Review by ArmoredJ

"Paper Mario: Portable"

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a video game released in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS. It features the same visual design found in previous Paper Mario titles in that characters and other facets of the world are represented as paper cutouts. Where the game does take some liberties, however, is with its combat system. Sticker Star changes the franchises combat mechanics by removing its standard role playing game leveling system and adding collectible stickers as its method of executing attacks in battles. This gives Sticker Star its own unique feel and makes this entry stand out when compared to its brethren.

The gameplay in Paper Mario: Sticker Star makes up the bulk of the players' experience. Whereas the story and large segments of dialogue were arguably the main component of previous Paper Mario games, the story in Sticker Star is comparatively truncated, with only a few brief cutscenes and conversations to be found in the entire game. While I generally enjoy this series for these reasons in particular, their excision in this entry does not bother me. This is due to the fact that Sticker Star is the first portable Paper Mario game. With my 3DS, I am less inclined to sit and read text, albeit the entertaining text of Paper Mario. Indeed, with my portables I tend to seek raw gameplay and action more, due to the console's portable nature and my generally shorter play sessions with it. Therefore, the player is presented with a brief introduction and the appropriate crisis takes place which requires Mario to venture forth to save his princess. The player's time in Sticker Star will then mostly be spent exploring the levels and fighting battles with Mario's foes within. The game world is presented classic Mario-style with levels set upon a world map that the player selects as one would with a standard menu. There are six regions to explore with variable amounts of levels in each. The battles that take place are turn-based, where the player selects their attack(s) and then performs timed button pressing during the animations to improve their effectiveness. Attacks are performed by selecting stickers, which the player finds by peeling them off objects in levels, defeating enemies, and from buying them in shops. Your attacks are, therefore, limited in number. I did not encounter a problem with this, as I never ran out of stickers or money to purchase them with. Overall, I enjoyed the sticker mechanic for this title. I thought it added a fun collectible element to the gameplay and was very appropriate for a handheld entry. Perhaps some more variety would have made the system more exciting but its really not at any more fault than the standard RPG combat system. In either case, the player uses the same attacks/stickers often to the point where repetition becomes noticeable. It just seems to be the nature of the genre, in this case. Also of note is the removal of the standard RPG leveling system which is, by far, a benefit to the game. This removes nearly all of the forced routine leveling from the game, solving a problem that too frequently plagues RPGs. Due to this design choice, you'll spend less time arbitrarily fighting battles over and over, and more time progressing through the game. It's nice that Sticker Star makes good use of your free time and does not waste it by forcing you to perform mindless tasks for hours on end.

The graphics and sound hold up strongly in Sticker Star. The visual style sees characters and many objects represented as paper cutouts. This gives the game a nice "scrapbook come to life" feel. The two-dimensionality of the paper look lends the game nicely to the 3D graphics on the 3DS. Depth is well represented and gives a nice, concrete feel to controlling Mario. The only nitpick I can provide for graphics in this game is the title screen. While perhaps an absurd thing to critique, the title screen is gray and ugly. It is odd to see, as Mario games are always filled with color and fun. The music is curious, as it lends toward jazzy arrangements. I do not think this is a negative but it somewhat surprised me as it was not what I expected. Overall, the graphics and sound of Sticker Star are high quality and what you would expect from Nintendo.

I would recommend Paper Mario: Sticker Star to anyone who likes Mario games, collecting things, and quirky aesthetics. For fans of the series, I believe you will enjoy it if you can accept the changes that were made in order to place the game on a handheld. While the changes may at first seem like they hinder the experience, what they do, rather, is specialize the franchise for the 3DS platform. They have made it more accessible and easy to play. In my playthrough, it took me just under 34 hours to beat the game, find every sticker, and complete all the achievements. In summer 2013, Nintendo has announced plans to release a new game in the Mario & Luigi franchise, which bears several similarities to Paper Mario. It will be interesting to see if Nintendo implements new design choices with this game also. In any case, these Mario games will likely please fans of their franchises and bolster the increasingly impressive catalogue of the Nintendo 3DS.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/11/13

Game Release: Paper Mario: Sticker Star (US, 11/11/12)

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