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Super Paper Mario
Video Game Review by Animevgirl

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: April 9, 2007
Rating: E
Platform: Wii
Genre: RPG/Platform
Mode: Single-player

Has Peach lost her mind? In a sense, yes.

The decor of Count Bleck's castle suits its depraved owner.

Those who believe that only women are efficient multi-taskers have never met Mario. The iconic plumber's stout stature conceals an incredible prowess as he has assumed numerous roles, from a chivalrous savior to a team player (often at the same time). He is possibly one of the most versatile characters in video game lore, and Super Paper Mario for the Wii further testifies to this. Though Mario's very name evokes the entirety and complexity of video game history, this title ironically exists as an outsider amidst today's graphically-advanced and gameplay-intensive games. Yet Super Paper Mario's simplicity is endearing and effective, both preserving and reinventing conventions of the Mario series that can easily arouse nostalgia for the days when quality, not style, defined games.

Mario and Luigi certainly have a cozy abode.

Hope they enjoy the peace and quiet while they can.

Disaster looms upon our ill-fated heroes. Awaiting the fulfillment of an ancient evil prophecy, the villainous Count Bleck has forced a marriage between Princess Peach and Bowser in order to forge a Chaos Heart and inflict destruction upon all worlds. Discovering from a frantic Toad that Peach has been kidnapped (surprise, surprise), the Mario brothers confront Bleck only to be overpowered; Luigi vanishes, and poor Mario finds himself alone. It is then that our courageous plumber is acquainted with Tippi, a fairy-like creature who calls herself a Pixl. Suddenly transported to the quirky town of Flipside, Mario soon discovers that he is the chosen one, ordained by fate to thwart the ominous prophecy that Count Bleck intends to fulfill. Together with Tippi, Mario ventures to gather eight Pure Hearts to salvage all worlds and rescue his hypnotized comrades who remain in Bleck's clutches.

Our heroes valiantly confront the maniacal Count Bleck.
Gotta love his hat.

Tippi rushes to Mario's aid. So begins a
wonderful friendship.

After Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, Mario and I mostly parted ways. I was never particularly drawn to the slew of Mario Party titles, and took little interest even in recent titles such as Mario Strikers, as I'm typically a story-oriented gamer. Super Paper Mario, however, renewed my faith in the series, and its surprisingly meaningful and serious storyline forges new possibilities for our blithe hero in future installments. As I've come to expect from Nintendo, the dialogue in this game is quite mature and humorous, effectively resisting Mario's stigma as solely a jovial children's icon. There is a large amount of text, and sifting through it can become tedious. In retrospect, though, I appreciate the dialogue's formation of Mario and his companions; it's amusing to observe them engage in witty wordplay and display some visible emotions. With all of its talk about hearts and worlds, I couldn't help but conjure the story's superficial similarities to Kingdom Hearts, but Mario and his loyal teammates have earned more complex roles. The tale is essentially one of betrayal and love, though Super Paper Mario is engagingly light-hearted when approaching these notions. The story's antagonists are as colorful as their heroic counterparts, and the ways in which the heroes interact with them and with one another comprise the game's undeniably quirky charm.

Mario and Boomer, the bomb Pixl, greet Flipside's locals.

Of course, Mario encounters several locals on his quest.

The gameplay is perhaps the game's greatest strength and weakness. The game resembles an RPG in its usage of HP and experience points to augment damage done to enemies, as well as through various items you will amass. You initially assume control of Mario, and as you progress upon your quest, you will rescue Peach, Luigi, and a grudging Bowser whom you can control as well. In order to do so, however, players must switch characters manually, which at times adversely affects the pacing. Mario alone also possesses the capability to alternate between 2-D and 3-D for a limited amount of time, rendering your teammates somewhat useless throughout portions of the game. I found Mario's teammates to be simply his "accessories" from time to time; there are certain areas where abilities they alone wield will be necessary, but one could otherwise finish the game without fully exploiting them.

Here stand seven colorful entrances to the worlds
Mario will traverse.

And just as colorful is this colossal Peach
after she receives a star.

The alternation between side-scrolling 2-D and 3-D is an integral and generally praiseworthy aspect of the gameplay. The graphics in both are fairly simplistic yet also exude an implicit complexity through their clarity and subtle detail. I've heard gamers criticize the claustrophobic environments, however, and I would have to agree. The 2-D view is not meant to be incredibly expansive, of course, but I would have welcomed more space in the 3-D view. The characters in 3-D pleasantly appear as cardboard cutouts, but the environments are excessively contained, shortening the length of the game as well. Yet despite the limited space, I enjoyed the subtlety of the design and the clever placement of hidden items, obstacles, and doors, creatively exercising gamers' intelligence and common sense. These days I find myself wistfully reminiscing about the quality of earlier video games, so Super Paper Mario's design suited my current tastes.

Luigi surveys the scenery of Lineland, the first world.
His high jumps prove useful here.

Lineland in 3-D is just as scenic. Too bad only
Mario can witness it.

Much of the game involves familiarizing yourself with various environments, and the use of Pixls facilitate this exploration. The budding relationship between Mario and Tippi (much like that of Link and Midna in Twilight Princess) imbues depth and purpose within her character, though she is primarily a guide who offers hints and reveals hidden areas. Throughout the game, you'll encounter numerous other Pixls with innovative and utile abilities, ranging from increasing your speed and planting bombs to rendering you invisible. I enjoyed this element of the game the most; the Pixls are infinitely necessary and offer players several interactive alternatives to solving various puzzles or conquering enemies within a game that's fairly linear. Players can only equip one Pixl at a time, which is somewhat inconvenient, but they faithfully float behind you at all times and are accessible to Peach, Bowser, and Luigi as well. Note their names (and those of the worlds, for that matter)- you'll discover some of that delightful wordplay I mentioned earlier in the review.

Peach's umbrella is not simply a fashion accessory.

She won't need it in Gloam Valley's arid deserts, however.

I was, however, dissatisfied with the extent to which the Wii's capabilities are exploited. Players must use the Wii remote as a classic controller, rotating it to mimic the controls of the original Super Mario Bros. Occasionally the Wii remote must be shaken or pointed toward the screen to uncover hidden locations using Tippi, but otherwise the device forfeits its unique potential. I can appreciate the developers' intention to invoke the spirit of the original Mario, but this is a Wii title, after all. A few of the Pixls' abilities (particularly the Pixl that enables you to throw objects) would have suited the Wii remote's distinct abilities well.

The waters of Bitland, though, are another story.
Good thing Bowser can swim.

Mario has little trouble navigating the same waters in 3-D.
Neither does his Pixl, apparently.

The worlds within Super Paper Mario are as disparate and vibrant as our heroes and their Pixls. From Flipside (where you can explore several shops and secret locations), you will gain access to seven elemental worlds, traversing treacherous waters, torrid deserts, and even the vastness of space. The final "world" is Count Bleck's ominous castle, which is wonderfully and creatively designed. Interacting with various people (or aliens), performing certain tasks, and conquering bosses comprise your primary objectives within each location, which nicely diversifies your experiences in each area. Each world consists of one chapter with four segments, some of which move quickly while others demand more time. Upon the completion of a chapter, the Pure Heart you obtain after a battle with Bleck's minions must be placed into Heart Pillars hidden throughout Flipside. Like those of the characters, the worlds' designs are pleasantly and colorfully simple, though there is an incredible amount of understated detail infused into backgrounds and scenery that exude a lively energy.

Strange to see Bowser using his abilities to protect Mario,
his sworn nemesis.

Mario finds himself stranded in "Underwhere,"
aka the Underworld, in 3-D.

Much like the game itself, the music is both memorably buoyant and appropriately dramatic. Veterans of the series will easily discern familiar tunes that are pleasantly revamped, though other melodies complement each location's distinct ambience as well. There is little here that is profoundly compelling or inspiring (such as Twilight Princess's emotionally resonant score), but the music maintains the spirited charm of the iconic characters we've grown to love.

You'll venture through an Asian castle as well,
a stark contrast to the Underworld's gloom.

Even in 3-D, the environment retains an effervescent

Super Paper Mario certainly seems to embrace the notion "less is more." Melding childlike allure and a subtle, complex maturity, it is a title that will momentarily wean you off the heavily stylized, combat-intensive games that currently dominate the market. It's a fairly short game (excluding the sidequests that are available), though I already look forward to playing through it once more. Even if you aren't overcome with nostalgia for the good old days of the NES, Super Paper Mario may at least leave you appreciative of how much our little plumber has grown over the years (in spirit, that is).

Uh-oh. Looks like Mario is lost in outer space.

A little 3-D magic changes that, however.


Story: 86/100
Graphics: 95/100
Gameplay: 89/100
Music: 85/100
Overall enjoyability: 90/100

Copyright by Anime-Source.Com All Right Reserved.

Published on: 2007-09-09 (7740 reads)

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