Way back on the N64, Nintendo released one of the most unique games ever conjured up by a developer. Paper Mario 64 was arguably one of the Big N's oddest choices for a Mario game, mixing a unique paper esque style with all the standard RPG elements we had grown accustomed to from the Mario RPG on the SNES. It was a suprisingly deep and more importantly, fun action game. Now fast foward a couple of years and Nintendo welcomes us all to Super Paper Mario; an excellent little RPG that adds to an already fun catalog of games for the Wii. Super Paper Mario is not the next Super Mario 64 (look for Super Mario Galaxy to be that) but it's an incredibly little game for the Wii that packs a very deep adventure within it. It is a meaty game that will keep you busy throughout the spring and summer months; ensuring you're lined up for the Wii's upcoming overstuffed holiday season.
Super Paper Mario (SPM) seperates itself from the rest of the game's in Mario's "paper" series due to its incredibly unique blend of 3D and 2D elements. It is a 2D platformer and a 3D adventure all at the same time; and switching back between each dimension adds a consistent satisfying flare to the series. This is not to say that SPM doesn't take elements from past games; as the whole basis of the game is very reminscient of its predecessors. Most of you who have played previous games in Mario's RPG genre know what to expect from its RPG elements, and luckily enough they won't let you down if that is what you're looking for. However, it tends to be the constant switching back between dimensions that truly makes the game worthwhile, and in the end this unique touch adds a whole new level of depth to an already stuffed game.
In this new "paper" game, there is less focus on RPG elements as the games intent on platforming seems to be on the rise in this addition to the series. The turn-based Pokemon style combat of the past two games seem to have been dropped by the development team; as the game is now focused on real time combat. Even though it's a bit sad to see the game drop such a stapled element of the series as the turn-based combat was, it is relieving to see that the platforming focus is much more satisfying and much more stylized than the past forms of combat we have come to expect. Running through the 2D plains of the Mushroom Kingdown is incredibly relaxing and less choresome when contrasted to the game's predecessors. It seems throughout the game, the newer additions seem to put Paper Mario at a whole new level than the games before.
The thesis of the games plot revolves around two seperate Mushroom Kingdom prophecies clashing with each other. One being the Dark Prognosticus, which is heralded by Count Blek who efficiently replaces Bowser as the game's main antagonist. The Prognosticus is threatening the world to be covered in darkness after Peach and Bowser unimaginably unite in matrimony. The other is the Light Prognosticus which states that Mario, the Hero of Light, needs to gather up seven pieces of heart to be able to destroy the devouring enemy. The game's whole storyline is a bit kiddy for the hardcore RPG that the game is, not to mention that there is almost way too much text reading to expect a seven to nine year old to read through. That being said, most of the time when the story's cinematics are being presented, your going to be yearning for it's ending just so you can go back to platforming your way through the rest of the world.
Like most Mario games that have been released in the past couple of years, Super Paper Mario allows you to play in a party. You begin as Mario, but soon afterwards Peach and Bowser will be unlocked to play. Even though you will be using Mario to do most of your adventuring, both Peach and Bowser offer special abilities that help you get passed certain areas of the game. Bowser like always has a focus on brute strength to get past levels while Peach gives you the chance to gently float across long gorges and jumps to make your way through some of the less challenging sections of the gameplay. All of the characters never seem to let you down when it comes to taking pleasure in playing them; so switching between all of the characters will come across as more of an amusement than a chore. One problem with the party system though would have to be that Mario does get way too much of the fun; as Peach and Bowser really aren't all that necessary except for the short stints that they are required to be played in.
Adding to these new abilties of switching between dimensions and real time combat comes another new addition to the series called Pixls. Pixls are tiny little fairies that give Mario all kinds of new special abilities that not only look cool, but are generally the weaponry Mario uses to get past certain areas and dungeons he is put into. There are about ten in total that you can collect and are very much the driving force behind the game; pushing you along its path and giving you a sense of not wanting to put the controller down. You're going to want to use these Pixls as they are not only pretty aesthetic in nature, but they are pretty effective on top of that. These Pixls not only help solve some of the most challenging puzzles in the game, but they also are key in order to knock off enemies and help press the game toward's its boss fights.
The game's focus isn't what we have seen from any Mario game in the past or any game ever; as it focuses mainly on the ability to switch between dimensions. The game becomes nearly twice as intricate and twice as long with this new ability. All of the levels have complete 3D versions of themselves which completley change the way you will look at the 2D platform. Most of the time, you will be strolling through the 2D world in a similar manner your accustomed to playing with Mario Brothers games, which is luckily enough, much much deeper than your standard Mario Bros. game. However, not too long in each level, you will consistently be hitting road blocks - which then ask you to research that entire level again, but this time in the third dimension. This adds a whole new level of puzzle making to an already intricate game.
The game makes the switch to the Wiimote quite effortlessly. You hold the Wiimote on its side like a standard controller and you go from there, bashing through the game's 2D world. You will be asked to use the Wiimote as a pointer here and there which does work efficiently, but still, it is sad to see that SPM doesn't make full usage of the Wiimote even though there is very little area where it could. It is evident that this game was slated as a Gamecube game initially, but it seems that the switch to the Wiimote enhances the gameplay rather than detracting it.
The 2D views of Super Paper Mario look absolutely stupendous; everything about this 2D world laminates in aesthetic beauty. None of the levels are boring to look at, and some of the more nostalgic areas of this 2D'ed Mushroom Kingdom will send you way back into your past. Everything looks great, until you switch to 3D. Once you make that leap between dimensions, you see the world for what it truly is; a rather bland and less aesthetically pleasing universe. This isn't to say that the whole transfering between 3D and 2D becomes stale as that will be what you're going to yearn to do the most. However, it would have been nicer to see the 3D view get a bit more polishing than it has had. Not to worry though, as some of the coolest of the paper effects that the whole theme of this game is based around is witnessed through the eyes of the 3D view.
The game's sound is a bit of a dissapointment as well. Sticking to this whole Midi-keyboard theme seen in Nintendo's past endeavour, Twilight Princess, the sound quality is a bit too low. The musical pieces heard throughout the game are hum worthy, but still don't seem to be as lovable as the original Mario classics. Still, Mario's constant yelps and "Yahoos!" are still heard quite vibrantly and most of the effects are pretty satisfactory on all ends.
In the end, Super Paper Mario is a fun little game, but saying that completley demolishes the whole purpose of what this game is. SPM is an amazingly unique and incredibly deep adventure. It is an RPG with all the standard RPG elements we have come accustomed to, yet it is a platformer with so many features we have never seen before. Overall, Super Paper Mario is an excellent game, and is deserving of a purchase by anyone who enjoys a good refreshing Mario game to come home to.
Originally Written By: Steve Wysowski