Paper Mario: Sticker is a fun game, but at the same time it feels unsatisfying in comparison with previous entries.
Sticker Star returns to the series roots with its "go anywhere" style, and the battle mode is back. This time around, you have to collect stickers that can act as power ups, and this is key to beating bosses and various enemies. You can collect new pages for every boss you beat, and you can use an innovative "paperize" mode to put certain items in front of things to help you out. For example, in the windmill level, you can plant flowers in a garden with the paperize mode to get cool items. It's a very awesome feature, and is very critical in pretty much every situation. A new "Battle Spinner" lets you choose how many attacks you can have, and the amount you can get depends on how many of the same icons you can match up. The goal is when you get a sticker star, and I like how you can get coins after you beat it.
Sticker Star had all the promise in the world, but falls completely flat of being a classic. In the first three Paper Mario games, they featured interesting worlds to explore, plenty of cool and funny partners, and a progressively dark storyline for every new game. In Sticker Star, you don't get partners, the storyline is practically non existent, and the bosses are lame. Basically, Mario (back in paper form again, go figure) has to save Peach (again) from Bowser (yet again). This is pretty much the last you'll hear from Peach and Bowser until the game, and the fact that you can't play as Peach or Bowser this time around is a crime, considering the first three games let you do those (the first Paper Mario didn't let you play as Bowser though). Your sole partner, Kertsi, is a silver crown who can help with paperizing and your battles, but she's annoying as hell.
As well as a lack of storyline/different characters to play as, Sticker Star's battle mode is weak as well. For some reason, you gain no experience points or level up during these battles, and the only thing you get out of it is coins. Great. No flower points or badge points. While the battles are nicely designed, it feels unnecessary most of the time to battle, especially since you use up a lot of your stickers for nothing. The boneheaded designers also inexplicably required you to get stickers for your NORMAL ATTACKS!!! That's right, even if you have a normal jump and hammer, you still need stickers for these, otherwise you can't attack at all. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!!!!
But what really kills this game from greatness is the fact that exploring every single inch of the game is REQUIRED. In the forest world, you are forced to go through all 9 levels just to find a stupid Wiggler. It's one thing to explore every inch to find all of the secrets, but for some reason some of the branching paths are critical in finding key items to advance to the next level. WTF?!!! You'll have to travel all over the kingdom for what this game calls "things", and you'll never know which item you have to use because the game doesn't give you any hints. How was I supposed to know I had to use a GOAT TO EAT GARBAGE?!!! Better yet, the bosses become tediously long fights to the death if you don't have the right item to use, so it's very fortunate that you can even run away from bosses this time! I can't say how many times I've had to search for FAQ's for every level. Speaking of which, when you do try to run away, it does it at random. There's no meter you have to run pass this time, the games decides whether you can leave or not. It's a total pain in the ass. Also, how come the game has SIX WORLDS?!! SERIOUSLY?!! The first three had at least 7 in each, so how come they downgraded it here??? The final level is lame, and fighting Bowser as the final boss is torture. The build up for the final battle can't even touch what the previous three games did!
As flawed as Sticker Star is, it still somehow packs a punch in terms of fun. The levels are imaginative and I love using an overworld map to travel from place to place. One new feature I like is finding heart points hidden in various levels, allowing you to gain more heart points. I also love the branching levels, so you can find different goals in each level that are hidden. Some of the levels are very memorable, such as the waterfall level where you try to escape from a giant man eating Cheep Cheep. The door items are also cool, as they can get you secret items and even hidden spots. It's very fun to collect new "things" and activate them in battle, as you'll have no idea what to expect. You can even try and grab Luigi in a few levels, though it adds to nothing in the end. Some of the uses of the items are clever, such as using a bowling ball to knock pins (with a cool replay feature I might add), and using a baseball bat to knock out a giant Pokey.
Graphically, Sticker Star is the best I've seen in the series. The framerate is a little slower, but the levels are nice and colorful, and the 3D effect makes levels more fun to explore, and even helps determine your position. Come to think of it, Paper Mario is perfect on the 3DS because it reveals a more paper like world with the 3D effect on. I like the jazzy atmosphere of the music better than Super Paper Mario's music, and while most of the tunes are great, some just suck.
Overall, I was hooked at first, but Paper Mario Sticker Star isn't even as fun as Super Paper Mario, let alone the N64 and Gamecube versions. It's ambitious in some respects but totally derives from some of the things we've come to know and love about the Paper Mario series, like the story, ability to play different characters, the battles, and the exploration. It feels like a rush job in the end, and not being able to tell what to do next 99.9% of the time is disappointing. The humor is watered down and it just feels unsatisfying. Paper Mario Sticker Star, at the end of the day, is a quality game, but its design flaws prevent it from reaching the classic status of the first three games. For the best RPG fun on your 3DS, stick with Fire Emblem Awakening.