The fourth entry to the Paper Mario series and the first for handhelds, Paper Mario makes another return in his newest adventure Paper Mario Sticker Star. Paper Mario games normally play as standard RPG’s with a twist, using your paper-overworld for over-the-top, wacky and fun gameplay. Sticker Star doesn’t take a step from any of its predecessors and roughly creates its own game, which unfortunately isn’t good news. Many fans of the Paper Mario series were not happy the direction Nintendo took with Super Paper Mario (Wii) as it was more of a Super Mario World game with RPG-elements; so Nintendo brought Paper Mario back to it’s turn-by-turn battle system, although keeping the idea of “level-worlds”.
Platform: 3DS/ Genre: RPG
Developer: Intelligent Systems/ Publisher: Nintendo
Paper Mario Sticker Star story is a simple one, in which Mario, Princess Peach, and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom are celebrating a Sticker Star festival in which a Sticker Comet lands in the Mushroom Kingdom once every year. The Sticker Comet has the ability to grant any wish and unfortunately (and shocker), Bowser crashes the party and touches the sticker, thus granting his wish and exploding the Sticker Star into six pieces. Upon realization that the town is destroyed and Bowser is wrecking havoc to the land, you meet a Sticker Fairy named Kertsi, who forces you to help accompany her to restore the Comet. Now, doing your Mario-civic duty you must rescue Princess Peach, save the Mushroom Kingdom, and restore the Sticker Comet!
Once again, gameplay takes a drastic turn in the Paper Mario series, but not on the level of the series first. First, the over-world gameplay is bit similar to that of the Super Mario World/Super Mario Bros 3 world, where you select your levels. Gone are traveling town by town, warp-pipe to warp-pipe, or any other ridiculous manner; instead you just select levels in a boring fashion. In addition there are only two “real towns”: Decalburg and Surfshine Harbor along with one “store-level” in each area/world. There is a maximum of six worlds, with each world containing a different amount of levels.
Entering a town or a level you control only Mario and are free to either talk, battle, or search the level. In towns, you visit stores to buy new stickers or you can “paperize things”. Things play a huge part in Sticker Star, as they play a major component in solving world puzzles or becoming powerful stickers you can use for boss battles. Things are easily spotted in worlds, as they are not paper, so in turn they are 3D objects in a 2D plane world. Besides Things, stickers can be found anywhere in any world, at any time. To obtain stickers, you must peel them or you can find them in the various “?” Blocks. You can only hold a certain number of stickers in your album, although for each boss you defeat a new page is unlocked, allowing you to hold more stickers.
Stickers are the main component for battle gameplay. Battling in this game returns to its roots as it goes off a turn by turn basis, which you select your command/sticker. Stickers range from Regular, to Shiny, to Mega-Flash and come in all different shapes and sizes, so some may take more space than others in your album, but at the same time do more damage to an opponent. Most of Mario’s battle stickers, that aren’t Things, are different variations of a “Jump” sticker or a “Hammer” sticker (be it a metal jump or a fire hammer). Besides the usual Hammer and Jump stickers, a few new attacks have been given in this Paper Mario, such as the Raccoon Tail, making the POW block a command, and individual attacks for the Fireball.
Battle gameplay still retains the “action command” meaning you press A during your attack of the enemy, to prolong your attack and do more damage to an enemy. In addition to the action command, the defend button is gone, but you can still block using the action command. A difference in Sticker Star compared to that of the old Paper Mario’s, is you can freely hold your defense command, while in the older installments, you have to press it at the correct time. A key note and a MAJOR difference from that of the old Paper Mario’s is that there are no EXP points in this Paper Mario. Most Paper Mario’s play as a normal RPG’s, where you fight, level up, and boost a stat (badges, hp, or flower points); however in Paper Mario, two of the three stats do not exist, and battles are effectively useless (meaning if you want to lose your stickers). To raise your HP you must find a +5 Heart hidden in each level, but other than that you mainly learn attacks when you discover a new sticker.
One thing I have to say I love in Paper Mario Sticker Star is the music. The music in this game is fantastic, from new tunes, to remixes of old classic tunes (like the Warp Pipe theme) Sticker Star is one game you will truly miss out on if you play mute. In fact, one of the bosses (World 3 boss) has a his own theme in which he dances and attacks from, making it the most memorable and fun boss in the game.
Sticker Star does have a lot of in-game goodies and includes banners of goals they want you to reach, but still the game has a moderate-low replay-value. Once you beat the game you may not be inclined as much to go back and play the game, but if you missed finding Luigi, or wanted to unlock all the hidden Blue Door areas then go right ahead.
I really wanted to love Paper Mario Sticker Star, I really did, because I love the Paper Mario series, but this game was easily the worst installment of the four. While I am one of the rare few who liked Super Paper Mario (Wii) the idea of Paper Mario seems to be taken for-granted at Nintendo, and they forgot what had made this game an instant classic. Yes, the story writing dialogue is still funny, but story isn’t as motivating or complex. Most importantly, the ruined the gameplay in this game. People buy Paper Mario to play a good RPG, even fans of not huge long-hour grinding JRPG’s buy Paper Mario to enjoy and play their possible only RPG of the year. I recently wrote something about Mario possibly being the new king of RPG’s but this was a step backwards. I wasn’t at all motivated to play this game, it didn’t capture me, I clearly knew I was playing a game and I didn’t want to go back sometimes. Why have an RPG with turn-based battles WHEN THERE IS NO POINTING IN BATTLING? I literally spent half my time finding clever ways to run away from enemies, so I wouldn’t have to fight them. Look at Paper Mario 64, unforgettable characters, story, setting, ideas, gameplay, everything you want in any RPG not just a Paper Mario game. Getting rid of towns made this game feel like it just used the Paper Mario name and made its own individual game with no meaning towards the series.
I do have to say I enjoyed the level designs and the puzzles in them, because I did get stuck a few times. Using the Paper-element world in a unique but challenging way is something reminiscent of the Paper Mario series. I think about 5 times I smacked my forehead and went “duh” and should have noticed the shade a bit behind the wall. Other than that, I also enjoyed the final boss battle against Bowser, that was well designed and I had a lot of fun fighting him 5 times.*spoiler
-Challenging level/puzzle designs
Michael Troina writes features and reviews Nintendo games for Analog Addiciton. When he’s not writing or playing games or sports, he’s out at his job at the Daily Bugle taking pictures as the web-slinger we all have come to love…either that or he’s getting sandwich saving one world at a time. Find him anywhere with this flavors.me/michaeltroina