Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door continues the RPG-style adventures of Mario and his pals, introduced in 1996's Super Mario RPG, in the style of 2001's Paper Mario. A large paper-thin cast is joined by a few Mario series newbies in an epic adventure involving, once again, the rescue of Princess Peach from some sort of dangerous predicament. Of course, much fun is had along the way.
The story of Paper Mario 2 begins with the arrival of a letter to the Mario & Luigi residence. The letter, from professional damsel-in-distress Princess Peach, invites Mario to join her on an adventure to follow a treasure map she has obtained. Mario quickly takes a boat to the nearby Hoodlum Town to meet up with the princess, only to find that she has started on the journey without him. Soon Mario's adventure takes a sinister turn when Peach is, of course, kidnapped. Surprisingly, Bowser was not in on it this time, as the evil fiend responsible is a giant dragon named Hooktail. Luckily, Mario encounters plenty of help along the way to save Princess Peach, including his first party member, a female goomba named Christina.
The gameplay of The Thousand-Year Door handles much like the original Paper Mario. Mario and his party will explore the world and take advantage of their paper-thin bodies to reach hidden and otherwise inaccessible areas by slipping through cracks, flying through the air as paper airplanes, etc. Battles are initiated when Mario comes into contact with a baddie. By stomping said foe, Mario and co. earn a pre-emptive round of combat, while letting an enemy run into Mario will result in an extra turn for the bad guys. Mario has his trusty stomping abilities at his disposal, as well as a giant hammer and a slew of items and special abilities. Timed button presses, called "action commands", can result in added damage, defense against enemy attacks, and counterattacks, much like in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.
During their adventure, Mario and pals will obtain power badges that enable them to use new combat skills. The number of badges a character can equip is limited by their "badge points". Badge abilities are used by spending "flower points." Badges have a huge variety of effects including stat adjustments, elemental hammer attacks, regeneration effects, and even the ability to change Mario's costume. Stronger abilities, able to recover large amounts of energy or do massive damage to enemies, are also available through the use of "star power."
Star power is gained in combat by appealing to an audience. All battles in The Thousand-Year Door take place in front of this audience, whose number and mood will change depending on the player's performance. Successfully executing action commands will raise star power and increase the size of the audience, while missing action commands will cause audience members to leave. If displeased, the audience can throw things at Mario and his friends, who then have the option to retaliate. The option is also available to appeal to the audience for a boost in star power.
There are many side quests available in Paper Mario 2. Some quests reward the player with new items and coins. There is also a side story that lets the player control Peach and Bowser that will unfold as the main story progresses.
The visuals of The Thousand-Year Door follow the style of the original Paper Mario. The 2-dimensional environment and character designs are undeniably cute, colorful, and a pleasure to watch. The soundtrack was scored by Yuka Tsujiyoko, who worked on the original Paper Mario as well as titles from the Fire Emblem series, and Taishi Senda, who also worked on Paper Mario.
As the release of Paper Mario 2 adds one promising title to the dangerously short list of GameCube RPGs, any owners of the console may want to consider picking up a copy. Look for it on the shelves on October 11th.