG, but since we are not going to get a sequel to that game anytime soon, I recommend getting your pens and paper out and playing some Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
This game gets an 8 out of 10