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Platform

N64

 

Genre

Role-Playing

 

Publisher

Nintendo

 

Developer

Intelligent Systems

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q2 2001

 

 

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Paper Mario

 

paper mario         

 

Bowser has the all-powerful Star Rod and is running amuck! He kidnaps Princess Peach by lifting her entire castle into the sky. He quickly beats the tar out of the visiting Mario and kicks him out a window. Bowser has got to know that Mario will be back to challenge his power – we’ve seen this conflict before and we know the outcome. Bowser will be defeated and everyone will live happily ever after. But before the final showdown can begin Mario has to form alliances, stomp all of Bowser’s underlings, and free the Star Spirits.

 

Paper Mario almost defies description. It’s a strange but pleasing 2D / 3D / real-time / turn-based / action / adventure hybrid. It looks 2D but there are some areas of distinct 3D even while Mario remains 2D. The resulting graphics are a salute to the 2D Mario we all grew up with from Donkey Kong (Colecovision) to Super Mario Bros. (NES) to Super Mario World (SNES). It’s a fitting tribute. The N64 brought Mario into a completely 3D world and it seems appropriate that in the waning days of the N64 he go out in 2D style. The graphics have the distinct stamp of a Mario game. Everything is big and bright – items are easy to distinguish, characters are very recognizable, and the backgrounds are great. You will never be confused as to what you’re looking at. Even the menu screens (which you’ll be seeing a lot of) are well laid out – displaying information in a straightforward manner.

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The meat and potatoes of any game is the actual gameplay. My complaint here is that it’s too addictive. Even after hours of play – the clock nearing the time I usually go to work in the morning – I still wanted to challenge just one more enemy. The mix of turn-based and real-time elements is perfect. Mario explores the world in real-time, just like his sidescrollin’ days. The switch to turn-based action occurs when Mario attacks or is attacked by an enemy in the field. The view shifts to a mock stage on which the 

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confrontation takes place. Mario chooses from a variety of options: run away, jumping on a specific opponent, using an item, changing team members, etc. There’s no time limit for the selection of your next move, which is a good thing because a lot of time can be put into planning which bad guy to stomp first. And your active team member gets a turn too, then it’s your opponent’s turn. There’s a bit of timing involved with some of the moves, further emphasizing the hybridization. But most importantly, all of the moves are explained, which never leaves you wondering how you’re supposed to do what. And the manual is first rate in this respect as well.

Team members play an important role and should never be underestimated and, since they can’t be killed, used as much as possible. It’s a little annoying that only one team member can be activated at a time though. It would have been fun to implement combo moves. You also get the chance to assume control of Princess Peach for some portions.

Maintaining the RPG element are three powerups that can be improved: Hit points, Flower points (i.e. mana) and Badge points. Badge points let you perform more devastating moves (among other effects) depending on which badge is equipped. For example, one badge lets you perform a more punishing jump attack (if the badge is equipped). But to get this jump attack to work during a fight you must have a good supply of Flower points. Defeating enemies awards you with Star Points. Get 100 and you get to choose what "skill" to upgrade. During a fight all of the information is displayed at the top of the screen – except for your Badges – so you’ll always know if you’re in trouble or need to use an item to reclaim some Hit points.

And talking about "points" – to save your game you’ve got to find a save box. Actually, there are lots of boxes to smash. And, hello, the return of coin boxes! You remember, the kind you jump up and hit to shake loose coins, one jump at a time?

They’re isn’t much to say about the control other than it’s solid. If you’re experienced with the N64 controller, you should have absolutely no problem. Perfecting moves and executing quick strategies is also no problem, which is good since there is the ever-important "first strike" to work on. (Attacking an enemy in the real-time world gives Mario the advantage of performing a move before his turn starts. And if you don’t want to fight, dodging an enemy is no problem.) Switching team members is easy whether out in the field or in combat.

Sound is an eclectic mix of distinctly "Mario" tunes. Listen carefully and you will be able to hear music from nearly all the Mario games remixed and updated for the N64. Mixed with the 2D nostalgia factor, you’ll hum along happily.

Paper Mario has received a lot of flak for its lack of story. I have to agree that PM doesn’t have the epic story of an Ultima or Baldur’s Gate (or even of PM’s precursor Super Mario RPG: Secrets of the Seven Stars on the SNES) but I’m not expecting one from a Mario game. What kind of plot did Donkey Kong have? None, but I still played that one into the ground. The story for PM is straightforward: Stop Bowser and save the Princess. No strange plot twists, no surprises that come from left field, like Peach and Mario are actually brother and sister. Once again, it’s a salute to the Mario formula that has worked its magic throughout the years. Keep it simple.

Paper Mario will appeal to almost everyone. Hardcore RPGers might be turned off by the cutesy nature and the lack of story development, but for those that have known Mario for all these years will appreciate its straightforwardness yet deeply engaging gameplay. Younger gamers will definitely enjoy this one, too. Get Paper Mario before the N64 vanishes.

- Omni

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