|Step aside, Super Mario RPG. Here's the real showstopper.|
So I've written a few articles on some Gamecube games in the past few months, but I haven't really "reviewed" any of them- because I always try to play through a whole game before I review it, in order to assess it fully. So I've been playing this faithfully for about a month now, and I wracked up about fifty hours before beating it... so I guess it's time to review it.
I've stated before that this is one of my favorite games of all time, and honestly, upon playing through it again, I can't disagree with that statement. I'll get to the meat of my personal playthrough in a little bit, though, because that's an interesting story in itself. But in all seriousness, I love Paper Mario. I've played the original, and it's a good title. It's really good, actually- one of the best RPGs on the N64. Paper Mario is essentially Nintendo's answer to Square's Super Mario RPG on the SNES, which was an even better game than the original Paper Mario. Super Mario RPG was essentially the basis for what Paper Mario would become- a role-playing game with unique partner characters, a timed-button battle system, and very witty in-game dialogue. Paper Mario just kind of did that, but... everyone was paper. Anyway, Paper Mario was a good game, but its sequel is just... I mean, damn.
While Paper Mario stuck to very traditional, Mushroom Kingdom-based story, the Thousand Year Door takes us to a remote part of the Mushroom Kingdom that's a little rough around the edges. You are tasked with both rescuing Princess Peach (again...) and stopping a legendary cataclysm from occurring. No big deal- except it's a much deeper story than any Mario game has ever had, yet just as cute as everything being made of paper can be. Paper Mario is a series that has lived on the characters and writing, and all the partners are especially clever and fresh, their dialogue brings out a lot of charm. The atmosphere of the locales is great, with the papercraft environments really shining. A lot of the boss characters implement papercraft in very clever ways, but some are a bit questionable. Still, the overall visual style, presentation, and everything is top notch- music included. A number of funky twists on Mario songs as well as altered tracks from its successor make this game pop.
But then you get to the gameplay- and I am not truly an RPG fan, and when I first saw this game, I was hesitant about playing a Mario RPG... but it works so well. The action command system is simplistic on the surface, but can be so very in-depth once the layers are peeled back. Battles only seem simple because you need to execute the moves correctly, but there's status ailments, crowd reactions, and a lot of strategy to be had. Step outside battles and you can buy badges that increase virtually anything you can think of, be it health regen in battle or making action commands easier to do- but most important is equipping special attacks for combat- and the more FP that's at stake to perform your special attacks, the more either the action commands will be tough or the move becoming a last resort will occur.
Simply put, the "Paper RPG" style is so brilliantly crafted to fit the style and simplicity of the game, it all just comes off as perfect. Each partner gets a chapter devoted to their character and their goals or story, and each can switch out and partake in conversation- you can change how you want to hear the story depending on who you use in and out of battle. In battle, each has their own individual strengths and weaknesses, and since they finally have hit points, they change the battle dynamic even more. The game has so many side-quests and aftercredit goodness, it's worth a whole two or three more hours. I mean, there's so little I have to say against this game, it's nuts. Like, LITERALLY.
The only thing I can really complain about is the waste of a character slot with Flurrie. BUT maybe some people disagree. The way you level yourself can directly influence your partners and how they play- you can even turn Mario into a support character and have the partners take center stage. It's so open-ended because of its design, and lets the player take control- on the stage, which is the most fun, but of the progression of the game.
Since this was my fourth file in the game, I popped it in and decided how I would play the story this time- I resolved on using everyone who I didn't normally like as much as possible, and would have an all-BP fest.
Now, I lie when I say all BP- I leveled up my HP a few times, and my FP once or twice- but I had 60 BP by the end of the game and could constantly regenerate HP and FP every turn, and with high defense and two Power Smashes equipped, could take enough hits even with 35 health I could minimize damage to myself and deal out a lot more. I pretty much breezed through the game because I knew where everything was, but still faced a hard time with the Shadow Queen at the end- which surprised me, but then again, I had never played this way before. I think the next time I go around I'm going to make Mario the support character and have Bobbery be my main character. But that will be the next time I play through this game.
Honestly, Paper Mario- the Thousand Year Door might be my favorite game- ever. I really can't help but gush about this game. It's pure fun- nothing seems tedious. You're never stuck because the game leads you along a logical path, and it expects you to remember important clues. The game grows with you, even if you're playing it for the first time. You can memorize action commands and then move on to Stylish Moves. You can go right through the game or you can stop and appreciate the wonderful side-quests. There's always the pit of a hundred trials. It's just one of those Nintendo games that respects the franchise it's based off of, but also does plenty in its own right to stand out as a fantastic game. Honestly, if you changed the character names, this game wouldn't suffer one bit... which is just how I like it.
As much as I am completely in love with this title, I'm not gonna play it again for a while. Why? Because PAPER MARIO IS COMING TO THE 3DS. And it's not Super Paper Mario styled- it's full-on classic Paper Mario style. And you know what? I'm ready for that- because Super Paper Mario was cute and fun, but I need some more stylish action commands in my life.
Recommended For: The budding RPG fan, those who love an emotional, but cute story, those who love cute characters, and the RPG fan who really wants to love Nintendo.
...I love this game.