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Classic Game Review: Paper Mario Series (N64/GameCube/Wii/3DS/WiiU)

Classic Game Review: Paper Mario Series (N64/GameCube/Wii/3DS/WiiU)
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Game Name: Paper Mario
Platforms: N64, GameCube, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, WiiU
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Developer(s): Intelligent Systems
Genre(s): RPG, Action Adventure
Release Date: 2001-2016

Almost every gamer has experienced the storyline behind the Mario series of games, whether it be from the classic Super Mario Bros from the NES or Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii or even as simple as Mario Kart on the various platforms. Nintendo has caught the eye of the average gamer from the start, as their games are made for a player of all skill levels.

Though there are several split offs of where Mario’s adventures have taken him over the years, one of the more interesting ones comes in the Paper Mario series of games. These games have morphed from a basic RPG style game to more of an action adventure style over the last few releases.

While unique in its general story lines, all Paper Mario games have generic similarities. Mario is the primary controllable character in the form of a 2D paper thin object living in a platform style 3D world. The worlds are all filled with hidden items (such as badges, star pieces, stickers), endless amounts of foes and interactive non-playable characters. Gameplay is left to classic Mario style, left to right, simple horizontal paths advancing in the story while encountering enemies, coins to collect and blocks to hit. There is a main town, which serves as a hub to access all of the other paths leading to further progressions in the game and storyline. The towns also allow for a place for Mario to rest, sell and buy needed items, talk to residents, accessing side quests and explore to find hidden items (and in some games the underground areas).

A unique part of the series is that Mario can gain special abilities, such as Hammer to break blocks, or to fold up into a paper plane to fly to out of reach ledges. Even more is that sometimes Mario will access a partner who can help in battles and to access further dialogue for the storyline.

Battles in the game are an important part, as in any game, but the method of how they work varies between games from being on a stage with an audience….to just a head to head combat style. The constant element is the HP (Heart Points) which delegates Mario’s health. If his HP drops to zero in battle, it’s GAME OVER and the game is resumed from the last save point.

With Paper Mario: Color Splash set to release in October 2016, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the games that have helped develop the story and build the fan base for this next epic release in the series.

Paper Mario (Nintendo 64) – February 20011-paper-mario-64

This is the game that started it all. Paper Mario is told in a storybook like fashion, telling the story of the mystical Star Rod. This staff rules the powers of the stars in a place high above called Star Haven. It is there that the seven Star Spirits exist and with their endless powers, they are able to grant wishes to those in the Mushroom Kingdom (when you wish upon a star…).

Each level of the game is played as a “chapter” with a unique environment and title.

The game starts with Mario racing to see Princess Peach who has invited him to come visit her. In pure Bowser fashion, he ruins the amazing celebration being held at Princess Peach’s Castle, by stealing the Star Rod and lifting the castle high into the sky, tossing Mario from the balcony as he watches his beloved Princess get taken hostage. Unable to stop him, the Star Spirits are captured and Bowser uses the powers of the Star Rod to make himself invincible.

Mario stunned and determined to rescue the poor hostages trapped in the castle from Bowser, he travels the Mushroom Kingdom in order to rescue the seven captured Star Spirits. It is their power alone that can counter that of the power of the Star Rod and make Bowser vulnerable again. Along the way, he meets new companions who help provide him with information or support him in his battles to help continue on his adventures.

Between each chapter, there is a playable cut-scene that involves Princess Peach and her star companion Tink, who sneak around the castle trying to find a way to help Mario or to cause trouble for Bowser.

With the help of the seven Star Spirits, Mario acquires the power of the Star Beam to rocket him high into the sky to reach Peach’s castle. Mario has an epic faceoff with Bowser atop the castle. Though Bowser has the unending power of the Star Rod, each of the Star Spirits have the ability to provide Mario with unique abilities such as Health Recover or Shooting Star, to help keep his HP from dropping. With Mario’s successful defeat of Bowser and the castle come crashing down into place in the kingdom again. The Star Rod is brought back to Star Haven, where Mario is praised for his bravery.

The end credits are a celebration of Mario’s success by having a parade of characters seen throughout the game, riding on cute floats and to some funky music.

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (GameCube) – October 2004 

2-paper-mario-thousand-year-doorLike in Paper Mario, this game is designed in a storybook style and set up in chapters for different levels. It also includes playable cut scenes between levels.

Unlike most Mario games, this one does not take place in the Mushroom Kingdom, but on a remote island. The game mostly contains characters unique to its own design, but does feature some classic characters from the Mario series such as Boo and Luigi….and of course Mario.

In this game, Princess Peach is not in immediate danger. She actually has found a treasure map that she buys in a seaside market and wants his help to find the treasure. It isn’t till later that Mario finds out that Princess Peach has gone missing….but where did she go??

The game introduces you to the seaside town of Rougeport, the main hub of the storyline, which was built on the site of a lost kingdom ruined by a great chaos. It is here that the fabled Thousand Year Door exists, and it holds the lost fortunes of the great kingdom. With the assistance of Goombella and Professor Frankly, two Goomba residents of the town, Mario finds out that the map sent to him by the Princess actually points to the location of the 7 legendary Crystal Stars. These are the key to unlocking the Thousand Year Door.

Mario also hopes that in pursuing the Crystal Stars he will also find the missing Princess. In actuality, Peach has been kidnapped by the Secret Society of X-Nauts, controlled by a character named Sir Grodus, who are also searching for the Crystal Stars. During the playable cut-scenes, Peach accesses the e-mail on the enemy base computer (TEC) to inform Mario of important information and help him to attain the various Crystal Stars and how to find the treasure.

On his adventures, Mario meets new friends that become his partners that can be interchanged depending on various needs. For example; Goombella is good at finding out stats on an enemy, while Koops shell can be used to reach out of place items or triggers. These partners are also very important as they are used in gameplay and battles.

When Mario finally finds all of the Crystal Stars, he is shocked to find that the locked away treasure is actually the ancient demon,  named the Shadow Queen, that was the one who destroyed the original town 1,000 years ago. The X-Nauts planned to use Peach as a host for the Shadow Queen, but with the combined powers of the Crystal Stars, Mario is able to protect Peach and defeat the demon…locking her away for good.

The game ends happily with Mario and Peach returning home safely in each others arms.

Super Paper Mario (Wii) – April 2007 

While enjoying another great day in the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario is informed that Princess Peach has been kidnapped. 3-super-paper-marioMario and Luigi instantly confront Bowser, but he too is surprised to hear the Princess is missing. The main villain of the game, Count Bleck appears and kidnaps Luigi and Bowser and disappears into a dark mist.

Under the powers of Count Bleck’s ally Natasia, Peach and Bowser are married. This summons the Chaos Heart, which was foretold in the Dark Prognosticus to be the key to the destruction of the universe. Using the Chaos Heart, Count Bleck is able to open a black hole named “The Void”, which will increase in size over time and will eventually consume the whole universe.

Mario meets a pixi named Tippi, that introduces him to a great wizard named Merlon who foretells that Mario is the hero described in the Light Prognosticus. According to this tome, the Hero will travel many dimensions to collect the eight Pure Hearts, which together can be used to banish the Chaos Heart and reverse the destruction. It is also mentioned that he will ally with three other Heroes.

Mario is bestowed with the power to “flip” between dimensions (2D/3D) as a means of easier travel.

A series of flashbacks throughout the game tell the story of a romantic relationship between two characters, Blumiere and Timpani, whose relationship was torn apart by Blumiere’s father and left Timpani wandering hopelessly between dimensions. It is reveled through the game that Tippi is actually Timpani and Count Bleck is Blumiere. Even though they both come to realize who each other is, Count Bleck believes that his plan has gone too far to turn back.

Count Bleck constantly sends his various minions to try and stop Mario and Tippi in their path. Once Mario reunites with Peach and Bowser, Luigi is brainwashed by Natasia to become his evil alter ego, Mr.L, who is used to antagonize the group. Eventually Mario is able to break the spell on him, wherein he joins the group on their adventure, but by then The Void has grown large enough to consume one inter-dimensional world.

Eventually the group finds all eight Pure Hearts..

The group reaches Castle Bleck in the final dimension, where they find out that the mysterious jester Dimentio that has been popping up through the game is actually the true evil and his intentions were to use Blumiere to seek the destruction of the universe and then betray him. Blumiere, consumed with the evil of the Chaos Heart, is invincible and can only be taken down by the power of the Heroes. Peach, Mario, Luigi and Bowser use the power of the Pure Hearts to weaken the Chaos Heart and release its hold on Blumiere.

Dimentio takes control and uses the power of the unstable Void and the Chaos Heart to create a whole new universe…a power that shatters the Pure Hearts and leaves the situation in a very dire position. Luckily, there is the power of love and loyalty, through the renewed love between Blumiere and Timpani and this renewed faith in each other provides Mario with the internal power of the Pure Hearts to finally vanquish Dimentio.

In the end scene, Blumiere and Timpani are married, and the Pure Hearts unify to banish the Chaos Heart, sealing The Void and restoring order to the universe. Mario, Peach, Bowser and Luigi wake up in their own dimension, but know in their hearts that Timpani and Blumiere are happily together somewhere.

The game ends with an image of Blumiere and Timpani together in a paradise.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS) – November 2012 

Every year there is a Sticker Festival in the town of Decalburg, within the Mushroom Kingdom, wherein the Sticker Comet lands 4-paper-mario-sticker-tsarand is presented by Princess Peach for one night only. It is said that those who wish on it have a chance to have their wish granted by the great Royal Stickers that reside within it.

As each Toad resident makes their wishes upon the comet, Bowser crashes the party and greedily attempts to make his won wish upon the star. This action causes the comet to explode due to the rejection of the evil intents of his wish. This explosion causes the 6 Royal Stickers to be scattered across the kingdom. One Royal Sticker gets stuck on Bowser’s head, causing his corrupt power to be transferred to Bowser making him stronger. Bowser knocks Mario out in his path to kidnap the Princess.

When Mario awakes, he meets Kersti the Sticker fairy, who is the caretaker of the Royal Stickers. She is enraged as she believes it was Mario’s fault that the comet exploded by his touch, but he insists it was Bowser. She doesn’t trust him, but demands that he help her recover the Royal Sticker Stars and return peace back to the Mushroom Kingdom. They travel throughout the kingdom finding the missing Royal Stickers, while applying stickers to restore the chaotic landscape of the kingdom destroyed by Bowser’s path of destruction, and also defeating Bowser’s henchmen Kamek and Bowser Jr along the way.

Once arriving at Bowser’s Sky Castle, Mario and Bowser lock in an epic battle. Unfortunately, Bowser is still empowered by the last Royal Sticker, which gives him invincible power. Kersti realizes that her own sticker power is the only match to that of Bowser’s, and thus she sacrifices herself to help empower Mario. Mario is able to pummel Bowser and release the final Royal Sticker from him, and save Peach in the end.

Peach then reminds Mario of the Royal Sticker’s ability to grant wishes and asks Mario to make a wish…

Upon their arrival back to Decalburg to once again present the reformed Stocker Comet, Bowser tries again to attack and touch the comet. This time though, before he can grasp it, Kersti pops out and stops him. Mario’s wish had been granted…Kersti was revived.

The end credit is comical in which Kersti states that if the Sticker Festival is going to be this way every year, she may want to reconsider her career.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam (3DS) – January 2016

Paper Jam crosses the universes of Mario & Luigi with that of Paper Mario, taking place after the ending of Dream Team and 5-mario-luigi-paper-jamSticker Star respectively, causing the 3D residents of one universe to meet their paper counterparts from the other.

The storyline is very simplistic, as most mobile games are. While fumbling around Princess Peach’s castle library, Luigi trips and accidentally knocks over a mysterious book. This book conveniently contains the Paper Mario World. The paper thin residents of the world escape and spread out throughout the 3D Mushroom Kingdom.

Besides the shock and amazement of Paper characters staring down their 3D selves, the game progresses in typical Mario fashion when Bowser and Paper Bowser team up to kidnap both Peach and Paper Peach. Mario and Luigi now must team up with Paper Mario, while utilizing each other’s unique skills and abilities, to set everything right…defeat both Bowser’s and get all the paper residents back into the book and back to their own universe.

Paper Mario: Color Splash (WiiU) – Scheduled to be released October 2016 

There is mysterious happenings on Prism Island, and Paper Mario is on the case. With his new Paint Hammer and Battle Cards in hand, he sets out to restore the islands vanishing colours and find out what is causing this phenomenon.

Some of the features of the game include:

  • a new gameplay world outside the Mushroom Kingdom
  • the Paint Hammer allows Mario to restore drained colour on the island, including to help find clues and revive passed out NPC’s that are drained of colour.
  • new Battle Cards sets to intensify battles
  • cutout feature that allows extraction of areas to help overcome obstacles

This game shows a lot of similarities to Paper Mario: Sticker Star in the way of 6-paper-mario-color-splashgame mechanics and how the storyline progresses and how item interaction is defined.

The Paper Mario series has definitely come far in the years since its beginnings, but it has not lost its interesting storylines or creative interfacing with the player. I definitely recommend giving each of the games a try, because even though the general concepts are the same between the games, there is adventure hidden in every single one

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