Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door - Review  

National Treasure
by Jeremy, the Duke of Otterland

Very Easy
25-45 Hours


Rating definitions 

   After Nintendo’s brief alliance with Squaresoft produced Super Mario RPG, one of the Super NES’s last and finest titles, Mario, about half a decade later, starred in the solo Nintendo RPG Paper Mario, one of the few worthwhile, though flawed, titles on the Nintendo 64. Only a few years later would Mario star in another console RPG for the GameCube, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, which plays much like its predecessor despite some minor changes, and proves to be one of the system’s worthwhile RPGs, despite its own flaws.

   The second Paper Mario returns many key elements of its predecessor’s turn-based battle engine, such as the interactive collision encounter system, where Mario can leap on an enemy appearing on the field or hit it with his hammer to deal it preliminary damage. Enemies, however, can do the same, though Mario’s party will still go after the enemy gets one attack in.

   Once again, Mario can jump on enemies or hammer them in battle, with Badges once more able to grant special jump or hammer skills that consume Flower Points. Mario also gains several allies throughout his quest, which this time around have their own HP, alongside FP-consuming abilities, making them more useful in this installment. Switching one ally with another in the middle of battle consumes that ally’s turn, although a Badge is available that can allow the changed ally to take his/her turn immediately that round.

   Like its predecessors, The Thousand-Year Door heavily emphasizes timed button pressing for attacking and defending, which can be fairly difficult to master, especially in the case of diverse enemy attacks, though this time around, Mario and his ally can counterattack enemies if the player presses the B button at the right moment, which can prove more useful than timed defense with the A button, given that counterattacks completely avert damage to Mario and his ally.

   Moreover, Star Power returns, with various Star Techs, and additional levels of Star Power, acquired once Mario retrieves one of the seven stars he must seek in his quest. Star Techs consume a certain level of Star Power, and this time, its regeneration comes from the audience before which Mario fights a battle, which will also occasionally throw a damaging projectile or item; in either instance, the player can hit the audience member intending to throw the projectile/item to avert its arrival on the stage. Speaking of the stage, depending upon the techs Mario and/or his ally perform, parts of the stage may collapse and try to damage your party and the enemy, though timed defense works here. Anyway, Mario can increase his Star Power by appealing to the audience or performing timed Stylish moves alongside his normal techniques.

   Badges return as well, granting Mario and his ally various special abilities or stat increases, with each consuming a certain amount of Badge Points, increasable alongside HP or FP when Mario gains a hundred Star Points needed to level up. Levels rise fairly slowly compared to other RPGs, although the battle system still works out well in the end.

They look like crap themselves...get it? Is that raisin crapping in the flowerbed?

   Concerning interaction, the menus in The Thousand-Year Door are fairly easy to handle, despite the slight lag at times, and a few shortcuts exist with the directional pad. Fully searching the game’s many areas, moreover, requires the use of Mario’s allies, not to mention “curses” Mario receives, such as folding into a paper sailboat or paper airplane. Players can also solve “troubles,” this game’s answer to the guild missions from Phantasy Star IV and Arc the Lad II and its sequel, for rewards. Inventory space unfortunately has a meager limit of ten items, with the player constantly needing to discard items to acquire new ones, and storage space at item shops is itself limited. Decent interaction, but it could’ve easily been better, especially in the area of item management, not to mention the slight tediousness of constantly retracing your steps through the same areas over and over at times.

   Despite the mentioned changes in the battle system and interaction, The Thousand-Year Door plays remarkably similar to its predecessor. All the elements of the original Paper Mario’s battle system—timed button pressing, Star Power, Flower Points, and Badges—return in its sequel, and the audience is basically another source for Star Power and occasional projectile/item, alongside the sporadic stage annoyance. The “troubles” and “curses” aren’t particularly inventive, as well, with the former, as I’ve affirmed, resembling guild missions from the fourth Phantasy Star and second and third Arc the Lads, and the latter basically providing means by which to solve the occasional puzzle and advance game. The plot also revolves around a search for seven stars, which were a major element of this game’s predecessors, and in the end, Paper Mario 2 doesn’t really revolutionize the genre.

Dun, dun, dun, dun! Is that your final answer?

   It’s difficult nowadays to judge the merits of a storyline such as that in The Thousand-Year Door, especially when it basically involves several chapters of performing random tasks just to advance the game, with the occasional ally tagging along. Anyway, Princess Peach Toadstool, after visiting the town of Rogueport, finds a treasure map and sends it to Mario, who accepts it and goes to Rogueport himself, only to find Peach kidnapped, but this time by a group called the X-Nauts, having the generic desire of taking over the world, instead of Bowser. Mario eventually stumbles across the Thousand-Year Door, sealed away by—you guessed it—seven stars, to which the map guides him during the game. Players do see events with Peach, and yes, Bowser, in between chapters, and the game itself contains plenty of decent humor, and since no one, of course, can ever expect a serious, well-developed story from a Mario game, I suppose the plot is passable in the end.

   The aurals, though, could’ve definitely used some work. There are few memorable, catchy tunes, and their presentation is pretty poor, as well, since entering buildings and talking with characters, for instance, drops the music volume significantly. The game is a bit too reliant upon noise to do the job, and in the end, the aurals would’ve benefited from more time and effort.

   The second Paper Mario, going on, uses an advanced version of its predecessor’s quirky papery visual style, with vibrant colors, humorous paper effects, and, of course, nice paper-thin character sprites. Shadows are but black circles, though, and the environment rendering is a bit jagged at times, but otherwise, the visuals are one of the game’s high points.

   Finally, Paper Mario 2 is pretty easy to play, despite the small issues with combat, and takes from twenty-five to forty-five hours to complete, depending upon the time spent with troubles, searching every corner of the game’s worlds for every item, and tackling the hundred-floor extra dungeon.

   Overall, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a flawed but fun addition to the GameCube’s meager RPG selection. It’s definitely worth a look from the system’s owners, and, despite its weaknesses, one of the better RPGs of the current generation.

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