Paper Mario

January 1st, 2008 by J. Spiffyman

papermario

From the foundation of the great Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Mario rises again to roam the world in this unconventional but enjoyable role playing game. And this time, he’s made out of paper. Yes, that’s right; every character in this game is just a paper-thin 2D image in a 3D world.

Now if you’ve played a Mario game…any Mario game, you should know the plot already: Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach, and Mario has to go through a number of worlds (usually elemental-themed, like in this game) to finally save her. Paper Mario tries to polish this concept up, but it’s still nothing new. This time, Bowser has stolen the Star Rod and has scattered the seven Star Spirits which protect it; same old, same old. What makes this game fun is the characters and dialog. When the game isn’t making fun of the fact that everyone’s made of paper (which it doesn’t do nearly enough), it’s presenting you with an enjoyable cast of unique characters and quirky situations. You’ll see familiar faces like Koopas, Goombas, and Boos portrayed in new, funny ways you never got a chance to see in other Mario games. The humor may not be A-grade comedy, but it’s a lot better than many games I’ve played, and some of the lines are just priceless.

At heart this game is a classic adventure/RPG, but there’s way more than meets the eye. Rather than a giant top-down overworld map, you’ll be walking around paths and fields like you’d find in Super Mario 64. You can actually see enemies walking around the fields too, so battles are no longer random. Don’t want to fight when you’re moving from Town A to Town B for the hundredth time? With a little dexterity of movement you could dodge 20 enemies and never encounter a single battle; a very enjoyable feature for those who hate random encounters.

Battles function in standard turn-based fashion. Mario battles with his trusty jumping and hammer, as well as using items or special star powers. A nice added spice to the humdrum turn-based battles is the action command: if you input the correct button command (usually pushing A at the right time or flicking the joystick), you can do extra damage, or prevent damage done to you. Mario won’t be fighting alone, mind you; you’ll come across a variety of characters which will help you in battle as well as in your travels. Customization for Mario’s abilities comes in the form of badges, which when worn give him more attacks, more power, more defense, and lots of other random things as well. The battle system is pretty simplistic and hardly challenging (nearly all attacks only do single-digit damage, and the final boss only has 99 HP), but at least it’s fun, and not just the fire-and-forget system present in most other RPGs.

Anyone who takes the graphics of this game at face value should be shot. The fact that all the characters are 2D has nothing to do with graphical quality whatsoever; it’s just the style of the game. All the characters are drawn in a cartoony, thick-outline style, and though you’ll see some pixelation around the edges, for the most part they are very well-done. When you turn around, you’ll actually flip like you’re as thin as a piece of paper…because you are. The environments are decent quality 3D as far as N64 graphics are concerned, and blend well with the 2D characters.

Music in Paper Mario is cheerful and upbeat like other Mario games, and fits well with the game. There’s a handful of remixes of old Mario music, as well as new tunes you won’t regret hearing. Sound effects are also the classic Mario boings and bounces you may be familiar with, veering a little more towards the cartoony for humor’s sake. Overall the audio is well done, and I’ve got no complaints.

Being a fair-sized RPG, you can expect a good 30+ hours of gameplay on your first run-through. Hunting for all the badges, Star Pieces, and other secrets you missed can take a pretty long time, but I’ve never found much of an incentive to do so. There’s a couple of sidequests and minigames to entertain you, but nothing that’ll substantially change your experience. Still, it’s a fun enough game that you can play it though again a few more times just because it’s fun.

This game certainly isn’t perfect. Number one on my gripe list is difficulty. This is definitely not a hard game, so if challenge in a game is a big selling point, look elsewhere. Once you’ve got the action command down pat and a few solid attack badges, nothing will pose a threat to you, not even the end-game bosses. Dialog can get pretty cliched and juvenile at times, since the game is more geared towards kids. Puzzle-solving is also below-average even at the best of times, and the individual levels are very linear.

At the end of the day, Paper Mario is fun and an enjoyable deviation from normal RPGs. Sure it’s easy, and it’s kiddy at times, but pretty much every Mario game has been that way, and I don’t see that stopping the college-aged kids from playing them anyways. If you want Complexity + Difficulty, look somewhere else, but if you want RPG + Fun, Paper Mario is a sure winner.

****

Screenshots* (click the thumbnails for a larger version) :

00.jpg paper-mario-1.jpg

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Posted in Nintendo 64

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