A paper jamboree
Ever since his first outing on the Super Nintendo in the realm of RPGs, Mario has been a familiar face in the traditionally teenage-faced hero and heroine dominated culture of the JRPG scene. I'd take an Ultra Hammer over an Excalibur any day of the week. That said, not all of Mario's RPG outings have been stellar. His two latest, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team and Paper Mario: Sticker Star suffered from an exhausting amount of required tutorials and obtuse design respectively. However, now with his most recent outing, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, many of the problems that plagued those aforementioned games are gone, though some new ones do pop up.
The latest Mario & Luigi features a much more simplistic story than past games. It's also much more cliche as well. When Luigi and a Toad are inside Peach's Castle's cellar, Luigi bumps into a shelf that opens up a magical book. In turn, this book unleashes a profusion of paper characters onto the Mushroom Kingdom, including the always silent Paper Mario. What happens next has both Bowser and Paper Bowser conspiring to and succeeding in capturing both Princess Peaches. It's up the team of Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario to rescue them.
While the kidnapping of Princess Peach (or in this case, Princess Peaches) is nothing new for the Mario series and is actually a step back story-wise for the RPG series, the true star of Paper Jam's tale is the colorful localization and humor. Furthermore, while past Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario games outside of Sticker Star have introduced multiple new characters, Paper Jam isn't as creative, instead using all characters from the already established Mario universe. This will no doubt disappoint fans looking for the next Mr. L, Fawful,or Don Pianta, but for me, it was nice seeing characters that I was familiar with take center stage. While there aren't new faces to find along Mario trio's adventure, each character that enters the picture is full of hilarious, sharp witted, and charming dialogue, one of the things I always look for in Mario RPGs, and it's here in Paper Jam.
|When it's from the mouth of Bowser, you can bet it's no idle threat.|
There are over 150 Toads to collect in Paper Jam, and each one is part of one kind of mini-game or another, another common element of the game. While it would seem tiring to collect Toads again and again, the scenarios are so different and varied that the act of collecting Toads seldom feels forced or tedious. Sometimes you'll have to carefully explore a closed off area, combing the area for hidden Toads; others you'll need to move towards Toads, urging them into an area like a cattle rancher; while others have you fighting to rescue the Toads. This along with a great amount of other mini-game types, whether it's chucking Bob-Ombs at an attacking Koopaling or trying to dodge attacks for a set amount of time, make for a lot of gameplay variety that is quite welcome and usually always fun in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam.
|There is no time to lose when there are Toads on the loose!|
|Craft an excellent battle strategy in these special papercraft battles.|
|Stretch out that flabby body of yours, Mario.|
|With more Paper Mario copies at your disposal, you can dish out even more pain.|
|Use Paper Mario's abilities to hitch a ride when one of these two Pokey towers attacks.|
|Like real racquetball, but without needing to let the boss win.|
With Paper Mario and various paper characters at the forefront of this edition of Mario & Luigi, you'd think there'd be a giant gameplay focus or at least some major elements from past Paper Mario games. This isn't really so, unfortunately. The paper elements are used sparingly, such as having Paper Mario be able to squeeze through certain gaps that the other characters wouldn't be able to do, for instance. The potential for partner characters as seen in both Paper Mario and its GameCube sequel was there, but this was squandered, which will no doubt disappoint longtime Paper Mario fans.
However, despite the sparing use of paper characters and abilities in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, the game is still a phenomenal effort. Specific alterations to the formula from past games make it a more engaging and enjoyable game. For one, the mandatory tutorials from Dream Team are a thing of the past. The tutorials instead can be accessed through a guide book in the main menu. Secondly, dialogue and story sequences can be slightly sped up by holding down the R button. This is fantastic for repeat plays, particularly if you want to try out the hard mode that gets unlocked after the initial play-through is completed.
Despite only having six or so major areas in the game to explore, Paper Jam is a lengthy play. It lasted me just over 26 hours, but this was with finding all of the item boxes, bean locations, and collecting every Toad. It was enjoyable from beginning to end, which is something I haven't been able to say for a Mario RPG in a long time. Who knew it'd be Paper Jam that would give me that chance.
|Jumping on open-mouthed Piranha Plants is always a recipe for disaster, so use a hammer (or six).|
[SPC Says: A-]