N64 Review: Paper Mario
Review by: Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)

Game Info

 System: N64
 ESRB: Everyone
 Genre: RPG
 # of Players: 1
 Size: 320 Megabits
 Developer: Intelligent Systems
 Publisher: Nintendo

 Controller Pak: No
 Rumble Pak: Yes
 Transfer Pak: No

 Release Date:
 US: Feb 5, 2001
 EU: Oct 5, 2001
 JP: Aug 11, 2000

Screenshots:

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Final Score:
9.5/10

Reviewed on: February 26, 2001

Over the past few years, Paper Mario has come quite a long way. In essence, this game is really the sequel to Super Mario RPG for the Super NES, released in 1996, nearly 5 years ago. Before the name was changed to "Paper Mario" this game was referred to many other names such as "Super Mario RPG 2", and "Super Mario Adventure". Originally planned for release in 1997, all in all, Paper Mario was delayed for over 4 years.

The original Super Mario RPG for the Super NES was created by Square, the creators of the Final Fantasy series. It turned out to be the final game Square created for a Nintendo system, before they ditched Nintendo for the friendlier PlayStation medium, which were CDs. While not created by the original developer, Paper Mario still uses many of the benchmarks that were set by SMRPG. And the game is still in RPG format, which means you have to take turns to fight, and use different strategies to succeed.

One thing that is ironic with Paper Mario, that Bowser has captured Princess Peach once again, at least think of something new, this storyline is becoming very boring now. But another thing, in Super Mario RPG, Bowser was one of Mario's allies, but this time, he's the baddie, and this is a sequel to SMRPG, or if we have to debate about it, perhaps this game is a "64-bit upgrade", like previous games such as Mario Kart 64 and Star Fox 64.

Storyline

Once again, Bowser has caused havoc in the Mushroom Kingdom. He's captured the Star Sprits, and the Star Rod, the one with the Star Rod can grant any wishes they want, and seeing Bowser is Bowser, he'll use it to make wishes that do bad. With the Star Rod, he imprisoned the seven Star Spirits.

It's up to Mario to free the Star Spirits, defeat Bowser, rescue Peach, and regain the ever-so important Star Rod. Can he do it? It's all up to you.

Graphics

Paper Mario has some of the most splendid graphics for the Nintendo 64. The game looks and feels like an animated cartoon. The characters, objects, and items, look 2D, and are flat as paper. That's why the game is called Paper Mario. But the worlds, and background details are all in 3D, so therefore it's 2D/3D crossover, which Nintendo calls it a 2-D game. The 3D details in the game are very nice and detailed, and have vivid colours to them.

There are two graphic views in the game. One is the Field Screen, where Mario and his party member roam around the many worlds throughout the game. Most of the time you are free to move in all directions, but in special cases you can only go in one way or another, depending on the setting of the certain level. The other view is the Battle Screen, where Mario and his party member are engaged in a battle with one or more enemies.

Sometimes during gameplay, there is a little "lag", where the game suddenly dips below the frame rate, this usually happens after you defeat a large enemy or something new shows up. Maybe if the N64 Expansion Pak was used, it could improve the frame rate a bit, so it doesn't have unnecessary slowdowns.

Sound

This game also have some wicked sound effects. You can hear the enemies creeping around even though you might not necessarily see them on the screen. As you go closer to the enemy, the louder it gets. These sounds can sometimes be hints. For example, you may hear the sound of another level, or an object, or anything.

The music is just as great too. Each level has its own "style" of music, and all the different types of music are unique, to represent each level quite well. As you progress through certain paths that change levels, the music gradually changes, for example from Toad Town to Forever Forest. In Toad Town, the music is very happy and as you go through to Forever Forest, it becomes much more frightening and scary.

The music of the certain level or area also changes theme, depending on what happens during the game. When the Shy Guys invade Toad Town, the music becomes all "panicky" and fast-paced. These sound modifications are some of the little things that make the much more interesting and enjoyable to play.

Controls

Since this is an RPG-style game, the controls will be relatively easy, considering that there are turn-based battles. It's nothing more challenging then moving the Control Stick, and pressing the A (jump), B (hammer), C (menus), and Z (spin) buttons on your controller, at least in the normal view. During battles, select the type of attack you want to do, and it'll be done. Performing certain combos within an attack will result in more powerful attacks.

Gameplay

Paper Mario isn't just your ordinary stomp and attack game, it has a battle system. Mario, and his enemies will take turns in battle. Mario will go first, and then the Enemy's turn, until the battle is over. If you win, you may win coins, items, Star Points, Heart Points, or Flower Points.

When you get 100 Star Points, you'll get to upgrade one of your point columns, HP (Heart Points), FP (Flower Points), or BP (Badge Points). Star Points are achieved when you win defeat an enemy, how many points you get will depend on how tough the enemy is. If you are really far into the game, and go back to a weak enemy earlier in the game, you won't receive Star Points, since it would be an easy battle.

Heart Points are basically your life meter, the more HP, the more attacks you can take without dying. Flower Points are used to perform more special attacks. Badge Points is the measure of how much Badge Power you can hold. Badges allow Mario to have special abilities, thus, making Mario more powerful to defeat enemies. There are 80 different badges in the game. It's best to collect as many badges as possible, since many of these badges can help you defeat tough enemies.

In addition to badges, Mario will also collect Star Pieces. There are 160 of them in the entire game. These can be used to buy badges, but otherwise, not much is known about them. These are scattered through out the game, and you can win them by completing certain tasks.

As with all RPGs (role playing games), you must utilize tips and hints by talking to people, reading signs and letters. Sometimes, without these hints you may not be able to continue on in the game, such as having an incomplete task.

You're not hitting the road on your own, you'll make many friends who will become Mario's allies or Party Members, and they have their own attacks, and each is special in his or her own way. At all times, there will be one of your "Party Members" following you around, as you journey. Party Members include Goombario, Kooper, Bombette, Parakarry, and others that can be found inside the game. You can only have one member with you at a time, but you can change him or her anytime you want. Except during battles, when you must use a turn in battle, to change a member.

There are also many items that Mario can win, or buy with coins, that can affect battles, in many ways. A Mushroom, would increase your HP, and it'll make you last longer in battle. Other items can increase your FP, which allows you to do more special, more powerful attacks. Proper strategy planning will help you win much more battles, and allow you to progress through the game much easier.

At the end of each level, there will be a boss. The boss is the hardest enemy to kill in that level, so be prepared for the challenge. When you defeat the boss, you will release a captured Star Spirit, which will give you special attacks. Each time you use a Star Spirit attack, your Star Power will be decreased. Star Power will be increased slowly during battles, or if you use the Focus command, in battle, it'll increase much faster. But if you take a nap in any Toad House, all of your Star Power will be restored, along with your HP and BP.

Mario will go through many worlds to get to Bowser, retain the Star Rod, and rescue Princess Peach. Some of the worlds that Mario will journey through include a desert, a jungle, a village, a toy box, a fortress, all these worlds.

Be sure to safe often at Save Blocks, which are scattered throughout the game. When you hit a Save Block, a menu will popup asking you to save the game. If you save the game, then if you die in a battle, you'll restart the game at your last save point.

Replay Value

With no multiplayer option, Paper Mario lacks some replay value. But the game itself is huge, and it'll take a long time to complete the adventure, with 7 main levels overall. One disadvantage about the game is that it's not possible to replay the stage bosses, without starting a brand new game. This takes away from the replay value since sometimes it's fun playing old enemies for practice.

Final Thoughts

Paper Mario is one of the last Nintendo 64 games released. This game gives the N64 one last "hurrah", for us to remember what a great gaming console it once was, before it gives way to the new GameCube coming out in later in 2001. Paper Mario is an excellent adventure combined with kiddy graphics that manages to cut out a winner.

-- Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)

Bottom Line: We waited 5 years for Paper Mario to come out, we finally got it, and this game doesn't disappoint. In fact, it's a whole lot of fun.