Press R To Review – Super Paper Mario

Super Paper Mario has a strange position among the other games in the Paper Mario series.  It’s only game in out of the three that’s not an RPG.  Unlike the original Paper Mario and The Thousand-Year Door, Super Paper Mario is a straight-up platformer.  Sure you can gain health and strength upgrades through points (experience), but I wouldn’t call them RPG-like since those are the only things that resemble an RPG.  You have no control over your upgrades and you can’t upgrade accessories like badges in the first two games.   Super Paper Mario has gotten a lot of criticism from people for not being an RPG.  It’s a bit unfair when trying to play the game for what it is.  It’s unfortunate,  because Super Paper Mario is a decent game on its own.   Note the emphasis on decent instead of great.   It’s easily my least favorite game in the series.

Let’s start off with the story.  In light of a recent kidnapping of Peach, Mario and Luigi go to King Bowser’s Castle to retrieve her, only to find out that Bowser was not responsible for it.  Of course, it had to be someone else.  It is revealed that the kidnapper is Count Bleck, a sorcerer who wields an ancient, prophetic tome called the Dark Prognosticus.  In addition to Princess Peach, he kidnaps Luigi and Bowser, and brainwashes Bowser’s Koopa and Goomba army.  He then employs the hypnotic powers of his right-hand woman, Nastasia, and forces the marriage of Princess Peach and Bowser in order to, as the Dark Prognosticus fortells, unleash the destructive power known as the Chaos Heart.  Count Bleck uses the power of the Chaos Heart to open an inter-dimensional rift known as “The Void”, will eventually grow large enough to engulf the entire universe.  It’s the type of evil plot that would make Exdeath from Final Fantasy V happy.  Mario meets a butterfly-like Pixl named Tippi, and a wizard named Merlon, who have come in search of Mario.  They inform him that he matches the description of the Hero, described in another prophetical tome called the Light Prognosticus, which is able to halt the impeding doom of The Void.  (Isn’t that covenient?)  To banish the Chaos Heart and reverse the destruction, the Hero requires the eight Pure Hearts, artifacts created from genuine love.  Mario and Tippi set off in order to collect the Pure Hearts and stop Count Bleck’s plan.

Flip this.

Paper Mario games aren’t exactly known for the strength of their plots.  They’re better known for the strength of the writing thanks to Nintendo of America’s excellent job on localizing the dialogue for North America.  The dialogue often makes inside jokes and references to other Nintendo games among other stuff.  It’s partly the reason why I enjoy Paper Mario so much.  Still, the story is fairly weak compared to the last two games.  In the first game, you were on a quest to find the seven Star Spirits in order to defeat Bowser, who had become invincible thanks to the power of the Star Rod.  In The Thousand Year Door, you were on a quest to retrieve the seven Crystal Stars and rescue Princess Peach from the X-Nauts, an alien species introduced in the second game.  Sure, both games had similar formulas, but at least the game made them interesting through the cast of characters you met along the way.  The first two Paper Mario games had a mix of both familiar and new characters that were interesting.  Who can forget the Rawk Hawk from The Thousand Year Door?  Sadly, Super Paper Mario doesn’t have an interesting cast of characters.  The supporting characters that join your party and the majority of the villains just aren’t that memorable.   Sure, there is the genius dialogue, but it doesn’t make up for the lack of interesting characters.

Fun fact: I went through the entire game without doing any stylish moves.

If the story is lacking in Super Paper Mario, then the game itself has to be good, right?  It is for the most part.  If you don’t compare Super Paper Mario to the first two games, you will discover that it is a very enjoyable game on its own.  The game is divided into 8 chapters, each with 4 stages.  In between each chapter, you will view cutscenes and get to do a bunch of stuff in Flipside, the overworld and main hub town of this game.  It is there where you can rest at an inn, buy items at stores, talk to the locals, and do other stuff.  The majority of the game takes place in 2D, although you can switch to 3D in order to explore areas and to solve puzzles.  Using the Wiimote like a spotlight, you can highlight and read the descriptions of items and enemies, or spot any hidden objects.   The catch to flipping to 3D is that you can only stay there for so long before you start losing health.  I understand the need to keep people from abusing the flip function, but I find losing health to be annoying.  There are times where I have to wait a bit for my bar to recover before flipping again.  It’s unwelcome when I’m trying to get through an area that involves a lot of flipping.  The same thing applies to when I have to flip to get around certain enemies, regardless of whether they can flip or not as well.  Even though the game was made for the Wii, the game makes very little use of the motion controls.  You hold the Wiimote vertically as if you’re handling an NES controller.  It’s probably a good thing Intelligent Systems set up the controls the way they were.  I don’t see it working any other way.  Pixls, or fairy-like characters, grant you the ability to do special moves like using a hammer, bombs, or turning sideways to get through obstacles.  In addition, you get to control Peach and Bowser in addition to Mario as your main character.  Peach can defend and float with her parasol while Bowser has double the strength of the others and can breathe fire.

Running through stages while really big is always fun.

The game has a lot going for it with the ability to flip from 2D to 3D and back and the ability to play as Bowser and Peach in addition to Mario, but the game suffers from one major flaw.  It’s way too easy.  There was hardly a time where I was on the verge of death and don’t recall getting a single game over.  The Paper Mario series isn’t known for being notoriously difficult.  If that is what you are looking for, you should seek a Shin Megami Tensei game, especially Nocturne.   The first two Paper Mario games weren’t exactly difficult, but they did provide enough challenge to keep me from getting bored, especially near the end of both games.   In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, I leveled up as I should and did not run into much trouble until I fought the last boss of the game.  I had to upgrade my side characters, stock up on items, and literally everyman the Shadow Queen.  There was none of that in Super Paper Mario.  Like I said before, I could hardly recall a time where I was near death and don’t think I ever got a game over.  I managed to defeat a bunch of bosses just by spamming certain moves over and over with certain characters.  Especially the last boss.  It would have been nice to have some challenge of any sort.

The game looks visually sharp, so I have nothing to complain about here.  The worlds are bright and colorful and with the exception of a few levels, I was able to see where I was going.  If there was one thing I could do to improve this game in the visual department, it would be to take more advantage of the paper style of the game like the first two games, like folding into a paper airplane in The Thousand-Year Door.

The soundtrack is underwhelming for the most part and doesn’t really stand out in my mind.  A lot of the tracks make a throwback to the 8-bit era .  The music isn’t horrible that it causes rugburn to my ears, but it’s nothing spectacular.  Even though I finished the game a little over a day ago, most of the music blurs together and I have trouble telling a lot  apart.  I haven’t played the original Paper Mario in years, yet I can still recall certain tracks.  I couldn’t do that with Super Paper Mario.

I shouldn’t be comparing Super Paper Mario to the first Paper Mario and The Thousand-Year Door, but I can’t help it when the third game in the series shares a number of the same elements as the other two games as far as game structure and recurring themes go.   As long as I didn’t compare Super Paper Mario to the other two games,  I enjoyed it the most.  Just take the game for what it is.  Super Paper Mario is great if you need something that won’t make you rage or aren’t good at platformers in general.

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~ by WanderingMind on December 6, 2009.

One Response to “Press R To Review – Super Paper Mario”

  1. You’re right, it is better to not compare Super Paper Mario to the other two and look at it for what it is. I personally loved the game as I played it. The writing was brilliant! My favorite world had to be the Overthere. It amused me so with their Old English talking.

    The characters aren’t memorable? I thought they were quite memorable myself. Tippi was awesome, the ending made me cry, Mimi was really scary in her part of the game, and I feel sorry for Nastasia. ;_;

    But that’s just me of course. I know that The Thousand Year Door is MUCH better with story and characters, but I still loved the Super Paper Mario one. GOD I hope Nintendo comes out with a new one soon! If they’re going to follow the release pattern of the series so far, there should be a new one next year! *prays*

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