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- Paper Mario: Sticker Star
I really want Paper Mario refrigerator magnets for some reason.
Mario does not level up—nothing else shows just how surprisingly and strikingly different Paper Mario: Sticker Star is to the rest of the Paper Mario series. If that weren't enough, Mario only has a finite number of attacks in battle. These small but significant changes might be frightening to Paper Mario fans at first, but imaginative gameplay is no stranger to Nintendo and Sticker Star has this in spades.
Likely in recognition of its creative license with the usual Paper Mario formula, Sticker Star keeps its story simple and light. On the night of the Sticker Fest, all of the kingdom's citizens gather to celebrate the arrival of the Sticker Comet, believed to be a wishing star powerful enough to grant everyone's wishes. But mere moments after the comet lands safely on stage does Bowser, ever the power-hungry Koopa, lunge at the star, breaking it into a bunch of smaller pieces that spread all across Mushroom Kingdom like some kind of Dragon Ball. A mysterious crown then descends on Bowser, turning him into a super holofoiled version of himself who decides to kidnap, who else, Princess Peach.
Unable to contend with Bowser's newfound power at the festival, Mario soon awakens the following day with the urgent mission of clean-up. The guardian of the Sticker Star, Kersti, quickly appears and blames Mario for the mess and urges him to collect all of the pieces to set the world right again. If Kersti sounds a bit like Navi, that's because she is (and perhaps even a little more annoying). Nonetheless, Mario will need Kersti's Sticker Power and bountiful advice to rescue the princess once more.
The concept of stickers, in lieu of merely paper, runs through the entire game. At a certain point, Mario learns how to transform the world into a 2D plane, allowing him to hover above it and place or peel off objects; for instance, yanking off a water fountain to save a poor citizen who has been trapped behind it. Strewn throughout the town are Toads stuck to the walls by evil Bowser stickers or hidden behind alleyways.
Likewise, shoes and hammer stickers are also planted around the environment, each representing attacks that Mario can perform. Storing these stickers in his inventory, Mario can then use them judicially and strategically in battle. Since each sticker only lasts one time, the player must continually replenish his stock by combing the environment for new stickers or purchasing them in the store. Having a strong supply and variety of stickers is essential for reaching the end of the stage and defeating the boss.
Instead of having attribute like strength or agility, Mario only has HP as a basic stat, which can grow in increments by earning an HP Up Heart through quests and side missions. The sticker inventory holds two pages of fifteen stickers each at the beginning of the game, but it can expand to hold more. There's no need to explain how powerful that is. Larger golden stickers tend to have special abilities, like a pair of scissors that can either deal a lot of damage or be an effective tool against a specific enemy. Normally, if you're trying to bulldoze your way through a boss, there's a golden sticker that would have made it much easier (or "a better way" as Kersti loves to call it).
In place of experience points, coins act as an important currency used for much more than buying health items. Once Mario earns the Battle Spinner, similar to the Bingo! in The Thousand-Year Door, he can choose to spin a special slot machine during a turn. If you manage to hit two or three pictures in a row, Mario gets two or three moves in a single turn, which he will likely need against bosses who do the same thing without needing to use a slot machine. Mario can also ensure he gets two or even three in a row, but every action with the Battle Spinner costs coins, and more coins as it's continually used in the same battle.
Between the limited amount of coins and stickers, the need for strategic action is high and incredibly enticing. To say that about a Paper Mario game is surprising, both in general and for the series itself. Paper Mario: Sticker Star releases on November 11, 2012.