Paper Mario, objectively


Seeing as my original review was running long as a first impressions review and I’m now at the end of the game, I feel like doing an Objective Review System review is probably in order. No review is truly objective; this just puts numbers to my subjective reactions. I want to do this to condense a lot of raging thoughts moment-to-moment into something a bit more nuanced since obviously all of that didn’t stop me from playing.

Scale:
10: Flawless. It will ruin you to anything else.
9: Amazing. You will ignore major flaws elsewhere because of it.
8: Great. A selling point of the game and will compensate moderate flaws.
7: Good. Stands well on its own and may compensate minor flaws.
6: Interesting, but not particularly special.
5: Uninspired, but passable.
4: Lacking, but tolerable.
3: Annoying, but may be compensated elsewhere.
2: Bad, but not a deal-breaker.
1: Deal-breaker. You will cringe at every occurrence.
0: Reason enough not to buy this game on its own.

Story:

Setting and Plot:

You are Mario in the Mushroom Kingdom and Princess Peach is in the clutches of King Bowser. The difference this time is that Bowser has gone to Star Haven where all the wishes are carefully considered and selectively granted to steal the Star Rod, source of all wish-granting power, and imprison the Seven Star Spirits who serve as its guardian. This has made Bowser essentially untouchable, which is quite the new twist. Mario needs to rescue Peach, but he needs to rescue the Star Spirits first before he has any hope of doing so.

Mushroom Kingdom naturally has a fire dungeon, an ice world, a desert world, an underground world of sorts, a castle dungeon, and plenty of what could be considered normal world in the form of forests, but it doesn’t actually feel un-earned. It has a pretty good jungle world while it’s at it, a flower world, a mountain world, a haunted forest world, and even a badlands world distinct from the desert. It also has what could be counted as a celestial world.

Score: 8/10. It does something new and does it well. The more I think about it, the more I really do feel like it’s a selling point of the game.

Plot Execution, Dialog, and Writing:

Given the overall simplicity of the concept, one wouldn’t expect to encounter quite so many complications within the thread of the plot. I count that as one of its merits. They could have done a whole lot less, and it wouldn’t have been nearly as good of a game.

Dialog is generally excellent for the characters who matter, all of whom have a unique written voice that makes them easy to tell apart on text alone. There is a problem where every single character will vomit 3-4 text screens at you just talking to them and a lot of this could have been condensed. There are just some times when some older character tells you an "abridged" version of a story as a cutscene and it devolves into like a dozen screens of text that starts having more gaps as Mario’s attention wanes before he outright falls asleep, so you’ll have pages of nothing but ellipses before it fades to black and then fades up with them asking if he was paying attention, waking him up. There’s really no reason for having quite so MUCH text that that feels less like a joke and more like a lampshade. There isn’t a single NPC in the game who can just spit out the important part. Everything could have been more pithy. And the problem really is that this is one of the many ways the game disrespects your time to artificially inflate its length. It’s not that NPCs have nothing GOOD to say; it’s that it’s all buried in mountains of random rambling.

That said, just the sheer amount of writing on display is impressive. Goombario, your first additional party member, has comments on every area in the game and every NPC inside of them. Some of this is relatively interesting and other things act as hints. It’s always nice to have him around just to see what he has to say, if only once. It feels like he was particularly well thought-out.

The story is otherwise split up into 11 segments. Your background information is contained in a storybook segment that counts as the opening as paired with an attract mode (I don’t know if these have a name for that outside of arcade uses, so I’ll just call it that). Once you start a file, you’ll have a short playable opening segment where you can talk to a few NPCs, explore Peach’s Castle a bit, and ultimately get a handle on your basic controls before going into a "supposed to lose" battle that ends the segment with Bowser throwing Mario out a window after making the castle rise high into the sky. Mario plunges countless stories into a forest clearing, is saved from his injuries by the Seven Star Spirits astral projecting from their prisons and mustering what power they can to bring him back from the brink of death, and he’s found by a local family of friendly Goombas. So begins the proper Prologue.

The Prologue itself and what comes before it are functionally an extension of Chapter 1, separated with a detour to a conversation between Peach and Twink, a Star Kid who arrives to fulfill her wish for help, that unlocks the Action Commands for the party, and if pressed I’d say Chapter 1 is significantly longer than the prelude to it, feeling very meaty. Within the Prologue itself, you’re joined briefly by Goompa and permanently by Goombario, and Chapter 1 proper sees you additionally joined by Kooper and Bombette. It feels like the game does a lot with the trio and just has a promising length.

There are 8 total chapters of varying length that ultimately are much more heavily focused on character than plot, the overarching goal not really changing over the course of the game. You need to save the Seven Star Spirits before you can save Peach, and saving the Star Spirits involves beating bosses one way or another. There’s not much to say on the plot itself, but the characters along the way are fantastic.

If there is any one criticism, it’s that the effort in the game seems front-loaded. Chapter 7 quickly wraps up all of the loose threads before it’s even over. Your game-spanning trade quest abruptly ends with a Badge that’s nice, but not spectacular, and you’re handed the final upgrade to your party’s abilities with zero effort or fanfare; it’s not hidden or guarded or behind a puzzle, just up a staircase. Things are really rather unsatisfying and almost feel like they just gave up. Which is kind of a problem with the game in that it really feels like the early game had way more time in the oven and later areas saw less and less of that benefit until the final dungeon. There are certainly good things in Chapter 7 in terms of activities and presentation, but it feels like the chapter was written independently of everything else and so certain things just… stop.

Score: 7/10. I feel like this could have been an easy 8 if there had just been less text, but the sheer volume of the chaff and the way it wastes your time really hampers the experience.

Cast:

The cast are mostly great. Mario is a silent protagonist, but he’s surrounded by additional party members and interesting NPCs. Goombario really gets the best of everything with a family to interact with and all of his observations. Literally half of the text in the game or so is dedicated just to him and he’s a likable character. The most charismatic characters in the game have to be the Boos, though, and Bow as a spoiled rich girl joining your party sees the benefit of that. Everyone else is for the most part fine at worst. The only one I find in any way actually annoying is Watt, and even then, having Watt around is mostly optional. Even Peach is pretty great here, because she definitely has a brain this time around, and is pretty proactive, without losing her femininity. I feel like we should know her better as this sort of character than the vapid one we often get who doesn’t even know where babies come from.

The early bosses really add a lot to the production because they take the time to hassle the party both outside of their lairs in some cases and definitely within them. This unfortunately dries up quickly along with Bowser’s screen time and by Chapter 4, you’re really just fighting bosses at the end of each level with zero introduction. For that matter, the party members you get in Chapters 4 and 5 just don’t feel like they have much to do as characters. Watt I could very much take or leave, but Sushie could have been a lot more interesting as a bombastic soon-to-be grandma. She just doesn’t get the opportunity outside of the incidental lines shared by all party members for whoever happens to be out at the time.

I think that really the biggest disservice to the characters is just that everything gets off to a very strong start and then trails off as the game wears on. Your opportunities to hear anything from anyone but Goombario on a regular basis depend entirely on their existing relationships in the world and not all party members have them. Goombario and his doting family are fantastic; Kooper and his hero Kolorado get a smattering of lines even if it’s not much; Bombette and her crazy would-be suitor she’s not into are the best kind of cringeworthy; Parakarry… well, he delivers the mail and while it’s the same canned speech from him every time, it does at least reinforce that he’s dutiful. Bow has the Boos to interact with, most specifically Bootler, who I frankly adore. By comparison, Watt has exactly no one to interact with and Sushie SHOULD have someone to interact with in her town, but doesn’t. Lakilester has his girlfriend, but he really only has one thing to say to her. Anyone without anyone to bounce off really is limited to incidental lines that trigger for whoever happens to be out during a scene, which is great for whoever you might keep around town as a favorite, but is likely going to mean roughly half the party doesn’t really have much opportunity to show their personal voice.

Score: 8/10. Ultimately, I would have liked to see more of some of these characters and it’s a shame that the sequels introduced a mostly new cast each time. It’s easy to pin Goombario as the best character just because he always has something to say, but the others are written well when they’re written at all and could have used more spotlight.


Story average: 8/10. As an RPG, the story is worth the price of admission.


Gameplay:

Systems:

The systems are overall pretty good. Battle is straight-up great, at least once the training wheels come off. The game takes some time to unlock the Action Commands and it’s rather frustrating not having them and knowing you’re supposed to, since it immediately doubles your damage output and early battles just drag on and on before you get the ability. You can do yourself a favor by whacking or jumping on an enemy in the field for a free hit, but you can’t smash flying enemies with your hammer no matter how well you time it and spiked enemies will damage you a point instead of you getting them if you jump on them. You thus need to be aware of what your enemy looks like before you get too excited. Once the Action Commands are unlocked, every attack has them and they control your success in various ways, with some being an all-or-nothing and others doing reduced damage if you fail. Some have a gradient of success where you can max out the damage potential or number of turns the effect lasts for. Overall, they keep battle engaging, but it behooves you to read the reminder text at the bottom of the screen because you’ll be kicking yourself on some if you try to do the wrong input. Similar attacks tend to have similar inputs, even between characters, though this can also be deceptive, because some attacks with the same input early on are decidedly not equivalent like they might lead you to believe.

Mario over the course of the game can upgrade his hammer twice to smash progressively harder blocks and also gets 2 new pairs of boots that likewise increase his jumping capabilities, though before you get too excited, neither of them is a platforming upgrade. As you collect party members, you’ll also find Super Blocks to increase their combat capabilities, and an upgrade later on allows you to increase them again.

That said, the game has a real problem with how it handles upgrades, because you effectively never stop getting them, and part of that means you really never stop getting party members, which quickly hits a law of diminishing returns. Party members and their various movement abilities only really dry up at the end of the game. In most cases, their abilities get shown off in the immediate sense and are then quickly forgotten, especially once the next one comes along.

Goombario never stops being useful and is the only one who doesn’t have a movement ability because of his function as your hint system. At certain points, he’s potentially a better combat character than Mario. As a character, he has a lot of screen time and a loving family all with their own comments throughout the game. As a combatant, he doesn’t always scale well in relation to the others, but he ultimately is one of the most powerful ones as soon as he gets his first upgrade and his free Tattle ability is essential.

Kooper joins the party next and counts as your first movement-based ability, as Mario is able to kick his shell much like in the platformers to hit things as a distance, whether that’s a switch, item to grab, or enemy to get an attack in on (which I honestly didn’t really use because it’s not the easiest to pull off). Unlike in the platformers, it doesn’t have to actually hit anything to boomerang back and has a limited range that keeps the timing sufficiently tight. Kooper as a character has a town to go back to and reactions with the townsfolk, at least earlier in the game, though this dries up by the end (most things sadly do). As a combatant, his ability to hit all ground-bound enemies from the word "go" remains sporadically useful throughout the game, even if his field ability is forgotten about after a strong start until the endgame.

Bombette is where things begin to break down a little bit, because while her field ability to blow up cracked walls and rocks is endlessly useful, and can even be used to deliver a powerful free first attack (again, I didn’t use this because of how slow her timing is), her abilities are quite expensive and she’s not really sustainable as a fighter, even as the game wears on. Bring her out for bosses, absolutely, but there’s really only one area where you need her and it’s an area that’s already a grueling, unsustainable war of attrition that the game doesn’t offer you any way to prepare or restock for. I absolutely will be covering that in a bit.

Parakarry comes as the "reward" for said area and marks the exact point where the game becomes unable to properly juggle everyone’s field abilities, where up to that point it was doing pretty well making satisfying puzzles that needed both Kooper and Bombette in equal measure. The game is proud enough of the one puzzle requiring him and Bombette that the solution is in the attract mode, but as far as puzzles go, you fly across a short gap and blow up a wall. Hardly a steller brain-bender. Unfortunately, this is also more or less the last attempt at doing it. Which is sad, really. The next chapter really heavily starts putting all your eggs in one basket and even has dialogue dedicated to it. He starts off as a similar powerhouse to Bombette with better range and, while he’s billed as a "flying enemy specialist," that’s not technically true; his abilities can just hit anything where Bombette and Kooper are, at least initially, limited to enemies on the ground, which Bombette later is able to overcome. That becomes something of a problem, because this is where the game falls into the "show them off for a bit" mentality. You CAN use Parakarry to decent effect in the immediate miniboss and later area boss… or you can just use Goombario. Goombario is perfectly capable of hitting flying enemies and his first upgrade is available before the chapter dungeon, so there’s really no reason not to use it. In fact, midway through the chapter dungeon, you get the ability to upgrade everyone, so there’s really no reason not to skedaddle and do so, because that comes in the form of an upgraded hammer that actually makes the nigh-impossible enemies at the start of the chapter significantly more manageable, especially combined with a Badge you pick up. Parakarry ultimately is only the best choice for one technically optional battle in the game and then maybe another one later on that’s supposed to be someone else’s show. His field ability is sporadically useful. You’ll probably find a reason to use it once every chapter or so, maybe not in all chapters, maybe a couple times a chapter here and there, maybe use it to cheat a jumping puzzle. His biggest issue is really that he has an instakill attack that doesn’t earn you Star Points and is fairly hard to actually succeed at and is thus never a good idea to use. He ultimately offers better utility at slightly reduced costs and damage compared to Bombette and as such which one you end up using is probably mostly down to whose Action Commands you prefer and whether you really need that little bit extra, because ultimately Bombette can be replaced with a combination of him and Kooper when all is said and done.

Then you get Bow and Bow gets a pass because her abilities are used for a while for puzzles – creative ones, even – before ultimately petering out, and her combat abilities are good. She’s ultimately one of the most reliable means of dealing major damage to anything without defense (any defense at all destroys this ability) and her ability to make attacks harmlessly whiff is always useful for bosses if nothing else. As a character, I positively adore just how not-good she is. She’s a spoiled rich girl with dubious morals and the Boos in general raise interesting questions about whether they’re immoral or amoral, as in, by their very existence, can they really help it or are they just operating on a fundamentally different system or none at all, hard-wired to be the way they are. It’s unusual for Mario to be anything but a squeaky-clean hero, but you as the player are coerced into aiding them in a morally questionable effort and at the end of it all, they don’t learn a thing. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

And that’s about where I would have stopped. Bow feels like she’s one too many in a crowded party that the game had already failed to juggle before she came along, but she’s at least strongly justified.

But then you get Watt, and Watt feels like she (the game uses both male and female pronouns for her in different spots and even different GAMES and apparently she’s genderless in Japanese, but there’s more "she" than "he" in English) doesn’t feel particularly well thought-out. She has only one attack ability, and the Electric element only matters for a grand total of 3 enemies that resist it and 0 that are weak, and while it ignores defense, that could have been given to someone else. She’s also able to raise Mario’s attack by 1, but there are other ways of doing this. And her other two abilities are just paralyzing attacks, which is just one of four means of denying enemies some number of turns, which Kooper already has with Dizzy Shell. Her accent seems to confuse valley girl with baby talk and other than there being a ton of invisible blocks scattered throughout the world, most with items that aren’t very exciting, in a game with a tiny inventory that means you can’t collect them all, there are really only a few places where her field ability actually matters by way of hitting blocks to reveal them as a bridge or a grand total of 1 darkened area of note and 1 boss battle in a darkened area that forces you to use her before the final dungeon. And all of this together really makes me think that Bow turning you invisible could have just as easily turned invisible boxes visible in exchange and the piercing damage could have been given to someone else, maybe Parakarry to differentiate him more from Bombette or Bombette herself to force you to eat her heavy FP costs more often. And while you can move with Watt where you can’t with Bow, it comes with the annoyance that you can’t perform anything but your basic jump while holding her. Watt doesn’t really have a "home" or "people" to anchor her to the game and just feels like a late-development addition who didn’t need to be there, poorly integrated and kind of just an annoyance to use.

Sushie feels similar, in that, while she has a home, she doesn’t really react to anyone there and while there’s no end to water hazards to cross and dive in to make her useful in the field, that could have been handled differently. For one, it could have not slowed you to a snail’s pace, but this game has no shortage of means of doing that. Sushie does have the distinction of having the most broken ultimate attack that tops out at a whopping 14 damage before it crashes if you know how to abuse the mechanics (there’s a way of rapidly cycling A, B, C▼ that bypasses the delay for failed input checks for the attack), and the benefit of the Water element for that and her other attack even if Fire enemies abruptly dry up after her introductory chapter, and is one of the few ways of raising Mario’s defense in the game, particularly against Fire attacks that also abruptly dry up, but really all of that feels like it could have mostly been reassigned and I’ll tell you why: Lakilester exists.

Lakilester is the last character you get, but a) he has someone to talk to unlike either Watt or Sushie, 2) his abilities would have been useful earlier in the game than you ultimately get him, and iii) while on the surface all of his abilities seem redundant, there could have very easily been essential functions that would have made sense for him that ultimately got assigned to Watt and Sushie, and the three feel collectively spread unusually thin and also like they primarily serve to offer their respective buffs. Lakilester feels almost like they were hedging their bets, not giving him anything too extravagant in case Watt or Sushie was to be eliminated. Lakilester is a Lakitu and his ability is to let you ride over lava and spikes, but not water, which is Sushie’s show. Thing is, Lakitus already were being depicted with fishing poles on the SNES and there’s no reason that couldn’t have replaced Sushie’s diving ability over water. Tellingly, to ride over spikes or lava, he needs a low stairway that would otherwise be walkable, which also describes all the wooden docks that Sushie uses in the game, almost like they were designed with him in mind, and such steps appear in places he isn’t initially available in the final game. On top of that, the way his cloud slows down in pain over lava more or less matches Sushie’s glacial pace in the water. Most obviously, he rides a cloud. What do clouds do? They rain water and zap down lightning and blow snow, all of which would have offered him flexibility to implement whatever damage types that may or may not have ultimately made the cut in some alternate timeline. If Flower Fields where you get him had come before the volcano where Sushie is meant to shine, then Sushie would have felt like the copycat. He could have very easily replaced most of the functions Sushie and Watt serve. Assuming the Electric element needed to be in there at all, he could have maybe forgone his instakill attack for it. If Watt was out entirely, it would have been perfectly reasonable to transfer her piercing damage to his Spiny Flip. His cloud-based evasion boost could have easily been Sushie’s water block. And there’s zero reason he couldn’t have have had some alternate version of one of Sushie’s Water attacks as a bit of rain or some sort of blizzard. If you were going to eliminate both Watt and Sushie, you could have really pulled a "pick and choose" to ask what was most necessary to have on a single character, what elements might be easiest to cut. Instead, as a combat character, there’s little reason to choose him over anyone else, and he only gets like one good puzzle until the final dungeon. The one thing he has that the other two don’t is a manual aim that appears nowhere else and that shows that they certainly had ideas for him.

Ironically, a peek at the data says Bow was added much later than the others or else was supposed to come in a much later point in the story, with Goompa having his data (including unused attack names that make it sound like he would have served a similar purpose to Goombario) in the spot one might otherwise assume was supposed to be hers and potentially marks the effective intended end of the originally conceived cast, which frankly would have made SO much sense. For reference, Bow appears after Watt, Sushie, and Lakilester and before an unused Goombaria and Twink, who respectively crash the game and have no attacks. You can tell a lot about a game from its data organization and what’s implemented. It’s entirely possible the Goomba family were supposed to swap out for variety’s sake or that Goompa was always supposed to be temporary and only had a full attack roster for data purposes, but actual battle use rather than only spitting advice. It does at least indicate that Bow wasn’t gutted to serve Watt’s role, which maybe explains why there are quite so many hidden boxes if nothing else, but I also feel like it means that Watt, Sushie, and Lakilester were all added at about the same time, and that might in turn explain why the trio share quite so much DNA. It’s easy to wonder if Bow wasn’t supposed to directly replace Lakilester or frankly all three of them. It certainly would explain why she had so much effort put in and came before any of them when all of them are so half-baked in their own ways, maybe kept in the game to avoid loss of work or just because there was a purpose to be served extending gameplay. It does also maybe explain why her own Action Commands are all one thing, like they intended to replace it later and then never did, which is really the only way she feels like she had less thought put into her than they did.

But on to the rest, cooking is good if you have a guide open and is a very easy way to cheese yourself into a hefty sum of money (this isn’t a guide, but let me just say that it’s very easy once you reach the Yoshis to get 10 Goomnuts and/or Koopa Leaves, have Tayce T. cook those into Nutty Cakes and Koopa Teas, feed them to the yellow Yoshi for 10 Melons, then have Tayce T. cook those into Special Shakes to sell for a total of 150 Coins in Dry Dry Outpost). The field abilities are a good idea even if you rarely get to enjoy creative puzzles that leverage more than one. There are some really creative puzzles that have nothing to do with your partners’ abilities. The multiple forms of in-game help allow you to pick and choose your hints and find things you wouldn’t otherwise. Sidequests in many cases introduce you to useful items. The way items are hidden in the scenery makes it satisfying to run around whacking everything in sight with your hammer and rustling all the bushes. There really is a lot to love here.

The game really just creaks under its own weight, though.

To speak on that when it’s not related to characters, combat ultimately has too many options and you really don’t know what you’ll need by Chapter 4 if not earlier. There are bosses that have multiple strategies based on Badges you probably have, but without a crystal ball to know about them ahead of time, you’ll probably find yourself using the same abilities for everything. Your BP tops out at 30 and even that simply doesn’t feel like enough to make yourself flexible. Badges are often way too expensive for their effect, yet some of them are difficult to go without. Some abilities stop being useful very quickly; others would be great to have, but you’ll never have space for them. Your defenses especially are very difficult to fortify and this becomes a capital "P" Problem at multiple points in the game, because the Badges that do it are particularly expensive and come especially late. Maybe this all can be chalked up to what best suits my playstyle, but when it comes right down to it, I feel like my creativity was stifled for the entire course of the game. Badges were always a matter of what I needed; only rarely did I get the luxury of using what I wanted, and only then because some otherwise essential function had freed up.

The game also has a grand total of 4 statuses you can use to deny enemies turns. There are at least two ways to inflict any of them, but between the four resistances, you’ll need a guide to know what will and won’t work. One would have been plenty. The same really goes for your ability to scare them away or otherwise remove one or more of them from a battle, which amounts to 3 whole resistances just to be contrary. You are absolutely overloaded with means of doing one or two things with pesky differences in how effective a particular method will be. There are individual attacks that are super effective against one random boss and damage types ineffective against one random enemy and chances are nothing is going to tell you this, not even Goombario. Elements in general are just very poorly integrated. Some of that has the decency to at least be somewhat themed to an area, but it also means that some Badges will only ever be useful once or twice.

The game ultimately has so much of everything that it’s never able to give proper focus to anything. Ultimately, so little of it is necessary that a ton of it goes to waste.

Before I finish up this segment, I do want to say the systems of this game that actually get time to shine make it feel like it’s worth playing. If it hadn’t been for Action Commands, combat would have been one of the worst segments of the game rather than one of the best. But there’s just so much other stuff that the game fails to balance and some things are all build-up with no payoff and other things don’t even make it onto the stage. And ultimately so much of everything, even combat, ends up unrewarding under very common conditions that you’ll have tasted greatness, but will always be left without enough of it to really sink your teeth into.

Score: 6/10. What’s there absolutely enriches the experience to a point, but it quickly hits a law of diminishing returns and moves from shiny object to shiny object rather than getting creative with the tools you already have, so it rarely feels like you actually earned anything. It needed to be streamlined and desperately needed more situations where more than one of your party members’ abilities were required at once. Most of all, it needed Badges to cost less or for your BP to grow by more than 3 per level. Individual systems, when they work, would easily qualify this for Great, but for a review I really have to rate the game on the execution of its ideas rather than the quality of those ideas, because the question is whether you should play it, not whether you should take inspiration from it. It’s hard to leave it at a 6 because there are just flashes when it’s done right and the early game is just so GOOD about it, but as the game wears on, there’s just less and less creativity. Some things become comfortable; other things will leave you wanting more, and the definition of a 7 is that it stands on its own.

Controls/Playability:

Movement is on the analog stick and it works well. There’s not much to say about that other than this game is potentially not very gentle on it for some of the Action Commands. With how notoriously flimsy it is, having quickly developed a slight rattle after starting satisfyingly stiff made me super nervous about it and led me to avoid using certain characters and attacks.

You immediately have jumping on A to work with, though A also being your button to interact with NPCs takes a bit of getting used to and Mario is quite the white boy in this one compared to most games, even the most comparable spiritual predecessor of Super Mario RPG. You quickly learn that jumping is not intended for platforming here; it’s more to slow you down climbing what would otherwise be stairs by making you slowly have to take them one-by-one. This is probably one of the earliest ways the game wastes your time in a perceivable way. You quickly get a basic Hammer on B and both of them immediately become your primary ways of interacting with the world, with both integrated in how you initiate battles if you want a free hit at the beginning. B otherwise allows you to skip through the drawing animations of the mountains of text NPCs spew at you and acts as your cancel button. The hammer hits very promptly in the field, while the jump feels controllable, even if it would have been nice for it to be even a little bit higher, as it’s easy to try to initiate a first attack against a flying enemy as it swoops down only to end up sliding down the side because it really only carries you above their lowest point where they intend to fly into Mario’s face. Mario simply doesn’t jump much higher than his own height. You have to be methodical about it.

Z lets you Spin Dash in the field to get some actual speed going through areas and you’d be doing yourself a disservice to not use it whenever there aren’t enemies around (at least until you get enhancements that make it useful to run into them that way). The Speedy Spin Badge greatly increases the distance Mario can zip around and once you have the hang of it, you’ll sorely miss it if you ever have to forego it.

R has no field use, but it does team up with Z to let you navigate the menus. Neither of them have a battle function, but they really don’t need one, either. I can’t really think of any Action Command that would have been improved by either.

START gets you in and out of the menu. Not much to say here. It does what you’d generally expect it to.

The C-Buttons are used as part of a 6-button joypad setup, and I do have to say that for someone whose stubby fingers struggle with some button or other on most controllers, the only one that it does just a teensy bit here is , which is the least necessary of any of them as a means of checking your various current levels of HP, FP, Star Points, and Star Power on a banner that slides down. The banner slides down for other reasons, too; it just lets you manually call it, which is occasionally useful. Otherwise it teams up with in menus for extended description scrolling. is really your best friend in the field as well since that’s your Partner Ability button, and there is plenty of reason to use it. allows you to switch partners when you have more than one. is your item quick menu. That’s the one I always feel I have to be most careful with, because I have made the mistake of accidentally using an item as a brain fart thinking I was picking what to have Tayce T. cook and I’m nervous in that menu on a good day just because item space makes everything you have on you so individually important that wasting items hurts you, especially since they don’t stack.

As for how playable this makes everything, playable enough. Packing so many things onto A really does feel like it takes a little getting used to. Once you’re used to the controls, it feels natural, even to the point I was placing my hands funny on my PlayStation controllers. Everything is placed well and nothing is too hard to reach. I know the trident controller gets a lot of guff, and I’ll admit to having taken part in it when I was younger and less experienced, but it really is innovative and well-designed. Knowing you’re only meant to use two points at once in a given game really does give it a feeling of comfort and flexibility.

I suppose as a final note, the game does make use of the Rumble Pak if you have one, which adds a nice touch, though I will say I’d expect quite a bit more rumble from the various earthquake abilities that will carry you through much of the game. The rumble does add nicely to various things, but feels like it doesn’t quite reach the finish line for not handling that properly given how much you’re likely to use it.

Score: 6/10. For everything the game does, you never really feel like it doesn’t work. Just cozy up to whatever NPC you want to talk to and you’ll be fine. Jumping could absolutely take you higher, though, and making me nervous about the stick absolutely takes it down a point. Retro controllers don’t grow on trees.

Length/Replayability:

This is probably the place best suited to address the various issues with time because, in all the ways I mentioned above, this game has a nasty habit of wasting as much time as possible and it still clocks in at 30 hours or so by most estimates, which most likely doesn’t include grinding and navigating guides or just being plain lost in a desert. This game wastes your time. A lot. It also has some pretty serious pacing issues because chapters are determined less by their content and more by you defeating a boss, regardless of how long that might take.

To elaborate on this, after the brief opening, the Prologue is a short segment that ends quickly, fair enough, and segues into a very promisingly meaty Chapter 1 that sets a positive tone for the rest of the game. You ultimately get 3 party members during this Opening+Prologue+Chapter 1 period that the game balances well and each of them has a boss battle associated with their area, and each boss is associated with at least some puzzle or minigame. The worst Chapter 1 can really be accused of is the way the side missions make you trek literally from one side of the known world to the other and back. That’s honestly the first warning bell that sounded, but ultimately that’s optional content and navigating a dozen screens in the hallways that comprise most of the accessible world, while it got old, didn’t really turn me off quite yet. Chapter 1 is fantastic, long, and packed with content.

Chapter 2 is none of those things. Having had the presence of mind to understand that getting on a train was likely to make it difficult to turn back, I stocked up on the best items I could create, double checked that I had ground myself to the maximum possible level, took a breath, and got on the train. And let me say this: the game simply does not offer a way for you to be prepared for Chapter 2. The enemies are incredibly spongy, some have defenses that completely negate your ability to deal damage through standard means, and they all are able to bite chunks off your health like it’s a Mars bar, with the toughest enemies able to do it with zero window to defend against it. You simply do not have the tools to contend with them and so Bombette becomes the only character who can inflict meaningful damage. Enemies simply don’t drop adequate healing items, and Parakarry won’t join to allow you to continue until you’ve collected all 3 letters he lost, which means that you need to scour every inch of the place, which is filled with enemies. You will ultimately run out of items very quickly and your ability to survive the area involves venturing out in a direction hoping for a payoff and returning beaten and bloody to the heal point each time. It severely punishes exploration while mandating it and it’s the least fun you will have with this game. Worst of all, I was correct in my assumption that I wouldn’t be able to return to safety. The entire dungeon is a grueling process that is patently unrewarding and your reward for weathering it is an ability that lets you more or less waltz straight to the exit on the shortest path in the level, which I found personally insulting. The severity of which this segment wastes your time is egregious. It’s not even that some of the puzzles aren’t fun; it’s that battles take forever and are totally unsustainable and you are forced to take multiple passes to explore the place and you have no real indication of where you’ll end up because of blind jumps and the generally disconnected state of each individual screen. Games as art are intended to make you feel things, but as mostly a power fantasy, they need to justify making you feel helpless, and this one just doesn’t do that. Oh, and if you think leveraging Bombette in this area as a free attack might save you, unfortunately not. The enemies are simply too fast and too aggressive for her to be able to sneak up on them or for her explosion delay to work out to letting you blow them up. This section is one of the worst experiences in any game I have ever played. I do not say that lightly. The ONLY reason I made it through at all was because Chapter 1 had been so good and I understood what they were trying to do: force me to explore and wisely use the resources at hand, even if forcing it was the wrong idea. And it took me multiple sessions to drag myself through it, reminding myself at times that it had to get better or it wouldn’t have been a beloved title. But as the effort wore on, even that was brought into question. Could Mario actually be bad? Could everyone have actually been wrong? I was hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel because of the promise of what had come before and I was more or less committed to just not wasting any more time on the game if it failed to fulfill that promise. That said, the area, as brutally tiresome as it is, as much as it made me simply want to stop gaming for a bit entirely, will probably only take you an hour at most. It will feel like ten times that, but once it’s over with, you don’t have to do anything but blaze through the main path to get through it again.

It’s only after you finally make it out that you realize you have to brave yet another dungeon before you’ll reach the safety of the next town. This one is filled with large groups of enemies that hit like a truck with no real window to defend and each steal 10 of your Coins as well, but at least they take damage. For reference, 40 Coins is like 13 battles of effort all down the drain if they abscond with them. A group of 4 of these suckers can reduce your HP by half or more each round depending on what you built out. Kooper becomes essential here for his ability to damage the whole line of them and get your money back each round, but it will take several rounds to finally kill them all. And then there might be yet another group of them bum rushing you to contend with. This section makes a point of saying NOT to explore, just stick to the path, and by gum that was the advice I was looking for after the last dungeon, but when I reached town, the shopkeeper immediately ran out and left the shop locked and, being 110% done with exploration of any sort, rather than deal with whatever B.S. that might entail, I turned my party around and went all the way back through 2 dungeons because I knew as a game designer myself that reaching town was going to make the train turn around so I could get back to safety. That’s right; rather than explore even one additional screen to the right, I was so done with the game’s B.S. that I traversed 2 dungeons that I ultimately knew I could blow through on the shortest path so I could restock on items. THAT’S how un-fun this game managed to make exploration, and I AM A SPADE! I PLAY GAMES FOR THE EXPLORATION! (For those who aren’t familiar, Wikipedia has the goods.) Ultimately all I would have had to do is go one more screen to the right so the clerk would return to the store.

Ultimately, something an NPC said did rekindle the spark to want to explore the desert, but then you ultimately get stuck playing Hot & Cold to activate the final dungeon and that introduces a fear of permanently missing items (it’s ultimately engineered so you can’t, but I did explore from the bottom up to be safe) and that ultimately offered a couple upgrades that made the first dungeon actually manageable. And it was really only then that I realized how SHORT Chapter 2 is. Outside of wandering the desert for anything I missed, the entire chapter is maybe a couple hours, but it is the longest couple hours you will ever have the misfortune of playing a game for.

The thing is, once you’re literally at the very end of the chapter, you suddenly get the means to mitigate every last item on its checklist of B.S. A hammer upgrade lets you upgrade all your party members’ combat abilities and taking it down to the Toad Town Sewers opens up the Warp Pipes in every settlement you’ve visited, meaning you no longer have to trek the entire length of the known world to get from town to town. It’s such a RELEASE that you might even briefly forget all of the time-wasting the game is still doing because you’ve seen so much worse that you’re properly desensitized. The final dungeon of the chapter has the villain hassling you, but also panicking as you approach the hammer upgrade, allowing his spooky mask to fall, and it was the indication I needed that the game still had something going for it. It may not have actually let me let my guard down, but it did at least soften me up a bit after growing quite ambivalent and I found myself finally enjoying the game again. The chapters that follow are good. Great, even! Chapter 3 was the exact light at the end of the tunnel that I was hoping for. Not necessarily an apology for Chapter 2, but definitely a reward for making it through.

But the game never actually stops wasting your time and once you see it, you can’t un-see it. Compared to the big stuff like lengthy battles and long treks and wandering a whole desert to play Hot & Cold and egregiously difficult circuits all ending back at a heal point, there are smaller things nickel-and-diming you all throughout the game. The way your Spin Dash immediately stops when it encounters any change in height, even if that’s a walkable one, to keep you from simply dashing through the relatively short screens. The way most of the stairs in the game aren’t walkable height differences and require you to painstakingly jump up each individual step, limiting your horizontal velocity to a fraction of your running speed. The way every NPC vomits up 3-4 speech bubbles every time you talk to them when 1-2 could have expressed the thought just fine. The way some "cutscenes" play out hanging a lampshade on their vast amounts of text by filling them with ellipses as Mario’s attention wanes and he falls asleep, leading to bubbles of nothing but a zillion periods. The way Tayce T. makes you tap through a whole unnecessary speech bubble of her singing as she cooks and has wholly unnecessary turning animations with extra sprites just for the purpose. The way some egregiously lengthy "loading screens" are unskippable when there’s zero reason to have it be that long as a cartridge game, as proven by the same trip being instant when you take a Warp Pipe. The way movement on the depth axis is shorter than movement side-to-side, making it harder to traverse towns where that’s most an issue. The way most of your partners’ abilities limit your movement somehow, either to stop you from jumping or just to slow you down from your higher potential. People note that Lakilester actually moves faster than Mario, but that’s without Mario dashing, and if you’re not dashing basically everywhere, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

All of these million things are there simply to take longer.

Now, I am not one against presentation, and I also suffer from being verbose. When it comes to the sheer tourism of PS1 games like Chrono Cross and The Legend of Dragoon taking time to show off their battle areas, I am there for it, because not only was that stuff a flex at the time, but it also could be useful for revealing what you were facing before the models even loaded in. The N64 is of the same generation and I understand what a graphical flourish looks like. I could give things like a turning animation a pass if it made any sense at all in the context of the rest of the process, but it really doesn’t, because Tayce T. turns 180° from her stove and then turns even more to the ¾ view the rest of the game is in to deliver the item with yet more text. She turns 225° when she could have turned 135° just to get more frames in. That’s not a flex; that’s someone just being weird. Why the heck would you turn toward the opposite wall before delivering an item to someone waiting? When it comes to the verbosity of the game, having a limited text window is 100% the thing that SAVES me. Imagine just how much of a novel that would be in Japanese where kanji can express an entire word in one character. Unless every NPC in the game was barfing War and Peace every time you talked to them, there’s really no reason the English version needed quite so much text.

I speak as a game designer, these were intentional decisions made to pad the game. That’s what makes it so frustrating. All of these things are consistent. There’s not a single NPC who takes only one speech bubble to say something, or any that might take 5-6 outside of a cutscene. These are metrics and specifically chosen when the writing was happening.

So in the end, you end up with a game that has no shortage of padding that’s still criminally short and leaves you hungry for more content, because content is ultimately not what most of the runtime is.

I also don’t feel like I’m going to want to replay this thing once I’m done, because of its problems. There aren’t really meaningful choices to make that would change the experience, no New Game+, and while I absolutely got the sequel because I wanted more of it, the "more of it" I want is really the part the game ultimately did the worst job of giving me. The high water mark of the game is really Chapter 3 and after seeing the chapters following, you know you’ve reached it.

Score: 1/10. The game is short, yet it still wastes your time in more ways than you can count. That’s the absolute worst thing anyone can DO, because you will never, ever get it back.


Gameplay average: 4/10. Moment-to-moment play is most often fun, but it’s swimming in a soup of lengthy speeches, adversarial level design, egregiously long cutscenes, and variously spongy enemies. For as short as the game is by most estimates, the way it disrespects your time is absolutely a deal-breaker. Chapter 2 burns through the goodwill of the game up to that point and even the brand as a whole very quickly and it’s not until the very end that it becomes at all forgivable.


Aesthetics:

Design:

I do have to say this: the game is unapologetically a Mario game and it’s hard to imagine it being anything else. From the intentional artificiality of the battle areas in the spirit of Super Mario Bros. 3 to its ability to slap eyes on the scenery, which often is the best indication something is secretly interactive, there’s never any question whose world you’re in.

Despite that, the members of the party are differentiated well from the enemies they share a species with. Goombario’s stubby, blunt tusks make him an immediately unthreatening character and his and his family’s various hats, bows, and other defining features make them all friendly and endearing in appearance. It’s not often I would want a plush of a character, but I’d pick up a reasonably priced Goombario in a heartbeat. I adore him.

Kooper’s red bandana and blue shell immediately set him apart from others of his village much less the enemy varieties and the enemies wear Kamina-style shades just to make them extra punk. Parakarry’s 1920s aviator outfit gives him a nostalgic look that offers him similar contrast in a completely different way. Bombette is pink with a blonde ponytail and a heart-shaped wind-up key that sets her apart from every other Bob-omb in the game.

Bow is the only one who’s remotely threatening and even then it has its own way of being endearing, with her sporting a superior smirk. Her seafoam green color and prominent red bows with gold edges give her a Christmasy look. That said, while she’s absolutely one of the heroes, she’s absolutely not one of the good guys despite definitely having certain virtues. I wouldn’t get a plush of her, but I adore her almost as much as Goombario. The Boos, as I mention elsewhere in this review, are probably the most charismatic characters in the game. Bow herself is quick to haughtily laugh with her fan. The average Boo is absolutely a goofy low-level villain, in some ways more appealing than Bow herself because they absolutely do have a threatening look, but you’re able to see past that to their non-threatening demeanor without them totally being de-fanged. Like, they try to instruct Mario on how to act scared because it’s their form of polite; it’s fantastic! Even the normally mild-mannered Bootler goes mask-off to grow huge and threaten people, because these things are just physics.

Watt has a pacifier despite being the only one of her kind in the game. She is literally a baby. Sushie has a carrot-orange mohawk of a dorsal fin and a permanent smile despite likewise being unique. She is literally a punk grandma. I spend most of my online time on a server where that is absolutely "goals." Even Lakilester, who DOES have an enemy opposite, manages to be their polar opposite by replacing their massive round glasses with a pair of cool shades, but manages to still be relatively unthreatening because he replaces their sparing strands of hair with a green lick of a tuft that’s somehow even MORE dorky.

Mario, Luigi, Peach, and the Toads all have bold, simplified designs that lose nothing of their identity because ultimately that’s exactly what their designs were meant for from the NES days. It really goes to show that identifying something as Mario doesn’t take the most polygons or the highest resolution art; there is strength in the simplicity.

Then you add on to the fact that every character in the game is paper and very clearly 2D, with Mario simply fluttering down to slip under the covers of any bed he sleeps in, characters visibly flipping when they turn around in the ¾ view of the art style that puts its focus on the lateral aspect, and one enemy in the opening moments of the game posing as his own mugshot while others lie sleeping flat on top of blocks. Each screen is very clearly a diorama, with visible wooden edges on the front and bridges to the next one. Buildings go through a pop-up book transition when you enter and exit them. The game has a bit and it’s 100% committed to it.

Score: 10/10. If I had to pick one word to describe the game, it would be "charming." It takes a novel concept, throws strong, simple designs at it, and makes a game that really cannot be duplicated without directly ripping it off. Paper Mario succeeds by taking a design and making it an identity.

Visuals:

This is where things break down a bit more, because the 3D assets have if anything aged better than the 2D ones. The N64’s smoothing absolutely pulls weight here, and while I’ve seen it said that it makes everything look like it’s been coated in Vaseline, that’s really not the case here. The world looks surprisingly crisp without being crunchy, a lack of visible pixels adding to a timelessness that makes the best of simple designs that are embellished with details rather than busy. Things are just beautifully seamless.

The 2D sprites likewise benefit from this, their manual anti-aliasing being smoothed into shapes that could be easily mistaken for vector. The problem with the sprites is ultimately the outlines. Rather than being able to render them with transparency to a quad to enjoy similar benefits, their sharp, jagged outlines stand out, and individual sprite positions don’t always keep the outlines consistent, often failing to retain their shapes even on important characters like Bowser, and the scaling technology simply doesn’t work correctly, introducing holes in the rendered sprite when it’s scaled up that simply don’t exist in the raw data. This is visible on Peach’s outline in certain scenes and always has been. Bear in mind that I’m playing this on a CRT using original hardware. Some bit of the tech simply didn’t work properly.

The 2D assets also simply don’t always interact properly with the 3D assets, Mario clipping through certain Warp Pipes due to them being hexagonal and the animation simply not being careful enough. It kind of knocks you out of the visuals to see a flash of peach nose against the green as he spins down.

There’s just also the issue that the speech bubbles have unsightly notches in them like the sprites simply weren’t handled right, but the ones in battle are fine, probably because they were larger. I initially thought this might have been because the sprites weren’t placed correctly, but having had more time to ruminate on it, I think it might actually not be miscalculated positions as much as they thought they could get away with using fewer sprites to cobble the bubble together and those notches were just the compromise. The thing is, it just looks sloppy. And it was unnecessary, because they probably could have simply stretched something. When you look at the cards used as the prisons of the Seven Star Spirits, the original graphics are actually rendered to a square that’s then stretched into the final rectangular card shape. Mario has all kinds of squash and stretch when he’s jumping into a bed. The tails of the bubbles are rendered dynamically as a triangle and outright move with characters in some scenes. It may sound petty, but what it really amounts to is a lack of care.

Credit where credit is due, there are some very nice static effects on transparent sprites and even a light static as almost a sparkle effect on text. Text is often animated to express how a character is speaking and comes in simple and outlined forms. The N64 hardware was used for some very nice rainbow effects that were literally unique to its chipset and they add a wonderful dreamlike sense to various places and even people with celestial properties. Some areas have animated effects like flowers lazily floating up from the ground. Transparency is everywhere between water, ice, and characters astral projecting, and turning invisible. A shiver will run down Mario’s whole sprite if he whacks something harder than his hammer and the game’s ability to make its sprites often flit lazily down like actual paper is a testament to the animators’ talents. The game does a fantastic job making the most out of the hardware in most cases.

If there is any one thing to complain about in the environments, it’s that the skyboxes do have that greasy quality to them and in some cases they do have too many stray pixels to make it look good due to being quite low-res. You don’t often have reason to see most of these details (or lack thereof), but when you do, it’s… just kind of not very nice. They really should have bumped the resolution on those and I’m not quite sure why they didn’t, since you really only have one for each world. That I ultimately will consider petty because it comes up so rarely and it’s definitely the last thing I think of when I think of the environments.

Score: 7/10. It’s ultimately a good-looking game marred by many issues with the 2D assets.

Music:

If there is anything about the game to be considered perfect, it’s the soundtrack. There’s little of the jazziness of the series to be found, but there are variations on a few traditional themes. Those aren’t even the best the soundtrack has to offer, though. Thinking back to what I always remembered about the game, it was combat, and the battle theme is probably one of the most instantly iconic themes of a series full of them. All of the music has a strong, memorable melody and in many cases two themes play over each other, and while these almost always clash in towns, it’s used for constructive overlays in places out in the field. I can compare it best to certain places being like the ice cream truck playing over the boom box in summer, while other things are an enhancement of the same identity. Towns use these themes to lure you into places of interest and while in some cases they could have maybe offered an exemption (the dojo playing in the shop below it is rather unpleasant), you always know when you’re near something of interest.

Considering battle is one of the few things I ever saw snippets of anywhere near release and that the theme stuck with me with zero exposure for decades says everything it needs to about the soundtrack at large. And it’s just one banger out of many. They’ve dominated my mental jukebox on any day I’ve thought about the game.

If I had to pick one track as my favorite, though, it would easily be the trance-inspired one for Shooting Star Summit, made even more dreamlike by the addition of the tinkling of stars as they fall and roll on the ground before fading. Combined with the beauty of the area, it’s one of the most out of the way places I try to find excuses to return to.

Score: 10/10. If you can find nothing else to like about this game, you’d be hard-pressed to hate on the music.

Voice and Other:

There isn’t really voice here, but there is a fairly pleasant "squeak" of sorts as every letter is typed out. This gives you a sort of cadence to the speech that really does add something and even contributes to comedic timing.

The sound effects are otherwise perfectly serviceable and on top of that the game gives you Badges you can equip for free to change them if you get bored.

I suppose that "other" is a good place to mention the many small touches the game has. When Mario goes through a door, his partner with take the time to close it behind them. Many enemies will take a quick sec to laugh or otherwise gloat after a successful attack or if Mario jumps on their spike and these small gestures never feel like a waste of time because they’re so constructive to the character of the opponent. The timing is kept snappy and they don’t get in the way, making them pure presentation. In some cases the game really rubs it in if you fail to defend against a heavily telegraphed attack, and while this DOES take a little extra time, you really feel like you deserved it. In other cases, an enemy will have to deal with their own failure and these gestures are also kept pretty snappy. It’s also plain amusing to have a line of enemies go whizzing by Mario and Bow when they’re invisible with Outta Sight, tumbling balletically off one side of the screen and back through the other to shake it off. I guess if I had to summarize this, it’s that everything is just dripping with personality.

Score: 8/10. The small touches really do it here, but having a cadence to speech is absolutely something unique to the time and adds to the comedy. These things show the focus placed on presentation.


Aesthetics average: 9/10. This game absolutely brings the presentation. Many parts of it have aged fantastically.


Final word:

Total Score: 8 + 7 + 8 + 6 + 6 + 1* + 10 + 7 + 10 + 8 = 71/100.

*Because of the deal-breaker, the recommendation automatically goes down a level.

Recommendations:
96-100: A must-have for any collection.
90-95: An experience to gain new fans for the genre.
80-89: A must-have for fans of the genre.
70-79: Worth buying to check out.
60-69: Rent before buying.
50-59: Worth a rent, but not buying.
40-49: May gain a cult following.
30-39: Likely skip this one.
0-29: Avoid at all costs.

The way the game wastes your time really does throw a "buyer beware" on it. This would normally make it a "rent before buying," but this being a retro review and the platforms it lives on these days making that particularly impossible, all I can really say is borrow it from a friend if you can, or find a copy on the cheap and don’t be afraid to re-sell it. The prices on eBay are criminally low right now being honest and you can pick up a well-loved loose cartridge for impulse buy money. I wouldn’t buy a digital copy unless you know you’re going to love it. Just pretend the very limited beginning before combat opens up is what the game is going to be like for the next 30 hours if you really need anything to judge it by and consider whether you’d really want to do that. That should about do it on average.

What I do have to say is that this game having so many things going for it, so many 8 and 10 scores, is really the reason I could continue playing it after Chapter 2, and just knowing all the ways it’s designed to steal precious bits of your life for padding. If the game didn’t have the sheer personality it does, if battle mechanics weren’t so good, if I didn’t love certain characters as much as I do, I would not put up with the frustration. This game is endlessly disrespectful to you the player. If you translate the recommendation into a section score, you ultimately get a game that is Good. It’s a game that could have been Great, and in a way, that’s frustrating. The game is frustrating for being frustrating. In my other review, I wondered for a bit whether this all could be an accident, but no, it’s like a kid who keeps kicking you in the shins during kickball who says sorry every time, but about the 10th time is when you realize it’s on purpose and the teacher isn’t going to do anything about it. And ultimately that just adds the sting of betrayal.

It’s a real shame, because this is a beloved title that I’d like to be able to recommend without caveats, but I think nostalgia and the time the young have really do a lot to influence its reputation. Other games got a lot more flak for disrespecting your time less, but other games weren’t Mario on the Nintendo and anything that’s either of those things seems to get a free pass. And maybe that’s the most frustrating thing of all, that Nintendo had so few RPGs on the system due to the limitations of storage that you really just had to be better than Quest 64 to be the "BEST GAME EVARR!" Meanwhile the likes of The Legend of Dragoon on the PS1 had to compete with Final Fantasy VII and only now decades later are getting any sort of re-examination to be appreciated for the gems they were.

Paper Mario is not a bad game. It certainly has bad PARTS, in one case concentrated into the worst experience I have ever ultimately tolerated in a game, but at the end of the day, I’m willing to tolerate these problems because of how much it has going for it, even if some of that is sheer potential through the lens of a game designer that I ultimately cannot bring into this review. It’s a good game that I think can still be enjoyed as long as you know what you’re getting into.