Super Paper Mario
Platform: Wii
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Genre: Action RPG
Format: Wii Optical Disc
Released: US04/09/07
Official Website: English Site

Graphics: 85%
Sound: 80%
Gameplay: 91%
Control: 90%
Story: 82%
Overall: 88%
Reviews Grading Scale
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A whole new world.
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Peach and her trusty parasol.
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Old-school rampage.
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Secrets are everywhere.
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Dennis Rubinshteyn
Super Paper Mario
Dennis Rubinshteyn

Super Paper Mario was originally in development for the GameCube, but due to how popular the Wii became and how the Game Cube was fading out, Nintendo decided to scrap the GameCube version altogether rather than have two versions as with Twilight Princess. Super Paper Mario is the third installment in the Paper Mario franchise that's been established since the Nintendo 64, but it's much different than its predecessors. The first two games were turn-based RPGs with an emphasis on timed attacks whereas Super Paper Mario is a platformer/RPG hybrid. The developers, Intelligent Systems, managed to mesh two genres very well into another great game for the Wii's growing library.

The game starts off with the Mario brothers enjoying a ho-hum, peaceful day. Luigi wishes for something to happen and shortly after, Toad comes screaming for the brothers' help. To no one's surprise, Peach has gotten captured yet again. The brothers immediately assume that it was none other than Bowser who caused this misdeed and proceed to his castle to stop him. Although Bowser was planning to kidnap Peach that day, the Mario brothers discover that someone else beat Bowser to the punch. This new menace to the Mario universe is named Count Bleck and he defeats Mario with ease and sucks everyone else into a vortex.

Mario is later awakened by a bizarre-looking butterfly named Tippi. She is a creature called Pixl and teleports Mario to a mystical town called Flipside. There, Mario befriends the town's sage, Merlon, who tells Mario about two books called the Dark and Light Prognosticus. The Dark Prognosticus is a book of prophecies that foretells the end of all worlds while the Light Prognosticus was made to counter the events from that book. According to the Light Prognosticus, Mario perfectly fits the description of the hero with his trademark red clothing and legendary moustache. Count Bleck managed to create a chaos heart- the key requirement to end all worlds, and the only way to counter it is for Mario to set out in many different worlds and collect eight pure hearts. Mario agrees to collect them all, and thus sets out on a journey to different worlds to obtain them all. Eventually, three others come along to aid Mario on his quest.

The premise may be simple, but the plot is surprisingly good, especially for a Mario game. Part of it is thanks to the excellent localization and likeable characters. While Mario remains a silent protagonist with a heart of gold, the other characters have slight shifts in their personality. What makes the characterization in the game better is the good supporting cast. Each world has its own set of bizarre characters to add flavor to the chapters, and while none of them stay for long (excluding Flipside characters), they get good screen time without overstaying their welcome. Even Tippi and Mario's other Pixl helpers show a good degree of personality in the little dialogue they get. Count Bleck and his minions are some of the most interesting villains in the Mario universe. I found Bleck to be a villain with surprisingly good character development. While his motives are expressed in a straightforward manner, he's more than a villain who wants to destroy mankind just because it's cool.

As with previous Mario RPGs, the localization work is superb and it's thanks to a quality script that these colorful characters turned out great. The dialogue always managed to remain fresh and funny with spoofs based loosely on culture and writers playing around with some terminology. I couldn't help but chuckle whenever characters kept calling death a "Game Over" for starters. There are also instances when the fourth wall is broken. One example is when a character explains to Mario how to do certain actions, mentioning the actual button. Of course, Mario does not understand what it is, but the character mentions how a certain person who watches Mario would know the meaning.

After the end of each chapter, there is a love story shown only in text. As the game progresses, the love story begins to mesh in with the main plot, leaving hints and foreshadowing. It's far from being deep and very emotional, but I liked it a lot and it adds more depth to the plot. The execution turned out great, and it never felt like it was cheesy or tacked on. I also liked how heartwarming things have gotten too; but then again, I am a sucker for romance. The story worked out well and the dialogue made it even better.

The gameplay contains elements we are familiar with, but at the same time, it's done in a fresh and fun way. The game combines a traditional Mario platformer with some of Paper Mario's RPG mechanics and puzzle styles. The game uses a score system as EXP that a player earns from defeating enemies, pulling off combos and getting certain items. When you level up, it automatically alternates between gaining an attack point and gaining 5 HP. Badges that helped you customize Mario are excluded from this installment so there is no customization to speak of. Items remain to either heal your character or damage foes. You can find and later purchase cards on a specific enemy which is another method to cause more damage to enemies; the more of a particular card you have, the more damage you can do.

The game's main feature comes from Mario flipping between the 2D and 3D realms. He obtains this skill early in the game, and it's a method used to find hidden goodies and paths only shown in 3D. There is a timer that shows how long Mario can remain in 3D, and if the timer runs out, Mario loses HP and the timer resets. It's one of the many abilities needed to progress in the game.

Luigi, Peach and Bowser eventually join Mario's quest and they each have their own abilities to overcome certain hurdles that Mario can't. Mario also finds other Pixls to overcome obstacles that nobody can do. There are many Pixl's throughout the game with their own specific abilities, and most of them are utilized throughout the game. Most of the Pixls acquired are mandatory, but there are a few optional Pixls for players to have fun with.

Because of all these elements, the game is puzzle-heavy. The puzzles themselves are generally easy, but there are occasionally some tricky ones that can make some veteran gamers stop and think. The puzzles utilize many of your abilities, and they're all cleverly put-together.

Once in a while, the gameplay changes around to something different for varying durations of time. The majority of these changes occur at very odd times, but that makes it funny. At one point, the game turns into a pseudo side-scrolling shooter. Another time, you wind up in huge debt and Mario has to earn rubee's by doing grueling labor to buy back his freedom. There was even a moment when a dating sim game came out of nowhere, and it was nothing but pure joy. Only the most niche gamer will truly appreciate the joke. Even the platform levels themselves throw in some fun twists to spice things up. Like the script, the gameplay manages to throw in a lot of fresh concepts.

The main game itself isn't very long, spanning roughly 15-20 hours, but there are a couple of sidequests to do during and after the game. You can collect all 256 cards to crush any foe like a grape for sheer kicks. There are some fun arcade games where you earn tokens to exchange for lovely items. The Thousand Year Door's pit of 100 trials has returned and is just as challenging as ever. You can also duke it out with 100 humorous warriors in arena style combat. These sidequests aren't much, but it will keep perfectionist gamers busy.

You hold the Wiimote sideways throughout the game like an NES pad. Given how few buttons the Wiimote has, developers were smart enough to give players a good amount of actions in a simple manner. All Pixl abilities can be unleashed with a press of a button. The same goes with Mario and his 2D to 3D dimension warp by merely pressing A. Some characters can unleash their special abilities by merely pressing down on the d-pad. The menu interface is very clear, and you can create shortcuts by pressing some buttons to showcase all the stuff you would need.

Super Paper Mario is not an example of what the Wiimote can really do, but for what it does, it does well. You can point your Wiimote to the screen to use Tippi's abilities, and offense items are powered up by shaking or doing simple gestures on the controller. The motion abilities are also used on the simple arcade games. They are all implemented well, keeping it simple and not straying from the action too much. The only part of the controls I felt was tacked on was the stylish hits system. After jumping an enemy, you quickly shake the Wiimote to activate it, but it's mostly unresponsive.

The game's graphics are not strong in raw power, but make up for it through sheer presentation. As usual, the worlds are all creative and well thought out. When you first enter a world, it's a neat touch on how the world gets formed together by a bunch of lines. Each world has a unique twist too, such as a world drawn entirely 8-bit. And you know it's a good game when Mario fights a boss in the ladies' bathroom of all places. Like the worlds, the designs on the new characters are all creative in an abstract way. I especially liked the obscure designs on Count Bleck, and one of his minions, Dimentio.

The only real flaw in the graphics department is how barren the 3D portions are. There was not much to it, but since it was meant to be used in short durations to find hidden paths and find certain items, it's understandable why there was not much. Some extra creative touches would've been great, but the 3D aspect serves its purpose.

After all these years, Nintendo still sticks to the MIDI music, but it does not matter as the game provides some good, quirky tunes. The music starts off decent but better and catchier music emerges, and it gets really good when Mario and crew reach Bleck's lair. I found the final boss music to be one of the best among Mario tunes. There are also some nostalgic touches by remixing some classic sounds and beats, such as entering the pipe or the star music theme. There is no voice acting at all, but that's no big deal in a Mario game.

The Wii is less than six months old, but it already managed to get an array of quality titles under its belt. As games these days get overdramatic, having a lot eye candy or cramming as much action as possible, it's nice to play a simple, lighthearted game that truly makes you laugh. I've always enjoyed the Paper Mario franchise and while this installment is different, it's still a fun game that did a lot of things well. The adventure may not be long and it's a bit on the easy side, but itís definitely a good purchase or at least a worthy rental.


© 2007 Nintendo. All Rights Reserved.

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