Super Paper Mario
Review by bluej33
"Perfect on paper, not quite as good once executed"
Nowadays, the words Paper Mario seem to have become synonymous with humorous, innovative console RPGs. And do gamers really have any reason not to feel this way? The original Paper Mario, released for the N64, was met with critical acclaim and gave the RPG genre a bit of a facelift. The sequel on the GameCube, subtitled The Thousand Year Door, was even better, offering Cube owners more of what they wanted. And now, we get a third iteration: Super Paper Mario for the Wii.
Super Paper Mario scores one major success in that it retains the brilliant, unforgettable brand of humor brought about by the first two Paper Mario games. And as with past iterations of the popular series, there's a surprisingly well-written and developed plot to be found in Super Paper Mario. Yes, Bowser does make an appearance, but he's not the game's final boss -- nor is he even really that much of an antagonist.
Instead, Super Paper Mario chronicles the misdeeds of the evil and enigmatic Count Bleck. Having obtained the mysterious tome called the Dark Prognosticus, the Count plans to take over the world (some things just never change). The story low-key and mysterious, and you gradually find out more bits and pieces of what exactly is going on as you progress further and further into the game.
The story is, to go out on a limb, epic. Yes, I know that may sound out of place when discussing the plot of a Mario game. But don't confuse the word epic with something like the word serious, because that's definitely not the case. In fact, Super Paper Mario is one of the most hilarious games I've ever played, offering up some really sound, laugh-out-loud dialogue. Characters are numerous and surprisingly well-written; the script-writers in charge of this game deserve a pat on the back for a job tremendously well-done.
Graphically, Super Paper Mario is hard to really analyze. Put simply, you're either going to love the visuals of this title or hate them. And if I had to take I guess, I'd say you'll probably love them. If you're looking for something realistic-looking, however, you'd best look somewhere else. Of course, Mario games in general have never been realistic (is it even possible? I don't think so ), but that doesn't mean that they don't look nice.
On the contrary, the graphics in Super Paper Mario are brilliant looking. They're colorful and exceedingly vibrant, and are just fun to look at. Interestingly, though, there are no cutscenes at all -- not an anomaly for a Mario game, but considering the great visual style, it's a pity that the storytelling all unfolds through hefty dialogue boxes. Still, though, if you're looking for some colorful, fun, cute-ish graphics in a game, then you'll get along quite nicely with Super Paper Mario.
Where the game begins to stumble a bit, however, is with the gameplay. Don't get me wrong: It's still an enjoyable gaming experience, but I just don't think it lives up to the charm and immersion that the first two managed to pull off. Firstly, if you were hoping that Paper Mario would be revolutionized with motion-sensitive Wii remote controls, you'll be disappointed. For the most part, anyway.
Because actually, there is a little bit of motion control in this game, though it's likely not what some gamers were looking for. There's a little bit of pointing action that you'll need to take advantage of to progress through the game. Still, though, it comes in infrequently and is a bit underwhelming. Other instances are either entirely unnecessary or feel really tacked on. For example, to perform a special attack and generate a bit more damage, you can shake the controller around right after you've attacked an enemy. Also, to throw off status conditions (for example, poison or freeze) you've got to shake the controller around.
But before I get too much further, it's important to know that the gameplay mechanic implemented by Super Paper Mario is significantly different from that of The Thousand Year Door. While the latter was pretty clearly an RPG with some platforming elements, the former is clearly the reverse. It's a platformer through and through, with some innovations thrown in and a loose role-playing backdrop.
Let me explain. Like I said, Super Paper Mario is primarily a regular old 2D platformer. Enemies trundle around on their predetermined routes, and simply jumping on them is enough to take out the majority of baddies that get in your way. Of course, sometimes you may have to resort to more extreme courses of action but more on that later. In addition to these standard platforming elements, however, there's also a bit of RPG-ness added in, which certainly makes things more interesting.
The control scheme is really quite simple and straightforward. For me personally, it was actually one of the more disappointing aspects of the game. Rather than attaching the Nunchuk and using it to control Mario while using the Remote to perform a variety of actions, the Remote is all that's needed. You play with it on its side, using the D-pad to control Mario and the 1 and 2 buttons to jump and deploy partner actions, respectively.
What's really disappointing about this, though, is that it's really nothing that couldn't easily be done on the GameCube. After all, this was a title originally scheduled for release on the GameCube, and it definitely shows. While the game is undenialby entertaining and ultimately a "good" game, the Wii controls feel tacked on and for the most part, gimmicky and uninspired.
One of the coolest aspects overall of Super Paper Mario is the partner system, although it certainly isn't what it used to be. Rather than taking along with you Goombas, Kooopas, and other such partners, your companions are a bunch of seemingly-uninteresting items called Pixls. Character development is rather weak for them, which is a disappointment, but they make up for it with what exactly they can do. They each have a special ability which can be taken advantage of for a variety of uses.
There are actually a number of Pixls throughout the game, though they're usually rather well-hidden; you're going to have to poke around to find them. Some of them can be used to dispatch enemies, which is sometimes helpful. However, the reason that every one of them is useful -- nay, critical -- is because there are a crapload of puzzles in Super Paper Mario. Each and every Pixl has a different ability (some examples: exploding oneself, granting Mario the ability to pick up items, and the like ), and you're going to have to utilize each Pixl's ability well to progress your way through the game.
Actually, it's this area where Super Paper Mario falls into a bit of trouble Yes, there are tons of puzzles throughout the game. And yes, they're (nearly) all very well designed. The problem is that they're disappointingly easy. Puzzles are rarely, if ever, that mind-bending; most can be overcome within a matter of a few minutes. Defeating enemies is equally effortless. Overall, as is the rather disappointing trend these days, Super Paper Mario just yields its secrets all too easily; an increased difficulty level would have made this game even better.
Most enemies can be taken out with relative ease, using only Mario's inherent jumping abilities. It's a pity that the Pixls aren't put to more fighting use, but there's one specific area of play where they do play a rather large role: boss fights. They're not only downright funny in Super Paper Mario (game reference: Control Alt Delete!), but they really do challenge you to think creatively as you attempt to take out these baddies that stand in your way.
Overall, though, the fact remains that the title manages to stay fun and entertaining. It offers a good amount of play time, with a variety of levels and around 20 hours of game time. There are also some side quests that any completionists out there will want to complete. Sadly, though, there's little reason to play through the title a second time; you'll get all you can out of it the first playthrough. Also, it's unfortunate, but gameplay tends to get a little flat toward the end of the game.
Ultimately, though, Super Paper Mario is worth a purchase. There are some noticeable flaws with it, and it definitely seems geared toward casual gamers even more than the list title in the series. Still, it's a fun, creative little title that can take care of your platforming/RPG fix on the Nintendo Wii. If you're looking for a lighthearted game with a fun plot, some laugh-out-loud moments, and clever gameplay, then try and pick up a copy of Super Paper Mario.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/28/07, Updated 01/03/08
Game Release: Super Paper Mario (US, 04/09/07)
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