I recently decided to replay “Super Paper Mario”, the third game in the “Paper Mario” series. This game took quite a departure from the games that came before it by making major changes to the gameplay, including the ability to flip between 2D and 3D, having four playable characters, and real-time battles unlike the turn-based ones of the originals. This game appeared to be trying to be more like the old “Super Mario Bros.” (hence the “super” in the title, though I do wonder if we’ll ever have an “Ultra Mario Bros.”), while including the RPG elements of the “Paper Mario” series, such as an interesting story and characters and the ability to level-up whenever you get enough points (as opposed to experience). While I found this game to be a rather good time, I have to admit that there were some disappointing aspects to it, some of which I didn’t really notice until my second playthrough.
First of all, I’d just like to say that this is by no means a bad game. It is quite a good game, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I love the “Paper Mario” series. These games have such a charming style of graphics, with interesting stories and delightful characters. And they always are tons of fun. And so, when I bought this game, so excited to play yet another “Paper Mario” game, I wasn’t happy to find this game is not the “Paper Mario” experience. Sure, the characters are still paper, but that’s not enough to make it a “Paper Mario” game. If we had a “Metroid” game with a paper-thin Samus, would it be “Paper Mario”? No, negative, and a sequence of head shaking. Obviously, this game isn’t that drastic of a departure from the series, but it differs from the previous games in several important areas.
First and possibly foremost, the battle system has changed. I remember the first time I simply jumped on a Goomba, and I wondered, um, is that it? Several battles later, it was confirmed. Yeah, that was it. This game has real-time fighting, not unlike the “Super Mario Bros.” of old, with the addition of Pixl sidekicks to help you, like one that lets you toss things and another that acts like a hammer. And while I prefer real-time fighting to turn-based, “Paper Mario” games always had turn-based battles and a rather fun version of it, too. And so while this did really make the battles more fun and fast-paced, it really took away the feel that this was a “Paper Mario” game. Maybe I’m just a complainer when I whine that the battle system in this game is more fun, but it’s the fact that this makes the game not feel like it’s from its respective series that saddens me.
Plus, it makes the game much simpler, this form of fighting. This game is just too easy, which is disappointing when the other two games were a challenge. The game is also too short and has too little to do. You can beat the game in 20 hours (I did both times), which is good for the average game, but not for an RPG. Then, when you beat it, there is nearly nothing to do. You can beat the 100 Sammer Guys, which is boring and doesn’t get you an award that makes it worth it (I didn’t prevail in this place, as I got to the 80’s or so before I got a Game Over; I simply looked on the Internet to find what you get). There are also two Pit of 100 Trials, which is fun, but again, not all that worth it. Oh, and you can look for useless treasures and do cooking, when you’d be better off buying items that are more useful than what you can cook.
There are also some minor things. The game is not one big world to explore, but a hub world, with various doors leading to other locations. And I don’t like the new artwork style. They did a good job for some things, particularly the villain, Count Bleck, and his minions, but… I hate those people in Flipside. They did nothing to me, but I hate them and all their stupid, straight lines. Look at me and my straight lines! Boo (not the ghosts, though), hiss, thumbs down!
Ahem. This game does have some good changes, though. For example, I liked that you can eventually play as four characters. Besides the obvious, Mario, we have Peach, who can use her parasol to float and to avoid taking damage, Bowser, who can breathe fire, and Luigi, who can jump high and even damage enemies from below. And Mario is the only one that can flip between the usual 2D of the game to 3D. Now, some people say the 3D landscapes are not as interesting as the 2D, and I agree. But, it is an interesting idea I’ve never seen before, and it has some useful applications. Flipping to 3D lets you see items hidden behind objects. It lets you see paths that are perpendicular to the main ones that would otherwise be invisible in 2D. It also helps you to get hints for puzzles, such as hints that appear on the side of objects or objects that look completely different in 3D. My only problem is it’s a pain in the butt, as you can only flip for a limited time before you take damage, and it makes the game way too easy early on, as every time there is an obstacle that may give the game some challenge, you flip and stroll right on past it. I was tempted not to flip just to make the game harder.
And I have one more thing that is a mix of good and bad. The story and the characters. First off, I really like the characters in this game. Besides the good characters we all like, I liked the villains of this game, Count Bleck himself most of all, and I liked his minions to varying degrees, as well. I can’t say the same for whoever the villains of “The Thousand-Year Door” were. I think one was Grodus, but who was the other? I don’t remember. I also really liked the story my first time through. Seeing as I haven’t told you about it yet, well, the rather dapper and rather strange Count Bleck forces Princess Peach and Bowser to marry. This unholy union of good and evil (not to mention, human and turtle, so I’m not sure which is worse) brings about the creation of the Chaos Heart, just as it was foretold in the Dark Prognosticus, a book that contains the events of the future. The Chaos Heart then creates the Void, a hole in the fabric of all dimensions, that will eventually swallow every world. The story involves love and betrayal and, um, brainwashing, and…well, it’s good.
At least, it was. The first time I played this game, the story was so interesting. I had rarely ever been so interested in a story ever. Throughout the game, there are also these memory scenes that involve dialogue only, a love story between two people that we don’t know who they are until much later in the game. And while I usually do not like romance stuff, icky poo, yuck, I couldn’t help but be so enthralled by this game that I played it constantly in an effort to get through it and find out the identities of these two people. I needed to know who they were! Needed! I loved this game my first time through, loved it so very much with a love normally reserved for brownie edges, as I wanted to know so badly what would happen. And then, something happened. Wait, I just used that word in the previous sentence. Let me try again… And then, something occurred!
I played the game a second time. And it just was not the same experience. At all. Of course, the first time through a game is always the best because everything is new, and you don’t know what will happen in the story. But, for this game, once you find out who those two people in the memory scenes turn out to be… Once you know the plot twists that originally made it so suspenseful… Once you know all these things, it really just becomes a rather simple, rather unexciting story. Like I said, I know this is always the case, but it just was worse in this game. Not to say the story is uninspired. It’s not. It’s still good. It’s just that some games still have complex stories even when you know what happens. This one does not. Not really. Count Bleck creates the Void. His minions try to stop you from stopping the Void. This happens to someone. This person does that. And it’s over, and they all live happily ever after until the next time Peach is kidnapped. There. I’m sorry I spoiled the story for you, but there it is.
So, maybe I’m not making any sense, but this game, for me, was just not the same the second time through. To be honest, I didn’t even care quite as much for the characters I loved my first time through, either, not even Count Bleck, who is just not as delightful and charming as I remember (seriously, he’s a villain who’s actually nice to his minions and talks in third-person, what’s not to like, and yet, I’m not feeling the same affection for him that I once did). And this loss in love for the game saddens me. I loved this game’s characters and story so very much, and to have it become such a flat experience (I didn’t even intend that as a pun, but why not, you may consider it as such, if you would like), it disappoints me. I mean, really, now that I play the game over and know the story, nothing much happens throughout. Not as much as I remember, at least. (Having all worlds at risk of total destruction isn’t as stressful as one would think.) So with the game being so short and simple and the story no longer being anything to get excited and do a jig over, the replay value has gone way down. This was honestly my favorite “Paper Mario” until I played it over, and that is not a good thing.
And so, in short, this is a fun game. It is a good game, overall. And it is quite possible that many of my complaints stem from the simple fact that, after loving the game so much my first time through, I probably had such high standards this time that the game couldn’t hope to measure up. But, few can deny that it really is only “Paper Mario” in terms of style and the fact that it has more of a plot than a “Super Mario Bros.” game. This game could have really been something. If the story had been spiffed up a bit, and the game was more like a regular “Paper Mario”, with an open world and turn-based battle system, and if the game was longer and harder, it really could have been great. And that is what is most disappointing of all. (I wish someday they’d make a normal “Paper Mario” game again. I don’t have high hopes for “Paper Mario: Sticker Star”. Guess which word is bothering me most of all.)
Super Duck Mario