Malik (11/24/04)

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (GCN)

From Nintendo

So, this is yet another game in the late 2004 influx of way too many big named titles...yup, Paper Mario was among the most anticipated on GCN releases (with Pikmin 2 and Metroid Prime 2) for this season, and it definitely stands out. The only question is if this sequel to a N64 title is actually worthy of being reincarnated. 


You are Mario. I think you know the whole deal with who this man is already. Basically, one day the Princess is shopping while on vacation and finds a magical box that only a pure-hearted person can open. Obviously, this means her. She finds a treasure map inside the box and immediately writes to Mario (sending the map with her letter) to get his help in finding the treasure. So, Mario leaves Luigi and heads to Roguesport, the town Peach sent her letter from. 

When Mario arrives, there is no sign of Peach, but a small Goomba (Goombella is her name) ends up forcing Mario to help save her from a bunch of thugs. Mario wins, searches for Peach and gets Goombella interested in the treasure hunt. From here, Mario gets the help of Goombella's teacher (a professor of some sort), who is an expert on the history of Roguesport and the surrounding land. 

He explains how 1000 years before Roguesport sunk into the ground and was sealed behind a special door (the Thousand Year Door from the title). Over time, the modern Roguesport was built on top of the ancient sealed ruins. So, to open the sealed door, Mario is told that he must use the map he got from Peach, along with the seven crystal stars. So, Mario does the obvious; he sets out to find the stars while looking for a sign of Peach...take one guess where she is...yup! She's been kidnapped. 

That sets the stage and is about as deep as the polot actually gets in the game. Mario will meet many wacky characters with really shallow background stories (like the story for Goombella never gets more detailed than what I just told you...she got help from Mario when attacked by thugs...that's it). The plot never really unfolds into anything more than what you'd get from any other Mario game, which is sad considering this is an RPG and should have the slightest level of depth to it (Mario and Luigi for the GBA had a deeper plot than did Mario RPG for the SNES). At least the random bits of silly humor does liven up the stale and pointless plot...for a while. 

Sadly, the lack of plot and the tedium of the repetition you will go through will work together to lower your interest after a good 15 hours. Nintendo seems to have forgotten that while RPGs have tedius game systems, they are interesting (at least a good RPG is) all the way through due to a top notch plot. So, in short, the lack of any depth to the plot starts off as a good feature to emphasize the game play system and the silliness of the game, but over time it starts to hurt the game by leaving the player with no motivation. You can take that either way; it's good if you want to only play for 15-20 hours, but it's horrible if you aim to complete the game. 

Game Play 

A majority of this game plays like a non-random-battle RPG. You walk around town, with the ability to jump, use Mario's hammer, use a buddy's special power, talk to people, buy items, rest at an inn, etc. You should know the deal by now. You can do everything outside a battle in PM that you could do in a FF game, with the action elements of a game like FF: Mystic Quest, Xenosaga, etc. However, the towns, are nice and small in PM, so you don't waste your time talking to pointless characters like one would do in Star Ocean: Till The End of Time. So, in short, towns are just that; short and sweet with the ability to explore a little extra thanks to jumping and other actions. 

Also, like a standard issue RPG, your menu system is quite similar to those in an RPG. You have stat screens showing your current experience (towards leveling up), HP, FP (flower points: magic points shared with your whole party), SP (star points: which are only used by Mario when he unleashes a special ability learned from obtaining the map or the crystal stars), money (the coins of Mario fame), badges (like equipment, but you have a limited number of badges based on your maximum...), BP (...badge points: how many points worth of badges you can equip, where each badge will have a cost between 0 and 6+), items, logs, maps, etc. It's all pretty standard issue RPG stuff so far. 

Also, the dungeons and the overworld areas all ply like a non-random-battle RPG. The look and feel is like that found in the towns, but with less friendly people and more enemies, obviously. You can still jump, use hammer, use a special ability, etc. Plus, there are enemies moving around the area which you can fight if you touch them. Also, if you touch them on the map with a jump attack or a swing of the hammer, you will get a free bonus attack to start the combat (just chose wisely, since jumping on a spiky enemy will obviously lead to some problems for Mario's feet). You'll also find some nifty puzzles and such in the non-town areas. These will usually serve as a barrier to control how much you explore since the game will give you the proper ability to move forward and solve a puzzle only when you reach the right level of progression (until Mario learns a certain move or finds a certain buddy with a given move, you will be prevented from going to certain's like how Metroid works in which you are contained in one area until you obtain some new power, like higher jumping). 

Battles, however, are the more unique part of PM. When you enter a fight, the turn order is set in stone, unless someone strikes first (like by jumping on an enemy on the map); it will always be Mario, his partner (these two characters can swap positions to select who is in the more dangerous front-line position in combat), and then the enemies. Each attack for each character will require a different rhythm based combat system in which you will have to time the pressing of a button, press a series of buttons, or move the controller in a certain way to achieve either a hit or a good hit with a given attack. For example, if Mario jumps on an enemy, he'll do moderate damage, but if you press A right when he connects with the enemy, you'll pull off a second bounce on the enemy's head. This is true for every normal attack, every special ability, and every special attack. The challenge is to learn when to press a certain button, press a certain direction, or whatever...later on, the challenge becomes more along the lines of putting up with the tedium of constantly hitting A when you jump to pull off the second bounce (you will use the standard issue jump command almost the entire game, and it will wear on you...that and the hammer attack) and to not just fall asleep with this level of boredom. 

In the same way, you can defend against enemy attacks by hitting either A or B when the enemy strikes you. If you hit A at about the time an enemy hits you, you will dodge, block, or at least take less damage. However, if you hit B exactly when an enemy strikes (timing has to be 100% on this), you will deflect any projectile and counter attack (taking no damage, and dealing damage at the same time) for any hand-to-hand/melee attack. This will get on your nerves since it's so boring and tedious (after the first 2 hours, I should say) and you will not survive the later levels if you don't learn the timing for each enemy perfectly. 

Also, in combat, you will have an audience. This audience will give you star points with each attack (or you can "appeal", which is like waving to the crowd to cheer them on), and may occasionally throw you items...both helpful and painful. You can kick out an audience member before they throw shit at you with a press of the X button (which may stop a good item unless you keep your attention on the audience to see what is about to be thrown). The only way, besides an inn, to regain star points is from audience participation. Also, if you hit A at a certain timing during an attack, you can make it more "stylish" to cause the audience to give up more star points after the attack. Also, if you do your timing right for an attack (like causing the double bounce with the jump...see, it always comes back to this same move), you will cause an icon to appear in the top right corner. If you do it again, you get another icon. Now, if those first two match, then your next good attack will cause a slot machine type of thing to appear in which you must stop the third wheel so it matches the first two to gain extra HP, FP, SP, full refill of everything, or if you get the poison mushroom you will lose your audience and lose half of all HP, FP, and SP. With a successful slot machine roll, you will also increase your audience to maximum (for more SP per attack/appeal). 

Lastly, the battles all allow for Mario to partner with one ally at a time. This ally can be swapped out at will, during and outside of battle. If you swap during combat, you will lose the turn of whoever initiated the swap (unless you have a certain badge equipped). However, the newly brought in character will have independent HP (so it might save your first ally from death), and each ally has a different set of attacks. Some cannot attack airborne enemies, while others like to bounce (so no attacking anything spiky), and some have very expensive (in terms of FP) moves. So, you always need to keep these facts in mind to deal with each enemy you face. However, this will also become a nuisance since you will find yourself wasting a good number of actions in later areas as you keep swapping out allies as one battle is all spiky enemies, and then the next are all airborne (which will require different allies). 

Battles end with you earning some experience (called star pieces). If you get 100, you will earn a level. Don't expect this to happen to often (after 2 hours, I reached level 2). When you level, you will be able to chose to either increase your HP (by 5), FP (by 5), or BP (by 3). So, with how rarely you level, you will have to chose wisely. Luckily, the game makes this decision easy since there are badges to increase your FP or HP by 5 that cost 3 BP to equip (so, it's like leveling your FP or HP by leveling your BP, since you get 3 BP per BP level-up). Lastly, you may get some coins after a battle, or a heart (refill 1 HP), a flower (refill 1 FP), or an item. Sadly, you will never level up your attack or defense (there are badges, that usually cost more than 3 BP to equip, that can do this for you). Also, you allies will not level up with Mario. They, instead, can be ranked up by using three shine sprites (so many damned collectibles in PM) at Roguesport. When an ally ranks up, they gain 5 or so HP and a new attack. Each ally ranks up once...woopity-doo. 

However, there are a few (and I mean very few) instances that can break up this standard monotony. The most favorable part, for me, was the times you would control Bowser. Bowser has a few small sections during the game in which you will play out something quite similar to Super Mario Bros. During these moments, you will go through a swimming level or a normal world 1-1 type of area in which you can use Bowser's flame breath or just jump on enemies as they appear. They are short segments that are mostly pointless, but they are fun nonetheless. Also, there are the times in which you can solve a puzzle by changing Mario's paper nature into that of a paper airplane, boat, turn on his side (to take advantage of his 2D nature), or roll into a tube of paper (to fit in small areas), plus a few extra forms. These are short and almost pointless, but they can give some fun (like flying his airplane mode). 

Most of all, the tedious nature of the game will show when your quest will include walking from point A to point B, to A, to B, to A, and back to B again while all of the same non-random battles keep re-spawning. In fact, you will waste most of your game time just repeating the same pathway over and over until you swear that there must be a more direct way to go (which there never is). 

For the most part, the game play is very tedious, and like I said before, there is little in the plot to fill in these boring areas. However, the extras, like Super Bowser Bros (as I call it), can give some relief to the boredom. If you're looking for a rental, or a short-term game, this can be a good thing. However, if you want to fully play and beat this game, the game play will give you a challenge beyond description in the form of tedium. 


The visuals are almost identical to those of Paper Mario for the N64. You are a paper cutout of Mario, and thus 2D, in a world of paper settings and paper people. So, the 2D nature of the visuals in a 3D landscape can add some awe effect for the first hour or so of game play. However, eventually these features render the game to be boring to look at. There are no cut-scenes of high quality (all cut-scenes use the standard game engine), no amazing effects, nothing. The visuals are not an eye-sore by any means, but they don't add anything special. I guess, since they don't take away from the game, I can't complain, but I can't see this type of visuals still being used when a fully 3D Mario RPG would be a better direction to go with.

That's it for visuals...there's really nothing to talk about.


The same could be said for the audio that was said for the visuals. There is nothing special. The music is decent, but will become boring and annoying after you hear each track for the millionth time. There is no voice acting (maybe that's for the best). The sound effects are pretty mundane and pointlessly 8 BIT. I know, this is supposed to have a nostalgic/retro feel to it, but maybe this is going too far in the direction of non-evolution. Blah.


I was hoping for a lot more from this game. It has been highly regarded and reviewed by a large part of the geek community. However, in the end, the lack of plot and the repetition serves as PM's downfall. Like I said, if you want a short game, and don't plan to finish PM, then I would give Paper Mario a 8.5/10. However, I play to win, and therefore, my official score would be a sad and pathetic 5.0/10. As I said in my postings, this is a game you will start off loving, then you'll hate it but be addicted, and in the end you will just hate it.