Paper Mario Review

By Sgt. Fly

July 12, 2008

Since Paper Mario was released on the N64 at the end of the console's life, not as many people as there should have been got the chance to play this classic. Fortunately, it was released on the Wii's Virtual Console for 1,000 Wii Points, so anyone can play it, but is it really worth it?

Storyline: 9.1/10
One day, Mario and Luigi get a letter from Princess Peach. She tells them that she is having a party at her castle, and the two set off. When they get there, Luigi stays to socialize with the others while Mario heads deeper into the castle to find Peach. Once he does, after a brief conversation, the castle starts to rumble. Of course it's one of Bowser's plots, he was lifting Peach's Castle into the sky with a flying castle of his own. The castle gets lifted way up in tothe sky, so far up that it appears to be dark out. Soon after, Bowser comes through the window with a new character from the game, Kammy Koopa. Once he sees Mario, the two battle. After the fight goes on for a while, Bowser pulls out the Star Rod, a legendary artifact he stole from Star Haven. (Or maybe Dream Land, who knows. =P) The Rod has the power to grant anyone's wishes, and he uses it to make himself invincible. After many years of fierce rivalry, he at last kills Mario right on the spot. He uses the Star Rod to strike Mario and send his body flying out of the castle, where he makes a long descent down while some guards take Peach away. Mario falls into a grassy meadow. Just then, some holograms of 7 sages named the Star Spirits appear and use their magic to heal Mario, disappearing soon after. Once one of the local residents of the nearby village of Mario's crashsight finds him unconscious, they call for help. Mario later awakens in a Toad House, a resting place found in many areas of the game. One of the hologram Star Spirits, namely Eldstar, appears by Mario, telling him to go to Shooting Star Summit, as the Star Spirits have a message awaiting him. That's as far as I'll go as of now, but you can tell by my wordy paragraph the storyline is a fair bit deeper than most Mario games. Technically it's in some ways the Peach gets kidnapped plot, but it's made so much deeper. That's what you can expect out of any Paper Mario game.

Gameplay: 9.5/10
The gameplay of Paper Mario is so simple yet so engrossing. For the most part of the game, it's quite similar to Super Mario RPG. You move Mario around the overworld while solving puzzles and battling enemies. But one thing I want to mention first off is that partners can now be used on the overworld as well; you'll constantly need to use their abilities to get through the game. Mario's abilities are also required just as much; of course there's the classic jump, and we can all guess what that does. However, the other one of Mario's major abilities in the game is the hammer that he finds early in the game. The hammer can be used to destroy blocks, shake trees, attack foes, and more. Aside from the abilities, the environments and puzzles in the game are just excellent. Whether you're traveling across a vast desert, climbing up a snowy mountain, finding your way through haunted woods, or spelunking in a thick jungle, you're bound to find treasures, puzzles, and enemies in these unique environments. And of course, at the end of each chapter lies a big boss for you to destroy. Another cool feature of the game is that once you beat a boss, there is a brief scene where you get to play as the damsel herself, Peach. Most of these mini-quests involve sneaking past Bowser's guards to get information to help Mario, and it's certainly a fun and tense scene. Now the battle system is something I liked just as much; for one thing, the Speed stat from many RPGs is removed from this game, which I feel makes the battle system less complicated. Another element of the game previously seen in Mario RPG is the use of Action Commands. When Mario attacks an enemy, he can perform a certain button command for extra damage. Additionally, he can press A right as the enemy attacks to take a little less damage. The stats are reduced to 3 types now unlike most RPGs. HP is the stat that determines how many hits Mario can take before he is defeated. FP, similar to magic, allows Mario to use certain special attacks. BP allows Mario to equip more badges as it increases- And I can't believe I almost forgot to mention badges. Badges are some of my favorite new additions in this game. Equipping them will have effects on Mario on either the overworld or battlefield, but mostly in battle. These may give him new moves, certain advantages, or even permanently boost his stats while they are equipped. Now there is something that annoyed me a little bit; in the later chapters, some enemies will just be too strong for you if you haven't fought enemies constantly in the past. It does add to the challenge in the game, but sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you have to put your epic quest aside to power-level. Furthermore, I was slightly annoyed in select battles that your partners don't have HP. Instead, if they are hit, they are injured and can't move for a set amount of turns.

Graphics: 8/10
They don't call it Paper Mario for nothing; this game takes paper characters and puts them in a 3D world. Since N64 is primarily an all-3D system, the graphics of this game may seem a bit sub-par. The environments look fairly good, but the character models I've found to be a tad fuzzy most of the time. Another thing is that the frame rate is a little rough, but again that's mostly for the character models. As you can see from what I've been saying, most of the game's graphical faults come from the character designs. But the really great part of the graphics is the excellent backgrounds. The backgrounds of the various game location are very detailed, charming, and fitting for their area. You'd normally think a paper game would have pretty lousy graphics, but Intelligent Systems did a great job with maintaining a 2D character style in a 3D era.

Music and Sound Effects: 9/10
This game's soundtrack is very charming and Mario-esque. At first most of the music just sounds decent, but you really need to get further in the game to hear some of the more memorable soundtracks. That's not to say the beginnings don't have some good music as well; the title screen theme is a piece you'll never forget, and Shooting Star Summit is nice and calming combined with the nighttime atmosphere. A thing that really caught my attention is the various battle themes. The normal battle theme is quite catchy and may make you look forward to fighting enemies. Not to mention, each boss in the game has its own unique theme to fight to. In a few cases, some well-known themes from past Mario games are remixed, like the chapter beginning theme or the Toad Town Sewers theme. Some of these themes, however, can tend to get old fast. As an example, you'll find yourself constantly passing through an area called Toad Town, and I can't say I'm as fond of the music there as I once was.

Controls: 9.1/10
Personally, I found the controls for the N64 version of Paper Mario to be a bit awkward. But now that you can use the GameCube controller, they feel a lot more comfortable. In many ways it's the same controls as Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. The only exception is that partners' abilities are performed by pressing down on the C stick as opposed to pressing X. I've always been fond of the simplicity of the GameCube controller, which is why I don't think the Classic Controller is as great. Exploring a 3D world without an analog stick feels rather awkward. Well, there is an analog stick, but it's in kind of an odd place and the control pad seems more comforting to your hands... but then you can't use the analog stick... Oh, just use the GameCube controller, why don't you?

Length: 9/10
The score may be a little high depending on your age, because my first time playing through this I was only 5, and it was my 3rd video game AND first RPG. It took me a few months to complete the game that playthrough. After downloading it on the Virtual Console and playing it at 13, it took me roughly 3 or 4 days to complete it, mostly because I knew a lot of the puzzles. If you are around that age and have been playing videogames for a while, it should take approximately 1 or 2 weeks to complete the game. The game is divided into 8 "chapters" that you must beat to proceed to the next chapter. As you probably guessed, the game's difficulty increases over time. The game is longer than it is difficult, fortunately; that's a good attribute to the length. There are some fairly difficult puzzles in the game, but surely you'll never be stuck on one forever. It's hard for me to come up with criticisms for this category since my first playthrough took me so long. Let's just say it's long but not hard.

Replayability: 9.6/10
Yikes, this game is just oozing sidequests. Some are large and long and will take you days, while others are just simple deeds. I'll cover some of the most basic ones. Throughout the game you will encounter objects called Star Pieces. These really don't help Mario, but there is a fellow on Shooting Star Summit who will give Mario rare badges for his Star Pieces. There are a whopping 160 total Star Pieces, making collecting them all likely the longest sidequest in the game. The next one is Letters, a sidequest that you might say is interlinked with the Star Pieces sidequest. In the game, on occasions you will find letters on the road addressed to certain people in the game. If you give the letter to that person while you have a certain partner out, they'll thank you with a Star Piece. One letter, however, will spark a massive chain of letters that ends with a super-rare reward. One of the better known sidequests is Koopa Koot's Favors, in which you run errands for an old Koopa in a certain town. Usually all he'll reward you with is a single coin, but be aware, he tends to have random bursts of generosity... Another sidequest that's interlinked with Star Pieces is Chuck Quizmo's Quizzes. On occasion, you will encounter a flashy figure named Chuck Quizmo in select towns and villages. If you talk to him, you will be put on his quiz show and you must answer one question about the game. If it is answered correctly, you will be rewarded with a Star Piece. Quizmo will give a total of 64 questions, so it might be kind of hard finding him for all of them. Some other sidequests include collecting all the game's badges, powering up your partners, training to achieve maximum stats, and more. Not to mention there are 2 optional bosses in the game, 4 depending on how you put it, one of which just might be more powerful than the final boss himself. However, a complaint I have about the sidequests is that some of them just aren't rewarding enough. Say the Star Pieces; sure, you'll get a lot of badges for all 150, but half of them you may find yourself never using. Normally that would lower the score more, but the sheer fun of the sidequests didn't make it effect the score as much.

Fun Factor!: 9.7/10
Like most Mario RPGs, the beginning parts of the game tend to be a bit dull. Proceeding on, you will find yourself more engrossed and more challenged. Each chapter is quite fun and diverse, with its own mini-story. The chapters I found to be the peak of the game's entertainment are 5 and 7. And as I covered before, the game is more long than difficult, so you'll likely rarely or never find yourself very frustrated, yet it maintains a hint of challenge that makes you eager to play through the game and see what kind of adventures await you next. The happy-go-lucky atmosphere of the game also gives you a pleasant feeling throughout the game, mostly due to the wide variety of places. If you enjoy an adventurous atmosphere you'll probably like Chapters 2 and 5. If you are a younger child fond of bright and vibrant environments, you'll enjoy Chapter 4. If you prefer a mysterious, long, and puzzle-filled feeling like me, Chapter 7 is for you. No, it's not like you'll only enjoy a chapter that fits your tastes, but you may have more fun playing through some than others.

Overall: 99/100
I'll admit I was a little biased with this Review for 2 reasons; 1) I love RPGs, and 2) This was one of my precious childhood games. I know many of you will disagree when I say that Paper Mario is the finest title ever created, but I personally VERY much enjoyed its balance of various elements, the charming feeling of the game, and the many long sidequests. You probably won't feel the exact same way I did if you download it, but I can almost guarantee you'll rate it somewhere in the 9 or high 8 range. It's undoubtedly worth the 1,000 Wii Points, and I promise it will not be another game that you shove into your SD Card to gather digital dust. Since the original Paper Mario had lower sales  due to it being released at the end of its era, let's truly show Nintendo how much we love this game. ^.^

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