Post Game Wrap Up- Paper Mario
I’ve been working through my backlog of games, trying to whittle it down slowly. It’s a fight I’ll probably never win, but that won’t stop me from trying. One of the games on that long list was a N64 RPG that I remembered fondly called Paper Mario. I hadn’t played it in years, and I always meant to sit down and play it again. So, now that I mark that one off as beaten, how well does it hold up?
Paper Mario is the spiritual sequel to the SNES classic Super Mario RPG. The story places you in the role of Mario, who is trying to save Princess Peach after Bowser kinaps her with the power of the Star Rod, a magic wand that is used by the stars to grant wishes for people. Bowser stole it and kidnapped the 7 Star Spirits, and it’s to Mario to save the day. Standard Mario fare, of course. Fans wanted a true sequel, but due to trademarks held by Square, that was never going to happen, especially after Square decided to make games exclusively for the Playstation after 1996. The game did start development as Super Mario RPG 2, but was changed to the Paper Mario we know today. Why? Well, because someone in development had an amazing idea.
this is still my favorite ad for a game. Ever.
Everything is drawn in a way to make it look like a paper cut out. That’s actually a rather ingenious way to cheat the graphical limitations of the time, while still having a 3d environment. It instantly makes it pop out against not only the 64 stock of RPGS, but even the Playstation library of RPGS. It’s the game’s biggest hook easily, it’s bright and colorful world standing out against the darker and angst-y Teen rated RPG’s that populated the Playstation era. It’s meant to be enjoyed by all ages, and keeps that idea going by being a very forgiving and easy RPG.
Gameplay is divided the same way all RPG’s are. You explore the over world, talking to people and make your way from chapter to chapter saving the star spirits. Unlike a lot of RPGs at the time, you can see all the monsters in the overworld, so you can choose to avoid combat, or make use of a preemptive strike to give yourself the advantage in combat, although monsters can hit you to do the same. In battle, Mario can jump on enemies; hit them with his hammer, use items and special abilities granted to him by badges he can wear. Badges work like equipment in this game, each costing a specific amount of Badge points to wear. As you level up, you can choose to increase either your HP, your FP(flower points, for special attacks) or the amount of Badge points you have. Mario isn’t alone on his journey either, as you find 8 different partners that can be used to get past obstacles in the over world, but also in battle. Partners are technically invincible, in the sense they cannot be killed, however a few attacks that the monsters use can hit your partners, stunning them for a turn or two. Attack actions return from SMRPG, allowing skilled players to block damage from attacks and do more damage with their own. On paper, it sounds like a lot, but any RPG vet will tell you that in truth this all rather simple stuff, but it’s well implemented. The game is divided into chapters, which end when you save a Star Spirit, and inbetween, you actually play as Peach, trapped in Bowser’s floating castle, as she sneaks around to get Mario information, but in honesty, I would rather this be a cut scene, as Peach gameplay is just as boring now as it was then.
Mario gets to have all the fun
I felt the Peach sections dragged on a little too long, and didn’t add a whole lot to the game, and I can’t say I ever cared for it. It’s all small things that bug me about this game. Things like the story being more or less a copy of Super Mario RPG, minus the final fantasy style characters. Replace Smithy with Bowser, and by the numbers, it’s basically the same. There also isn’t a whole ton of secrets in the game to find either, or a whole lot in the way of challenge. Battles eventually become boring and not worth the small amount of experience you acquire, and there is no point to grinding because at a certain level you are simply not given any experience for battles in older areas. Item space can also be an issue, as Mario cannot carry a lot of items, and you can upgrade how many you can carry, having to store items at the shops, but even that is limited. The biggest disappointment I had was that there isn’t a great deal of use when it comes to the very unique design. Later games, like Thousand year door and Super Paper Mario, make great use of the 2d character in a 3d world idea, by making it possible to manipulate Mario or the world to make certain obstacles passable. Admittedly, this is part of the growing pains of a new franchise, and the sequels do make up for it, but the original will probably leave you wanting more.
Really, I think the few problems I have with Paper Mario come from the fact that I’ve gotten older. Weird as it sounds; I truly think Paper Mario is an excellent, if not too easy RPG. It feels like it was made for a younger generation to ease themselves into RPGs. It’s not as offensive or hand holding as Mystic Quest was, but make no mistake about it, RPG vets will blow through this game in probably 15-20 hours. I spent a great deal of my time in Bowser’s Castle at the end of the game avoiding battles because they gave so little experience and only wasted items in my limited item space. But despite those facts, I can’t ignore the charm this game has. It does make great use of Mario style ideas in a RPG, like stomping koopas to flip on their backs, where they are stunned and they take more damage. It’s a bright, imaginative, and cute in a way, game, and it’s easy to see why the Paper Mario series has continued to this day. Looking back on it, Paper Mario did not hold up as well as I hoped it would. It’s not a terrible game however, and in fact might be the best N64 RPG. Granted, that list of games is only 8 games big, so take of that what you will.