Super Paper Mario - Staff Review  

Sounds Good on Paper
by Jordan "J_Sensei" Jackson

15-25 Hours


Rating definitions 

   Ever since the original Super Mario RPG, Nintendo has been making RPGs that follow the mustachioed plumber. Typically, these games are full of humor, accessible to most any player, and feature unique mechanics. This newest iteration in the series, Super Paper Mario, follows all those trends, but it still misses the mark nearly as often as it hits.

   The game starts off with a wedding being held by the villainous Count Bleck, who much like Bob Dole, insists on referring to himself in third person. He kidnaps Bowser and Princess Peach, and intends them to marry. Bowser, of course, accepts this quite readily, but Peach needs some hypnotic pushing to agree to the match. This results in the creation of the Chaos Heart, which summons a Void that threatens to destroy all worlds. Mario is then tasked with saving not only the Mushroom Kingdom but the entire galaxy.

   While previous games in the Paper Mario series have featured traditional RPG battles, this newest offering opts for real-time battles that resemble the platformers from which Mario originated. Besides the usual jumping and stomping, Mario can use items to heal himself or damage foes around him.

   Paper Mario games always feature special abilities, and this time they come in the form of Pixls, ancient creatures that assist Mario in battle and in puzzle solving. Tippi can find hidden objects, give advice, and display the stats of enemies. Boomer can blow up cracked walls and do high damage to those caught in his blast. Throughout the quest, several Pixls will join Mario, allowing him access to new places.

Caption Be honest. Who saw THIS one coming?

   Pixls aren't the only thing new this time around. Another important feature is Mario's ability to flip from the 2D world to 3D and back again. Though difficult to explain in words, this ability is easily understandable once seen in the game. By flipping, the world shifts, and everything takes on a new appearance. Walls that look insurmountable are bypassed easily by walking past them while flipped, and dead ends frequently have paths to new areas when viewed in 3D. Suffice it to say, Mario will spend a significant amount of time in flipped state to solve puzzles and navigate the worlds he travels to.

   Though the visuals are bright, colorful, and some of the best seen on the Wii so far, they look like they would feel at home on the GameCube. Considering the improved power of the Wii, it is disappointing that yet another game would have little to suggest it belongs on a newer system. Though it is true that the Paper Mario series has always featured flat, paper-thin sprites from which it gets its name, it would be nice if there were something to differentiate it from games on older machines other than motion-sensitive controls. In the end, the graphics get the job done, but they never really go beyond the call of duty.

   The music is also good, but sadly, it is not one of the great soundtracks that Nintendo is so known for. None of the music is bad, but nothing really stands out, either. There are also several sound effects that any Mario fan should know, but oddly enough, there is more voice acting in Mario 64 than in this game. With the extra space on the larger discs, it would be nice to hear everyone speak a bit.

Caption Mario finally made good on his promise to be "the bigger man."

   Unfortunately, the place where the game fails the player the most is in its difficulty. Paper Mario games have never been hard, but this one is so easy that it's almost a joke. This is most disappointing in that it is a hybrid of the RPG and platformer genre. The difficult jumps found in even the original Super Mario Bros are nowhere to be found. And should the player fall in a bottomless pit, the penalty is a measly 1 HP of damage. At least the game features pretty good pacing with the story progressing quite well, but even that gets derailed towards the end of the game.

   Finishing Super Paper Mario will not take very long. It can easily be finished in fifteen to twenty hours, but there are several side quests including the infamous Pit of 100 trials, a card collecting game, and a cooking system to extend things a bit if the player so chooses.

   The one place where the game truly shines is the localization; it is really, really funny. Nintendo pulls no punches in its humor, and often makes itself the target in some of the jokes. And fans of the series will be glad to know there is a never-ending supply of Mustache jokes. Though the trip through the game isn't very long, one can at least count on the tons of laughter to keep the player going.

   One final thing that needs to be addressed is the use of the Wii remote. The game makes ample use of the motion sensing and pointing capabilities of the new controller, but they are iffy at best. The pointer doesn't always seem to work quite right, and there is one item that asks the player to turn the controller in one of a few ways. Strangely, it might detect the controller as being in the correct position one time, miss the next, and then correct again, even if it called for the same angle all three times. Little things like this are disappointing and bring the game down a bit.

   In the end, Super Paper Mario is a good game, but it isn't the great game it could have been. It is certainly fun, but that can only carry it so far. Fans of the series should definitely pick it up, but it's hard to recommend it to other hardcore RPG fans. What the game does right, it does very well, but when it fails, it does so miserably. For example, the localization is great, but the pacing gets so derailed toward the end that it really puts a damper on the whole thing. The good outweighs the bad, but only marginally so. Though it sounds good on paper, its execution is somewhat disappointing.

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