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Game Review: Paper Mario – Sticker Star

December 31, 2012

Although he is well known for his platforming titles, Mario has had a long history of RPG Titles, each of which have been praised by fans and critics alike. In 1996, Super Mario RPG was the first in this type of Mario RPG titles, and is probably on many gamers top favorite games list. The spiritual successor to this game, Paper Mario, came out in 2001 as one of the final games for the Nintendo 64, and (along with winning over many gamers and critics), began the Paper Mario series which has continued for a few years now. It may not be the greatest, or the hardest RPG series, but it’s humor and fun gameplay has given it a very loyal group of fans who have been eager to follow along with each new game in the series. I am proud to say I am one of those fans.

12 years later, a new title in the series has released, and is the first Paper Mario game to be released on a Handheld Platform. For along time now, only the Mario and Luigi series has been the only Mario RPG available on Nintendo handhelds, but now the Paper Mario series finally makes its debut.

Controls: As it is being released on a handheld system for the very first time, as well as having to use two screens for the very first time, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems decided on changing the battle system for this game. Although it returns to its RPG style roots (the third game in the Paper Mario series, Super Paper Mario for the Wii, was not an RPG game) it uses a special battle system. As the title implies, you will need to collect stickers, which will then be used in combat as titles on the touch screen. By selecting each title, you can use various attacks, from jump attacks, hammer attacks, fire flowers, ect, to fight opponents, as well as heal yourself in battle or protect yourself from harm. While this sounds like an odd switch-up, considering how well Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door’s battle system worked, this new battle system is surprisingly enjoyable and addictive. Believe me, I was skeptical about the battle system as many others were, but found it to be perfect for the 3DS upon playing it. For those worried about running out of stickers, the environment has many of them lying around on walls, trees, bushes, ect. Not to mention that when you time your blocks (another element of gameplay I’ll get to in a moment) you can occasionally get stickers, especially you are to run out of them for some reason. So there’s no need to worry about running out of stickers. In addition, you’ll also need to press/mash the A button at the correct time/times to multiple damage on your opponents, which will especially come in handy in boss fights, as well as when you are defending yourself to minimize damage.

Graphics: As per usual, I do not consider graphics as a big part of my final score. I will say that I love looking at the world of Paper Mario. This game has gone all-out to making the environments look very cool. This Paper World really goes out of its way to show you just how unique and wild it really is, and you’ll enjoy looking at it the entire time you play it.

New Elements/Features: Sticker Star changes up quite a few things from its previous games. For starters, there is no “leveling up” per-say (You’ll find hearts along the way to raise your max HP, as well as get more pages to collect stickers after completing boss fights). You’ll also notice that each world is divided up into levels instead of large areas to explore, and instead of 7 worlds and a final boss area like the console series games, there are 5 worlds and a final boss area. Seeing as the game is for the 3DS, a Nintendo Handheld, the game was designed for on-the-go play, hence why there are levels and not huge worlds. That being said, that doesn’t mean the game is any less fun. The levels are highly addictive and you’ll still find some hidden secrets if you look closely.

There’s also special “Things” to collect in the game. These “Things” (the game calls them this) can be turned into stickers and used in combat, as well as in the environment through a special ability that allows you to insert/interact with the environment (this ability can also be used to remove/re-insert objects in the game). These things range from a giant fan which can blow away enemies, a giant pair of scissors that can cut things up, a radiator that can melt things/burn enemies, and a giant goat which can chomp/eat foes. These “things” truly make battles easier, as well as crazier and hilarious. Some can be found during your travels, and some can only be found through special areas in the level that can only be accessed by “Door Stickers”. Depending on certain situations, these “Things” can be more helpful than you think they would, so be creative when using them. Trust me, they may payoff… especially in boss fights.

If that wasn’t enough, for those of you who love to collect and find things, the game has a special task for you. In the main town area that you will regularly visit, you’ll find a secret area where you can put both combat and thing stickers as part of a giant museum. You’ll need to submit one of every combat sticker and thing sticker (don’t worry, if you submit a thing sticker you can always go back and re-collect the “thing” where you found it, or buy it near by where you turn the “things” into stickers. There’s a lot of combat stickers to be found through-out the game, and plenty of “things” to find and collect. And trust me, it gets very addictive, (and this is coming from someone who usually doesn’t try to collect every little thing in game.) Collectors will have fun with this task.

Characters: This is where the game can be a little disappointing when comparing it to previous games in the series. There is no partner system in the game, as your only companion will be a sentient sticker named Kersti. So you won’t have a large cast of partners to find throughout the game. There’s also a lack of support characters, as only the toads will be a part of the supporting staff. There are no good enemy types to interact with in areas, and the toads tend to blend in after awhile. Likewise, other than the bosses, Kamek, Bowser Jr and Bowser (who only appears in the beginning and end of the game) you’ll mostly be interacting with minions who blend together after awhile as foes. Even Peach, who usually plays a bigger role in the Paper Mario games, only appears at the start and at the near end of the game. You also won’t be able to use her at all, unlike past games that made her a key part in helping you out as you advance through the game.

Story: Sadly, the game’s story has been toned down from previous games. It is very straight forward, and with the exception of world 3, doesn’t have mini-plots to as you go through each world. This has been one of the more entertaining aspects of the Paper Mario series, and it is a shame that this game didn’t feature a story like past games. Although one could argue that since this is a Handheld game, mini-plots like these would not do well for on-the-go gaming.

Final Verdict: Despite a toned down story and cast, Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a very enjoyable game with highly addictive gameplay. If you own a 3DS, I can’t stress enough that you need to consider buying this title and give it a try. This is one of the best games for the 3DS, and has the same fun and humor you’ve come to know and love from Mario RPG titles. That said, those looking for a challenge might be a little disappointed, as it is not the most challenging RPG title out there. Also, while it is great to have a return to the RPG format for the Paper Mario series, the lack of Partners and Story Structure the older Paper Mario games had is very much missed. Although you could over look this if you’re looking to get through areas quickly when you’re on the go. In the end, Paper Mario: Sticker Star may not be the best title in the series (In my personal opinion, that honor goes to Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door for the Nintendo Gamecube.) but it is a great title nonetheless. Please, if you have a 3DS, at the very least give this game a try. You may find the title to be more entertaining than you thought it would. I know that was the case for me.

I give Paper Mario: Sticker Star a 4/5. I highly recommend it, and consider it to be one of the best games the handheld has to offer thus far. Nice work Intelligent Systems and Nintendo! You’ve made another fantastic entry in the Paper Mario series!

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