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Old 09-02-2009, 10:28 PM   #143
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Troy, MI
Posts: 11,005

Nintendo Wii
1 Player
Developer - Intelligent Systems
Publisher - Nintendo

My Bias
-I love 2D Mario games
-I really liked the previous two Paper Mario games
-I only paid $30 for this

My Completion
-I've beaten it twice (once myself, once for my 5 year old future-half-brother-in-law)
-Finished the Flipside Pit of 100 Trials

In tradition with the previous two games in the Paper Mario series, there is a huge amount of storyline in SPM. In this game Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach (NO WAY!) and is forcing her to marry him. Mario and Luigi of course do what they do best and go to rescue Peach. At the wedding alter things go amuck and a mysterious character named Count Bleck shows up and sucks everyone into a dark void. Mario then finds himself all alone and stumbles into the town of Flipside. The citizens of flipside are concerned because Count Bleck summoned a giant dark void and threatens to suck up all worlds into nothingness. It’s up to Mario to regroup with his friends, stop Count Bleck, and save Flipside from the impending doom!

Whereas the previous two Paper Mario games took place in non-Mushroom Kingdom worlds, they still were populated with Mushroom Kingdom characters. In SPM this is not the case and 90% of the NPCs and Enemies are made up. Almost all of the NPCs are made out of crude wire frame shapes which I didn’t think made for an interesting style choice. The main antagonist, Count Bleck, seems like such a weak character.

Another way to put it is Super Paper Mario feels like a brand new game that Intelligent Systems developed around this flip mechanic idea and then Mario was painted over it last minute to boost its sales. If you swapped Mario and the gang with different characters I would be hard pressed to tell you this was supposed to be a Mario game.

One aspect of this title I have a lot of praise for is the writing. Much like the previous two entries in this series, the writing is often times not straight forward and is very clever. There are quite a few lines in this game that had me smiling or chuckling inside. Chapter 3 was especially funny because the entire thing pokes fun at internet message board gamer nerds.

Chapter 3 was way funnier to me than it should have been

I will talk about this topic more in the Gameplay section, but some of the chapters are boring and downright painful to get through. Each Chapter takes you to a different world with different characters and some of them aren’t very compelling. There are some really awesome parts like the chapter where the void actually destroys a world and you return to it to witness just empty white and then there are some really lame parts like the entire caveman chapter.

Most of the Mario assets of this game were taken right from Paper Mario TYD on the Gamecube. While it’s nothing new in that regard they do look very nice. Characters are done in a sort of vector method which means the can be scaled and zoomed without losing any clarity. All the characters move only by swiveling at their joints much like a paper doll put together with thumbtacks. I think the designs of the Mushroom Kingdom crew are done very well. Paper Princess Peach is probably the cutest rendition of her ever. Yet all the NPC & non-mushroom kingdom enemies have pretty lame designs. The residents of Flipside are all made out of simple geometry shapes like squares and circles.

Most of the environments look pretty good using the same vector style as the rest of the game. Each of the eight chapters has a different theme which keeps things fresh. To clarify I am talking about the 2D assets here because when the game flips into 3D mode things look much worse. Everything is made with bland textures in 3D and it simply doesn’t look very good.

Jumping into this lake actually freaked me out a bit, scary stuff

It sounds strange to mention but I really liked the font/text in this title. Instead of using static text like most RPGs do, SPM uses all sorts of visual effects with the font to convey speech inflections and moods. For example if a character whispers something under their breath the font size gets really small, or if they shout something it gets huge. If a character says something really corny or something with glee the text will move up and down in a wave motion. It’s a nice subtle effect.

Super Paper Mario is filled with a lot of memorable tracks. Maybe not brilliant great sounding tracks, but memorable nonetheless. It sounds like it fits right in with the music from Paper Mario TYD. There really isn't too much else to say about this soundtrack other than post a few of my favorite tracks.

....oh wait, yeah there is one thing. I cannot stand the Flipside theme anymore. It’s an alright song but after hearing it loop over and over while I tried to figure out where the heck I was supposed to get going it drove me nuts. Now whenever I hear it I’m just put in a bad mood.

♪ Title Screen

It’s a crying shame that this track is wasted on the games title screen and will only be heard for a few seconds while the player selects their save file. I think the part 19 seconds in is awesome.

♪ Gloam Valley

This is one of the best tracks in the game. I really love the beginning part of this song.

♪ Lineland Road

This is an interesting remix of the original Super Mario Bros theme.

I think I need to make it clear first and foremost before describing anything about the gameplay. This game is an RPG first and a platformer second. There are games such as Castlevania SotN which I consider a Platformer with RPG elements, well I consider Super Paper Mario the opposite: an RPG with platforming elements. I feel I need to make this clear because I’ve read too many impressions of people who bought this game thinking it was a solid platformer and then getting put off by its RPG levels of dialog and weak platforming elements.

Super Paper Mario is played with the horizontal Wii Remote configuration. This works great because the gameplay doesn’t require many buttons and its how the NES Mario games controlled anyhow. I’ve seen a few people complain about the lack of buttons for menu management but I’m not sure what their problem was because I didn’t have any issues. The game implements some quick menus by pressing two buttons at once which speed things up. It plays pretty similar to a standard Mario game granted it’s stiff and not nearly as refined as Mario’s normal 2D outings. The standard formula of hopping on enemies heads still applies here, but now instead of instantly killing them you bounce off and a little HP damage number pops out.

Leveling up is done through the points system. Just like the scores in older Mario games, when you bop off an enemy you receive points. Whenever you hit specific milestone amounts of points you will go up a level. Continuing with the Paper Mario tradition, you can perform stylish moves after bouncing off an enemy to earn more points, and if you continually hop between enemies without touching the ground you can chain these stylish points together and earn even more. However the way you pull off stylish moves is by shaking the Wii Remote. Let me go on record here to say I cannot stand it when Wii games do this. I enjoy the idea of motion controlled games, I can put up with some occasional one handed shaking of the remote (waggle) but the one thing I cannot stand is Wii games that require me to shake the Wii remote with both hands. Shaking then goes from a few easy wrist flicks to being a full arm/body motion I don’t enjoy doing. To make matters worse SPM doesn’t register the shakes too well so you have to make sure you do it good, hard and violent. I made it to about Chapter 3 before I finally said to hell with it and decided I’d just complete the game earning fewer points.

Not even Peach's cute poses can make me enjoy this horrid waggle

The gimmick that this entire game is based around is that at any time a level can be flipped horizontally and seen from the side. When flipped into 3D things are often not as they appeared in 3D and can be exploited. So for example one of the very first puzzles you have to use this ability for is to enter a door. The door is surrounded by blocks and is impossible to access in 2D, however if flipped into 3D it reveals that those blocks are all at different depths and you can very easily walk around them. So walk around, flip back into 2D and like magic you are on the other side of the blocks and can enter the door. The developers have built a lot of interesting puzzles and challenges around this mechanic. Enemies are a lot easier to avoid in 3D and so to prevent the player from going through the entire game like this, Mario will take damage if he stays flipped for too long. One of my favorite uses of this element is on a stage where giant spiked boulders roll down a hill at you. They are way to large to jump over, yet because this is Paper Mario and everything is made out of paper, you can flip into 3D to reveal the boulders are only paper thin and easily walk around them.

This door is inaccessible in 2D however...

...flip into 3D and discover that wall wasn't a wall at all and walk right on past

My problem with this flip mechanic is that only Mario can use it. In SPM you get 3 other characters (Peach, Bowser, and Luigi) that all come with abilities that let them access other areas. For example Peach can use her umbrella to slowly float down and therefore make really long jumps that Mario cannot. Yet because only Mario can flip into 3D you have to constantly switch characters and it becomes obnoxious. I see no good reason why the flip mechanic was assigned only to Mario.

As you progress through the game you get new abilities through the use of Pixels. Pixels are these little fairy creatures that float above your shoulder and let you perform different moves with the 1 button. These guys give you abilities that range from being able to pick things up, lay bombs, use a hammer and turn invisible. They are almost always given to you in a Metroid reminiscent way because you often come to some sort of barrier, look around and find the pixel that will allow you to pass through that barrier, and continue on. You can get a special Pixel if you complete the Pit of 100 Trials (which I’m not sure how I made it through) that lets you hold down the 1 button to run faster. I think that should have been the very first pixel you get because it’s so useful. The pixel you have throughout most of the game, Tippi, adds another cool element to the game. With her selected you can point the Wii Remote at the screen and the action will pause and let you look around like holding a flashlight, revealing hidden doors/passageways.

Throughout the game the coins you collect can be used as currency to buy special items for battle. These are your standard RPG items that restore health or perform heavy damage for a short while. This is a good idea but this game is so easy that there is no need for them. I used most of my coins at the games fortune teller who gives you hints on where you should go next when you’re lost.

As I mentioned briefly in the story section, there are sections of this game that are boring from both a story standpoint and gameplay. One of the keys to success in any game is in its pacing. There are numerous parts of this game that just go dry and I had to push myself to keep going. Having beaten this game twice, I think it definitely is worth it to see this game to its end however there were times where I had little interest and wanted to stop.

This was actually one of the better chapters

I have to add a quick little note here: I love the way this game saves your progress. It’s done with save blocks you simply jump to hit, it asks you to confirm, and not a second later it’s done. It’s so quick and painless I had no qualms about doing it. Every game should save this fast and easy. Also another note, Intelligent Systems needs to fire whatever member of their dev team decided it was a good idea to put the flipsy enemies in the game. If you touch one of these enemies it sends you ALL THE WAY BACK TO TOWN. Why!?!? What possible reason does it do this other than to piss the player off? It certainly isn’t hard getting back to where you were, just time consuming and annoying as hell.

Lasting Appeal
The final time clock on my game read 18:50, and some of that I’m sure is wandering around lost and doing the Pit of 100 Trials. If you are good at figuring things out and have a good memory of where things are then you could probably complete this game faster than I did.

Once beaten you can go back and revisit all the stages with extra things to do. I didn’t feel compelled to do this at all. This is definitely a beat-once-then-shelf type of game.

Final Thoughts
Not the amazing game I thought it would be but still fun. The fun I had with the flipping mechanic and the clever writing was worth my purchase alone.

This is the very definition of a “good game” to me. Not blow your socks off fantastic, not “must own” or system selling, just good fun. If you are the type of player that only bothers to play hyped AAA unparalleled experience games then don’t look here. However if you don’t mind overlooking a few flaws in a game to experience it’s good then check this game out.
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