||Paper Mario - Review
Paper Mario: The
By: Mike Lemmer
For those of you that own N64s (and I'm
assuming that's a minority here), RPGs have been few and far
between. Quest 64 sure wasn't what we were looking for, and good
luck finding any other RPGs. Now, though, Nintendo has released
Paper Mario, an RPG starring everyone's favorite plumber that
is almost NOTHING like the Super Mario RPG we all know. It could
be the answer to your prayers or another flop, depending on how
you look at it.
But first, though, let me get this out of
the way: YES, it was made to be a family game (read "for
children"). Bowser makes mistakes that no self-respecting
villian would. The graphics look cartoony (but in a good, retro
way). The gameplay is EXTREMELY simplified (more on that later).
However, in my opinion, this actually works for a game like this.
Now let me explain.
The combat system is the most important
part in the game, as it is what differentiates this game from
everything else out there. It seems that the designers took the
"simplify, simplify" philosophy to heart. Your maximum
HP and FP (the Mario equivalent of MP) is 50. Yes, that's right,
FIFTY. In a genre where it's normal to have characters with HP
totals reaching 5000 and above, this is a refreshing change.
Not only that, but Attack and Defense values are also kept low.
You'll be lucky if you get an Attack rating of 5 by the end of
the game, and your Defense can be anywhere from 0 to 1 (not counting
the defense boost you get from "guarding" at the right
moment). Damage is calculated using a very simple Attack - Defense
formula that anyone with half a brain cell can understand. So
with a combat system this simplified, what's there to make it
Well, the Mario RPG system has always been
known for encouraging button mashing. Trust me, if you can't
pound buttons until your thumbs blister and have an awful sense
of timing, you'll be slapped around like a red-headed child in
this game. Just about EVERYTHING in combat is influenced by buttons.
You can double the damage of your attacks either by tapping A
right before you hit (for jumps) or by holding the control stick
back until a light flashes (for hammer attacks). You can reduce
damage from attacks by 1 (or 2, later in the game) by hitting
A right before the enemy hits you (and avoid a few nasty ailments
resulting from them). With some enemy attacks, you have to keep
on pressing A until they let go. Even your partners' attacks
can be powered up by doing anything from pressing A at the right
time to button mashing A to entering a button sequence correctly
to seeing how fast you can flick the control stick to the left.
If you don't have the coordination for action games, this might
be out of your league.
The main strategy in this game comes from
figuring which attacks to use on which enemies. Mario has two
main attacks, a jump and a hammer, and both work well against
certain enemies. For example, Koopas have a high defense until
you jump on them and flip them on their backs. They're a piece
of cake after that. For enemies with spikes on their head, the
safest route is to hammer them (unless you like hurting your
feet). What about enemies with shells AND spikes? You're in a
bit of trouble there. Thankfully, you have up to eight partners
waiting to help you out with all sorts of varied attacks, from
stomping on the enemies to flinging shells and spiny eggs at
them. It's interesting at the beginning of the game, but once
you've played through most of it, it becomes natural. The designers
throw a few curveballs at you later in the game, but it does
begin to get a bit boring near the end.
An interesting point to quickly note here
is the Badges. In addition to HP & FP, you have BP. BP (Badge
Points) determine how many badges you can wear at one time. Badges
can do everything from raise your stats to make you get more
coins and hearts from battle. They even play an important role
in battle, as Mario can't use any of his special moves without
the appropriate badge equipped. Some even change some basic rules,
like the Spike Shield (which lets you jump on spiked enemies
without getting hurt) and Lucky Day (which causes enemies to
miss you sometimes). However, each Badge requires a certain number
of Badge Points to equip, and you can only have so many on at
a time (really annoying to people like me who want them all).
Using the right badges for the right situations becomes vital
later in the game.
As for the story, don't expect an epic plot
here. Bowser steals a Star Rod that makes him invincible and
heads off to kidnap Princess Peach, abduct her castle, and stomp
Mario. Mario must then head all over the Mushroom Kingdom, saving
the seven Star Spirits that'll help him combat Bowser's Star
Rod. There's almost zilch character development here (Why does
Mario need character development, anyways?) and none of the juicy
personalities that RPGers have come to expect. The most innovative
plot idea in this game is the fact that between every chapter
you switch to Princess Peach and guide her as she sneaks around
her castle, gathering information and items for Mario. At least
the translation is near perfect, so you don't spend time thinking
that the dialogue would make more sense if you knew how to speak
The graphics are unusual in their "2D
characters in a 3D world" quality. Almost all the characters
in the game are 2D sprites (or "paper cutouts") and
rather than trying to disguise the fact, Paper Mario seems to
revel in it. Characters twist when they turn, Mario floats back
and forth like a sheet of paper when he falls a long ways, and
enemies fall flat on the floor when defeated. Another interesting
graphical note is that the combat scenes are constructed like
they were stages. Look closely enough and you can see the strings
holding up the clouds floating in the background. All in all,
I'd say that this 2D "cartoony" look is truer to the
Mario theme than even the 3D rendering by Square back in Super
The sound is okay, but I was a bit disappointed
that the main Mario theme (everyone with me: Doo doo doot do
doot DOOT doot!) only makes a minor appearance. The only other
Mario themes I could recognize are the Pipe & Yoshi Themes.
As an added note, Bowser's main theme is pretty cool. Perhaps
they should make it his song from now on. The sound effects are
good too, although nothing truly noteworthy.
As for the replay value, there isn't any.
Unless you're a fanatic that wants to collect everything in the
game, once you've beaten it, you're done. There's no special
items for getting everything, no special endings, no NewGame+,
that's it. It's a one-time play. There isn't even any cool mini-games
(like the Beetle Catch from Super Mario RPG) that are worth dragging
it back out and starting it up.
what you learned at school, Tattling is actually a vital skill...
In conclusion, it's a decent game for a
reknowned video game character and an upstart developer. However,
it's nothing that'll threaten the Playstation's death grip on
the RPG market. In fact, I would recommend it most as a way to
get any younger siblings you have into RPGs. Buy it for them,
then sneak in a couple plays yourself while they're off.
THE GOOD STUFF:
-A world that is much truer to the old Mario games than Super
Mario RPG ever was (a good 95% of the characters in this game
-A simplified combat system that still manages to have quite
a bit of strategy
-Neat graphics (especially in this 3D age)
-A more light-hearted adventure perfect for RPG novices and gamers
that want to play a simpler RPG for a while.
-You get Goombas, Koopas, Cheep Cheeps, and Lakitus for allies!
Admit it, it sounds cool.
THE BAD STUFF:
-STILL not enough strategy
-You can only hold 10 items at a time (the rest you put in storage).
Trust me, this gets irritating later on.
-Not exactly what you'd call a "gripping" plot.
-Almost TOO many secrets (160 STAR PIECES?!? How much time do
they think I have?!?)
-It's made for kids, which will put off some mature gamers.
HINTS I WISH I HAD:
-When using Bombette & Watt's normal attacks, I feel the
Power Attack instructions need a little clarification: You have
to release the A button WHILE the star is lit but BEFORE the
bar fills all the way up. Trust me, there's a little opening
in there where that happens: that's when you release. It'll be
much more powerful.
-Cooking skills are vital. With them, you can turn a bunch of
10HP and 5FP items into 15-25HP/FP items. Quite helpful after
10HP/FP items become useless but before you get to the 50HP/FP
-Get Badge Points early. There's Badges to increase HP and FP,
so you can still increase your other stats while being more flexible
in your badge choices.