Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Review
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door surprised me when I first picked it up. I remembered how much I loved the original game, but was unsure if Nintendo and Intelligent Systems could pull the same effect off again. I bought the game, got home, and put the disc in the Gamecube. The title screen was welcoming enough. There was a host of colorful characters, with Mario in the center. "Here we go," I thought to myself.
Sure enough, Paper Mario immediately delivered. As is par with most Mario games, Princess Peach has gone missing, and it's up to Mario to find her. Mario immediately heads to Rogueport, a mischievous town with a reputation to match where Peach was last seen. The game's wittiness begins almost immediately. In the span of just a few minutes, the game is set up when we learn of seven legendary "Crystal Stars" scattered around the Kingdom.
The graphics are as cartoony and fun as they were in the N64 predecessor, and even sharper thanks to the Gamecube. The developers really took advantage of the paper theme. Boats will simply fold over when they need to turn around; houses fold up or down when you exit or enter them. All of those little quirks that make the game seem almost real (in a cardboard/paper environment sort of way) really enhance the overall gameplay. Even Mario's abilities take full advantage of his paper nature.
I don't want to give away too much, but Mario's abilities and how you get them are a true trademark of the series. From becoming a boat to a paper plane, the humor and usefulness of each of these abilities is incredibly well done. The learning curve on the abilities is very short, too. Just once or twice for practice and you've already got it down; the game provides you plenty of time to practice in the form of instructional scenes!
All of the environments in Paper Mario have their own distinct flavor. You may be inside of a massive tree for one chapter, and maybe a massive dungeon for another. Once again, I don't want to give away too much here, because I really don't want to spoil all the surprises Paper Mario has in store, but I can say that each environment has its own music, theme, and wacky cast of characters that won't easily be forgotten.
Speaking of characters, Paper Mario provides a wealth of witty partners for Mario on his quest for the Stars. Each can be leveled up (via Shine Sprites), and has their own special ability to accompany their arsenal of attacks. But one of the most striking features of these characters comes in the dialogue. There is no actual "speech" in the game, but rather, there are well-made speech bubbles - the speed and size of which change according to what the tempo and volume of the speaker should be. Furthermore, each character has its own set of humorous dialogue. While it may not be enough to make you play through the game a dozen times, the conversation is different for each character, and each conversation has its own funny remarks in store.
With a good 35-40 hours of solid gameplay, Paper Mario 2 is not an easy game to get through. It is just difficult enough to make things interesting for the entire game. The game also focuses a lot on storyline, so you're always discovering something new and vital to the plot. Luckily, save points are provided very often in case you just can't handle the amount of plot they dish out and wish to save your progress and log off.
The battling is slightly different from the original, too. The system is made up of the same basic principles as the first game, but instead of it just taking place on the land, Paper Mario 2 stresses the "play" part of the game by setting it up on a stage. Each environment you travel in has its own unique backdrops for the stage. Probably one of the most interesting features, though, is the audience. When you begin the game, you only have a few people in the audience, but as you progress, you get as many as 50 people to fill the seats. They interact with you, too. If you lose a battle or flee, a few members will leave. If you do well in a battle, a few come in. Boss battles can even fill the room! The audience can also throw you helpful items, or, in the worst case, throw rocks and heavy objects that do damage if you don't catch them in time
Unfortunately, Paper Mario 2 does have just a few shortcomings. Often times the battles will get very repetitive. Once you know how you should beat a certain type of enemy, the challenge is removed from fighting them. Also, there is a lot of travelling back and forth and back and forth from place to place, which seems to detract from the gameplay and gets me more frustrated than anything.
All the same, Paper Mario 2 delivers for young and old alike. While I may understand some more of the humor than littler ones, they can still get a kick out of the cartoon-like graphics and sound effects. For any Mario or RPG fan with a Gamecube, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a must-have.