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N64: Paper Mario

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Raging Fuel

The jumbles man, the jumbles
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Right from the start, Paper Mario has got the disadvantage that it’s a cute looking game. Most people would dismiss it straight away as being a little kids’ game. But this is before they play it. Just an hour of play should convince anyone that Paper Mario is one of the most complex RPGs on the N64. I know that’s not saying much considering the N64 had jack all when it came to RPGs, but Paper Mario could hold its own on any system.

After playing Paper Mario quite a lot I can tell you it is a deep game. I’ve played over 15 hours and I’m only about a quarter finished. But when I tried to start this review I wasn’t sure where to start. Do I write about the battle system, items collection or the story? Then I thought maybe I should start where most people are going to judge the game. It’s graphical style. So here I go. No. Paper Mario is not a 2D game. The gameplay (apart from the battles) is totally 3D. In fact, apart from characters and some items, the world of Paper Mario is made of polygons. In my opinion this style works very well and has allowed the designers more artistic freedom, even adding humour. Scenes where Mario falls five storeys and lands without getting hurt are explained easily: Mario just floats down like paper.

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The story behind Paper Mario is probably the worst I’ve ever heard from an RPG. But then there is not a lot of leeway in the Mario franchise. The only way the story would be interesting is if new characters that had depth were introduced. And then it just wouldn’t be Mario. The developers know and have given Paper Mario a sense of humour about itself. Nothing 'laugh out loud' funny, but enough so you know that the story isn’t meant to be serious. So the story goes like this. Up in the sky there is a place called Star Haven. In Star Haven seven Star Spirits, using the Star Rod, grant wishes people make to the stars (right…). The Star Spirits can choose which wishes they want to grant (i.e. only good wishes). One day Bowser got so sick of the Star Spirits not granting his wishes, like “I wish Mario was weaker than me” and “I wish Princess Peach liked me” (I’m serious. It actually says this in the game), that he decides to steal the Star Rod and use it to imprison the Star Spirits and kidnap Peach (along with her castle). Now Mario has to rescue the Star Spirits, Peach and her castle. Well, at least with a story like this, it can only get better.

And it does.

One thing I like about Paper Mario is the battle system. Firstly, the battles are not random (like in the Pokemon and Final Fantasy series). This means that you can actually see your enemy in the screen and try to avoid them if you don’t want to battle (like if you are low on health, or just couldn’t be bothered with another battle you know you’re going to win anyway). For me there is nothing more annoying than a RPG that forces you into a battle that you are going to win and will get crap all experience points for.

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The battles in Paper Mario are turn-based. Strategy can play a big part in defeating enemies. Since the battles are 2D, some ground based attacks will only work on the enemy closest to you. When you are fighting koopas you can either use an attack which will do damage straight away, or you can knock them onto their backs so next time you can do more damage and they cannot attack while they are on their back.

Throughout his adventure Mario will meet a few characters that will join him to defeat Bowser, although you can only use two characters at a time (one has to be Mario and you can switch between the others). Each character has their own special abilities that can be used in or out of battle. For example Koopa can use his shell attack out of battle to reach objects that Mario can’t jump to. In battle he can use this to attack enemies.

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In Paper Mario experience points are called star points. The only way to get more star points is to defeat enemies. Obviously the more difficult the enemy, the more star points you receive. Many newer RPGs allow you to gain experience by completing quests as well as defeating enemies and it would have been nice if this had been included in Paper Mario. After each 100 star points you level up and get to choose whether you want +5 FP (flower points, you use up FP when you perform certain attacks), +5 HP (health points) or +3 BP (badge points, I will explain about these soon). In the early stages of the game it can be hard to decide what you will choose, but later on the choice becomes easier, probably because badges can be used to increase your HP and attacking power (I am yet to find a badge that increases your FP. If someone knows if one exists then feel free to tell me).

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Apart from the normal attacks that each character has, Mario can find and buy items to use in battle. Simple ones, like Mushrooms, just regain HP (health points) while others can be powerful attacks. Mario can only carry 10 items at a time. A special groups of items (not included in the 10 Mario can carry) are the badges. The badges add a huge depth to Paper Mario as wearing badges gives you special powers. The powers that badges have greatly vary, from the passive abilities like +5 max HP, the aggressive, like a more powerful jump, to the just plain useless, like change the sound FX of Mario’s attacks. The only problem is that each badge takes a set amount of BP (badge points) to use, and Mario doesn’t have nearly enough to use them all. At first Mario starts out with three BP, but as said above, you can upgrade the number of BP you have.

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The whole game puts all the different elements together well. Although many are put off by the cartoony style, it soon grows on you. The solid battle system is easy to use, so anyone can just jump into the game, without much effort. Although the game is long (apparently over 60 hours, but I haven’t finished it yet, so I don’t know) it gets a bit repetitive sometimes. Paper Mario is not perfect, but is easily the best RPG on the N64.

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I found Paper Mario to be best played on 1964 using Jabo’s D3D 1.3 plugin and Azimer’s Audio 0.3 (‘Old driver’) plugin.

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Graphics: 8

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 8.5

(Originally posted December 23, 2001)


New member
Raging Fuel said:
I am yet to find a badge that increases your FP. If someone knows if one exists then feel free to tell me

There is an "FP Plus" badge. I don't remember how you get it, but there are 2 or 3 of them in the game, and are cumulative. Each uses 3 BP and gives Mario 5 extra FP, just like the HP Plus badges, only with FP.

Check www.gamefaqs.com for a full badge list and instructions on how to get them, if you're curious.
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