Paper Mario - Review

Bowser isn't getting any smarter

By Mikel Tidwell

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 7
   Music / Sound 6
   Originality 3
   Plot 5
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 3
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete 30 hours
Paper Mario

    Mario has been the mascot for Nintendo almost since its inception. This popular plumber has played in almost every type of game imaginable. He has filled roles from tennis to golf, kart racing to a doctor handing out medication. He has even starred in his own RPG for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. With the Nintendo 64 nearing the end of its time, Nintendo once again makes an RPG attempt. Akin to Super Mario RPG's success, Nintendo makes another try to coerce fans into the RPG community, in time for its next generation console.

    Paper Mario has the story that Mario games are required to have. Big Bad Bowser hatches yet another plan to capture Princess Peach. Using his castle in an unexplained manner, he steals Peach's castle, toting it off into the dark sky. Mario, in the knick of time, rushes to her aid, only to find that Bowser has acquired the Star Rod. With the newfound power of the Star Rod, Bowser appears to be invincible. Trouncing Mario soundly, Bowser tosses him from the castle. Mario is injured from the fall, and is rescued by a family of Goombas. Mario needs to rescue the captured Star Spirits to have any chance at defeating Bowser.

Your mission...
Paper thin characters  

    The graphics of the game are what makes it stand out from the other Nintendo 64 games, not for the overwhelming aspects of today's RPGs, but because of the uniqueness of how the sprites move. Unlike the typical sprites, these act as though they are made out of paper, hence the name Paper Mario. When Mario and company have to turn around, the sprite will actually flip over, showing for a second how thin the character is, before heading in the other direction. Considering the advanced 3D engine the Nintendo 64 is capable of, this was a very different aspect of the game to get used to.

    The battle system is turn based, with menus to choose actions. Mario and his helper will always get to attack first, but there is the ability to earn First Strike before battle. First Strike basically means that whoever strikes the other side in the field area first will do a single pre-emptive attack to the other party, before Mario starts his first turn. If there is a collision but no attack, there is no pre-emptive damage to either side.

Organize screen
Areas rich in color  

    Using a multitude of available attacks, Mario must defeat Bowser's henchmen. All attacks can be categorized into five categories. Those are jump, hammer, star power, items, and helper attacks. Items are almost self-explanatory, some attack and other heal. For the jump and hammer attacks, Mario can gain abilities by equipping badges that he finds throughout the land. Badges can also enhance Mario's HP, FP (magic), power, defense, or even add sound effects. Attacks such as Multibounce and Mega Quake are handy when the battles typically consist of Mario and his chosen helper versus five or six baddies. Once Mario gains the Action ability his attacks, and his helper's, can be enhanced by following simple directions at the bottom of the screen. Also, as Mario rescues more and more Star Spirits, he will gain new Star Powers. Two particularly useful ones are Chill Out, which lowers the attack of all enemies by three for a few turns, and Smooch, which restores 20 of Mario's HP.

    And then we have the helper attacks. Throughout Mario's adventure in the Mushroom Kingdom, certain individuals will ask to accompany Mario on his quest. Either for their own reasons, or to simply work with the legendary plumber, Mario can gain the help of eight friends, ranging from a Goomba, a Boo, Koopas, and many other types. Each friend has a specific field ability, as well as battle abilities. At first, each friend will only have two abilities in battle -- typically a free attack, and one that costs FP to use. As Mario finds blue power up blocks, he will have to decide which friend gains more power, and learns a new attack. Eventually everyone will have four attacks if Mario can find all the blocks.

    Using the abilities of Mario's helpers will seem obvious. When approaching an obstacle, it is apparent that Mario needs to hover over this pit, or blow up that wall, or make other clear choices. Then there are the secondary conditions. For example, if the flying Koopa, Parakarry, has a letter for the person Mario is talking to, he will give the letter to that person. However, if another helper is out, nothing extra will happen. Don't worry about remembering too many, as secondary responsibilities are spelled out very clearly when they need to occur.

Run for cover
Helpful allies  

    If fact, that is likely one of the most annoying parts of the game. Since everything is spelled out so clearly, all the time, there's not a lot of exploration and experimentation to do. Like typical Nintendo titles, there are numerous objects to collect, but Mario is hardly required to find them all in order to defeat Bowser. The objects, mostly Star Pieces and Badges, are mainly there to keep the RPGamer occupied once the game has been mastered. Even the riddles and quizzes are brain-dead easy, leaving little challenge in the game. Except for the final fight, all the enemies are basically pushovers requiring basic strategy at best. Also in typical Nintendo style, there is no chance to save after defeating Bowser, so in order to get back and gain more items make a very long journey back to Toad Town.

    The Nintendo 64 has catered almost exclusively to the younger generation, with a few notable exceptions, but they are now growing up. As the Game Boy Advance and the GameCube releases draw closer, Nintendo must induct these young players into the RPG community. Paper Mario serves this purpose very well. With all the Badges and helper abilities open for Mario to use, the game goes a long way to develop the problem solving abilities of the younger gamer. For the older, more experienced RPGamers, Paper Mario is a light, refreshing change from the norm, but can easily be completed in a rental period.

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