RPGamer Preview: Paper Mario

Mario returns to the world of RPGs in 2-D glory as Super Mario RPG finally gets a sequel.
There's a Starman, waiting in the sky... he wants to strangle Bowser with his little Starman 	    tie...
Bowser plays hopscotch in his clownheadmobile

XTreme gardening
The horrible aftermath of tacos

Note the goomba stalker
Mario talking

Fight with a variety of weapons

Scenic Mushroom Kingdom


View Photo Gallery

Platform: Nintendo 64
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Rated Teen for violent content.

In 1995, Nintendo teamed up with Square to release Super Mario RPG. Featuring enjoyable gameplay, colorful graphics that were among the best the Super Nintendo had to offer, and an endearing cast of characters, the game managed to carve its place out in the annals of RPG history. Now, five years later, Nintendo has teamed up with Intelligent Systems, the team responsible for the Fire Emblem series, to produce a sequel. Entitled Paper Mario, the new game looks like it has a good chance to live up to its predecessor's standards of goodness.

Paper Mario definitely follows in Super Mario RPG's footsteps, throwing characters from the Mario universe into an RPG setting. This time, Mario's out to stop the fiendish magikoopa Kamek, the villain of Yoshi's Island. Kamek has stolen the mystical Star Rod, and so Mario is out to retrieve it. Mario is joined in his quest by the usual sidekicks; Luigi, Toad, Peach, and Bowser, making an appearance in that hovering clown-headed contraption, all show up for the ride . Some familiar monsters also return; Ninjis, Goombas, Bob-ombs, and a slew of Koopas are along to either help or hinder Mario (one has to wonder just what the little goomba who appears to be stalking Mario in many of this game's screenshots is up to). Paper Mario isn't all about the nostalgia, though; some new characters also appear in the game, ready to join in the action.

In a departure from standard RPG fare, Paper Mario opts instead to return to Mario's roots with some good old-fashioned side-scrolling. The brick smashing antics of old make a return, and all of Mario's old tricks come into play as he makes his way across the terrain. The terrain in question, incidentally, is three-dimensional, while the characters are two-dimensional cutouts. This makes for a very interesting visual experience, to say the least; while other titles in the past have tried this approach, it has not always worked out successfully.

The visuals are definitely one component of this game that will leave a lasting impression. Bright, colorful, and uber-cutesy, they are among the best the Nintendo 64 has to offer. The backgrounds are carefully detailed, and the two-dimensional characters look very striking against the colorful scenery. Though Paper Mario lacks the painstaking FMV of the Final Fantasy series, it is nonetheless distinctive in its graphical quality.

One other area of distinction is Paper Mario's battle sequences, which retain most of the elements of Super Mario RPG's. Still a major feature are the timed button presses which add an element of skill to the battles; rather than just mindlessly hammering attack, the player must carefully time the pressing of the buttons to achieve more damage on an attack; similarly, defensive strength can be improved with good timing. Meanwhile, Mario can master a wide variety of new moves, including the Mega-Quake and the Triple Dip, ensuring that every fight will be able to hold the player's interest to some extent.

Mario's special abilities appear as his level increases, and as he explores, there are over 100 items that can be found. Additionally, following in the tracks of a number of recent games, a system of alchemy makes another 40 available. Mario's weapons remain the standard fare; hammers, turtle shells, and those spiffy white gloves are the tools of the trade that will remain in greatest evidence as he fights his way through the Mushroom Kingdom.

Paper Mario is a title that should provide a great RPG experience for otherwise largely deprived Nintendo 64 owners. The game is scheduled for release on February 5th.
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