Following the fold. Review

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door Info

genre

  • RPG

players

  • 1

Publisher

  • Nintendo

Developer

  • Nintendo

Release Date

  • 11/30/1999
  • Out Now

Platform

  • GameCube

rating

Following the fold.

Why is Mario always searching for celestial doodads? If the little goober isn’t

trying to collect stars, he’s

trying to find pieces of the sun and moon. I think in his next game, Mario

should just search for the seven mystical meatballs to create the perfect meatball

sandwich.

But while it’s-a spicy fun to point out gaming mainstays like Mario’s astrological

kick, it’s far more entertaining to finally play a Mario game wholly aware of

its clichés

and ready to make fun of itself. Paper Mario: The Thousand

Year Door
does exactly

that, a much needed reflective bonk on the head for the Mario series and a pretty

darn good RPG to boot.

At first, The Thousand Year Door retreads the original Paper

Mario
. Nintendo-land (or whatever it’s called) is thrown into a tizzy when

Princess Peach is abducted while on vacation. Mario catches wind of the matter

and, using a handy map, sets off to restore order by collecting seven magic

stars. They should really start paying him for this kind of work.

If you are patient, the game starts throwing some pretty sweet curveballs. Sure,

Mario is still saving the Princess and eating mushrooms, but more so than any

previous Mario RPG, The

Thousand Year Door
really knows how to have fun with the story. You’ll

watch the usual suspects like Luigi and Bowser go through their everyday lives,

acting strange and funny and entertaining you thoroughly the whole time. The

game’s progression even manages to stay interesting despite its traditional approach.

While The

Thousand Year Door
is divided into typical chapters, you aren’t

always in the same village-to-castle-to-dungeon loop. Instead, you might find

yourself in a full on Battle Royale fighting championship. Another chapter takes

you to a Twilight World, where the environments resemble something out of Viewtiful

Joe
. The creativity and variety is commendable.

In between these chapters are small interludes during which you discover the goings-on with the other main characters, such as the world conquering X-naught aliens, Princess Peach, and Bowser. The best part of the first Super

Mario RPG
was having Bowser along for the ride. This time, though, the game goes so far as to throw in some Super

Mario Brothers
side scrolling action…starring Bowser himself! It’s a total mindscrew to see a gigantic Bowser run from left to right, stomping on Goombas, and illustrates the game’s sense of humor.

Mario himself has plenty of stomping to do. Visible on-screen enemies are avoidable,

removing the pain of random battles that plague too many RPGs. Instead, enemies

will slowly waggle towards you, and if you properly time a stomp or a hammer

smash, you can get the leg up on the turn-based combat. The battle

system continues the same finely tuned, hubris free system of Paper

Mario
.

Instead of fighting off a 999999 HP beast like in every other RPG under the

sun, the numbers you deal with in Paper Mario are small and manageable. Hop

on an enemy, knock off 1 point. One. Uno! That’s

it! In turn, there are clear and intuitive solutions for every confrontation

rather than making you just launch the kitchen sink at every bad guy.

Like before, you can affect the damage given and taken by timed button presses.

Nail it when you strike for added damage, or nail it when attacked to halve

or even nullify damage entirely. This gives an added layer of depth to what

can be a somewhat repetitive combat system.

In an interesting design twist, combat plays out on a stage, of sorts, complete

with an audience. Play well and you can recoup your Special meter faster via

audience applause. If you properly work the system, you can keep the Special

meter active through long stretches of battles, such as a 100 room dungeon

challenge. The crowd will even toss out items from time to time or pelt our

hero with trash should he stink it up too much.

Throughout his adventure, Mario gains the help of various buddies, like a pony-tailed

Goomba named, obviously, Goombella, a Koopa Troopa and a former chubby, diva

ghost with oddly disturbing ghost breasts. Most of these buddies parallel those

in the first Paper

Mario
. Gombella can “tattletale” to reveal enemy abilities, while the

Koopa buddy can hurl his shell to retrieve objects.

As before, your party’s abilities can be improved through Badges, similar to

the Final

Fantasy VII
Materia system. There’s a badge for every occasion, such as

spending less fire points for moves or healing before each turn. Finding the

multitude of hidden badges is part of the big quest and helps facilitate the

overall growth of Team Mario.

The “Paper” Mario concept is taken literally this time around, as Mario can

be folded into a paper airplane, a boat, or a tube to navigate past previously

insurmountable obstacles. In classic Nintendo game design, certain areas are

closed off until you progress far enough to learn some groovy new special ability.

It’s just a smartly designed game.

And quite a pretty one. The graphics reprise the combination 2D and 3D look of

the first Paper

Mario
, but naturally, the storybook colors looks sharper and fresher

than on the N64. The visuals truly shine when the screen fills with hundreds

of hustling, bustling hand-drawn characters. Nintendo rarely puts out a shoddy

product and Paper

Mario
is no exception, featuring a smooth framerate and few load times.

It’s

not always about high polygon count, you know.

The sound is classic Nintendo fare with plenty of familiar tunes, but I still think it’s a bummer that these characters aren’t fleshed out with actual voices. This isn’t the era of silent movies. If there’s one Nintendo cliché that could be done away with, it’s the lack of voices. Paper

Mario
does creatively use writing styles, font size, and text speed to create voice through visuals, but it’s high time to actually get some vocals out of Luigi, Bowser et al.

At its best, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door features smarter,

sharper writing than the other Mario role-playing games. Yet in spite of its

clever, tongue-in-cheek style, The

Thousand Year Door
occasionally rests of its laurels and recalls the

first Paper

Mario
too much. There isn’t much new ground broken in terms of its overall

gameplay. For instance, the game’s interactivity is underutilized. As Mario,

you’re running around with a giant hammer. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to

hit an NPC and actually have it react? One of the mini-games revolves around

the Gamecube’s internal clock. Why not take a cue from Animal

Crossing
‘s time-based world to create villages and environments that feature

functioning day/night cycles?

Despite its lack of serious innovation, Paper Mario: The

Thousand Year Door
is another fun, high-quality RPG. Its humor, gameplay and delivery combine to create an excellent romp through familiar terrain. Fans of the original shouldn’t pass it up, and newbies will certainly want to take a peek behind the door.

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

4
Rating