In a break from the two previous Paper Mario titles, Super Paper Mario blends the action and RPG genres with an emphasis on the action, instead of the RPG. I’ve never played either of the predecessors, because the cartridge I rented for the 64 version plain didn’t work, and I didn’t get to the GameCube version, slightly intimidated by its RPG-ness. Not being one for turn-based battles, I was pleased to hear the newest incarnation is action-oriented, and am pleased to say that it delivers on its promise.
The story, while not as rich and deep as more grown-up RPGs, is a treat to Mario fans, largely due to its candid, comical writing style and witty takes on the Mario franchises. For example, in what other game would you hear Bowser say to Mario, “No more sequels!” Or, “I’m a grade-A, prime-cut, final Boss!” The plot, while a bit contrived, is no less zany.
After an opening story about a mysterious book called the “Dark Prognosticus,” players are faced with a scene which, correct me if I’m wrong, hasn’t been seen in any Mario game prior-the wedding of Princess Peach and Bowser! Say it ain’t so! Surprised to be at the ceremony which is officiated by new baddie Count Bleck, Peach is hypnotized into saying “I do,” but only before Luigi bursts onto the scene to stop the proceedings. And all this happens in the opening cinematics, before you even begin the game.
The gameplay is very similar to the old-school side-scrolling Mario platforming titles, with some new and old elements thrown in. In one interesting power-up, players are treated to a super-sized Mario, ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡ la New Super Mario Bros., but in a pixelated form, ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡ la Super Mario Bros. But the real treat, and why I and others likely picked up the game, is the ability to rotate the playing field 90Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âº and see the level in a 3-dimensional form.
This allows Mario to access secret areas or dodge obstacles and some enemies, while also giving a long-ways perspective on the course. Far from being gimmicky, the gameplay relies on this mechanic to progress the game. In another twist on the conventional side-scrolling genre, characters will often go “behind” the level and play on the actual background of the level. It was pretty crazy.
Luigi, Peach and even Bowser are other playable characters with unique abilities, but players will likely find themselves sticking with Mario, whose 3-D ability is pivotal. Another interesting mechanic is executed by pointing the Wii remote at the screen. The game is played with the Wii remote sideways, with the D-pad under the left thumb and the 1 and 2 buttons under the the left thumb, but when the player points the Wii remote at the screen, a character which aids Mario in his quest uncovers items in the game and also will explain those items when needed. This is another gameplay element which, while not heavily used unless needed, is a necessary element.
Pointing the Wiimote at the screen will also be used during mini-games, which seem to be a Wii staple. But don’t worry, there aren’t many of these, and they’re entirely optional. The main game centers around Mario, who pursues those who have been kidnapped. And this time, it’s not just Peach-it’s virtually everyone in the Mushroom Kingdom. Even a large number of Bowser’s minions are turned into mindless drones of Bleck.
The boss battles, while not as challenging as their side-scrolling predecessors, are more fun than frustrating. I can’t remember the last time Mario rode on the back of a dragon, or battled a giant squid. But it all happens here, folks. And though players might not see the “Game Over” screen very often, this game doesn’t need to be extremely challenging to be fun.
Besides the excellent story and dialogue localization, tight controls and new gameplay elements, the art direction is top-o-the line. The “paper” animation on the characters is very well-executed, and the different worlds all have a different feel to them. The last time I remember being “wowed” by art direction was with Kirby’s Canvas Curse for the DS. My only gripe is that this game isn’t in high-def. To shame, Nintendo! To shame!
Though unlikely to attract gamers with a penchant for violent shooters, Wii owners looking for a light-hearted, quirky, beautiful, and well-made title to last them through the current drought of Wii games need look no further than Super Paper Mario.