Super Paper Mario Reader Review
I like this game. I like this game even though I was upset at the prospect of Intelligent Systems ditching the RPG format for a platform one. I like this game even though it looses its flair well before the finale. I like this game even though it doesn't fully deliver on the whole Wii-platform-interaction concept. I like this game even though... you get the general idea.
Super Paper Mario (SPM for short) is game that is set in the same loveable world as the other Paper Marios, except it uses an entirely new approach for the core of the gameplay. Instead of playing battles out in a compressed turn-based format, SPM implements gameplay similar to the original Super Mario games. That means you'll be jumping on enemies to kill them, with most of the early combat encounters equalling the same experiences you've had with the original Mario games.
The obvious question, of course, is if the platform combat works better than the traditional Paper Mario combat?
For me, someone who appreciates the style of gameplay and combat the other Paper Mario games offered, I can't say SPM offers a better experience. But then, it might be correct to think that Intelligent Systems didn't want the platform style to compete with the RPG system, but instead offer a new tint on the Paper Mario series.
But even then, considering the new direction for SPM on its own merits, it still actually doesn't work as well as you'd think. That's not to say it's awful though, but more to point out that it doesn't quite work as well as you'd expect it to, being a Mario game 'n' all.
It's a weird thing to explain, because in any other full-form platform game SPM's style would work okay. But the problem with SPM is that the level design is still more focused on a RPG format, and the storyline obviously isn't correct for a platform game. For example, like previous Paper Marios, you'll have tons of text to read from characters you meet, sometimes of which you'll meet in between sections of gameplay. So you could spend about 5 minutes jumping on Goombas only then to bump into an NPC and spend some time talking, only to then jump straight back into the action.
Veterans of Paper Mario will obviously be familiar with this from previous instalments, but when the game uses a gameplay format more akin to the action/adventure genre it's hard to approve of the pace of the game.
The game is too much of an RPG to support the new gameplay format properly, and yet it is because of this RPG format that the game is still enjoyable. If you were to strip away the RPG navigation, design, and - Lord no! - the characters, SPM would fall flat on its face.
I guess one of the main reasons Intelligent Systems decided on a new gameplay change was to take advantage of the Wii-remote (though I can think of plenty of use it would have got with the standard RPG format). You'll hold the remote in the 'classic' position, using the D-Pad for movement and the 1 & 2 buttons to perform actions and jump. You can also twist the remote around to point at the screen and allow your guide (Tippi) to interact with things on-screen.
Generally speaking the game does make good use of the controller, with there even being a nicely designed arcade area with 5 mini-games to play all taking advantage of the remote.
The biggest new function of the game though, aside from the gameplay switch, is the ability to 'flip' the game from 2D to 3D. This serves as a new way to solve puzzles and avoid certain enemies. While it does offer a fun way to explore areas (where you'll notice things in 3D that simply weren't visible in 2D) it can feel underdeveloped in some areas.
The 3D 'flip' ability serves more like an additional character to your party, where its use is pretty limited to certain areas, rather than offering an ability which offers huge depth to the game.
Luckily you'll also encounter things in the game appropriately named Pixls. These little devices allow your character to perform different abilities, such as turning tiny or allowing you to hover over spikes. The Pixls manage to accommodate the larger gameplay changes SPM offers, easing you into the platform style of play.
With the gameplay changes/additions out of the way I can safely say that the rest of SPM is just like the other games. The 2D visual-style looks excellent and gives that distinctive look that we've all come to cherish with these games. The sound and music is of similar performance with memorable chimes that suit each area you visit.
Another appeal of the previous Paper Mario games remains intact also. And that's the excellent blend of humour and parodies of not only modern culture but Nintendo's own games. It's still one of those games that'll genuinely make you chuckle, and yet can still have a tone within the story that will move your emotions. The ending is especially moving, which is hard to believe considering how much humour the game has. It's great stuff.
It's also worth saying that while the game has a lessened RPG-tone in gameplay, there are still functions within the game which keep some amount of depth. For example you still "level up" and increase your attack power and/or health. Plus there are side-quests and the ability to roam about the world in an RPG-like fashion.
The game even still manages to last a good while, with focusing just on the main quest giving a large playtime count. Taking part in all the sub-quests and collecting all the enemy cards for 100% completion will take a good long while. It may even equal a playtime that makes some fully-fledged RPGs blush.
Unfortunately, while the game equals heaps of content, there are sections of back-tracking which aren't as tolerable as they were in the previous games. Also some of the level design can become repetitive, with the last section of SPM giving some of the worst design seen in not only Paper Mario, but Mario games as a whole. I'm all for prolonging a great gaming experience, but when the design starts to severely suffer it's time to draw the line.
Having said that though, the prospect of seeing the story reach its climax manages to help overcome these shortcomings however. Which brings me to my overall view of the game.
Super Paper Mario is a game of two worlds: one offers a deep expansive experience of story and content, while the other offers jazzy gameplay features and platforming fun.
Because the latter isn't as well-developed as it could be, the game doesn't deliver on its potential. That the former offers a large chunk of what makes the Paper Mario games superb, however, ultimately makes Super Paper Mario a game worth owning. Either as a sequel to your beloved Thousand Year Door, or as a new and interesting gaming experience for your Wii.
So yeah, I like this game.
8 / 10