An amazing RPG experience on the Nintendo 64
Paper Mario is the second Mario RPG to be released. The first, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, was released back in 1996 for the SNES, and it was an amazing game. It strayed away from the platforming that Mario is known best for. To go to an RPG type of gamplay and stay true to Mario is amazing. Square helped develop the game, so it's no surprise that it was great.
Paper Mario was developed by Intelligent Systems, and the gameplay is very different from the SNES counterpart, as well as the artwork. However, Square was never needed to make a great RPG. Paper Mario is the best RPG available on the Nintendo 64.
The story is very typical. Bowser captures Peach... again. This time, however, it is much more involved. Bowser stole a special artifact from the star spirits, guardians of a place in the sky called Star Haven. These stars grant wishes. But they can't without the artifact, the Star Rod, that Bowser stole.
I won't reveal anymore information on the story, but basically Mario needs to stop Bowser. It's really unoriginal, but it's Mario. Only Mario can get away with the same story with different variations every game.
The graphics are very different from just about every other game released on the market. All the characters are made out of paper. All the environments are paper, hence the name Paper Mario. Mario is 2-D, as are all the other characters, but they move in 3-D. It's a unique graphical style, but it works very well.
From a technical standpoint, it performs very well. It maintains a consistent frame rate with few slowdowns. But whenever the frame rate drops, it doesn't impact the experience of the game.
It also sounds nice. It has a catchy soundtrack, some being past Mario tunes, while most are new and interesting. The sound effects are solid, and none feel like they're in a place where they shouldn't be. There is no voice acting, but then again, what N64 had voice acting? It doesn't need voice acting because the script is written very well. It is funny and light-hearted.
The gameplay is unique to RPGs. There are no random battles like traditional RPGs, but instead, enemies are around and you have to either go after them or avoid them in order to determine whether there's a fight or not, save bosses and mini-bosses, which must be fought. What's different about this game is that you or the enemy can attack to get a first strike, which will damage whomever got hit prior to the battle. It is very unique and a lot of fun.
The game itself is, in every aspect, very unique. The graphics, gameplay, and also the area designs. Each area in the game is extremely different, and all are very well designed. It all goes well with the graphics, which is awesome.
The replay value isn't too bad either. The sidequests are all different; it's not like a Final Fantasy game where you go get ultimate weapons for each characters or fight big, bad enemies. There are things like fighting hard enemies, doing favors for an old koopa, playing games, etc. All in all, there are a large variety of extra things to do. And for those who don't play it for a while, it's worth coming back to.
My only problem with this game would have to be the level-up system. To gain a level, you must earn 100 star points, which you get from defeating enemies. The problem is after you get to a high enough level, it'll be extremely hard to get any star points since the easy enemies will give you no star points if you're strong enough. Even harder enemies, if you're a really high level, will give you nothing. It's a real pain if you want to max out stats, but at the same time, it does prevent needless grinding.
Paper Mario is an achievement in every way. From its unique... everything; to the interesting, though clichéd, story; and from the diverse sidequests, Paper Mario is a game that should be owned by anyone who has a Nintendo 64 or a Wii. For $10 on the Virtual Console, or for whatever people are selling the game for on Ebay or whatnot for an Nintendo 64 version, Paper Mario is wroth it--unless idiots are selling the Nintendo 64 copy for more than retail price. I got the game at retail price eight years ago, and it is definitely worth it.