A fairly easy and awesome super-Mario extravaganza which unfortunately wears out its quirks towards the end.
Perfect Mario + Paper style
Great RPG upgrade system; badges
New bad guys J
Bowser interlude moments seem tacked on to game story
Lots of dialogue; fun, but can get annoying and boring for some
Lots of backtracking in later missions, some repetitiveness
Mario returns in his paper form for another go at the RPG genre, this time on the Gamecube.
The storyline of Paper Mario is unique…to a degree. An evil group called the X-Nauts are trying to capture seven Crystal Stars, needed to open the Thousand Year Door. What is in the door is unknown. Princess Peach comes across a map of the Stars’ locations, which she sends to Mario. Of course, she is captured. Mario heads out to find these stars and his Princess. What is nice about this story is the enemy - no more tiresome Bowser. Unfortunately, collecting the Crystal Stars is simply your standard item hunt. Luckily, it’s how the stars must be collected that makes the normal item hunt more interesting.
The obvious differences in Paper Mario from the more conventional Mario single-player titles are the RPG elements and the paper style. Mario’s RPG system is very well done in this game. Battles are turn-based in which executing moves require certain button combos, presses, or mashing, depending on the move. Mario is aided by a team member, who can be switched out for another. Mario can also rely on special items which affect health, attack points, etc. and star abilities. The star abilities are derived from the Crystal Stars; the more stars that have been found, the more powerful moves are unlocked and more points are available for using these powers. Mario can of course upgrade, which he does by gaining one hundred star points through combat. Mario is able to upgrade his health, or heart points; special move energy (used for such moves as hitting multiple foes with one turn), or flower points; and badge points. Badges are very useful, as they can unlock more special abilities when worn, allow Mario to replenish heart and flower points in battle, or switch out his partner without costing him an attack, for instance.
The fighting is extremely good. The turn-based battles take place on a stage, complete with set pieces, overhead equipment, and an audience. The audience supplies the energy for your star abilities; the more they like you, the faster your star powers will fill when not topped off already. The audience will frequently interact with the fight as well, triggering overhead equipment to be dropped or throwing items on stage; be they rocks to hurt you or mushrooms to aid you. The set pieces can even interact with combat, as they will commonly fall over and can do some damage if not blocked. Speaking of blocking, the dodge mechanic in Paper Mario is just as well done as the rest of the combat. Attacks can be dodged to decrease the damage, and certain attacks can even be countered to instead hurt the attacker. The fight system is easily the best portion of the game; unfortunately for most players it is too interrupted with the story moments to be entertaining for long.
Paper Mario is a game heavily based on its story, which can be good or bad. For the most part, the story is interesting. However, like the rest of the game, its starts to lose its feel after some time. Everything is text based, which means a lot skipping for those not interested.
It was mentioned before that there are some interesting moments when it comes to hunting for the Crystal Stars. Unfortunately these interesting moments don’t last the whole game. For instance, one star requires you to enter a fighting tournament to earn the Crystal Star. It is too bad that there aren’t more moments like this; too many simply involve move, move, fight, move, move, boss, Star.
The story is split up into chapters, with each chapter dedicated to one Star. Between these chapters are moments where Peach and Bowser are the stars; both in story moments and in actual gameplay. Both can be interesting at times (such as playing Bowser through levels modeled after Mario’s original titles), but do more to interfere with Mario’s story than to supplement it. In the end they seem more tacked on (specifically Bowser’s), and just increase the frustration for those not looking for the long, drawn-out stories.
Paper Mario’s graphics and style are definitely up there in its successes. Mario is granted abilities through the game which unlock different parts of the world and frequently come up in puzzle situations. Each of his party members have their own abilities, but it’s Mario’s paper powers which really shine. For instance, Mario can turn into a paper airplane in certain locations and fly across gaps. The characters, the backgrounds, everything is done really well and all looks good. Many parts of the levels act in the stage format, with cardboard-looking water further in the background and buildings which drop a wall when Mario enters to reveal the action inside. Everything is done really well and should certainly bring a smile to your face.
The sound is equally impressive. The music is very well done and is some of the best I’ve heard in Mario games. There isn’t a particularly large amount of tunes, however, which slightly diminishes its value. The sound effects are also well done, with Mario’s common jumping and “Uh-huh” sounds cropping up. Of course, since it’s text-based, the characters don’t have their own voices, but at least you can’t complain about the voice acting. Speaking of the text, each character is very well written, and their own voice pops out anyways. The combat sounds are really great as well; everything from enemies dying to the thunder of an item being used.
Overall Paper Mario is an excellent Mario game and should be played by every fan of the Mustachioed hero. Deciding whether or not to purchase it is the true problem, however, as the gameplay can get repetitive and the story is more likely to get in a player’s way on the second or third time through.