GDC 07: Super Paper Mario Hands-On

Intelligent Systems flips the script on the Paper Mario series in more ways than one with Super Paper Mario.

Ever since Super Paper Mario was first unveiled in video form at the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo, there's been some haziness as to what, exactly, it is. Today we got our first hands-on time with the game at the Nintendo booth at the 2007 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and now we have a very good idea of what Super Paper Mario is: awesome.

It doesn't get much better than a giant 8-bit Mario.

The past two Paper Mario games have largely been role-playing games infused with a lot of the trappings of a traditional Mario platformer. You'd have a party of characters, you'd walk around an overworld and chat with non-player characters, and when it came time for combat, you'd switch over to a separate, quasi-turn-based battle screen. Super Paper Mario essentially reverses the ratio, and will play like a platformer infused with RPG elements. From the short demo we were able to play, the basic action felt much like a traditional Mario game.

Holding the Wii Remote sideways, as you would when playing a NES game on the Virtual Console, we ran to the right and left, bopped goombas and koopa troopas (and some new, boxy, multilegged enemies), avoided Bullet Bills and Hammer Bros., smashed blocks, and collected coins. However, whenever we offed an enemy, we gained experience points, and any time we got hit by an enemy, we lost hit points. At one point we gained enough experience points to level up, which automatically replenished any lost hit points and boosted our other stats. Typical Mario power-ups had slightly different effects than you might expect, with fire flowers causing coins to rain down from the sky for a short period of time, and there was even a pill you could snag that would surround Mario with five or six tiny 8-bit Marios. They would autonomously attack any enemy that you encountered, but would die one by one after each attack. One of our favorite moments from our demo was when we collected a mega star, which caused us to transform in a screen-filling, 8-bit Mario sprite that would smash through anything and everything in his path. It was definitely reminiscent of New Super Mario Bros. for the DS, but it was done with more style here.

The name Paper Mario comes from the fact that all of the characters, and much of the world itself, appear to be crafted from paper cutouts, giving it all a very distinct 2D-cum-3D look and feel. The games generally play with the perspective of 2D sprites in a 3D environment, hiding paths in what appear to be flat backgrounds. Based on what we've seen, these kinds of ideas will play an even more prominent role in Super Paper Mario. Early on in our demo, we found ourselves standing next to a giant green warp pipe that was too tall for us to jump over, effectively blocking any further progress in the level. However, when we pressed the A button, the area of the screen immediately around Mario flipped, and we were essentially given a 3D view of the 2D environment we had been running through. In this altered perspective, the previously impassable warp pipe could just be sidestepped entirely. You can't stay in this perspective forever, though, as your hit points decrease every few seconds you're in the 3D realm. As soon as you return to the 2D view your HP begins to fill back up. The perspective change is pretty jarring the first time you do it, and we found that it wasn't ideal for attacking enemies, as it could be rough to gauge your distance from enemies. It's also totally mind-blowing, and we saw it used in a few clever ways, such as when we reached a massive crevasse that we couldn't jump across. Flipping to the 3D view, though, we found that the rolling hills that appeared as part of the background provided us with a comfortable walking path.

A quick tap of the A button will give you a whole new perspective.

Fans of past Paper Mario games will recall that you could do more damage if you executed an attack with some extra panache, and this remains true in Super Paper Mario. We found that if we shook the Wii Remote in midair during an attack, we could dish out extra damage, which was accompanied by a little fanfare. For the duration of our demo, a small, prismatic butterfly hovered over Mario's shoulder, and when we pointed the Wii Remote at the screen, it transformed into a spotlight. At the time we could just use it to spotlight enemies and learn about their strengths and weaknesses, though we were told that this feature would also be used to solve puzzles and suss out hidden doors later on.

The game promises a brand-new story as well, one that won't require prior Paper Mario experience. Though the Nintendo rep we talked to would neither confirm nor deny, we got the feeling that some favorite characters from the previous Paper Mario games might make an appearance. While we played only as Mario, we were told that Peach and Bowser would both be playable over the course of the game's eight chapters as well.

The game will sport a similarly endearing art style that has become synonymous with the Paper Mario name, though on the Wii it looks cleaner, smoother, and more detailed. Our time with Super Paper Mario left us with an overwhelmingly positive impression, and there seem to be few upcoming Wii titles that hold as much promise. Super Paper Mario is currently set to hit the US April 9.

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Discussion

213 comments
JimBurber
JimBurber

This game looks really fun, I haven't played the wii a whole lot since I got it, but this game looks really fun! My girlfriend will like it too :D

supersonic49
supersonic49

Wow, from the looks of it, this could be even better than Super Mario Galaxy!

Lifeservant7
Lifeservant7

I must buy this. The other Paper Mario games were good, but this game is looking awesome, with the whole 3-D perspective thing.

StarStuck
StarStuck

I've been very pleased with the Paper Mario franchise, with every iteration they develop new game play mechanics as well as an engaging story which makes each game worth every penny.

NND1
NND1

This is an awesome looking game... Gotta Have It:)

puppiemaster
puppiemaster

I'm definately buying this game, it looks great. and on a crappy system like the Wii as well, who would of thought it. PS, I'm British, thats sarcasm

acidglitter
acidglitter

"This has convinced me to buy a Wii." me too! this game looks amazing. i've been missing the way old videogames were played so its great that a game like this is coming out

NandoSupes
NandoSupes

I'm buying this game ,I've never played the past 2 Paper Mario's but I"m definitely picking this one up,it looks like something original and unique

AmericanSk8land
AmericanSk8land

The game sounds great and all, but i bought the wii so i could use the motion censors, and i dont really see any "wii remote action" going on..

Sonarioink14
Sonarioink14

"How do you level up in this game?" By killing enemies!

lucas029
lucas029

How do you level up in this game?

Captainintendo
Captainintendo

"Why isn't there a paper luigi?" Well thats just silly

ntnimara
ntnimara

Why isn't there a paper luigi?

nintendogx
nintendogx

Super Paper Mario AND Super Mario Galaxy *drools*

madaseyer
madaseyer

Played and BEAT Both Paper Mario's And destined to beat it again....

mariomusicmaker
mariomusicmaker

The Wii seller! ( for the record im going to guess this gets a 9.3 from game spot)

KingKoop
KingKoop

As early as Apr 9th? That's well early, I hope a few nice titles are out for summer, cos summer's in Scotland suck, so I've nothing to do but game.

Phazevariance
Phazevariance

I liked PM thousand year door, but htis just sounds like more fun and less reading hopefully. :)

zhushiegau
zhushiegau

THIS IS A MUST BUY!!!!!!!!!!!!! A MUST BUY I TELL YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Paper Mario on GameCube was great. SUPER PAPER MARIO IS EVEN BETTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

EverAB
EverAB

This has convinced me to buy a Wii.

Abed_1990
Abed_1990

It looks great! but i'm gonna wait to see it first-hand.

Pyrosa
Pyrosa

Now THAT is a truly innovative new kind of Mario game!!

Agelu
Agelu

YES!!! ANOTHER KILLER GAME FOR THE Wii!!!

NYMaxH212
NYMaxH212

im really excited for this game, i dont have a DS so ive been looking foward to a new Mario side scroller for a while, and the RPG elements are really interesting, cant wait for this one!

Jovatov
Jovatov

I'm really looking forward to this game, allthough a bit dissapointed it's more platformer then RPG. I'm afraid it's gonna be a much shorter game, and that I'll finish it too fast...

sonofashrub
sonofashrub

oh man im excited. I don't even have a wii and im excited

Bucktooth_tuba
Bucktooth_tuba

Anyone notice the jump in the size of the boards ever since this preview? The boards were only 2-3 pgs long for this game. Now I think there is at least 10.

JustWiicredible
JustWiicredible

This is what Nintendo is all about, Innovation. I can't wait to play it

JustWiicredible
JustWiicredible

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

jiggamane
jiggamane

i cant wait for this game to come out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gooper_Blooper
Gooper_Blooper

This is why I'm buying a Wii. Well, this and SSBB. But this comes out first so yeah.

MasterAsh42
MasterAsh42

Yeah. . .The 'Cube certainly could've used this title. . .er. . .I suppose the year before The Thousand Year Door? I don't know. . .Nintendo could've certainly made the GameCube's reign far more sunny all on its own, but I suppose even the world's largest video game software developer can only do so much at a time. Still. . .Better to see it on the Wii than no where at all!

samether
samether

Mario and Luigi forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

reader
reader

It is to bad that it is not for gamecube. The game sounds super-cool. My friend will for sure buy it, hopefully he will let me play/watch!

fshockz
fshockz

i want this! sooooo bad. BUT on the NDS not Wii :(

stop_30
stop_30

this game was announced months before crush and crush doesnt go 2d to 3d it just changes camera angles

badfish420420
badfish420420

wow its def not a rip off paper mario was a 64 game way before the psp

GameBabe76
GameBabe76

Too bad for the Europeans it's taking longer before they'll get the game. I'll get the JP version myself, 10 days later then you in the US. WHY...?!!!! :(

GameBabe76
GameBabe76

Too bad for the Europeans it's taking longer before they'll get the game. I'll get the JP version myself, 10 days later then you in the US. WHY...?!!!! :(

olberto
olberto

Classic gaming, reborn, trust Nintendo to deliver, sweet

Sonic_Freak87
Sonic_Freak87

xifritx guys listen to me very carefully:: paper mario is a balant RIP-OFF of a psp game coming out called "Crush" why hasnt anyone noticed this?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? yay!! you're an idiot. paper mario was released way before the psp.

Bret_Hart
Bret_Hart

Another thing to realize about the Wii is that already it has received a GameSpot Editor's Choice Award for Wario Ware: Smooth Moves. Thus far, the Xbox 360 has three Editor's Choice Awards (Gears Of War, The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas). The Wii already has one four months into its launch, and it'll probably be getting another one with Super Paper Mario. It should've had its third with the Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but thats for another day. Along with Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the Wii could have as much as five Editor's Choice Awards in its first year, compared to the Xbox 360's three. As a comparison, the PlayStation 3 doesn't even have one title thus far to have gotten an Editor's Choice Award, despite being out the same amount of time as the Wii. Virtua Fighter 5 didn't even manage to score one yet.

Bret_Hart
Bret_Hart

Wow, this game looks absolutely amazing. So far, both GameSpot and IGN.com have praised this game. However, one thing that disturbs me is "Our time with Super Paper Mario left us with an overwhelmingly positive impression, and there seem to be few upcoming Wii titles that hold as much promise." What is that supposed to mean? Few Wii titles that hold as much promise as this game? If you want to compare, in the Xbox 360's first year of gaming, they only had three major titles (Gears Of War, The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas) while the Wii also has three major titles. However, the Wii's titles are Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, some of the greatest video games ever made. Only now is the Xbox 360 recieving quality games because it is well past its second year. They're getting stuff like Bioshock, Mass Effect, Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV. However, the only reason that this is happening is because of the Xbox 360's age. It's already been out for a year. The Wii has some spectacular games on the way, and its a shame that the nerds at GameSpot haven't had more coverage on them.