Paper Mario is the follow-up to Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars for the SNES. Existing in a world composed of paper cutouts, Paper Mario combines the simplified RPG system that made Super Mario RPG such an innovative and fun game with the side-scrolling action that made the 2D Mario games so popular. Not only is Paper Mario a tender bit of nostalgia to anyone who misses the good old days, but it is also a shining example of what Nintendo does best.
Paper Mario has a plot that should be familiar to any Mario fan. Bowser has once again invaded the land of the stars and has stolen the magical Star Rod--a scepter that has the power to grant the wishes of whoever holds it. Bowser used the Star Rod to imprison the seven star spirits, who used their power to watch over the land. Armed with the power to make his slightest wish a reality, Bowser quickly kidnapped Princess Peach, made himself invincible, and scattered the imprisoned star spirits to the ends of the Mushroom Kingdom. It's up to Mario to find the seven star spirits, rescue them from Bowser's evil minions, and eventually use their power to defeat Bowser himself.
Bowser and Princess Peach
The game plays similarly to Super Mario RPG. The game is broken up into the field screen and the battle screen. Mario and his party move around on the field screen--an adventure-based 3D plane where you interact with items, enemies, and people in real time. Once an enemy spots Mario, it will charge him. If you touch the enemy, you'll enter the battle screen--a turn-based, menu-driven combat system. How you touch an enemy has a dramatic effect on the start of the combat round: If Mario strikes the enemy in the field screen, he'll strike once before combat actually begins in the battle-screen system. If the enemy charges Mario, the enemy will strike first. This system rewards you for quick reflexes and mixes in a taste of the now extinct side-scrolling action that made the Super Mario series so popular. In combat, Mario has two basic attacks--jumping on enemies and hammering enemies. Mario will eventually gain several special attacks, but with the exception of the powers endowed to him by rescued star spirits, the attacks will always be a modification of his jump or hammer attack. Additionally, Mario can use items to aid him. The game has several items, both for offensive and defensive purposes. Mario also has friends who can help him. As in any RPG, Mario will eventually stumble across other characters that share his goal, and they will join Mario in his quest. Mario can have any one of his sidekicks in battle with him at a time and can use that character's power to defeat enemies. The characters also have special abilities that are used on the field screen. Characters will carry Mario across chasms, let Mario travel over the water, fetch items that are just out of reach, make Mario invisible, and more. Progressing through the game's levels is an excellent combination of turn-based combat and classic side-scrolling Mario action.
Paper Mario is an extremely simplified RPG. Mario has only six essential stats. Mario's heart points represent his health--when it reaches zero he dies. Mario's flower points let him and his sidekick execute special attacks. Badge points allow Mario to wear badges--special items in the game, which endow Mario with new abilities and attacks. Badges can be found, bought, and given to you throughout the course of the game, and they are vital to Mario's development. Each badge has a rating--depending on how powerful the badge is--that requires badge points to equip. The more badge points Mario has, the more badges he can wield. Additionally, Mario's jump and hammer attacks are represented by what particular hammer and pair of boots he has. Mario starts the game with the basic pair of boots and no hammer and eventually finds a powerful hammer and a more powerful pair of boots. These new boots not only boost your attack power, but they also let you stomp through special areas in the field screens. Additionally, the hammer will raise your attack power, and it can also be used to smash through huge blocks that will impede Mario's progress through the game. Once Mario rescues the first star spirit he'll gain star power--a category of special attacks comparable to magic in other RPGs. Mario has a star spirit gauge that will gradually fill during combat. Each star you rescue will not only increase the size of your star spirit gauge but will also endow Mario with a new star spirit technique. Once Mario rescues all of the star spirits, they'll combine to give Mario the star beam technique--the only attack powerful enough to stand a chance against Bowser and the Star Rod. Mario gains star points by defeating enemies in the battle screen. Once Mario collects 100 star points he levels up. Leveling up replenishes any spent heart points, flower points, and star power, and lets you choose to upgrade one of three stats--your heart points, badge points, or flower points. Unfortunately, leveling up only upgrades that one stat, so you'll have to choose carefully. Also, once you beat the boss of any one area, the enemies in that area will no longer give you star points when you defeat them. This, combined with the slow process of upgrading all your stats, keeps the leveling up in Paper Mario a fairly controlled process, as you cannot become more powerful than you're supposed to be. As such, the game is always challenging--Mario will never beat a boss character without breaking a sweat.