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Now here is an interesting concept if I ever heard one. Take probably the best loved video gaming mascot, place him in a three dimensional RPG world, where every character is a flat two dimensional ‘cut out’ of paper. It may sound like a lame excuse for a cheap graphics budget, but this style really does work. Mario floats to the ground after falling a large distance, paper scenery literally unfolds (excuse the pun) before your eyes, and house walls fold away to let you see inside. The 3D scenery has that classic Mario look.
The game starts with a party at Peach’s castle. Unfortunately Bowser has other plans, and has stolen the Star Rod from the Star spirits. The rod can grant wishes, so Bowser uses it to imprison the Star Spirits, then sets about using it to raise Peach’s castle high into the sky, and to make himself very powerful. Bowser beats you up, and you fall to the ground somewhere in the Mushroom Kingdom. Now its up to you to save the Star Spirits, beat Bowser, save Princess Peach (again), and return the castle to its proper place. On your quest you visit haunted mansions, deserts, ancient ruins, volcanic islands, icy shrines and more.
Now onto the gameplay. This is no ordinary RPG, without the stat heavy approach of ‘traditional’ RPGs, in favour of a simple experience point scheme, and just a few vital statistics. The combat is turn based, but Nintendo have avoided simply selecting skills from a menu. Every attack you choose can be enhanced by a certain action on the controller, whether it’s pushing buttons in sequence, powering up an attack with the control stick or timing a button press to perfection. Each enemy you defeat will give you star (experience) points, and when you get 100 of these you will go up a level, to increase either Heart Points, Flower Points or Badge Points. You choose which skill needs upgrading most. Health Points determine how much damage he can absorb, Flower Points allow Mario and companions to use their more powerful abilities, and Badge Points allow you to equip badges.
These badges are probably the best way to customise Mario, some will give him additional fighting abilities, others will increase statistics such as Heart Points and some make him immune or resistant to some attacks. There are plenty of badges with so many uses you’ll never have any trouble changing tactics before a battle. Further battle tactics come to light when you consider Mario picks up companions along the way, including a Goomba, Koopa, and even a Lakitu. Each have their own unique battle skills, such as giving you information on enemies, attacking in various ways, and increasing Marios attack or defence for a short time. These companions do not have any statistics themselves, but you will find special blocks in the game that allow you to upgrade a member giving them a new ability and more attack power. Each also has their own skill outside battle, such as carrying Mario over gaps or making him invisible.
Unfortunately this customisation is not exploited as it could have been. The battles for the most part are quite easy, even the majority of boss battles will not prove too much of a challenge. Getting killed is a very rare occurrence. That said, the game is still an epic and the main quest alone will take a good 20 to 25 hours playing time to complete. Over this time the game is great, and shows real character. You will solve a variety of typically Mario style puzzles, and visit many locations, from Toad Town to a pyramid in the heart of the desert, from an Island full of Yoshi’s to a strange flower dimension. Paper Mario has plenty of classic Mario locations and enemies as well as a fair few things you wouldn’t expect.
Completing all the sub quests will take much longer than the main game alone. There are plenty of badges to get, and getting a hold of them all will prove a real challenge. To get all of the badges you must also get all the Star pieces in game, as these are traded for badges. You can also have Tayce T. (a Toad Town resident) cook up any items you have to create new foods. There are 50 recipes to discover that will take a lot of experimentation to get.
Fans of Mario will love this, especially if they enjoyed his 2D adventures, and they’ll remember many characters and enemies from previous games. A must for Mario and RPG fans, and anyone who enjoys a fun single player adventure should seriously consider this.