Super Paper MarioESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer – Intelligent Systems
Publisher – Nintendo
Wiimote Specific Controls
Paper Mario got its start on the N64. The series was an RPG-like game with very little emphasis on platform gaming. The series, which also saw a version on the GameCube, utilized a traditional turn-based battle system which was its staple attraction to diehard gamers. Nintendo has recently unleashed Super Paper Mario on the Wii and the game takes Mario back to more of his traditional roots well still managing to incorporate some RPG-like elements into the game. Although originally slated for the GameCube, the game makes the hop over to the newest console in Nintendo’s family and does so very well.
Is anyone getting used to me describing many Nintendo published games as stylish? Well, get ready for this again, because Nintendo has managed to follow this path for Super Paper Mario. The colors for each level are once again bright and vibrant and the really seem pop off the screen. Each level from the desert landscape, the underwater areas to the outer space shooter level are very good looking. I found that everything has a quasi-cartoon like quality too and there is even some good usage of special effects now and then, as evidenced by the particle effects I saw on screen.
Everyone has to remember that this game is about Paper Mario, so everything is paper thin. Even when you go into the 3D world you will find that a lot of the objects that were viewable in the 2D mode are now just thin objects on screen that can barely be seen. I always chuckled when going back and forth on any given level and my character would turn to go in the other direction and disappear for the split second as they would change the way they were running. It really hits home the paper-like universe. All the on screen action animates really well too. From Mario’s traditional running and stomping on enemies, Bowser blowing out for crazy fire from his mouth to the first boss and his flight across the brightly lit sky, everything was quite smooth.
Overall it seems like Super Paper Mario is a visual hit right? Well I hate to rain on the parade, but just a bit. Although everything is generally good I have to mention that the 3D worlds could have used more work. They were just as bright and vibrant in terms of colors, but they seemed to lack the overall punch that the rest of the game had. I think they just weren’t as interesting as the 2D levels. I would venture to say that many will feel they just aren’t as alive. As well, objects in the distance don’t draw to smoothly either. This whole lack of oomph is not a deal breaker though but most will notice it. Overall Super Paper Mario really does have a clean look to it, from the detailed backgrounds to each and every enemy you come across, and those who venture through the various levels will not be overly disappointed by the visuals.
Something that struck me while I was playing was how the sound really didn’t become too evident for me. This is both a good and bad thing all wrapped into one. It is good as the sound didn’t become overly annoying or grating, but on the flipside it didn’t do anything to make me really go “wow”. The soundtrack was very befitting of each level and each chapter, but it just didn’t have a very strong presence for me to really pay specific attention to it. As for the other sound effects, well they were there as well but they are totally what you would expect in a Mario game including the well known and well recognized sound of Mario’s jump. And of course there is no voice acting, something that I go into detail in the gameplay section. I would have appreciated some real voices in this game, but alas you get none. Maybe next time? Overall the game’s sound does it job and does it well, just not in such a way that you really notice the work.
The long and short of the story is that you have to once again save Princess Peach from the perils of evil. However, this time you are try to rescue her from a new villain by the name of Count Bleck. He has taken Princess Peach from the beloved world of the Mushroom Kingdom back to his own world in an effort to make the events that are told in the book of the Dark Prognosticus come true. These events are kind of crazy and include the marriage of Princess Peach to Bowser and the eventual end of all worlds. Mario has also been transported to this world, but his role is to save the world as told in the book of the Light Porgnosticus. He has to collect seven life hearts that will enable him to defeat all that is evil. As you make your way through the various chapters you will meet many people while the story unfolds in front of you.
I was somewhat amazed by the story telling in this game. There are a lot of references that have been made to various popular trends or icons in today’s society. You’ll find references to such things as the forum surfing addicts, computer errors you come across on Microsoft enabled machines and even comments on you, the player of the game. Although the story and humor is great, all of this is presented in the form of text bubbles. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind reading, but with the advent of modern technology, and DVD as a storage medium, I have come to expect voice acting in games that have a story to tell. However in Super Paper Mario there is an insane amount of reading via text bubbles and this is quite evident from the start of the game. I do think it could have benefited from some voice acting but Nintendo, for one reason or another, did not do this. Therefore to fully enjoy the story you have to be prepared, and be able, to read a lot of text. Again, although I would have preferred voice acting there is nothing really wrong with having to read the story, just expect to do a lot of it.
I mentioned in my introduction that Nintendo still managed to keep some RPG-like elements in the game. Well they are very basic elements that are incorporated quite well. Mario still gains access to new and useful items as he makes his way through the game. You also earn more hit points and your attack strength increases as you hit specific scores in the game. In other words, there are some very basic, if not typical, RPG elements in the game, but nothing too deep to make this too RPG’ish as this game harkens back to Mario’s platform roots.
You start the game as Mario and as you make your way through the various chapters of each level you will eventually add Peach and Bowser to your party and you will have the ability to control them in game. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses too. Mario can jump the highest and can switch from the 2D world to the 3D world at any given time. Peach can use her umbrella to block enemy attacks and to float for extended periods of time enabling you get across larger chasms. Finally Bowser is the only one who can breathe fire for easy ‘roasting’ of enemies. You can access any one of your party members at any given time by pressing the 1 and 2 buttons to bring up a quick access menu where you can change between each character effortlessly. You will find yourself using each character quite a lot to solve various puzzles or to further your progress along. However that being said I found myself using Mario the most during general gameplay as he moves quite quickly and I love the feeling of stomping on top of baddies. As well I used his 2D/3D flipping abilities quite often to look new paths, hidden items or hidden enemies.
During your journey though the games levels you will also come across characters called Pixls which enable your characters to do various feats. Your first Pixl is Thoreau who enables you to pick up and throw objects. You also come across Pixls who allow you to use bombs, shrink in size or flip various objects. There are many more then those mentioned here but I think it is my duty to let you come across them yourself and I wont ruin any surprises. As with your various party members you will find yourself using specific Pixls to access various parts of the levels enabling you to move forward in the game. You will also find yourself entering levels you’ve already completed previously to access areas you could not reach before. To access the Pixls you come across you once again use the quick access menu to switch between them.
Controlling your characters is as simple as turning the Wiimote on its side and use the d-pad to move about the levels and press the buttons to do various actions. I am sure many of you are wondering what, if any, Wiimote specific features have been added to this game. I am happy to say that there is just enough to make it more of an enjoyment then that of a gimmick. You can use the Wiimote to point at the screen and find hidden doors and learn more about item or enemies. I found this useful in boss fights as my Pixl was able to tell me what I was facing, how many hitpoints the boss would take from me if I was hit, and where a weak point was that could be utilized. You can also shake the Wiimote as you jump on various enemies for style points. Shaking the Wiimote is also important if you are frozen by certain enemies as well as the quicker you shake it, the quicker you become unfrozen. All these simple, but yet effective, Wiimote abilities don’t seem tacked on or overdone as they actually add to the gameplay of this title.
The main draw to Super Paper Mario is the ability to switch between 2D and 3D on a whim. This is not only necessary to advance though the game, but it is also a big part of the overall game as the 3D world offers new challenges and items on a very regular basis. By simply pressing the A button as Mario you cause your seemingly simple 2D world to become 3D. The simple 2D side to side world is now opened up. You will find items, enemies, doors and even warp-tubes hidden behind bushes, walls or rocks. Areas that seem to be a dead end due to massive walls become easily accessible as the 3D world allows you to go around said wall. You will even open up unseen paths that were not visible in the 2D world allowing you access to areas you never thought possible. You cannot stay in the 3D world forever as there is a timer, and for every second you spend in 3D the timer decreases. Should this timer run out you lose actual life off of your health meter. Don’t worry though; the timer recharges once you flip back into 2D.
Super Paper Mario seems to lead you into the puzzles, ramping up the difficulty as you progress. As you go deeper into the game, and gain access to more items, skills and party members, you will find that you can utilize them when needed, and yes, they are definitely needed. For myself there was a head scratcher now then but it was nothing that could not be overcome through trial and error, and of course a little experimentation. It was also quite relieving when I was able to solve the various puzzles that enabled me to continue or gave me access to special areas or items. As I write my thoughts on this game I realize there were quite a few times when I muttered “gee whiz, that is kind of cool” as I managed to figure things out. Overall you will find yourself eased into this game but don’t expect to just walk through it as it will test you now and then.
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