Super Paper Mario
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release Date: 04/09/2007
Ever since Nintendo made him drive a kart, you have seen Mario everywhere, from party games to cameos in snowboard titles. These spin-off games range from outstanding (the Mario Kart series) to boring (Mario’s Early Years?), but no one can argue about the quality of the plumber’s RPG outings. Starting with Super Mario RPG on the Super NES, the series has been gaining fans along with every new release, eventually reaching some kind of cult status. Originally seen as a fun distraction for hardcore RPG fans or as a simple introduction to the genre for beginners, it is now regarded as some of the funniest titles in the world of video games.
For this new release, developer Intelligent System has been influenced by one of the most appreciated section of their previous Paper Mario effort. In that section, the player controlled Bowser in a quick platforming level based on previous Super Mario stages. It proved to be a memorable part of the game, but does the concept work on its own?
Mario and his brother Luigi are enjoying a rare break in their adventures when Toad burst into their home. Surprise! Princess Peach has been kidnapped! Apparently, Bowser isn’t the culprit this time, and after a showdown at his castle, an oddly shaped creature called Count Bleck appears, telling you he did it. The problem is he also needs Bowser since according to a book called “The Dark Prognosticus”, his marriage to Peach is going to bring the end of the world, which would enable him to start it over his way. Everybody but Mario is sent to Bleck’s dimension where everything is 2-D, but the man with the mustache gives chase with the help of Tippy the Pixl, a small fairy-like companion that is trying to stop Count Bleck from achieving his plan.
Sure, the story is nothing more than a set-up for the 2-D to 3-D mechanic, and was probably thought of only after the concept was. Still, despite the simple storyline, the writers managed to make me care for it. With funny dialogue and good character development (in a Mario game!), the story is better than it had any right to be, and actually makes us care about what happens in the life of Mushroom Kingdom’s inhabitants. However, it still is fairly simplistic, but it is way better than Mario’s usual antics and on par with other Paper Mario games.
Story Rating: 7/10
Super Paper Mario is not a showcase of fancy 3-D graphics. What we get is a beautiful and charming style, a mix of paper craft, classic 2-D graphics and vibrant colours. The characters look great, with just enough details and attention given to the sprites to make everything look crisp and clean while keeping a cartoonish feel. The backgrounds are detailed and incredibly nice to look at. The way they did the graphics truly gives a lot of personality to the fantasy world they created, and makes the whole game feel alive.
The graphics keep the same qualities when switching to the 3-D view. The only difference is some small pixilation issues on some of the background objects that are made to look really thin, but it is just a minor complaint. I love the style of Super Paper Mario, and it’s nice to see a game that relies on true artistic qualities instead of high polygon count once in a while. It really fits the spirit of the game and what is achieved here is a real masterpiece.
Graphics Rating: 9/10
Cheerful music all over the place! As usual with soundtracks from Mario games, it’s fun, enjoyable and incredibly joyful. Some of the levels have darker music which sets the mood perfectly, but still manages to feel upbeat. There are nods to past soundtracks in many of the tracks and sound effects, but just enough to send the player in a wave of nostalgia without feeling recycled and lazy.
There are no voiceovers in this game, but who really expected that from a Mario game? It doesn’t take away from the game at all, and despite the lack of dialogue, the characters still let out gasping sounds as well as some funny growling from Bowser. The sound effects are not outstanding, but they’re not unpleasant either, so it’s all right with me. All in all, everything in the sound department is great without revolutionizing anything. It’s a fitting soundtrack, but not one that you will try to download and listen to like you would with something from Zelda or Final Fantasy.
Sound Rating: 7/10
The majority of Super Paper Mario has tight control, with everything being easy to learn and stylish moves being easy to perform. The pointer capabilities of the Wii remote works with deadly precision and detects automatically if you are holding the remote sideways or if you are aiming at the screen. Same goes for the shaking part. You don’t need to twist the remote like a madman to get Mario to perform his stylish jumps; you just need to gently turn it on one side. The 2-D control is wonderfully precise, with each leap ending exactly where you expected them to.
The problem is with the 3-D control. Mario and his enemies stay paper-thin while the rest of the world goes to the third dimension, making lining up jumps somewhat difficult. It gets pretty easy to suffer some damage because you never know if you are going to land on the two pixels-wide surface of the enemy. The same goes for jumping on blocks. It gets harder to predict where you are going to land because you only have the four directions on the d-pad to use despite moving in three dimensions. The result is something similar to Super Mario 64 DS, where it took a while to get used to the control. However, most of the game is spent in 2-D, with the flip to the third dimension never being longer than 20 seconds at a time, so it doesn’t break the game. Overall, as usual with Nintendo, the controls are super tight.
Control Rating: 8/10
Intelligent Systems did everything they could to take a genre that doesn’t usually offer a lot of replayability and make it something you’ll want to play over and over. First, as soon as you clear a section of the game, its four chapters become available individually for replay, enabling you to skip over the parts that bored you. Indeed, while you will not want to replay some of the dialogue-heavy stages, some of them are either amazingly well thought or simply too funny, meaning that you will want to show them to your friends. What comes to mind is an instance where Mario becomes a slave and has to work off his debt, as well as a showdown with the geekiest chameleon you will ever meet.
The game also offers a cards system, which you can collect by replaying some levels or simply buy from a store. The cards contain information on the different characters and enemies you will meet on your quest. There is an arcade in Flipside town which offers some short but fun distractions using the remote’s different styles of control. Finally, there is not one, but two pits of a 100 trials, which was one of the most appreciated part of the precedent Paper Mario game. Despite being a platformer at heart, there is quite a lot to do in this game if you are the kind of person who feels he has to complete everything in a game. For the rest of you, you will want to go through the pits at least once.
Replayability Rating: 6/10
The game does a good job of showing you the basics when you learn a new ability. Each time you gain a new character or pixl fairy in your party, you can be sure that there will be a puzzle nearby which will require their special talent to complete. That way, when you face some of the harder parts near the end of the game, the solution comes naturally to your mind because you have been trained to use them from the start. Something I appreciated was the fact that all of the pixls you meet are needed for the duration of the game, instead of focusing on their ability for one level before forgetting about them. It makes everything you learn feel useful instead of simple filler which is there just to give one more member to your party.
Nintendo also did a good job at making sure that the “flip to 3-D” mechanic is used well-enough, and creatively enough to make it fun instead of making it feel like a simple gimmick that was thrown there just to make the game different.
Balance Rating: 10/10
Despite the fact that Mario has existed for about 25 years, the game still feels original, which is the proof that with enough tweaks and new gameplay mechanics, it is possible to keep a franchise fresh for a long time. Most of the originality comes from the 3-D view on a 2-D world, which works great despite some small control problems. Let’s not forget the fact that Bowser is entirely under your control, something that fans have been waiting for a while. Finally, the hilarious story and dialogue breathes some much-needed life in the played out “Peach was kidnapped” storyline by dismissing it early in the game. Sure, when you look at it, it’s still a convoluted mean to make you collect hearts/stars/crystals, but the game does nothing to hide that fact and does a good job at poking fun at it.
Originality Rating: 8/10
At first, I thought the game would sink in that category. I played for a good three hours before simply getting tired of it. I turned it off, watched a good movie and about halfway through, I got the urge to go back to Super Paper Mario and play another round. I did play another hour before I needed to be elsewhere and it was just as fun as the first time. Then, the following day, the same thing happened. What drove me back to the game each and every time was two things. First, I wanted to see how the story would be played out, what silly twist or funny line the writers came up with. The second thing is that I wanted to see what would be different in the next chapter, what kind of amusing concept the developers could imagine.
Basically, it gets tiring after a while, but you still can’t stop thinking about it and you always come back sooner rather than later until you’re done with the game.
Addictiveness Rating: 7/10
For a start, Mario has always had a very large appeal. The series’ many titles and spin-offs have always sold well, be it the platformers or the sports games. Nearly every game he appears in becomes a Player’s Choice title, and you know this one will not be any different. For a lot of parents searching for a game to buy for their kids, seeing Mario’s face on a package is comforting and becomes a selling point, no matter what the game is. The game will also appeal to old-school gamer who are eager for more traditional platformers as well as casual RPG fans, like myself, who can’t be arsed to play longer games like Final Fantasy. The only people I can see hating Super Paper Mario are RPG purist who will view the game as too easy and supposed “mature gamers” who scoff at anything that has bright colors or doesn’t have blood in it.
Appeal Factor Rating: 6/10
I loved this game. The game always throws something new at you, but manages to keep a steady pace by keeping some excitement for the end. The bosses are fun and imaginative, including a fight in the ladies’ restroom and a mini-boss which dances in ridiculous fashion each time he lands a hit. The 2-D to 3-D concept is exploited magnificently and gives place to some memorable moments, and at least one of the new characters will go down in history and will probably be mentioned by fans for years to come. Seriously, if you don’t laugh out loud at least once during the game, then there is a good chance that you might have no soul.
Miscellaneous Rating: 10/10
Average Rating: 7.8
Final Score: 8
Short Attention Span Summary
Super Paper Mario is exactly what the Wii needs at the moment: a system seller. Twilight Princess, despite being my choice for “Game of the Year”, was also available for the Gamecube, and WarioWare was seen more as a party game because of its short single-player mode. On the other hand, Super Paper Mario is an amazingly fun game, and it is exclusive. I truly believe it is the best game to be released for the system up to now in 2007 and provides enough material to last for a 20 hours, probably more if you end up completing every side quest. This game keeps the Paper Mario franchise going with one more strong outing, and keeps the series’ tradition of impeccable gameplay. It shows that the Wii isn’t all about waving your arms and acting like a goof. Simply put, if you own a Wii, you need to try this game at least once. If you don’t, then you shouldn’t have the right to complain about any supposed “game drought”.