Paper Mario is, without doubt, the best Mario game ever created!
Let's start with a small prologue: I do not usually review well-known games, as I feel most players already know that it's solid. This is an exception, because this game deserves all the attention it can get.
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (TTYD) is an RPG that sets Mario in search for the 7 Crystal Stars. He needs those so he can thwart the plans of Grodus and his gang of baddies. These weird moon critters have taken Princess Peach hostage and are looking for the Crystal Stars, so they can open up the Thousand Year Door. Ever the hero, Mario can't let this happen and sets off to rescue his cherished princess and save the world along the way. It's all in a day's work for a Brooklyn plumber!
After you've received a letter from Princess Peach, in what appears to be the brothers' summer home in the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario takes a boat set to Rogueport. This little shore town is filled with sailors, thieves and other miscreants, all looking out to shanghai their way to infamy and misfortune. It is hard to believe a place so charming would hold such dark secrets. Also, it's this place where Peach said she would wait for Mario, to join her in a treasure hunt. But on arrival she's nowhere to be found and all Mario has of her is a mysterious map that holds the key to a great treasure. Everything will turn to absolute shambles when Mario finds out from Peach's assistant that she hasn't been spotted for days. What to do, what to do?
Enter Mario's incredible social skills: Quickly teaming up with some rare, helpful people in Rogueport, Mario sets off to find the treasure for Peach. And in the process, he'll go look for her as well. Along the way, he will meet up with even more helpful people, all across the Mushroom Kingdom. After which he will possess a full-fledged party of companions to aid him in this epic RPG. The plot will thicken and unfold exponentially to create another magical event, where Mario sets off to save the day. That's enough regarding the story; I'll try and leave the experience to you.
This Gamecube sequel to the Nintendo 64 cIassic is presented in a similar way, though now much more polished. There's the regular character screen, a party screen, an inventory, a place to equip badges and an information screen. The interface is simple, effective and most of it is directly accessible with the D-pad for fast access. That's something that will come in handy, in particular if you need to switch your party members a few times. Also, you can press the Z-button to give you an overall quick view of your stats. This way you can keep the flow of the story going, without having to cut away to static screens.
The graphics are definitely one of the key points to this adventure. Everything is set in cel-shaded fashion and looks as if cut from paper or cardboard. There's a flat 2D perspective to characters and buildings, mixed with some 3D aspects here and there. But overall, everything looks breathtaking. Buildings unfold their paper-constructed walls when you enter them, characters turn into a thin stripe to show their flat appearance, wallpapers fly away when the wind hits them, scenery falls over when the ground quakes underneath them and the list goes on and on. Some bigger enemies will even look like they've been constructed in origami fashion.
If nothing else, the graphics alone will leave you with a grin on your face, long enough to last the entirety of the game. It's just all so nicely done and animated.
This is accompanied with the perfect sound to set the mood. You'll encounter countless tunes from other Mario cIassics and the sound effects are always spot on with every move. Bells and whistles, hammers and explosions; all will sound as charming as the game itself. The same goes for the traveling tracks and other songs on the score of Paper Mario: TTYD. A favourite is the music behind the evil chest. It is so dark, yet so right in that context; you can see Nintendo takes every aspect of their game very seriously.
Now, for actually playing the game. And let me tell you, you will want to play this game. Never have I encountered a game that will draw you in the first second until the rolling credits. Hell, even the credits are heaps of fun. Starting off with basic gameplay, Paper Mario will immediately switch it up when you encounter its battle system. Especially for more casual gamers, who don't want to have a Mario RPG with tons of menus and slides to go through. It consists merely of a few options to attack, items and special moves. But the part where it is really unique is its control and setting.
All battles take place in a theatre, with a crowd, stage, décor, curtains and all! The crowd reacts to your fighting styIe and attendance improves as you perform better moves. They can also throw items at you to either aid or harm you. But fear not, for Mario and his pals can jump into the crowd, to quickly whoop the possible assailants. And we haven't even discussed the actual battling yet!
Combat is truly amazing and innovating. Through simple commands, Mario and his sidekick can perform attacks that are almost all individual to the specific character. Not only that, but every move you can make also has a unique input to perform. You can either press a button at a certain time or release the control stick at a given point, align a bar to a specific point and so on. Almost every move is different and so are it's effects. You can even perform defensive moves this way, by either blocking or countering enemy moves. This will make battling not only fun, but will also keep it fun for the entire lifespan of this game. Even at the end, combat will still feel new and refreshing, because the subtle, little choices keep you on your toes and keep you entertained. And honestly; how many times has static, turn-based combat really been actively entertaining? Even if that wasn't enough to make this game great, you can also perform your moves with added grace. This way, you pump up your audience, by giving them more of a spectacle, for which they will reward you. A spectacle, this really is the best way to put this game in short.
Another great aspect is that levels of health and such are demonstrated in simple, low numbers. So, no mathematics needed to know how much an attack will do or how much you can take. You can easily follow the game and count how much things you'll be able to do, which again is great for casual players. Other than the usual Health Points (HP), you'll also have Flower Points (FP) with whom you can perform more powerful attacks. You'll also be awarded Star Points by the crowd for each successful move. The better the move, the more Star Points you'll get. With these Star Points you'll be able to do devastating moves, be them offensive or defensive. If you're low on them, you'll even be able to appeal to the crowd, to raise your Star Points back up. For these reasons, I believe this is the best battle system ever created.
You will also be allotted some Badge Points, which you can upgrade each level, together with your HP and FP. With these Badge Points, you can equip Mario to enhance you or your partner in combat. Consider this the gear you can equip on a character in another game, such as armour or powerful rings. You can also change Mario's clothes with it or mess with the sound effects, for comical situations.
Other than that, Paper Mario will feel like a more traditional Mario title, where they combine the platform elements with small puzzles. You'll be able to jump your way further or smash rocks and here and there you'll need some of your partners to aid you.
Now, your partners won't really be what you'd want to expect from a Mario title. They're mostly unknown characters and unlikely species, such as a Goomba or a Koopa at your side. Even so, they'll eventually grow on you and every character will make itself useful at some point in time. All characters will have their moments in the game, making them playable for several hours each, at least. There aren't really unbalanced or favoured characters and each battle will see its specialist. Unfortunately, one can't help but wonder if the game wouldn't have been more special with the habitual cast of mischiefs. But, not to worry, because throughout your epic, you will meet up with most of the Mario loved ones and some will even have small roles. There is one in particular at the end of Chapter Two you will not want to miss! It's a twist on a historical gaming moment, known by all. I don't want to spoil it for you, but this was one of my best gaming moments ever!
The story itself is fairly large and will keep you entertained for 40 or more hours and that's not all! There are a lot of mini-games and side-quests available that can eat up even more of your time. Also, there are such a vast amount of sub-plots and side-stories, you'll constantly be left wanting more. And more you can get, because even after you've completed the story, you can return to search for more hidden gems throughout the game. I've completed my playthrough in 48 hours and there are still a ton of things I want, no, need to go discover! There is just so much going on in Paper Mario: TTYD, you'll want to live there!
This really has been a one-in-a-kind game experience for me and it will be for you too. Forget every Mario adventure you have ever played. Even forget the ground-breaking Super Mario 64. What that game originally altered in the platform world, Paper Mario TTYD overpowers by introducing its unique battle and RPG system. Forget all the games you've enjoyed so much. Paper Mario is, without doubt, the best Mario game ever created! I do not say this lightly, because I have played my share of Mario games, in my 300+ game collection. If there ever was a time to give any game a 10, this would be it! I'll subtract half a point, because I feel there was more that could be done with more popular characters, but really that's not even a flaw. So, if you want to read this as a 10, you have my blessing.
This is a must have! Don't make the error of being concerned about the price tag, like I did. It's something I deeply regret, because this game is priceless! Go get this game! NOW!