Paper Mario Review – Definitive 50 N64 Game #9

The list so far: The Definitive 50 N64 Games

Square’s decision to move the Final Fantasy franchise to the PlayStation was a devastating blow to the N64. The move represented a sea change that saw most of Japan’s top developers, all long-time Nintendo supporters, shift focus to Sony’s platform.

One of the biggest difficulties that came from this change in development support was the N64’s glaring absence of RPGs, a genre very much on the rise in its time.

Despite the success of Nintendo and Square’s partnership on Mario RPG back on the Super Nintendo, the rift between the two companies meant Nintendo would have to go it alone on a sequel.

Development of a Mario RPG successor was handed to the geniuses at Nintendo studio Intelligent Systems, and they gave us Paper Mario in return.

So Bowser has stolen the wish-granting Star Rod and made himself invincible. He’s also imprisoned the seven Star Spirits, the only things that could stop him, kidnapped Princess Peach, and lifted Peach’s Castle into the sky. Of course, the job of freeing the Star Spirits and setting everything right falls on Mario’s shoulders, and that’s where you come in.

That may sound pretty predictable, but thanks to some hilarious writing, ridiculous dialogue, and constant visual gags based on the paper aesthetic, Paper Mario ends up being completely charming and totally unforgettable.

Paper Mario follows in the spirit of Mario RPG as a simple, action heavy RPG, perfect for beginners. There’s some light platforming sprinkled in and secrets to be found.

Paper Mario retains the concept of timed hits, called action commands this time around, which allow the player to deal extra damage in battle by performing attacks just right. Some attacks will have you trying to hit A at just the right. Others will ask you to hold back and release the joystick or tap A repeatedly.

There’s also a lot of subtle strategy to battles. You have to consider which moves to use on which enemies. You don’t want to jump on spiked enemies, or you’ll hurt yourself. You do want to jump on flying enemies to knock them out of the sky and make them vulnerable to ground attacks.

Between action commands and these strategy considerations, battles end up being a lot more interactive and requiring a lot more attention than other turned based RPGs.

Instead of Mario teaming up with any of the Mushroom Kingdom’s usual band of known characters, Mario’s biggest allies in this game are all new, albeit familiar looking. Party members include Goombario the goomba, Lady Bow the boo, Kooper the Koopa Troopa, and more. It seems that many of the races Bowser draws his armies from aren’t all bad, as these guys make for great allies.

Each party member has his or her own unique ability that helps Mario advance in his quest by interacting with the environment in some way. Bombette, for example, blows up cracked walls. Parakarry, meanwhile, can fly you across short distances.

Although you eventually wind up with a sizable party, Mario’s easily the leading man. You always play as the mustachioed one, and simply switch between the rest of the cast, with only one selectable at a time, inside and outside of battle.

Mario’s the only one with hit points, the only one to gain experience, and the only one who can equip special badges.

The princess also proves that she can take care of herself. Between each of the game’s chapters, you’ll leave Mario’s quest to check on how Peach is doing. These segments make for fun interludes where you can sneak around Peach’s Castle and uncover Bowser’s innermost feelings by reading his diary.

Of course, between the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi games, the spiritual successors to Mario RPG are still going strong.

Let me know what you think of Paper Mario and the Definitive 50 in the comments section below. Don’t forget to like this video, share this video, and subscribe. Check back next week for entry #8 on the Definitive 50 N64 Games.