Good news! The Nintendo Switch has been announced and it looks pretty freakin good! Bad news: Now I need to power through the rest of my Wii U library so I can sell it before March. First on the list is this little classic, Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64. I’ve played a few of the Mario and Luigi games on various handhelds but this was my first Mario RPG on a console (although a lot of the time I played it using the gamepad screen). Alyssa and I tried to play it together at first because I knew this game had charm but the repetitive RPG elements bogged her down out of the gate. So I went solo on this one but I finished just in time for Pokemon Sun and Moon to come out (be looking forward to that review sometime late December I expect).
Paper Mario makes an instant impression with its visual style. Although this game is 15 years old, most of the graphics hold up because it looks like paper on a 3D background. I was plesaently surprised with the 2D mixed with 3D, not only because of the way it looks, but because of the way they play around with it. Mario will take a fall off a cliff and gently float to the bottom or be able to slip through a tiny crack because he’s made of paper! The world is created around this idea and as you travel to various environments they find a fun way to play into it.
RPG’s typically aren’t all game mechanics or fighting but like to tell a story alongside the combat. The story here is a classic. Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach and you must rescue her. To do so you have to free all seven star spirits from the captors (bosses) because only they have the power to make Bowser weak again. You see, he’s stolen the star rod from star haven to make himself invincible this time around. As you grow in power and explore the various environments, Peach is playing her role by tricking bowser in the sky castle into helping her to help you. During the journey you meet a bunch of companions from a goomba to a ghost that join you to help in battle or navigate puzzles but also have their own little side stories. There’s a ton of charm to this game but it does have its pitfalls as well.
The mechanics of the game are rather simple. It is a turn based RPG where you and a companion attack your enemy or enemies and they then have a chance to attack you. You can attack either by jumping on the enemy, hitting them with a hammer, or using an item but when you do, you can actually hurt them more by doing the action command. The action command will be something like pressing a button several times or releasing at the right time. The strategy comes in when choosing your companion however because they all have different abilities that work better in different situations. Eventually as you progress, you will get stronger by leveling up and finding new items or badges that help in combat. When you level up, you can choose one of three things: more HP, more FP to do special attacks, or more BP to equip badges. That’s really all there is to it but what I appreciated is that there are moments that really require you to think and strategize for tougher battles.
The part that bugs me the most is that they fall into the trap of just reskinning enemies. When you go through the world, I really want to have to strategize around a new set of enemies in each environment but what I get is a koopa. And then a koopa with a spike on its head. Or a piranna plant. And then a BLUE piranna plant. Woah so crazy. I hate reskins of the same fight with slight differences and increased defenses. Its like the stupid Smelter Demon in Dark Souls. Annoying and boring.
Overall, although the battles go by quickly, the times that you really want to keep playing this game is when you are interacting with the various characters. They have sass, they have wit, they have humor. They make the world feel lived in and allow you to look forward to your next interaction with them. Each little area has an arch to it that is simple but so fun. There are puzzles to solve and new people to speak with in each area. The ball takes a little bit to get rolling but once it does it is hard to put down. Seriously besides the enemies, this game warmed me in just the right way with the challenges it provides in puzzles, multi layered combat, and intersting world building. I can’t wait to jump into the Gamecube sequel, Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door but first I gotta catch ’em all. In the end I give Paper Mario a 4.5 out of 5 twinks.